Rosewood, Maple, Ebony
Which do you prefer and why?
If you had 3 of the same model guitar, except each had a different fretboard wood of each of the above wood types, do you think you could differentiate one from the other, by ear only?
I like ebony for it's super tight grain and uniformity. My take on their differences in tone on an acoustic guitar is less absolute and depends on the configuration and "purpose" of the guitar.
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Most natural ebony is not uniform in appearance. It has streaks ranging from grey to yellow. Solid black ebony fretboards have generally been "ebonized" or dyed black. I like natural ebony a lot better than ebonized ebony. Larrivee uses natural ebony. The Martin's I've looked at had ebonized ebony. I have a Gibson with a replacement bridge that was carved out of Macassar ebony, which is generally more vivid. On mine, it has gold tiger stripes running through the black.
Maple fretboards require a finish and can get kind of nasty after the finish wears off. Admittedly, I have never worn the finish off of one myself. While the finish is still intact, it does provide a barrier against perspiration.
I don't think I've ever compared wooden guitars that were identical except for the fretboard wood. I have compared "Little Martins" that were identical except for wood vs Micarta fretboards and bridges. The wood was Morado, aka Pau Ferro, which is similar to rosewood but not as reddish. I definitely liked the wooden fretboard and bridge better. It had a more "open" or vibrant tone. I don't think I was just hearing what I wanted to hear, because I consider wood content to be a drawback on the various Martin HPL guitars.
So, while I believe that it does affect the tone (since everything affects tone), I don't really know what that effect is. In general, my ears have been shifting toward a preference (like a flounder's eyes shifting to one side???) for mahogany bodies with rosewood fretboards instead of rosewood bodies with ebony fretboards. I do have a mahogany-bodied guitar with an ebony fretboard that sounds great, but it also has a 12 fret neck.
Aesthetically, I guess I prefer rosewood fretboards. The species doesn't matter that much to me. It's sort of like blondes, brunettes, redheads: I appreciate the differences but they're all good. I do look for grain and figure that doesn't run off the edge excessively, and I really don't like to see visible speckling from poorly-matched filler in the pores.
I'm not sure whether the dense grain of ebony or the oiliness of rosewood provides better resistance to perspiration.
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