When testing out guitars, you may notice that you prefer guitars made from certain woods. If you like the sound of mahogany guitars, many like you are the same. The question here may be whether mahogany guitars sound better and why.
Generally, mahogany guitars may sound better because they have a thick bottom end, a controlled high end, and a great midrange. It means it can produce clear high-end sound and a sustained bass sound that may sound warm and creamy to many players. It is also used on guitar necks for stability.
This article discusses whether mahogany guitars sound better and why people think so. We also compare mahogany and rosewood and see which is better in sound and quality.
What Wood Types Are Used To Make Guitars?
Generally, popular wood types used to make guitars include mahogany, rosewood, alder, walnut, maple, and basswood. Each wood type has unique properties and may present a different sound quality that appeals to different players.
Guitars can technically be made from all types of wood. This is because all wood can vibrate and produce guitar sounds. Wood may not even be needed to make electric guitars since they use pickups for the sound.
However, several types of wood are popular for guitar making, as they seem to produce sounds that players appreciate. These wood types come in different colors, sound quality, and sturdiness, which may appeal to different players.
Rosewood is a heavy wood with a deep dark red color. It is also one of the most sought-after wood for guitars, as it may be harder to get them these days due to import restrictions.
When used to make guitars, rosewood gives a rich, bright sound, which may appeal to soloists or finger-style acoustic players. You may see it used in expensive, flat-top acoustic guitars. Due to their price, you rarely see rosewood used to make electric guitars.
In the 1950s, when Fender started using alder wood to make their products, it alder became popular as a guitar wood. The wood is medium-weighted and has a lighter, beige-like wood color. The color may remind you of cardboard.
Alder is known for producing strong, clear, and full-bodied sound. The middle sound is thick, and the low end is excellent. On the high end, it may not ring as nicely as mahogany, as it does have a slight sizzling sound. Alder carries a decent sustain and may appeal to acoustic players that love strumming rather than plucking their guitars.
Mahogany is mostly harvested in Africa and Central America. It has a fairly dense construction and is a little heavy. It is a preferred wood for many expensive guitars, as it has a deep, rich red color.
Aside from looking good, mahogany also sounds good. It has a deep bass, stable mid-range, and a clear high sound. It also has a long sustain, meaning it produces a warm and creamy sound.
Walnut has a deep brown color, with beautiful grain colors that make beautiful-looking guitars. As for the sound, it produces something close to mahogany. It has a warm and full sound, with a stronger low end and less sustain. As a result, some guitar players consider walnut wood the ‘poor man’s mahogany.
Maple is one of the most popular guitar woods. It is harvested right here in the United States and Canada and is known for its high density and heavyweight. The wood is light in color and has a tight grain. This means maple guitars may offer a different lot and finish that may appeal to some guitar players.
Maple guitars, in general, produce precise sounds with tighter low sounds. It also has a bright top. Maple is also popular with semi-hollow electric guitars.
Basswood is light and has a softer hardness. It is also light in color, with minimal grain. As a result, when used to make guitars, the entire guitar looks light and is not too heavy. It is also a rather affordable wood, which makes it a very common wood to make guitars.
However, just because they are affordable, it does not mean basswood guitars are low in quality. It offers a strong midrange, with a certain level of softness that may be replicated poorly by other wood types.
Many guitar makers also try to blend basswood with other wood types to produce nicer-sounding guitars at a lower price. As a result, basswood or basswood-combo woods tend to be featured heavily in medium-priced guitars.
Do Mahogany Guitars Sound Better?
In general, many guitar players do think the mahogany guitar sounds better. The common description is that mahogany guitars produce balanced high, mid, and low-range sounds with long sustain. As a result, mahogany wood produces a warm, creamy sound that many guitar players love.
Mahogany wood is harvested in Central America and Africa. It has a deep, rich dark red color tone with beautiful graining. This means guitars made from mahogany wood are very beautiful to look at.
As a result, mahogany is expensive and used to make many high-end guitars. The wood may be expensive, but many guitar players are still okay with splurging money to own a mahogany guitar if they can.
This is because a mahogany guitar is a very well-sounding guitar. The wood is medium in density, meaning it can carry a wide range of sounds well. Acoustic guitars made from mahogany tend to carry a deep, loud bass, steady middle-range sounds, and a clear and bright top. Aside from that, the guitar also tends to have a long sustain.
This results in a rich, colorful sound across a wider range of frequencies. This means to a human ear, that means a richer sound. The long sustain also means the guitar rings longer. This may be described as creamy and fatty.
As a result, many guitar players think mahogany guitars sound better and are usually willing to fork out a great amount of money to own one.
Do Mahogany Guitars Sound Better Than Rosewood?
In general, mahogany guitars produce sound quality slightly different from rosewood. However, both wood types are recognized for their excellent sound quality, which means they may differ.
Rosewood also carries the status of being a very good wood to make a guitar. In fact, it was so good that their demand has caused environmental organizations to place stricter regulations on importing rosewood to protect it.
Rosewood’s popularity and quality are well shown when it is used as the main wood to make the Martin HD-28, one of the most loved and expensive acoustic guitars. Players such as Michael Cleveland and Josh Richard play them.
READ MORE: Battle Of The Martins – HD28 vs. D18
Rosewood and mahogany are excellent woods to make guitars and produce sounds of different qualities. Mahogany guitars tend to sound warmer and fuller. Rosewood, in turn, produces guitars that sound brighter and richer.
Mahogany also emphasizes mid-range sound, while rosewood tends to be louder on the high and low ranges. Both also have long sustain and make excellent guitars for picking or strumming.
As a result, the question of whether mahogany is better than rosewood or vice versa may depend on you. These two wood types may not be comparable, as they are not apples to apples.
If your ear seems to like mahogany over rosewood, then go for mahogany guitars. You can also say the same if you prefer rosewood.
Do Mahogany Guitars Sound Better With Age?
Mahogany guitars do sound better as they age. New mahogany guitars may be brighter and have more edge, but the sounds become more warm and mellow as they age. Some guitarists noted that an aged mahogany guitar sounds even better if they are frequently played as it ages.
In general, there is a debate among guitar players when it comes to age and sounds. Some believe that as their mahogany guitar age, they sound better. Some do not see that as necessarily true.
To those from the first camp, they noticed that when their mahogany guitar was new, it had a brighter, more edgy sound. However, as it ages, the guitar sounds more mellow and warm.
Some even claim to notice the difference between an old mahogany guitar that was frequently played and a rarely played one. They think a mahogany guitar frequently played ages even better, developing more resonance and creaminess to its sound.
However, this may only be universally agreed upon by some mahogany guitar owners. Many also noted that their guitar sounded similar from the day it was new, with any sound changes resulting from using different strings or picks.
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As a result, it may be challenging to tell if this is true, and the answer may rely on your ear again. If you noticed the difference in sound quality, perhaps you belong to the first camp. If you do not, then there is also nothing wrong with it.
Are Mahogany Guitars Expensive?
Mahogany guitars can be expensive, but it is not the most expensive wood to make guitars. Mahogany/spruce guitars may be more expensive than those made from rosewood.
Mahogany guitars are generally more expensive than regular guitars since the wood itself is expensive.
When checking at Sweetwater, it could be seen that Mahogany guitars can be as expensive as $6,499. The higher price is even more obvious when you compare the pricing against a maple wood guitar ($2,399) or cedar ($3,299.)
However, compared to the rosewood guitar, the most expensive guitar on offer at Sweetwater is a whopping $10,499. Several thousand more in price than the most expensive mahogany guitar.
This means mahogany guitars can be expensive, but there are more expensive wood types to make guitars from. That title may belong to rosewood guitars.
That title may belong to rosewood guitars.