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Thread: Loar Tone "Sweet Spot"

  1. #1

    Default Loar Tone "Sweet Spot"

    Have you ever wondered how long it took for Loars to begin to sound like, well Loars?
    Was it immediate, right out of the box? Or, did it take awhile i.e the playing in period? Secondly, does the sound "always" only get better, or is there a sweet spot time frame, and then it slowly decreases over time? These thoughts have been rolling around in my head for years. Same thoughts regarding pre war Martin guitars?

  2. #2
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loar Tone "Sweet Spot"

    Yes, isn't it interesting how some folks always claim the mandolin sound gets better after some "playing in" period, and never worse. And some even claim it that it "wakes up," in just a short period of playing, after "going to sleep" when not played recently. Of course, mandolins -- like all manufactured items -- eventually will turn to dust over a sufficiently long time scale, so it must be true that they start sounding worse at some point, and not better. By this logic, all mandolins must have a "sweet spot time frame" ranging from weeks (at a minimum) to ... centuries.

    I happen to be in the camp that believes that if the mandolin doesn't sound awfully good from the start -- assuming that it's properly set up, that is, and has an appropriate set of strings! -- it probably never will sound very much better. I would bet that Loar-signed Gibson F5's sounded pretty darned good back in 1922-24. But we don't have a time machine, high fidelity recording was not available back then, and folks' memories of sound quality are notoriously unreliable. However, TODAY we have the ability to record and archive sound at high fidelity. So someone should record a new Gilchrist or Nugget or what-have-you high end mandolin today, then revisit the instrument in 20 years to see if it sounds any better. My money is that it probably won't. It will sound pretty great now, and also sound pretty great later. We're living in a Golden Age of luthiery, and one doesn't have to wait, or buy a vintage instrument, to get fabulous sound. Yippee!

  3. #3

    Default Re: Loar Tone "Sweet Spot"

    200 or more year old Stradivarius violins don't apprear to be getting worse so why should mandolins get worse ?

    Dave H
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  5. #4

    Default Re: Loar Tone "Sweet Spot"

    I think there is too much emphasis on finding the magic tone, opening up, and the search for the ultimate.....I realize for a lot of people this is the fun part of the hobby.

    But, what is wrong with an instrument that is merely "good?" A good instrument can provide a lot of enjoyment, IMHO.

    I agree that a good instrument sounds good from the start. Years ago, when we were teenagers and playing Silvertones and cheap imports, my buddy got a brand new D-35 Martin -- well, it was clear to all ears that the Martin was at least 20,000 times better than what we were playing....

    Many years later I was in a nice guitar shop with all kinds of vintage amps. I asked the owner what he thought was the "ultimate" vintage Fender amp? -- hoping for some great insight.......his response surprised me, he said, "I think all Fender amps sound pretty good!"

    Finally, working at a vintage guitar shop somewhat "cured" me of the search for the ultimate. I tried to find the good in every instrument, regardless of price. (or put another way, for that price it oughta sound great!)

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    Default Re: Loar Tone "Sweet Spot"

    The reason those of us that prescribe to the " playing in" period makes the instrument sound better ( which is really impossible to prove, although I know it happens because I've heard it LOL) attribute the improvement to the various pieces reacting to each other instead of independently. That is why it always gets better, yes the instrument must be good to start with. My dad played the same banjo from the time I was about 10 until shortly before his death. After leaving home I played in a gospel band with Dad and when we would practice I could here a difference in his banjo if he had it apart since I had last heard it. More than once I would ask him what was wrong with his banjo, and it was always that he had done something that required taking it apart. After a couple weeks it would sound like his banjo again. This is why I think the Loars in 22 didn't sound as good as they do today, but if played regularly they probably did by 27. I don't think they continually get better and better. My story and I'm sticking to it.

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  9. #6
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Loar Tone "Sweet Spot"

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Hanson View Post
    200 or more year old Stradivarius violins don't apprear to be getting worse so why should mandolins get worse ?

    Dave H
    Most Stradivarius violins underwent so many radical restorations and part replacements that barely the outside layer of top wood and finish (if any left) is original. Many of them have internal patches on top and archings reformed several times. Not counting the zillion of cracks.
    Adrian

  10. #7

    Default Re: Loar Tone "Sweet Spot"

    And many of the old Strads (which are about 350 years old I think) aren’t playable. There was just a big article on a recording project in Cremona to capture the remaining ones before they’re gone. So there is some kind of upper bound.

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    Default Re: Loar Tone "Sweet Spot"

    In my mind, I think all of this can happen, whether it actually does or not, who knows.

    Of late, I'm personally more inclined to think that assuming one starts with a good sounding instrument, the player over time learns/adjusts to bring out what to them, sounds the best in that instrument(hence, the "playing in" is more "learning" what to do to bring out the best in the instrument). At the same time, I do believe there are many changes happening-especially to a new made instrument, within regards to the wood/finish/parts settling in, aging, etc

    I've had a good player to notice a slight change after I've done some major work on an instrument and had it apart-nothing large, but the player and I also notice "some thing" different. In short time though, the player and instrument sound like they always did-so in my mind the player is getting to "know" that instrument again. I've noticed this a lot lately, because I've been doing work on long term owned instruments who have highly skilled owners.

    If you think of all this too much your head wants to explode,
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  12. #9
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loar Tone "Sweet Spot"

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Hanson View Post
    200 or more year old Stradivarius violins don't apprear to be getting worse so why should mandolins get worse ?

    Dave H
    Actually, Strads were produced in the late 1600's and early 1700's, so over 300 years old, rather than merely 200! But unfortunately, some of them ARE getting worse, and in need of considerable repair. Also, nearly 100% (all except for one, The Messiah, which is not allowed to be played!) have had their original Baroque necks replaced with modern style necks. Most have had several crack repairs. Many have had glue joints fail. A majority have new pegs, new bridges, new tailpieces, etc. Nothing lasts forever, and everything is subject to wear.

    Reminds me of the paradox of "my grandfather's axe." It's seen enormous use over the generations. Of course, the ash handle has been replaced several times, after it would break or crack. And the blade eventually had to be replaced once or twice, too, after hitting nails and suchlike. In fact, every single part of it has been repaired or replaced. So, in what sense is it still "my grandfather's axe"?!

    This is also known as the "Ship of Theseus" paradox. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_Theseus

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    Default Re: Loar Tone "Sweet Spot"

    100 year old Gibsons and Lyon & Healys still seem to have plenty of life left in them if they have been well maintained, and if they sounded good to start with when they were made.

    They made some dogs, too.

    I do believe instruments have a break in period. Glue and lacquer keep curing for several years, and wood continues to cure.

    Put your nose up to the soundhole of a new guitar. You'll smell the fresh glue.

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    Default Re: Loar Tone "Sweet Spot"

    My KM 1500 wakes up after I play it awhile. No doubt in my mind, even after just sitting overnight in a 65 degree room. It only takes a little while for it to start sounding fuller, and more resonant. Thatís one thing like about it.
    Last edited by Bill Findley; Apr-04-2019 at 11:48pm. Reason: addition

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    Registered User f5joe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loar Tone "Sweet Spot"

    I believe Loar mandolins sounded like "Loars" from day one ...... although, they have benefited from natural aging processes, I'm sure.
    ..... f5joe

  16. #13

    Default Re: Loar Tone "Sweet Spot"

    I tend to like older instruments. Over a ten year period, I'd go into Gryphon and play through their used guitar inventory. I played many 20 to 30 year old D 28s. The best ones were always the guitars I suspected were owned by bluegrass players. They had heavy pick ware above the sound hole and below the pick guard. Invariably the pristine closet queens were dogs. So I concluded it was either heavy playing that contributed to fine tone, or the equally plausible explanation that the good ones were hunted down by serious players. We'll never really know which, but Frank Ford cautioned me never to buy an instrument speculating what it will sound like in the future. Buy only for what it sounds like now and hope for the best. Sage advice.
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  17. #14
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loar Tone "Sweet Spot"

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    I tend to like older instruments. Over a ten year period, I'd go into Gryphon and play through their used guitar inventory. I played many 20 to 30 year old D 28s. The best ones were always the guitars I suspected were owned by bluegrass players. They had heavy pick ware above the sound hole and below the pick guard. Invariably the pristine closet queens were dogs. So I concluded it was either heavy playing that contributed to fine tone, or the equally plausible explanation that the good ones were hunted down by serious players. We'll never really know which, but Frank Ford cautioned me never to buy an instrument speculating what it will sound like in the future. Buy only for what it sounds like now and hope for the best. Sage advice.
    +1 Hear, hear! Never buy an instrument because you think it might "open up" and sound better at some indefinite future date! Buy an instrument that sounds good from the day you buy it.

    And yes, instruments that were formerly owned by some of the better players don't necessarily sound good because they've been played. They sound good because these players likely chose better-sounding instruments in the first place. Also, they took care to make sure the instrument setup was done right, too, and maintained that way. Proper setup is not about cosmetic issues; it's all about playability.

  18. #15

    Default Re: Loar Tone "Sweet Spot"

    "But, what is wrong with an instrument that is merely "good?""

    Nothing at all....until you get to play an amazing sounding instrument that you cannot put down & forever curses you and really does change your perspective on the whole idea of what a mandolin can sound like....

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  20. #16

    Default Re: Loar Tone "Sweet Spot"

    Quote Originally Posted by grandcanyonminstrel View Post
    "But, what is wrong with an instrument that is merely "good?""

    Nothing at all....until you get to play an amazing sounding instrument that you cannot put down & forever curses you and really does change your perspective on the whole idea of what a mandolin can sound like....
    Well, the instrument is unfortunately only half of the equation, IMHO. The player's ability is the other half. YMMV, as they say. Like I say, and maybe I'm different, but working in a great vintage shop let me play stuff all the time that I really appreciated, but couldn't afford, so I was always able to draw the line and say, "sure, it's great, I love it, and it's $37,000 -- so I can't have it.........simple, right? However, I managed to buy several nice $800-2000 instruments and still be able to have money left over for pizza.......and I'm cool with that.....it's called living within your means. I think debt would actually haunt me more than not having a certain instrument would.....

    Full disclosure: I'm not a "world class" player. I would say I am very good at guitar and have played professionally for 40 years. I am decent on banjo. I am not as confident on mandolin, but I have enjoyed it for many years, just the same.

  21. #17

    Default Re: Loar Tone "Sweet Spot"

    Nobody asked about debt or price justification or living within your means. There are plenty of half deaf old geezers who will never be able to discern a difference. That is fine, mediocre works great for them and is appropriate. BUT...for the people who have the skills and the ears to notice the difference, the IS a class of instruments that just blows the doors off the rest of the crowd. Once you get your hands on one, it changes your perspective.

    I worked for years in one of the finest guitar shops in the country, if not the world, and have lost count of how many legendary instruments I've played extensively. Price and collector factors do not equal kick a$$ voice, volume, and tone, although there are times when they intersect.....

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