Listening Experiments

What effect do different types of wood have on the sound of otherwise identical electric guitars?

Surely, every guitarist has asked himself or herself this question one time or another. For acoustic instruments, there is no doubt, that the kind of wood used for the top (i.e. the soundboard) has an audible effect on the perceived sound. This is not so clear for electric solid body guitars. Much (and often passionate) discussion on the topic can be found in literature and the internet.

The physical aspects (e.g. vibrations of strings, neck, and body, various resonances, etc.) are being thoroughly and scientifically discussed in Manfred Zollner’s oeuvre, “Physik der Elektrogitarre”. That is the theory …..

… but does it translate into our real-life perceptions? GITEC ran a listening experiment on the topic in 2016 - if you would like to, you can still run through it now and get an impression of the procedure and the sound differences. Four Strat-style guitars differing merely in the body material (ash vs. alder) and the construction of the neck (one-piece maple neck vs. maple neck with rosewood fretboard) are being compared. An experienced guitarist has recorded riffs on them, taking great care that his playing is as similar as possible from guitar to guitar.

Can you hear the (or any) differences?

More elaborate instructions can be found here: GITEC Listening Experiment - Instructions

On to the examples and the test:
(It is recommended to listen to the sounds with suitable high-grade equipment):



1st Run-Through


2nd Run-Through


3rd Run-Through



The test person was supposed to rate (on a scale from 0 to 10) the strength of the perceived sound difference between the two guitars presented in each pair comparison. The form on the instruction sheet helped to keep track.

26 persons (all guitarists with a lot of interest in the subject) participated in the experiment. The results of the experiment and a discussion can be found here:

Results of the GITEC Listening Experiment re tone woods

You will be curious as to which test-sound corresponds to which neck/body-wood-combination. The solution to the "riddle" is this:

Sequence of test sounds in GITEC Listening Experiment