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View Full Version : Laminate back vs solid



Noobie
09-27-2011, 04:40 PM
It's generally accepted that solid has better resonance than laminates, and to keep costs down a lot of manufacturers use solid tops and laminate backs and sides, since the soundboard is so crucial to the sound.

Recently someone mentioned the Tone-Gard and suggested how it greatly improver his volume by freeing up the back of his instrument--they're very popular with mandolin players. It prompted me to try moving my Big Island traditional away from my body, and sure enough the volume increased quite a lot just be making sure it had no contact with my body (I don't hold it close or smother it, but it seems any contact with the body at all affects the resonance).

I guess I'm just questioning whether ukes with laminate backs are inherently more stifled than solid woods?

southcoastukes
09-27-2011, 05:58 PM
It's generally accepted that solid has better resonance than laminates...

Recently someone mentioned the Tone-Gard and suggested how it greatly improver his volume by freeing up the back of his instrument--they're very popular with mandolin players. It prompted me to try moving my Big Island traditional away from my body, and sure enough the volume increased quite a lot just be making sure it had no contact with my body (I don't hold it close or smother it, but it seems any contact with the body at all affects the resonance).

I guess I'm just questioning whether ukes with laminate backs are inherently more stifled than solid woods?

It is, indeed, generally more accepted that solid backs have more resonance - but it's just a myth. Comes from the way most factory laminates are done. A top grade laminate back, however, can increase both sustain and resonance. Backs of this quality have yet to be seen in factory built instruments, but are a well known commodity in top quality, luthier built, classical guitars.

It is true, however, that moving your instrument away from your body can help the sound (however your back may be built). While I'm not that familiar with Tone-Guard, if it's the "cage" that keeps the instruments from resting on your body, it is beneficial. Even better is an armrest, as more sound comes from the soundboard, and muffling the sound on that side is even more detrimental.

Going "back to the back", there is another way to skin that cat. A "Doble Tapa", serves the purpose of a Tone Guard and then some. It's another soundboard in the interior of the instrument. It improves volume and response, and eliminates the need of that cage strapped onto the back of your instrument.

buddhuu
09-27-2011, 10:28 PM
Tone Gard is a great product. I use one on mandolin all the time and it makes a significant difference.

If the instrument's back is pressed against the player's torso it is obvious that it will not be free to resonate, therefore any differences between the properties of solid wood or laminate are rendered less relevant. Free the instrument's back with a Tone Gard and suddenly the back plate comes back more strongly into the sound equation.

Some solid backs will resonate better than some laminates and vice versa.

The majority of laminate instruments are put together as quickly as possible without too much attention to detail - that's why they're so affordable. The fact that cheap, mass produced instruments with inconsistent QC tend to use laminates probably accounts more for laminate's poor rep than any inherent disadvantage in the material itself.

A good luthier, or manufacturer can make a laminate instrument that will sing. I've heard a couple of very nice Kiwaya laminate ukes.