Solid wood vs. Laminated back and sides

BonesBones Moderator
Does anyone have any opinions about the difference in tone, 'wettness'. etc? What about solid maple vs. solid rosewood?



  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,314
  • williecowillieco New
    Posts: 6
    i once sat in a store and played a circle of solid wood Taylors, maple, mahogany, and rosewood. i could hear differences, such as the rosewood had stronger bass and trebles, the maple had more mid range, and less sustain, while the mahogany was a bit mellower. I think this means that different tonewoods resonate more to particular frequencies.
    I think that a well made laminate will also resonate well, but maybe not with the same characteristics of solid woods. I tend to think that the quality of the top wood (stiffness, and strength) the arching of the top and back, and the bracing, will have more to do with the overall sound, than solid or laminate back and sides.
    My limited experience with archtops and Selmacs is that they do not have the same sustain as my 1976 Martin D-35( once it was timed at 18 seconds of sustain), but that is intended to keep individual lines and notes from getting muddy, to punch out the notes at maximum volume. Just my humble observations.
  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 6,125
    I think it's hard to make any generalizations about mentioned before the top seems to make the biggest difference. I'd say generally I prefer laminate back and sides for Selmer guitars, but sometimes I'm surprised, like with the Latcho Droms. The solid wood models are consistently better then the laminates. But with Dupont and US Made Dell Artes I haven't noticed as big a difference between solid vs laminate. I think a lot of these solid wood models were made just to make guys transitioning from the flatop/archtop world feel better about buying a Selmer type guitar. For those customers, laminate is usually associated with cheap Asian guitars so they freak out if you ask them to pay $3K for a guitar with laminate back and sides. I've experienced this many times...customers in total shock that a high end guitar has laminate!

    I think the lesson here is you can't really predict what a guitar will sound like by just focusing on the woods, especially the back and sides. You really have to just play the thing to find out...sometimes the guitar with the cheapest most unusual woods sounds the best, other times not. Aged woods, especially and aged top like the Vieille Reserve consistently adds a lot of mature high end. Other then that, it's hard to make generalizations.

    Also, what matters even more is the quality of the wood. People talk a lot about the differences between solid, laminate, maple, rosewood, etc. But what about the difference between a really select piece of rosewood vs. a shwag piece? That is probably much more important. Hahl uses some of the best woods I've seen....even his Indian rosewood looks amazing and sounds infinitely more complex then more mundane Indian rosewoods.


  • StringswingerStringswinger Santa Cruz and San Francisco, CA✭✭✭✭ 1993 Dupont MD-20, Shelley Park Encore
    Posts: 465
    Ditto to what Michael said.

    Every piece of wood is different and every acoustic guitar sounds different.

    I think that laminated wood is stronger and will hold up better to heat. I'd rather leave a laminate guitar like an es-175 in the trunk of a car than a solid wood guitar like a l-5.

    In the day of the Selmer guitar. laminated wood was more costly than solid wood. Maccaferri thought that laminated wood would send more power to the top and make a louder guitar. Now that solid woods have become so costly, people think of laminates as cheap.

    I will say that Maple and Mahogany (in general) have more midrange than rosewood or ash which tend to have more trebles, but I have played some very warm rosewood guitars and some very bright maple guitars.

    My advice: play before you buy (or have a very good approval period!)


    "When the chord changes, you should change" Joe Pass
  • JazzDawgJazzDawg New
    Posts: 264
    Well, I'll take either sitting in my lap. Won't do me much good in the trunk. ;-p (Know what you mean, though). I've got flat-tops using diferent woods and construction, and it really depends on the guitar. Agree top is most important.
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,314
    Wow, thanks for all the replies. It's nice to hear from people who have played different models of the Sel-Mac family since I don't get access to many different instruments.

    Michael, I think I recall that you mentioned in another thread that the Manouche Latcho Drom solid maple model was the driest in that line. Do you think that is because of the maple or other design features?

    Thanks again
  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 6,125
    Bones wrote:
    Do you think that is because of the maple or other design features?

    I can only guess that it's the woods....the design looks the same otherwise.
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,314

    I see right now you have a solid maple (bigleaf?) and a solid african mahogany Latcho Droms for sale.

    How would you compare these 2 guitars? Have you played both of them?

  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 6,125
    Both are great...both are very dry and bright. The Maple edges out the Mahogany in terms of pure volume and "wow" factor (it's one loud guitar!). But overall they are pretty close in tone and performance, with the Mahogany having a bit less volume and punch.
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,314
    Hmmmm, tempting....

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