It comes packaged in a very slick box with instructions, and a welcome-to-the-Tone Rite Family bit of promo hoo-ha. One of the recommendations that I’d read about and makes perfect sense is to hang the guitar from a yoke-style guitar stand or even suspend it so the guitar can vibrate to the maximum, rather than leave it in a case which would absorb much of the vibrations (which it should!). I hung my brand-new Martin OM-28 from a high quality Hercules yoke stand and the guitar only touched the stand up at the head stock and at two points on the edge of the lower bout. Upon turning it on I could feel the vibrations throughout the instrument.
Then the question was – how high should I turn it up? According to the instructions, turning it up to max vibration will improve the bass end, sound-wise, while turning it to a medium setting will mostly affect the mids and treble. This was what I was looking for because as I wrote about in the previous post I felt my OM-28 was a bit tight sounding in those area; the bass end wasn’t quite what I want at this time but I’m confident that area will improve in a relatively short amount of time, based upon my experience with many new Martins.
Initially the hardest part was being patient! The manufacturer recommends at least 72 hours of constant use initially, with periodic re-use if the guitar starts to “tighten up” again. Well, staring at my beautiful guitar and not being able to play it for that amount of time was difficult, to say the least. Plus a small part of me was a bit worried that the thing might be vibrating too much (!) and perhaps I was doing nothing more than loosening up the interior braces, or worse. That fear proved to be unfounded, thank goodness. So I stuck it out.
Finally the day came to turn the thing off, tune up and hope for the best. I wish I could say the result was radical; it was not. But I do think there was a subtle improvement in the mid range and perhaps a bit less in the treble. The bass end remained the same, to my ears anyway.
Then it occurred to me – why not try it on a lesser guitar and see what happens? I have a nice 000-size Seagull that I bought a few months back with the idea it would be my “travel guitar.” It is a nice guitar for the money. Seagull has really upped their game in the last couple of years in terms of fit and finish and overall sound. Not long ago every one of these Canadian-made guitars sounded dull and lifeless. Mine sounds pretty darn good when strummed, probably thanks to the solid spruce top with scalloped braces. The back and sides are cherry (composite) and the neck is also cherry with both the fingerboard and bridge made of rosewood. The best part is the neck shape. Although a bit narrow (1 11/16”) it has a rolled edge when makes fretting barre chords and chords requiring the use of the thumb on the fretting hand very comfortable. So I hooked it up to the Tome Rite, but this time I let it hum away for a bit more that the suggested 72 hours.
The results? Interestingly, pretty much same as with my much more expensive Martin. No noticeable improvement in bass, but clearer mids and treble and it seems like the sustain has improved somewhat. It still has a very woody, somewhat stifled sound that works much better as a guitar to strum rather than finger-pick but I would call this part of the experiment a success, on a limited basis.
But here’s the problem with all this. Although I tried to keep the basics the same for both guitars (fresh strings, same use of suspended guitar stand) over that week+ of my experiment the weather and relative humidity in my area has changed quite a bit. The humidity gauge in my studio has varied from the low 30% range into the mid 40% territory. I cannot deny that when it’s breezy outside, which it has been for about a week, my house is a bit drafty. And I absolutely believe that changes like that in humidity make a HUGE difference in the sound of ALL guitars, regardless of how inexpensive or fancy they may be. So you see what I mean about this being a totally unscientific experiment? I would need a totally sealed room with absolute control of temperature and humidity to come close to definitive results, I think. Which I do not have.
There are plenty of guitarists who swear by the Tone Rite and claim borderline miraculous results. Others hear very little change. Still others are outright disdainful of the thing and claim it is a total scam, not unlike the urban legend of one of the Japanese manufacturers putting new guitars in a big room with huge speakers blasting at them to “open” them up.
I wish I could recommend the Tone Rite without hesitation but I just can’t. I did hear some positive results, but would I have anyway in a relatively short amount of time without the thing? No way to tell. Further complicating this is the fact that in a few short months when our weather here on Olde Cape Cod gets hot and muggy, just about all acoustic guitars sound pretty dull and lifeless.
Maybe my next guitar should be one of the modern carbon fiber models that players and manufacturers claim are impervious to the weather. Nah. I’m too much of a traditionalist for that. Nah.
OK… well maybe…
Peace & good music,