With the advantages of machine technology like CNC mills available to instrument manufacturers, chambered bodies have become a new offering to players. You may have heard this term already, or perhaps it’s new to you. But what is a chambered guitar body and does it have any benefits?
What is a Chambered Guitar Body?
Chambering a guitar body is a method used to remove material from the original wood blank in a way that creates air pockets to make the model lighter. These chambers are applied to the blank in a way that also keeps the guitar balanced and strong, but does affect the sound.
With the instrument body now slightly hollowed out by routing air pockets into it, not only is the guitar lighter but many players feel that it also results in a warmer, airy, or woodier tone. In this article, we are going to explore this new build method to see if it affects weight, tone and how you can tell them apart!
Why Chamber a Guitar?
One of the most common reasons why a guitar body is made from a chambered blank is to reduce weight. Guitarists do a lot of standing while playing and sometimes, especially on longer tours or shows, it can be uncomfortable with the weight from what is considered normal for solid bodies.
Once manufacturers began experimenting with chambering, they quickly realized that it did make it lighter, but it also affected the sound. For some, it wasn’t until customers began complaining that the tone was extremely different did they realize they needed to find a better design solution.
They had to come up with better ways of chambering to prevent such differences yet still keep them lighter. But there are a lot of players who like the sound of a chambered guitar. They do have a tone that is unique depending on who designed them and the routing patterns used.
But some of the brands that make them are so good at it that it’s hard to tell between the two.
How to Spot a Chambered Guitar Model
There is no exact science to this, but depending on what you know about the type of guitar you are looking at, and what kind of tone you want, can help you determine what type it may be. The most common way to spot either one is by weight. A solid body electric will be noticeably heavier than a chambered one.
The reason for this is that the chambers in a body are what removes wood to make it lighter, but only certain areas of the guitar are removed to keep it strong and balanced.
Another way you might tell that it’s a chambered body is by sound. Depending on the way it was routed, there should be more volume projected from it. Some people have been able to tell between the combination of weight and volume when not plugged into an amp.
Otherwise, the only other way would be to research it online to find out if the body on a particular model has been chambered.
A Chambered Guitar Sounds Different
Chambered guitars have been around for a while, but they are becoming more and more popular as players learn of the benefits they offer in tone. A chambered body has voids routed in it that act as air pockets to make it lighter.
This gives the guitar a unique sound that is reminiscent of a hollow body. The tone can be fat and warm but also has this woody airy sound to it compared to a solid one. It’s more of a focused, punchier tone with more attack. Now, it isn’t a hollow body in itself, but it falls somewhere in the middle.
Many players are so impressed with this sound that they primarily play this style of guitar. But not every manufacturer gets this tuning of the wood just right. And so sometimes players will complain that a chambered guitar doesn’t have sustain, while others disagree.
I feel the sustain is right on point. This comes more from the material used than the fact that it has been chambered. I have played some that have a ton of sustain, more so than some solid bodies.
However, the chambered and solid body guitars both have their roles and should be considered different tools in the box. Use whichever one fits the music better, unless you are playing a 3 hours set, then use the one that is lighter!
Disadvantages of Guitar Body Chambers
While chambered guitars are not for everyone, certain disadvantages might pop up with them. This depends on the way the body was routed as well and the condition of the wood. Primarily when dried out.
When a solid body is chambered, it changes the structure of the model. Depending on how the routing was done and what pattern was used to chamber the blank, certain frequencies may be more dominant. This is due to something called resonant frequency.
When the energy from a certain frequency can be easily transferred through the body, it becomes louder. Sometimes the particular frequency might not be pleasing to the ear and could make the guitar sound poorly or offensive.
Some will describe it as a type of feedback. This can present itself once an instrument dries out or if it has not been chambered correctly. This is normally in the lows and mid-range, but is very much dependent on how it was made.
Then there is the opposite, in which certain frequencies can be dampened. In this case, some frequencies seem absent or missing. Not quite like having a dead fret, but a noticeable lack of mid or lows that may make the instrument sound lifeless because of losses.
When a guitar is chambered, it has to be properly balanced so as not to be heavy in one direction or another. But if you decide to change necks, there is a good chance that the guitar could become neck-heavy. This could limit you to the types of necks that the model can use, depending on how much material was removed and where.
Most people will simply keep the neck that came with the instrument, but some prefer certain profiles. And so if you like to experiment with different guitar parts, you may want to keep this in mind.
The takeaway with a chambered guitar is basically whether it fits your sound or not. For some people, it’s the only type that they play because of the tone it produces. For others, it’s missing punch and might sound lifeless or fizzy.
But with all the different variables like wood type and routing patterns, the only way to know if you will like it for sure is to try one.
Below, we have selected a few different frequently asked questions and provide answers that we hope will help you decide if a chambered guitar might be for you.
Do Heavier Guitars Sustain Longer?
One of the biggest things that people often assume about what determines sustain is how heavy it might be. Heavier guitars are sometimes known for having more than lighter ones. But what matters is what it’s made out of and what type of pickups you have installed on your instrument.
There are certain lighter and even chambered guitars that have tons of sustain, and so material is more of a factor than weight. But a majority of heavier materials do provide sustain over most light ones.
Do Chambered Guitars Sound Different?
One of the biggest differences with what you get out of chambered guitars is the tone or frequency range they produce. A solid body produces what people call rich overtones, which give the instrument its characteristic sound. It’s focused and tight in the lows and mid-range.
But once you begin to remove material from the body, the way the wood responds to vibration changes. The sound becomes warm or woody, and airier depending on the routing pattern and material removed. Some are known to get quite fat under high gain saturation.
Some manufacturers and skilled builders are better at it than others, in this case, the tone changes are not as drastic. After all, the concept is to make guitars lighter.
Do they Sound Brighter?
Generally, chambered guitars do tend to have what people describe as a brighter sound than what you normally hear in an electric. But this is primarily dependent on the material that is used to make the body.
For example, a swamp ash body that is chambered is known to be brighter and even have too much of a sizzle. Whereas, mahogany has a resonance that is warmer and fatter sounding with a soft treble response.