Layered/Laminate vs. Solid woods

Have you ever wondered what makes a guitar sound and the way it does?

I will be starting a series over the next few weeks breaking down the many aspects of acoustic guitar construction. This series will cover subjects such as tone woods, bracing, nuts/saddles, strings & more. If anyone has a topic they would like to see, or questions regarding a post please shoot me an email at isaac@randeesmusic.com.

To start I will give a brief summery of solid vs. layered/laminate tone woods.

 

If you are looking at purchasing your first guitar or are on a budget you probably have come across the term, layered or laminate body. As a general rule any instrument under $199 is likely to be layered/laminate. Most instrument quality layered/laminated woods are three-ply select tone woods. These have a great look, decent sound, durability and are budget friendly. However because every piece of wood is different they will somewhat restrict themselves. On the other hand, a solid piece of wood vibrates evenly as a whole. This results in a louder tone, more sustain, and a wider frequency range.

Once you get over $200 you will start to see solid topped guitars with laminate backs and sides. This has a much more open and robust sound because most of the sounds are generated by the top of the guitar through the bridge and saddle. You could say the top of the guitar is like a speaker and the back and sides are a resonating chamber, enhancing the tone produced. They are both important to tone, but if the speaker is bad nothing will sound good. That is why most all intermediate guitars between $200-$800 will have a solid top. Keep in mind that they are more sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity requiring a little more care and maintenance, especially during seasonal changes.

After you get past the $1000 price point you get into the all solid guitars. These guitars all have remarkable tonal qualities that vary a great deal from one to another depending on the intended tone and style that the guitar will be used for. With the right paring of solid tone woods these guitars just blossom with sound.

 

Pros and Cons of the different woods

Layered Wood Pros:

  • Budget friendly

Layered Wood Cons:

  • Does not sustain very well
  • Commonly has somewhat of a tinny or dull sound

 

Solid Wood Pros:

  • Vibrates freely producing a more vibrant tone
  • Allows the wood’s natural tonal qualities to shine

Solid Wood Cons:

  • Higher cost
  • More sensitive to weather changes

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