Satin vs Gloss Finishes, What's the Deal?

Rockmark

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I noticed over the last couple of years satin coming into vogue. Especially in Private Stocks which of course represent the best of the best. Now, years ago when there were some satin guitars, it was rare until the famous ME1 run. In fact PRS players at the time poo poo'd this finish and some, maybe many glossed up their ME1's to avoid the dreaded shiney patches that occur when satin is rubbed by play.

In the early days I remember PRS and everyone else in awe of the glass dipped look that PRS seems to have achieved in spades to other brands. For many players this put PRS on the radar. Now many of their most costly PS's are satin nitro. Not that this is a complaint, just wondering about the mindset change. I understand the sound advantages of the thinnest finishes but have others forgone the hatred of shiney spot areas for better tone? Or do folks now prefer the look of satin over poly glass look? Any opinions on this?
 
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emesem7

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I have one satin guitar (non-PRS) if you look at it the wrong way you'll leave a scratch and its impossible to buff out/spot fix. I will eventually sand the whole thing down a bit and apply a clear coat for protection.
 

veinbuster

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Satin comes and goes. For a while it was believed by some that satin meant less finish which meant truer sound from the wood. Many of those people ended up getting their guitars glossed - essentially a beauty make over.

More recently, satin is just a different aesthetic. Kind of like a matte finish on your $100k AMG.
 

Tone-y

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I think it's just that they're now branching out to take into account different tastes. It's good that both options are available.

I personally prefer the nitro finish as I like the traditional aspect of it and how it ages. I do like the look of the satin finish (I like high gloss too mind), but in all honesty, it doesn't last long when you start playing. I've given my satin 53/10 limited a buffing so that the shiny spots are less noticeable. It's not high gloss, but it's not exactly satin anymore. I'm fine with that, it looks like a nice aged finish and seems to suit the more vintage feel to this guitar.

I think that the satin finish compliments more vintage orientated guitars, and high gloss more modern. I think a satin nitro on a 594 would be great.
 

Mozzi

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Satin can be preferred because of the way it feels - especially on the neck but will become shiny over use. Its softer too so doesn't protect the look of the guitar as well but that can be preferred too as it will show ageing over time. Personally, I think the top of guitars look flat and don't show off the grain as well. Its like those maple tops they pull out that you can barely see the depth of the grain, the true beauty of it - until they spray a bit of water on the top and suddenly you see how 'special' that piece of maple truly is.

My personal preference would be just the neck Satin because I love the way the gloss brings out both the colour and depth of the maple and offers more protection too. If you look after a Guitar with the gloss finish, it can look like new many years later. Its only when you get close, in the right light to see any little dents in the back from Belt buckles, the small little dents around the edges etc. Mike Bradley (check him out on youtube) recently played a Hollowbody 2 'Gold top' that his friend has been gigging for years. It still looked new - until you start looking closely. Compared to the wear on his much newer Gibson, its clear how much extra protection it offers.

Some may like to see their guitars age with use, much more so in a shorter space of time - enough to wear through to the bare wood as you would expect being a much softer finish. Apart from 'feel' and the way it wears, the other difference is tonal. I think its not as bright but we are talking minor differences but some are certainly more tuned into minor differences than others. Feel on the neck though is the 'biggest' reason I think, that people opt for satin but to keep it 'satin' also requires additional attention...
 

LSchefman

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It’s interesting; for a long time a satin finish meant a less expensive guitar. For example, you’d often see lower-end acoustics with a satin back, sides and neck, but a gloss top, or all satin. The baby Taylors were all satin.

It was less expensive because it didn’t have to be laboriously buffed out.

At some point, though, you’d start to see very, very expensive one-off acoustic guitars by builders like Manzer in satin finishes, and they were done beautifully.

I’ve come full circle on satin finishes. When PRS came out with the ME1, I thought WTF??? Now I see them and think, “pretty cool.” Also, these days I kind of like it when a satin finish shines up a little from your arm resting on the top, and ages in the way satin finish guitars tend to do. Until recently, I was king of the OCD finish-obsessed.

The bottom line is that tastes change, trends come and go, and our instruments often reflect that.
 

WA Paul

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It seems like the non-maple topped PS guitars are coming with satin finish more likely than not these days - possibly a feel thing? For example, buckeye burl, rosewood, zebrawood, walnut and ziracote tops seem to have satin finish on them.

I prefer their HG Nitro for the look and feel myself, but I like their satin finish on the ME I as well. Yes, the HG Nitro can make them prone to swirl marks and possibly yellowing under constant UV exposure, so that may be a factor as well.
 

Geo408

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I prefer a nitro satin finished neck, over a glossy nitro neck. Stickyness takes 20 years to become playable. I also will not buy a satin finished guitar..that’s just me. I agree with Les, in that trends come and go, but I never jumped on that bandwagon. Ultimately, it’s a personal preference, and I just love the look of a well finished glossy thin finish, be it nitro, urethane, or acrylic. I’m kind of Leary of thick poly finishes, as they tend to suck tone. You wind up going through a number of sets of pickups trying to find the guitar’s musical tone. I wound up refinishing a large number of 70’s era strats..some worked out...some didn’t. Even the “natural” finished ones had a 1/4” thick finish..ugh. That’s just my 2 cents...ymmv.
 

shimmilou

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I really like the satin finish on the backs of necks just for the awesome feel, like the ZM, but don’t care for satin on the rest of the guitar.
 

Tonart

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I got PRS PTC to render this 53/10 limited to full gloss. Guess it’s obvious where I stand.

I just dislike the knowledge that I have zero control over satin finishes - when they scratch or shine, it’s impossible to restore.
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Axis39

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It's like the length of skirts and shorts.... They change with styling trends and everyone follows along.

Personally I'm still enamored of shorter lengths for women and medium length for men.... But, I'm probably showing my age.
 
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