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My first ported guitar: lowtech sound test and thoughts   You are logged in as Guest
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Andy Culpepper

Posts: 2955
Joined: Mar. 30 2009
From: NY, USA

My first ported guitar: lowtech soun... 

So I got a commission to build a Spruce/Padauk guitar with a soundport. Actually two of them (from different people), and this is the first.

I made a video playing the same music with the port first open, then covered. To cover it I just used a piece of cardstock taped over the port which was probably 98% effective in sealing up any air movement and thus eliminating the effect of the port.

This video is not amazing quality but I wasn't so much interested in using the world's best microphone to pick up the extremely subtle changes in sound. Those are definitely there for the player but I really wanted to see if it would make a big enough difference to be noticeable in a less-than-stellar video from some distance away in the room.

I think the answer to that question is definitely "yes", and after playing around with the guitar for a few hours I came to a couple of conclusions.

Conclusion #1: The soundport makes a big difference to the character of the sound. With the port open, in my opinion, there is an increase in volume, a slightly punchier sound, and more overtones (a more "open" sound for lack of a better word). With the port closed, the guitar has a drier, deeper, more focused and separated sound.

Conclusion #2: The difference in sound is more or less the same from player's point of view and from that of the audience. So it doesn't just "give the player more feedback", it makes the guitar sound different from all angles. I heard the same changes in the guitar from my perspective, when my friend was playing it, and in the video.

Also, a interesting fact: having the port uncovered raised the Helmholtz, or main air, resonance of the guitar an entire semitone.

So those are my $.02 to the soundport discussion, from my experience building one.

Anyway, here is the video, for what it's worth

0:05 for port open, 2:21 for port closed.



Oh, PS: the guitar has no finish yet. I will probably record it again after french polishing.

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Andy Culpepper, luthier
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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 13 2012 21:17:35
 
Anders Eliasson

Posts: 5780
Joined: Oct. 18 2006
 

RE: My first ported guitar: lowtech ... (in reply to Andy Culpepper

So now, lets see if Mr Blackshear is going to turn up and say that your conclusions are all wrong. (if he does, then dont worry, I´m not going to fight, but quietly bail out)

Nice Taranta and nice sounding guitar. I cant hear much diference with or without the port and that goes with my experience after, I dont know, some 20 guitars with port, that the change is for the player and not very much for the audience.

The Helmholz always raise with a port and maybe thats why some theoretical minded builders cant accept ports. To me it only shows, that Helmholz for a ported and an unported guitar is two different things. And nothing else.

Whats your experience with the bass of the guitar and how big is the port?

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 13 2012 21:39:51
 
Andy Culpepper

Posts: 2955
Joined: Mar. 30 2009
From: NY, USA

RE: My first ported guitar: lowtech ... (in reply to Anders Eliasson

quote:

So now, lets see if Mr Blackshear is going to turn up and say that your conclusions are all wrong. (if he does, then dont worry, I´m not going to fight, but quietly bail out)

Nice Taranta and nice sounding guitar. I cant hear much diference with or without the port and that goes with my experience after, I dont know, some 20 guitars with port, that the change is for the player and not very much for the audience.


I'm expecting a lot of people to come on and say my conclusions are all wrong, and for the mystery of the soundport to continue into the ages. Everyone seems to have a different idea of what effect a soundport has.

It's possible that in a small room, the ambient sound bounces back fast enough that it makes the difference less from player's perspective vs. audience. In a bigger room it might be more noticeable to the player only.

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Andy Culpepper, luthier
http://www.andyculpepper.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 13 2012 21:46:05
 
Andy Culpepper

Posts: 2955
Joined: Mar. 30 2009
From: NY, USA

RE: My first ported guitar: lowtech ... (in reply to Andy Culpepper

Yeah the Helmoholtz thing, I don't really care either way but it was interesting to notice that.

The port is 1 1/2" round. I found that the basses were more dry and focused with the port covered but a little more responsive and lively with it open.

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Andy Culpepper, luthier
http://www.andyculpepper.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 13 2012 21:49:53
 
Jim Kirby

 

Posts: 146
Joined: Jul. 14 2011
From: Newark, DE, USA

RE: My first ported guitar: lowtech ... (in reply to Andy Culpepper

Thanks Andy,

I'm sure there will be opinions both ways. I do hear the difference and agree with your overall characterization, and I think I like the drier, more focused version with the closed port better. The microphone could be very deceiving though.

Jim
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 14 2012 1:48:17
 
Jeff Highland

 

Posts: 401
Joined: Mar. 5 2010
From: Caves Beach Australia

RE: My first ported guitar: lowtech ... (in reply to Andy Culpepper

Sounds good to me both ways, I'm not hearing any big differences through my system.
The rise in the Helmholtz is what you would expect
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 14 2012 2:26:46
 
TANúñez

Posts: 2547
Joined: Jul. 10 2003
From: TEXAS

RE: My first ported guitar: lowtech ... (in reply to Andy Culpepper

I don't hear a difference. I do hear a great sounding guitar either way.!

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Tom Núñez
www.instagram.com/tanunezguitars
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 14 2012 2:43:49
 
estebanana

Posts: 8324
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: My first ported guitar: lowtech ... (in reply to Andy Culpepper

Often times you don't hear a difference with a soundport on a recording too much unless the equipment is really sensitive. It's mostly under the players ear.

Congratulation Andy for completing one of the "Devil's Holed Machines" now you will spend a lot of time explaining to curious people why it's there. I also most don't like to make them, but only because you have to explain, explain, explain. Oy it is tiring.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 14 2012 3:38:38
 
constructordeguitarras

Posts: 1513
Joined: Jan. 29 2012
From: Seattle, Washington, USA

RE: My first ported guitar: lowtech ... (in reply to Andy Culpepper

I agree with Anders, nice tarantas. And I have also found that ports make things different for the player mainly. I put them in two guitar that I had been playing for years without any and suddenly I could hear more bass and thought I ruined the guitars. I kept playing them and got used to it; they sounds normal to me now. They always sounded the same to me when played by others.

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Ethan Deutsch
www.edluthier.com
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www.youtube.com/marioamayaflamenco
I always have flamenco guitars available for sale.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 14 2012 4:16:55
 
Anders Eliasson

Posts: 5780
Joined: Oct. 18 2006
 

RE: My first ported guitar: lowtech ... (in reply to Andy Culpepper

quote:

I'm expecting a lot of people to come on and say my conclusions are all wrong, and for the mystery of the soundport to continue into the ages. Everyone seems to have a different idea of what effect a soundport has.


Its good that a lot of people have different ideas, but some and you know who I´m talking about only show up when they can bash things that doesnt fit into their square and orthodoks mind.

1,5 inch is a big port on on a spanish guitar. And if you place it right underneath your ears, it becomes very dominating.
I personally prefer guitars with ports, but I prefer a smaller port closer to the neck. This gives a more subtle effect and you get to hear and feel the whole body of the guitar more. Its personal of course, but I think my thoughts are based on real world experience and not just some ideas that someone has told me.

With respect of Helmholz, its not important, but the difference means that you cant compare a ported and a non ported guitar using helmholz. In Helmholz theory land, they are two different specimen. But you´re lucky. You have ears and fingers capable of telling you more important things and we are fortunate, that guitars are tools made to produce art and as such, they dont have to fit into different theories.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 14 2012 7:52:19
 
Kevin James Shanahan

Posts: 407
Joined: Oct. 10 2010
From: Wooli, NSW Australia

RE: My first ported guitar: lowtech ... (in reply to Andy Culpepper

Very hard to pick a difference , my ear did tend to favour the closed port recording . It seemed to me that the closed port playing had a more colourful and consistent tone , however saying this, i believe it is because that is where your focus had to be . It would be nice to hear someone who is very acustomed to thier soundport try the same experiment .

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 14 2012 9:56:18
 
Andy Culpepper

Posts: 2955
Joined: Mar. 30 2009
From: NY, USA

RE: My first ported guitar: lowtech ... (in reply to Andy Culpepper

Thanks for the comments everyone. Maybe my ear is biased but I can hear a difference in the video when switching back and forth between the two. But it is tough because I can't play exactly the same.
Sorry for all the mistakes in Taranta

Anders, what size are your ports?
I would build with a port again and it'll be interesting to get more experience with them on different kinds of guitars. I think it would work even better on a classical guitar because the tonal qualities it adds would complement a classical guitar even more IMO.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 14 2012 15:47:17
 
etta

 

Posts: 321
Joined: Jan. 20 2010
 

RE: My first ported guitar: lowtech ... (in reply to Andy Culpepper

I play a Brazilian negra which I had ported after construction. It was already an awesome guitar, but with the port it has even more bite, bark, and incisiveness.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 14 2012 16:44:11
 
Anders Eliasson

Posts: 5780
Joined: Oct. 18 2006
 

RE: My first ported guitar: lowtech ... (in reply to Andy Culpepper

My ports are the same size but with the inlay, so its some 25 - 30% smaller I guess.



Images are resized automatically to a maximum width of 800px

Attachment (1)

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 14 2012 18:29:54
 
rogeliocan

Posts: 811
Joined: Nov. 23 2009
From: Canada

RE: My first ported guitar: lowtech ... (in reply to Andy Culpepper

I hear a difference too. To me, enough to sound like 2 different guitars. Small difference but still there. The first guitar has 'brighter' or more nasal highs, don't know how to describe it and the bass is less there, less focused is a good word, less power.

The second sounds fuller, better bass, 'separated' is a good word too and the highs lose the 'nasal' characteristic, not sure how to name that one, like a high-thin part to the sound.

I always prefer the full sounding, I know this is personal preference; so port closed.

Pretty cool to have done that though, thanks.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 14 2012 19:56:23
 
El Kiko

Posts: 2697
Joined: Jun. 7 2010
From: The South Ireland

RE: My first ported guitar: lowtech ... (in reply to Anders Eliasson

I dont really have much experience with sound ports but to me they seem to function like a monitor ,,,, meaning, it is for the player only , as it is facing him only .
Thats why maybe on your video you dont get a big , if any , sound change ,.
if you recorded with the Mic above your head , for example ., you may be able to record what you are hearing ,,,

That might be an interesting experiment to put the microphone somehow near you ear and they play covered and uncovered sound port clips and see if it picks up better what you hear ....


I also think they are a bit of a gimmick , if you were playing in small bars etc then it may help you to hear your own guitar over any noise of people etc ... apart from that i think it has no use , and very little effect on the guitar itself ....

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 15 2012 8:48:01
 
theblackcat

 

Posts: 57
Joined: Feb. 2 2010
From: Istanbul

RE: My first ported guitar: lowtech ... (in reply to Andy Culpepper

This might not be the best place for this comment, but when my luthier suggested we use padauk for the negra I wanted built, Andy's "guitar #24 in the white" video had me sold. This one has the refined sizzle as well, great balance between trebles & basses to my ear, solid bass presence, the projection is there with/without the port... Great work Andy!
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 15 2012 17:23:04
 
Andy Culpepper

Posts: 2955
Joined: Mar. 30 2009
From: NY, USA

RE: My first ported guitar: lowtech ... (in reply to rogeliocan

quote:

I hear a difference too. To me, enough to sound like 2 different guitars. Small difference but still there. The first guitar has 'brighter' or more nasal highs, don't know how to describe it and the bass is less there, less focused is a good word, less power.

The second sounds fuller, better bass, 'separated' is a good word too and the highs lose the 'nasal' characteristic, not sure how to name that one, like a high-thin part to the sound.


That's basically what I hear too. The nice thing about the port is that in the room the guitar definitely has more "presence" and more apparent volume. I would want to accompany with the port open but probably record with it closed. Maybe I should try putting in a little sliding door like some makers have done

quote:

I dont really have much experience with sound ports but to me they seem to function like a monitor ,,,, meaning, it is for the player only , as it is facing him only .


I think people get confused a little by the fact that the port is facing the player. The difference in sound may be more from the player's perspective in a large or acoustically damped room but I definitely think adding the port changes the inherent character of the instrument and the way it resonates.

Knowing what the Helmholtz resonance is on a guitar is important in that it changes the way certain notes behave. Usually it causes the note that it's nearest to on the low E string to be a short, almost "wolf-like" note. This also pushes and pulls and interacts with other resonances of the top and back to change slightly how the guitar produces sound. Having the port opened raised the Helmholtz about a semitone.

Also interesting to note is that some guitars, usually very responsive ones, can have a somewhat wild string excursion especially on the low E string. This actually results in a bit more fret buzz when the action is at all low. One thing that jumped out at me about this guitar was that, with the port open, that low E string was more wild and buzzed a little more than with it closed (the vibrating envelope of the string was larger). This again suggests that the guitar is responding differently. Not huge differences but definitely noticeable.

quote:

This might not be the best place for this comment, but when my luthier suggested we use padauk for the negra I wanted built, Andy's "guitar #24 in the white" video had me sold. This one has the refined sizzle as well, great balance between trebles & basses to my ear, solid bass presence, the projection is there with/without the port... Great work Andy!


Thanks for the complement... that was one of my best guitars and the owner was pretty thrilled with it.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 15 2012 21:55:15
 
Sean

Posts: 672
Joined: Jan. 20 2011
From: Canada

RE: My first ported guitar: lowtech ... (in reply to Andy Culpepper

I actually only read the first part of your post before listening to the video, and thought it was two different guitars. I thought it was two commissions, one with, and one without port at first. I'm not sure it proves anything either way though, as the difference your hearing can effect the way you're playing. In this case I will say with the port covered it recorded better: basses were nicer.
I'm not biased either way on the subject: Blanca, Negra, port, no port, its players choice.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 16 2012 4:23:24
 
Andy Culpepper

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From: NY, USA

RE: My first ported guitar: lowtech ... (in reply to Andy Culpepper

Interesting Sean, thanks, I agree....

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 16 2012 22:19:51
 
Anders Eliasson

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RE: My first ported guitar: lowtech ... (in reply to Andy Culpepper

As this thread is about thoughts, here you have some after listening and thinking. The picture that Andy posted of his port is what made me write this. I would have liked to use that picture and post it here, but the picture is not mine and it wouldnt be respectfull to do so.

The test is fine and now Andy knows a lot more about soundports than before. And thats very important for this discussion and for the future of the ported flamenco guitar.

BUT.... Please dont take this thread for more than it is and dont make to many conclusions....
Why:
Besides the obvious that the recording is a bit so - so, This guitar has a soundport that I as a player would never use. Its way to big and to close to your ears. My own ports are only about half the area or even less. This has two serious impacts. (And this is based on tests and not on theory. I´ve made 15 - 20 guitars with ports):

* The sound gets a bit uncontrolled. Especially the basses are looser sounding and more difficult to control.

* The port totally dominates what the player hears and so, changes the way he/she plays, resulting in a different sounding guitar.

When playing an instrument, what we create is art and in art, words like taste and like, are predominant and basically, they cant be discussed. So whatever hat suits you. What I´m writing here is just based on experiments and my taste.

Soundports on flamencos are not the same as on steelstring acoustics. Big soundports work well on steelstrings, because they give you a feel of ´body´. On nylon strings, they do the same, but when to big, they become muddy. The nylon string guitar already has a deeper ´feel´than the steelstring with its dominant steel trebles.

Its important to notice that Andy, in the first post write that he likes it.... I also like and prefer soundports as a player. (as a builder, I dont care ) To me they make the guitar more lively and inspiring and I like inspiring instruments/tools when I play. But I want to have my main input from the guitarbody itself and not from a monitor port that doesnt produce the same sound and feedback as the rest of the guitar. So, my advice to Andy is to build some more guitars with ports and experiment some more with size and placement.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 18 2012 8:09:31
 
Andy Culpepper

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Joined: Mar. 30 2009
From: NY, USA

RE: My first ported guitar: lowtech ... (in reply to Andy Culpepper

quote:

So, my advice to Andy is to build some more guitars with ports and experiment some more with size and placement.


Right on. I am looking forward to doing so.

On this one the client has other guitars with soundports and specifically requested the size and location of the port. I think I will probably go down to 1 1/4" and put it closer to the neck on the next one.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 18 2012 12:26:32
 
Anders Eliasson

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Joined: Oct. 18 2006
 

RE: My first ported guitar: lowtech ... (in reply to Andy Culpepper

In Gal #91, Robert Ruck say that he uses 2 - 20mm holes on classicals.
I started making one whole with that area (28mm diameter) when I was doing a simple hole like you and now my port is a little bit smaller, but its difficult to say the exact size with the inlay.

Ruck can get away with a bigger area, because the holes are on each side of the neck and so, the response is less direct.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 18 2012 15:26:35
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