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Username: jerico

Post Number: 56
Registered: 7-2005
Posted on Sunday, March 26, 2006 - 12:06 pm:   Edit Post

Do the ebony neck lams make much difference sustain wise in a guitar, as I read they do in basses?

Intermediate Member
Username: the_8_string_king

Post Number: 111
Registered: 9-2005
Posted on Sunday, March 26, 2006 - 7:14 pm:   Edit Post

They should, for the same reasons that they do on bass. That said, I'd love to hear confirmation from any who KNOW.
Username: jorge_s

Post Number: 68
Registered: 8-2002
Posted on Monday, March 27, 2006 - 6:41 am:   Edit Post

I am pondering that myself. I am about to place an order for a guitar and that is one of the options I am torn about. I've talked to some friends about it but their experience is with basses only.
Intermediate Member
Username: hydrargyrum

Post Number: 185
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Monday, March 27, 2006 - 2:36 pm:   Edit Post

Well, I have only owned one guitar with an ebony neck lam, and it is not an Alembic, but it is undoubtedly the best IMHO, I have ever owned. Its neck is black limba, flame maple, ebony, flame maple, and black limba again. If I could do things over, I would order two Ebony lams next time. I am struck by how full sounding bass notes are, as well as the incredible sustain. Pretty much everything you hear. In comparison to other guitars I owned which only had walnut pinstripes in maple, the difference is significant. I would suspect that the effect is pretty significant, but it is kind of hard to test without two otherwise identical guitars to compare.
Username: hifibassman

Post Number: 64
Registered: 12-2002
Posted on Friday, April 07, 2006 - 5:57 am:   Edit Post

Hello guys-
i haven't posted here in a very long time, but what i can say about ebony is that it makes a HUGE difference in the quality of sound. you may have noticed that most all alembics have ebony fingerboards which i just figured out from playing so many different basses that this is one of the main key ingredients that create that awesome fundamental resonance and response that we like so much in the alembics. i didn't think that ebony in just the fretboard would make a difference but it does make a huge difference. I notice that other guitar makers don't feature this very little if at all, and i also know they don't sound as good either- not to say that there's are not good instruments. if you could get ebony either in the neck or as the fretboard, you will have an instrument that's in an elite class sound-wise.
Username: jorge_s

Post Number: 78
Registered: 8-2002
Posted on Friday, April 07, 2006 - 8:48 am:   Edit Post

From what I've heard, ebony is not a very forgiving wood. It is very stiff but very brittle. A lot of manufacturers don't work with it due to its easy chipping. This is one of those things that shows Alembic's high stature.
Intermediate Member
Username: the_8_string_king

Post Number: 130
Registered: 9-2005
Posted on Friday, April 07, 2006 - 8:21 pm:   Edit Post

Additional feedback: It just occurred to me that -at least to some extent- I AM in a position to comment on this; my custom 8-string bass has a high B-flat string... its only one string and a semitone below a guitars high E string...

And I can say that ALL my strings have noticably greater sustain than anything else I've ever heard.

The fact of the matter is, the sustain and RESONANCE of my bass is in a class by itself, but the higher strings... just have an incredible resonance... like a built-in reverb.

There is no question in my mind that the presence of the ebony in the neck SIGNIFICANTLY enhances the sustain and resonance of ALL strings -both high and low.

It is important -in this context- to consider, however that my custom is also an EXTRA-LONG (35") scale... so -for disclosure, scientific integrity, etc- keep in mind my experiences are based on this fact.

The claims/conclusions that Alembic has about ebony are based on Ron's observations, but also -as I understand it- some specific tests that have shown that ebony enhances not only the overall sustain -but specifically the sustain of the fundamental partial.

There is no apparent reason why this would be range-specific; and my experience suggests that it is NOT; the entire 5&1/2 octave range of my most awesome custom -higher than even a standard Alembic guitar with 24 frets- is CONSISTENT across the entire range... at least on my bass, with it's scale and other specifics...
Senior Member
Username: bob

Post Number: 616
Registered: 11-2002
Posted on Friday, April 07, 2006 - 10:56 pm:   Edit Post

Well, I can resist no longer :-)

For a couple of years now, I've been thinking about this phrase, that "ebony increases the sustain of the fundamental (partial)".

Just to get the indisputable stuff out of the way first, ebony is awesome. Especially on a bass, though I have no reason to think it would be less so on a guitar. On a bass, it definitely supports the fundamental on the lowest notes.

Typically, without a bunch of ebony in play, these lowest partials die out early. But as has been reported here by Mica, based on oscilloscope observations by Ron, you can actually watch the first and second partials on low bass notes "play" with each other, in a reinforcing way, that increases the sustain, and contribution of each. (I'm not going to search for the references, but they should be easy to find.)

I'm pretty sure I can actually hear this, and have no doubt that it occurs - at least when playing low notes on a bass. So the nagging question is this: how does the ebony "know" whether it is dealing with the fundamental, or some other partial?

I submit that the answer is: it can't possibly know this. Its molecular structure is not sufficiently complex to support even the most generous notion of consciousness, and it would take considerably more than that to distinguish a fundamental from some other partial, and then in turn "respond" somehow differently.

Now, I can sort of vaguely imagine that there might be some curious property of the wood cell structures in ebony, that behave in a fairly unique way when responding to vibrations from the fundamental and second partial. One might imagine that the cell structure responds to this factor of two in an interesting way... though while I can imagine a factor-of-two response, I still don't see any way that it could detect a fundamental.

Nevertheless, even if such a thing did exist (which I find extremely doubtful), I simply cannot believe that it would occur over a wide range of frequencies. So what I tend to believe at the moment, as a working hypothesis, is that ebony just happens to be a really dense, stiff wood, that does not resonate very much at low frequencies. It doesn't care whether it's dealing with a fundamental, or some higher level partial, it is just going to stand up to certain frequencies.

I have no idea how high this goes. I would guess it is somehow special up to at least 200-300 Hz (conveniently covering nearly all of the funamentals we play on bass), and possibly quite a bit higher than that. If I were considering a custom guitar, it would have at least one or two ebony neck lams (okay, three, maybe with mahogony fillers).

Just to be clear, I don't think I'm disagreeing with anyone here. Yes, it does increase the sustain of the funamental, but I think that's only because it happens to be good with lows (without knowing whether it's a fundamental). As Mark says, it seems to apply to all of his strings, including those that some of us bass players would consider silly-thin. So again, I'm inclined to think that ebony helps with sustain over a very broad frequency range, including the guitar zone, and it just happened to get noticed because it did so well in the very low end of basses - and somewhat erroneously labeled as helping out the low "fundamental".

As you can probably tell, if you've read this far, I'm very curious about this, and would be interested in pursuing it. I think it's relevant to the original question, not a hijack :-)
Senior Member
Username: adriaan

Post Number: 842
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Saturday, April 08, 2006 - 2:08 am:   Edit Post

If I might add to Bob's clear-headed reasoning ... My first thought was: it is not so much an increase in fundamental sustain, as a decrease in the absorption of the fundamental. My train of thought then took me along these lines ...

The fundamental is by definition the harmonic component with the largest amplitude, and so it consumes most of the energy. Over time, the potential energy of the vibrating string decreases, and there is a point where there is just insufficient energy for the string to continue the biggest excursions, which is the point where the fundamental sustain drops off. Take a piano, strike a chord and let it ring for as long as it will - you'll hear the lows slowly drop out.

... and at the end of the line, I think we ARE talking about an increase in the sustain (understood as how long you can perceive the harmonic component).
Intermediate Member
Username: s_wood

Post Number: 192
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Saturday, April 08, 2006 - 6:57 am:   Edit Post


I have a couple of Series II basses that are identical in every way save for the fact the some have purpleheart neck laminates and some have ebony neck laminates. Here's my review:
The bottom line is this: at least on basses, ebony neck lams make a huge difference, and you won't need any test equipment apart from your ears to prove it.

You know, the best thing about buying a new Alembic is that you get to work with Susan, Mica, Val and the gang to create exactly what you want. They are incredibly knowledgable, and unusually good at talking to a customer and figuring out what woods and electronics to use to get the tone he or she wants. So, if I were you I would call them and ask about the effect ebony neck lams would have in a guitar. I'm sure they know, and whatever they tell you will be the dead-on truth!

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