What quality of electric guitar to use into audio interface.

bichon

New member
hi.
I am wondering if it makes a difference the quality of guitar makes, if its just being plugged into my audio interface.
I would guess that the sound coming into the interface depends mostly upon the guitar's pickups.
If not, would a $500 guitar sound the same on a cubase audio track as would a $5,000 guitar ?

I have an old Guild 1965ish semi acoustic guitar and may sell it and maybe get a smaller electric to use.

thanks
 

keith.rogers

Bobby'); DROP TABLE USER
Well, it depends on the sound the guitar makes, and its playability, at least as far as the individual playing it, more than any $ amount. Depending on the kind of sound you want and style of music, the type of electric may matter as much as the quality. Now, many good players can get a very wide range of sounds out of a single electric, but most would probably not be trying to emulate SRV on a ES-175, for instance, so you may need more than one, depending on the range of music you want to cover.

I had a lowly Epiphone LP Special II that I picked up for $69 used in a Guitar Center. One of my favorite guitars to record with because it was set up well and easy to play, and the humbuckers kept a lot of noise out without being especially muddy. Actually sold my real LP because I was only doing a bit of recording and saw no appreciable benefit in having both.
 

TalismanRich

Well-known member
There's nothing intrinsically wrong with a mid 60s Guild, it's more of a question of what sound are you looking for. If you're trying to get something sparkling and crisp, you're probably looking at a Strat, Tele or Gretsch. Want to sound like the Byrds? You need a Rickenbacker.

Which guitar do you have (guessing a Starfire of some sort?) Does it have the humbuckers, P90s, DeArmonds? Each has a distinctive tone. I love old Guilds, having a 74 S100 and and DeArmond Starfire myself. They have a unique sound, not like an SG or 335.

You can always change the pickups, just keep the old ones so that you can restore it if you ever want to sell it. With a standard PAF, a Starfire 4 sounds really close to a 335 in tone. Plus, remember that an amp (or emulation) can totally change what your guitar sounds like. Depending on how discriminating your ear is, an Epiphone with the same pickups as a Custom Shop R9 will sound pretty darn close. The differences are more in feel, and other intangibles.

Old Guilds in good condition can fetch a pretty penny. Just check on Reverb.com. Don't let it go for a song just to buy a $500 Mexican Strat!!!!
 

bichon

New member
Well, it depends on the sound the guitar makes, and its playability, at least as far as the individual playing it, more than any $ amount. Depending on the kind of sound you want and style of music, the type of electric may matter as much as the quality. Now, many good players can get a very wide range of sounds out of a single electric, but most would probably not be trying to emulate SRV on a ES-175, for instance, so you may need more than one, depending on the range of music you want to cover.

I had a lowly Epiphone LP Special II that I picked up for $69 used in a Guitar Center. One of my favorite guitars to record with because it was set up well and easy to play, and the humbuckers kept a lot of noise out without being especially muddy. Actually sold my real LP because I was only doing a bit of recording and saw no appreciable benefit in having both.
interesting.. i mostly do quieter stuff, maybe ambiant groove and such. the semi acoustic guild i have may be the best juice. I also want to do some harder rock.. maybe i get a cheap fender or something, ;)
 

bichon

New member
There's nothing intrinsically wrong with a mid 60s Guild, it's more of a question of what sound are you looking for. If you're trying to get something sparkling and crisp, you're probably looking at a Strat, Tele or Gretsch. Want to sound like the Byrds? You need a Rickenbacker.

Which guitar do you have (guessing a Starfire of some sort?) Does it have the humbuckers, P90s, DeArmonds? Each has a distinctive tone. I love old Guilds, having a 74 S100 and and DeArmond Starfire myself. They have a unique sound, not like an SG or 335.

You can always change the pickups, just keep the old ones so that you can restore it if you ever want to sell it. With a standard PAF, a Starfire 4 sounds really close to a 335 in tone. Plus, remember that an amp (or emulation) can totally change what your guitar sounds like. Depending on how discriminating your ear is, an Epiphone with the same pickups as a Custom Shop R9 will sound pretty darn close. The differences are more in feel, and other intangibles.

Old Guilds in good condition can fetch a pretty penny. Just check on Reverb.com. Don't let it go for a song just to buy a $500 Mexican Strat!!!!
I have the Starfire III. The white pickups back then.. single coil... you note different sounds... but i'm wondering if once its processed on its way to cubase (via UR12), if the sound is degraded or changed.. (as far as i can tell, the sound out my amp and out of computer is similar).
But as you mention... if i start bastardizing the sound with plug-ins, such as amp simulators, maybe how the electric sounds is not that big a deal.. The sound i want can be messaged by post-processing.
about my Guild (which maybe i should keep, lol)
**** SNOOZE ALERT.. DO NOT USE HEAVY MACHINERY OR DRIVE A VEHICLE WHEN READING THE FOLLOWING

When i joined a band in 1970, I had no idea this guitar would be of value. I bought in i think '65 for like $350.
1) I lent my guitar to my lead guitarist for about a week. Back in the day, we guys wore these 10 lb 6" diameter (slight exaggeration) belt buckles.
I had worn off a little of the finish at the back, but when i got it back its like 1/4 of the back was down to bare wood...
Lesson: do not lend your valuable stuff out.
2) There was a time where many people bought these ENGRAVERS to protect their stuff. I engraved my SIN on the back (that was before the age of Identity Theft)...
so year later i had to scratch out some of the numbers.
3) I applied lettering to the wrist guard (my band's name). I removed most of it, but some of the stuff is still there.
4) I lent my guitar to my daughter's husband who wanted to use it in a photo shoot. They DROPPED the guitar and the neck separated. They put in a steel rod
or something. I am sure that just dropped the price by a grand.
Lesson: do not be stupid enough to lend your valuable stuff out A SECOND FRIGGIN TIME.

(good point on not selling it to buy a cheap one.
:)
 

TimOD

Member
What kind of audio interface are you plugging the guitar into? Into say, a DI plug on something like a Focusrite 18i20?
 

Folkcafe

Active member
"I would guess that the sound coming into the interface depends mostly upon the guitar's pickups."

Take a great pickup and stick it in a cheap guitar, what do you get?

It's not that simple. What of the guitar itself? Why not just a 2x4 plank of wood from Home Depot?

Physics and the interaction of the body, the strings and the player interacting with the magnetic field of the pickup to induce a signal. Solid body, semi-hollow, hollow, set neck, bolt on, these all have subtle and not so subtle effects.

I took up pickup winding some years ago. I was kind of obsessed with the early Fender pickups. When you build pickups, you need something to put them in to test out what each iteration brings to the sonic pallet. I've a couple of good guitars but didn't want to use those to constantly experiment with. So I started collecting cheap guitars off of craigslist. Doesn't work.

If you go to a music store, grab a cheap electric and play it without plugging it in and listen carefully. Most are pretty dead. Grab a similar good guitar and it should just ring and vibrate in your hands. The tone is in the wood and as Keith Richards says, in your fingers. Pickup is like a microphone. It can be good, great, so so or rubbish. All the rest can't be faked except maybe by computer modeling but that was not the question.
 

TalismanRich

Well-known member
I don't know, Folk... I've got a Korean built ASAT, rings like a bell, and sounds just like a USA version. Its got USA pickups. I've got a very cheap Washburn strat clone that I bought for my son about 20 years ago, when he wanted to learn guitar. Other than the trem not keeping tune very well, once it was set up, it really sounds pretty good. It rings more than my USA G&L Legacy. I swapped out the pickups from my Heritage 535 and totally changed the character of the guitar, but it plays just the same.

I read all of the hype of about "old wood", and the wonderful pickups and stuff on Gear Page. POPPYCOCK! Those '59 LPs weren't make using premium sourced, handpicked special wood. They bought stacks of wood, cut it up, carved it and put it together. It wasn't dried for 50 years to make sure it had wonderful "tone". The pickups were wound inconsistently, and they were made using whatever materials they could source and at the best price. Don't have black plastic for the bobbins, we can use that white plastic. Don't have A-2 magnets, give me A5 magnets.

There's so much mythology in the guitar world that has become gospel because of the internet. You'll hear someone testing a pickup, and declare that its deficient vs a vintage PAF. I say "which vintage PAF", because they had a fair amount of variation between individual pickups. Pickups today are generally consistent in sound, materials and construction within a specific model. A good friend of mine had a 58 Les Paul in high school. He said it wasn't anything special. The guy is a hell of a guitar player and has a stringed instrument store. He knows a good guitar.

Yeah, the guitar contributes to the overall sound, but for my ears, its about 10-15% of the sound. The pickups make up the bulk of the sound. The biggest advantage to a good guitar (and I have several) is generally in the playability and feel.

Oh yeah, I have heard a guitar made from a 4x4 for the body and a bolt on neck and strat pickups. Compared it to a real strat. They were darn close in sound, but the 4x4 was heavy and awkward to hold. I can't remember for sure, but I think the 4x4 was oak.
 

ecc83

Well-known member
I am no guitar player but my son is a brilliant one, been playing all genres for over 25 years, presently spends all his lockdown time in France recording Bach transcriptions on a classical acoustic but has electric guitars as well and we have had many conversations over the years about "quality" His view is that so long as the guitar maintains accurate intonation throughout the fret board and there is no fret buzz, it is a good one. After that, as pointed out above, down to taste in pickups.

He has also found that bad technique gives rise to poor intonation and string squeaks. This is however much more of a problem with classical acoustic.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
Absolutely! I['ve got two Les Pauls. One is gorgeous to look at and frankly plays like a dog. The boring one plays much more nicely and sounds lovely. Guess which cost more? I bought a cheap Telecaster ten years ago - a short run and it's a disgusting blue colour - the music shop had had it hanging for at least a couple of years with no interest. Sounds and plays great.

A friend of mine who is totally unmusical read how saxophones are good investments - so he spent his spare cash on them. Some rare and exotic ones. The sought after Selmer sounds horrible, the Yana sounds lovely, the Yamaha plays the easiest, and the best tone by far is from some bizarre Eastern block sax from the 70s. With electric guitars I operate a no snob policy when people hand me the jack plug. If it sounds good, I can happily work with it. A five grand guitar that buzzes, hums and has dodgy frets? Nightmare time.
 

BroKen_H

Re-member
I've got a Yamaha acoustic I picked up at a pawn for $200 and absolutely LOVE how it sounds and plays. Wouldn't trade it for a Martin. It really depends on the tone of the instrument (and the ability of the musician), not the cost.
 

Folkcafe

Active member
I don't know, Folk... I've got a Korean built ASAT, rings like a bell, and sounds just like a USA version. Its got USA pickups. I've got a very cheap Washburn strat clone that I bought for my son about 20 years ago, when he wanted to learn guitar. Other than the trem not keeping tune very well, once it was set up, it really sounds pretty good. It rings more than my USA G&L Legacy. I swapped out the pickups from my Heritage 535 and totally changed the character of the guitar, but it plays just the same.

I read all of the hype of about "old wood", and the wonderful pickups and stuff on Gear Page. POPPYCOCK! Those '59 LPs weren't make using premium sourced, handpicked special wood. They bought stacks of wood, cut it up, carved it and put it together. It wasn't dried for 50 years to make sure it had wonderful "tone". The pickups were wound inconsistently, and they were made using whatever materials they could source and at the best price. Don't have black plastic for the bobbins, we can use that white plastic. Don't have A-2 magnets, give me A5 magnets.

There's so much mythology in the guitar world that has become gospel because of the internet. You'll hear someone testing a pickup, and declare that its deficient vs a vintage PAF. I say "which vintage PAF", because they had a fair amount of variation between individual pickups. Pickups today are generally consistent in sound, materials and construction within a specific model. A good friend of mine had a 58 Les Paul in high school. He said it wasn't anything special. The guy is a hell of a guitar player and has a stringed instrument store. He knows a good guitar.

Yeah, the guitar contributes to the overall sound, but for my ears, its about 10-15% of the sound. The pickups make up the bulk of the sound. The biggest advantage to a good guitar (and I have several) is generally in the playability and feel.

Oh yeah, I have heard a guitar made from a 4x4 for the body and a bolt on neck and strat pickups. Compared it to a real strat. They were darn close in sound, but the 4x4 was heavy and awkward to hold. I can't remember for sure, but I think the 4x4 was oak.

Seems I've stepped on the hornets nest here. A lot to unwrap but first let me say you are not exactly wrong here but perhaps some things need clarification.

I'm all too familiar with Samick in Korea as I've toured the plant 19 years ago in Incheon from raw materials to finish product in both the electric and acoustic lines. The international sales manager was extremely proud of the huge warehouse of raw wood they purchased from around the globe to ensure they would have the best quality materials they could get for decades to come. Samick is a huge OEM builder of guitars and I was surprised back then of the brand names I saw on headstocks. Huge attention to detail and so much hand craftsmanship. I thought this must of been what it was like in Japan years earlier once they started getting really good at building guitars before labor got too expensive to really build there.

Pickups and microphones come in different designs and quality. If you have a good guitar, it would make sense a better pickup would be of benefit.

So lets start with a couple details. All things in human endeavors are subject to the flaws of man. Build two guitars, they won't be exactly the same. Same is true for nature. Wood is an extremely inconsistent material from one tree to the next, especially acoustically. Best advice I got years ago from a really good guitar guy was to do exactly what I suggested, pick up a bunch of different guitars and play them. In a big batch of guitars there will be duds and gems even among the expensive and cheap. The issue will be the inverse with both ends of the spectrum. You'll find more better ones among the expensive and fewer among the cheap.

The first Tele I built, I spent hours picking through the racks at a specialty lumber yard the deals with exotic woods. Fortunately the yard manager was a bass player and got what I was doing and didn't hassle me as long as I picked days the yard was quiet. I thumped on rough plank after plank of ash listening for its resonance and applying water to the surface to identify the grain. Did the same thing with the sitka spruce pile when I built another guitar. Some are better than others.

As to pickups. My obsession came about exactly due to the inconsistencies of how they were produced years ago. The early stuff was hand wound which is what made the idea of building them approachable in the first place. Today pickups are very consistent almost to the point of being boring. Machine winders are set to precisely the same pattern, tension and number of winds. If you like the sound, that is great but you won't get some of the complexities of hand tension and scatter winding. I'm not trying to sell anything here. I retired my winder years ago.

A lot of voodoo in the marketing of this stuff no doubt. Here is my perspective. The real differences in materials for pickups, then and now, that make any difference are those with magnetic properties. This consists of the magnet, wire and metal parts. Types of magnets. Strength of the magnetic field will affect the vibrating string. Too strong and it will affect sustain as it mutes vibrations due to string pull. Differences in Types of magnets and the flux field varies. I developed a thin pickup for cigar box guitars at the request of a builder. He was looking for the trashy sound of the really cheap early Japanese pickups with ceramic magnets. I failed as I made them sound too good. Really great and detailed clean sound. Metal parts have various magnetic permeability depending on a lot of factors. The metal plate in a Tele pickup for instance. Carbon content changes permeability greatly which affect eddy currents in the pickup. Big factor in why a pickup bobbin only made of forbon is different than one with a base plate (though number of winds will vary tone as is often the case between bridge and neck pickups). Electrically a pickup has three characteristics. Induction, resistance and capacitance. Essentially a filter and the variable affect sound. The thickness of the coating on the wire and the close proximity of the windings determine the self capacitance. Thickness of wire adds to that equation.

I doubt this covers all of it but I did take a deep dive into this some years ago and these were my findings.

Do a search for the Les Paul log guitar and if you can find a interview of him discussing it, it is fascinating.
 

TalismanRich

Well-known member
You've basically confirmed my original contention that the pickup system (including the controls and positioning) is the primary contributor to the tone of an electric guitar. Next would be the scale length, which is why a Strat with a humbucker doesn't sound close to a LP. Hearing the difference between a rosewood fretboard and an ebony fretboard is minuscule in comparison.

Now, when you get to acoustic guitars, the wood and construction are everything, since that's all that's producing the sound.

As for pickups being consistent to the point of being boring, well, if I was Seymour Duncan, I would want ALL of the pickups in a particular model to sound exactly the same. Otherwise, the one guy who gets a dud will spout off and post on every internet forum about how horrible that model pickup is. Its almost a guarantee!

Back to the original post, if his Guild has the old white DeArmond Dynasonic single coils, he might have an issue changing pickups, since the form factor and mounting system is quite different from current day pickups. There are a few people who make replacements. Lindy Fralin makes a couple of styles.

I would probably spend some time in a few guitar shops and find a nice used import guitar for about the same money.
 

Folkcafe

Active member
You've basically confirmed my original contention that the pickup system (including the controls and positioning) is the primary contributor to the tone of an electric guitar. Next would be the scale length, which is why a Strat with a humbucker doesn't sound close to a LP. Hearing the difference between a rosewood fretboard and an ebony fretboard is minuscule in comparison.

Now, when you get to acoustic guitars, the wood and construction are everything, since that's all that's producing the sound.

As for pickups being consistent to the point of being boring, well, if I was Seymour Duncan, I would want ALL of the pickups in a particular model to sound exactly the same. Otherwise, the one guy who gets a dud will spout off and post on every internet forum about how horrible that model pickup is. Its almost a guarantee!

Back to the original post, if his Guild has the old white DeArmond Dynasonic single coils, he might have an issue changing pickups, since the form factor and mounting system is quite different from current day pickups. There are a few people who make replacements. Lindy Fralin makes a couple of styles.

I would probably spend some time in a few guitar shops and find a nice used import guitar for about the same money.
Les Paul's discussion of his log guitar highlights the differences between a solid piece of wood in construction. Take that further down to the various build compromises ie set neck and bolt on.

Here is a strange collection of Teles. None really the same but not just because of the pickups. The one on the far right is solid mahogany, veneer top with a set mahogany neck. Even if I put single coils in it, it would sound different. (pickups are wired split coil switching) Same if I put strat pickups in my L5 style hollow body, it would never sound close to a strat. Still think that is 10-15% of it? We are closer in agreement than you might think. Just minus a couple details.

IMG_0697.jpg
 

Folkcafe

Active member
It's interesting that on a forum dedicated to home recording and all the endless discussions about microphones, that the relationship between these two types of transducers isn't better understood.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
I've often wondered too? I wonder if guitarists can be so aware of some tonal issues and tiny details, but completely blocked to what others hear? I've always had a thing about hiss - so I'd comment on the God awful noise coming from the guitarists amp when the pedal was up or the volume knob on the guitar down - but they hear subtle stuff when the pedal is down, the knob is up and the ears are bleeding? Others are immune to tuning, some obsessed by it. Recordists are usually oblivious to the things going on on the other side of the pickups - unless they too are guitarists when they either fall into the interfering category or the "it's not me playing so it doesn't matter category" I think I am the interfering type - suggesting maybe a retune? Or a hum reducing 90m degree rotation of the player, when they just didn't notice?
 

Delmont

Member
You have a sixties Guild and you want to SELL it?

Here's the problem. On the one hand, they're fantastic instruments, and they're especially coveted by Guild fans. It's a true collector's item. But on the other hand, although vintage Guilds are beginning to come into their own, they're still grossly undervalued. You're not likely to get what it's worth.

And assuming it's playable, it will work just as well as any other electric for your purposes. So there's no reason to sell it just so you can record. A Fender or Gibson electric won't sound better.

So, my suggestion: Before you do anything rash with that guitar, discuss it here: www.letstalkguild.com. The folks there will give you good advice. And if you're determined to sell it, they'll tell you now much to ask for it.
 

Delmont

Member
PS - You can learn more about how different pickups sound at www.seymourduncan.com.

They design lot of their pickups to match and replace the pickups in lots of popular guitar models, old and new, so you can get an idea of the differences between, for instance, P-90s and various Strat and Tele pickups and assorted humbuckers and filtrons and mini-buckers and so on.
 

Delmont

Member
PPS -

I didn't answer your original question, did I? In live peformance or recording via microphone, the amp matters more. Most electric players would rather have a good guitar and great amp than a great guitar and a good amp.

Recording straight into a DAW, the computer is your amp. So if your software has good amp emulation,you're in good shape. For the guitar, the most important thing is that it stays in tune.
 
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