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I recently went from a Peavy bolt-on classic bass to Warwick Thumb NT.

The tone difference is completely out of this world, and comparatively, so was the price.

I want to understand the implications a neck through has on the sound of a guitar, better.

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There's some terminology here that needs to be clarified. There are three types of neck constructions: Set-in, neck through, and bolt on. You want all three or just neck through vs bolt on? –  Jduv Jan 21 '11 at 19:49
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3 Answers

The main advantage of neck-through construction is better sustain, achieved through greater stiffness. It's all about maintaining the string's energy as long as possible.

Why does a guitar string lose its sustain? Why doesn't it keep vibrating forever? When you pluck a string, you impart energy to the string, and that energy keeps it vibrating. But some of the energy is transmitted through the bridge and the nut/fret into the guitar, and as that happens, the string loses its energy and vibrates less and less until, for all practical purposes, it stops vibrating entirely.

So how to you keep a string vibrating? You want the guitar to absorb less energy into itself and instead reflect more of the string's energy back into the string itself. A guitar with more mass and stiffness will reflect more energy back into the string than a lighter-weight, less stiff guitar. This is why, say, Modulus Graphite instruments have such sustain: their carbon-fiber necks have way more stiffness than wooden necks---so much so that they don't even require truss rods.

A bolt-on is inherently less stiff than a neck-through because the neck joint can't have as much stiffness as the two pieces being joined (the neck and the body). Whereas a neck-through is one solid piece of wood from nut to bridge, so it's stiffer and thus reflects more energy back into the string.

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Alex nailed it. –  Jduv Jan 21 '11 at 19:50
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More weight doesn't necessarily improve sustain; I had a '78 Les Paul Custom that weighed 10 lbs. My Ibanez SAS36FM is significantly lighter but sustains as well or better. I think stiffness is what does it, and would explain why graphite/carbon-fiber guitars and basses sustain so well. They are extremely stiff along the length of the fibers, yet they are fairly light weight. –  Anonymous Jan 21 '11 at 22:57
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the neck thru vs bolt on discussion is mostly BS. yes, you want a strong neck joint, but you can achieve a strong neck joint w/ both.

a crappy bolt on will suck and so will a crappy neck thru.

the tone of a guitar is a mish-mash of a million factors. some of those are:

  • the bridge (mass, how it attaches, trem vs no-trem, brass, nickel, chrome, steel)
  • the neck joint (neck thru, neck set, 4 bolt, 5 bolt)
  • the pickups (magnets, quality, winding, brand, active vs passive)
  • the brand of strings
  • the gauge of the strings (9's vs 13's)
  • the material of the strings (stainless, coated, nickel etc)
  • your amp
  • amp's settings
  • guitar's body (thin, thick, heavy, chambered, solid, type of wood, even finish)
  • your attack (you play hard, soft)
  • your guitar's setup (do you get some buzz, fret out, high action)
  • quality of the electronics (crap wiring, crap caps, cap values, pot values)
  • the nut (standard vs compensated, bone, plastic, brass)
  • fret material (stainless steel)
  • fretboard material (rosewood, maple, ebony etc)
  • bla
  • bla

a lot goes into the guitar's tone. singling out 1 thing as good vs bad is pretty much impossible. a guitar is a combination of factors. changing any one will to some extent change the guitar's characteristcs. whether the change is good or bad is 100% personal opinion

plus a ton of greats have used bolt ons and folks have loved their tones. clapton, srv, steve morse, lukather, hendrix, van halen etc all played bolt ons and they had/have great tone

same w/ neck thru guys

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You have a couple of decent points in here, but I feel like your answer is not very well articulated. You are right that an instrument's tone is the sum of it's parts, but I see nothing wrong with discussing specific values in that array. Plus I don't think anyone is saying that bolt on necks are bad, just that they're different. –  Jduv Jan 21 '11 at 19:47
    
"Plus I don't think anyone is saying that bolt on necks are bad, just that they're different." Agreed. A well made bolt-on will be very solid and sustain well. Bolt-on was initially implemented to save money, and saving money usually leads to more attempts to save it reducing quality, which we've seen over the years. But, it doesn't have to sacrifice quality or sustain or tone. There are some incredible custom and high-end Strats I'd enjoy having that are bolt on. –  Anonymous Jan 21 '11 at 23:01
    
I agree that there are some good points here... the original question is rather ambiguous in terms of describing guitar A and guitar B. All we know is that they're two different neck joints. Perhaps guitar B has better pickups? a fernandez sustainer? different strings? –  bluevoodoo1 Jan 30 '11 at 13:20
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Because there is no space/gap between the neck and the body of the guitar, the tone coming from the neck can be transmitted through to the guitar body (and therefore pickups) more directly than if the neck was bolt-on. Bolt on necks are not completely integrated into the body, so the tone is not fully transmitted through.

Sustain would also be greater, as there are no spaces between the neck and the body for sustain and volume to be lost.

Hope this helps.

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I've noticed the sustain, and the sound is fuller and more ballsy. –  Anonymous Jan 21 '11 at 18:47
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No, on an electric instrument, sound does not travel down the neck, through the body to the pickup. The pickup measures the vibrations of the strings directly. Any effect the neck/body construction has on tone is a matter of the neck/body taking energy away from the strings (suppressing some frequencies; reducing sustain). Also, vibrations resonating in the body can be transmitted back into the string. –  slim Nov 14 '11 at 11:14
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