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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I took my old Yamaha to the guitar store to compare it to newer ones and the sales guys said it had really opened up. I've heard this term before but what does it mean exactly? In what way does my guitar sound different than the day it was originally purchased 15-20 years ago? I know I can strum it really hard and it doesn't frap out.

Yamaha 441s with a solid spruce top.
 

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IME, new guitars, even very good new guitars, are a tiny bit bright and may lack a bit of warmth or depth. Think of the top as an acoustic panel that has to vibrate to make sound - it is in effect a speaker cone. That top starts off stiff and over time starts to loosen up, as the fibres break down. Springs do the same thing, elastic, all sorts of materials. Audio speakers too, but in that case it's the spider and surround as the cone is supposed to be stiff and move as a piston.

So as guitar tops, and the other body woods to a lesser extent, vibrate and flex, they break down a bit and loosen up, or 'open up', as people say. The sound gets less bright and a bit warmer (midrange and bass get a little fuller). The change is subtle and happens over months or years and not days or weeks.

There is a debate on whether artificially aged (torrefied) woods will open up any more. I don't expect the very old mahogany on my Lowden to change much, but the Adi top (it's only a decade old) will open up a bit over the next year or two. It sounds pretty amazing right now, so I can only imagine it getting better.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I always thought it meant the wood was starting to age. Some say it's because the instrument is getting played. Yamaha actually has a process they claim that speeds this process up and applies it to the wood on some of their guitars. If you are talking about your FG-830 I don't think it applies to that model. Here are a couple links you may find interesting.

Does a guitar really sound better with age? - The Acoustic Guitar Forum

Yamaha Creates Vintage Tone with New Wood
Talking about my old FG441s.
 

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IME, new guitars, even very good new guitars, are a tiny bit bright and may lack a bit of warmth or depth. Think of the top as an acoustic panel that has to vibrate to make sound - it is in effect a speaker cone. That top starts off stiff and over time starts to loosen up, as the fibres break down. Springs do the same thing, elastic, all sorts of materials. Audio speakers too, but in that case it's the spider and surround as the cone is supposed to be stiff and move as a piston.
Bit of a tangent, but since you brought it up I wanted to mention it because there is very little understanding about this in the musician community. As regards speakers, you said that the cone is supposed to be stiff and move as a piston. This is true, but the degree to which it is true varies (e.g. this is why Hartke started using aluminium cones in their bass cabs in the 90s). But guitar speakers are (most often) paper (and rarely 'treated' or coated paper; just plain paper). They will buckle when pushed hard (e.g. that cone breakup we know and love). Over time this creates creases and weak spots in the cone (it will break up more; you can't always see them, but they're there). Eventually it gets to a point where it will just be farty all the time and it will be hard to get a nice clean tone. This is called fatigue (and at this point you can usually see some wear on the cone if you look close), and it's time for a recone even though it still technically 'works.'

The point I am trying to make is before you shell out $300 for that vintage all original D120, remember this stuff. If you're a player vs collector, take the cheaper one that had a recent recone (original style 1 pc paper cone+ surround parts are still available just not from JBL, in case that's the issue; personally I find the later doped fabric surround style superior, but diff strokes etc).
 

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Bit of a tangent, but since you brought it up I wanted to mention it because there is very little understanding about this in the musician community. As regards speakers, you said that the cone is supposed to be stiff and move as a piston. This is true, but the degree to which it is true varies (e.g. this is why Hartke started using aluminium cones in their bass cabs in the 90s). But guitar speakers are (most often) paper (and rarely 'treated' or coated paper; just plain paper). They will buckle when pushed hard (e.g. that cone breakup we know and love). Over time this creates creases and weak spots in the cone (it will break up more; you can't always see them, but they're there). Eventually it gets to a point where it will just be farty all the time and it will be hard to get a nice clean tone. This is called fatigue (and at this point you can usually see some wear on the cone if you look close), and it's time for a recone even though it still technically 'works.'

The point I am trying to make is before you shell out $300 for that vintage all original D120, remember this stuff. If you're a player vs collector, take the cheaper one that had a recent recone (original style 1 pc paper cone+ surround parts are still available just not from JBL, in case that's the issue; personally I find the later doped fabric surround style superior, but diff strokes etc).
Yes, all good points. When it comes to guitar speakers, I will happily defer to you. You obviously have lots of experience in this. And your example of paper cones is probably more relevant to a guitar's top than the ribbed, aluminum speaker cones in my LS50's that I was looking at while writing that. A top 'opening up' probably has more in comparison with those paper cones than with an aluminum cone, which probably doesn't fatigue over it's life.
 

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I wasn't saying you were wrong (you were right - in the theoretical ideal speaker sense). Just wanted to poit that out because I hear a lot fo talk about how original cones are more highly valued - that's fine and good for collectors, but players need to know how to get the best performing stuff for the cheapest price, cuz we mostly aren't pro or rich.
 

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And I didn't take it as such. I just thought your example of a paper cone made my point much better than my initial cone comment. Something that flexes and the flex increases in time as it breaks down little by little. Very apropos.

I also suspect that type of distortion (cone flexing) is a part of why I've never seen an aluminum guitar speaker cone. Bass cones, sure - but never a cone in a guitar cab. If someone makes them, I think it's fair to say they went over as well as piezos in guitar cabs - and for the same reason. Distortion sounds better through a natural low pass filter.
 

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Bit of a tangent, but since you brought it up I wanted to mention it because there is very little understanding about this in the musician community. As regards speakers, you said that the cone is supposed to be stiff and move as a piston. This is true, but the degree to which it is true varies (e.g. this is why Hartke started using aluminium cones in their bass cabs in the 90s). But guitar speakers are (most often) paper (and rarely 'treated' or coated paper; just plain paper). They will buckle when pushed hard (e.g. that cone breakup we know and love). Over time this creates creases and weak spots in the cone (it will break up more; you can't always see them, but they're there). Eventually it gets to a point where it will just be farty all the time and it will be hard to get a nice clean tone. This is called fatigue (and at this point you can usually see some wear on the cone if you look close), and it's time for a recone even though it still technically 'works.'

The point I am trying to make is before you shell out $300 for that vintage all original D120, remember this stuff. If you're a player vs collector, take the cheaper one that had a recent recone (original style 1 pc paper cone+ surround parts are still available just not from JBL, in case that's the issue; personally I find the later doped fabric surround style superior, but diff strokes etc).
I have often wondered about old speakers and if they could be "past" it. That was a very informative post. Thank you for posting the info.

Now that I have somewhat hijacked this thread, back to our regular programming.
 
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