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Old 04-16-2012, 06:24 AM
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Default Is Sapele inferior to Mahogany? Or just easier to obtain?

Serious question ... what (if anything) makes Mahogany superior to Sapele as a tone wood for acoustic guitars?

Is this reality or perception?
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Old 04-16-2012, 06:36 AM
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I find sapele to sound more open with more bass and volume compared to traditional mahogany.
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Old 04-16-2012, 06:37 AM
Tristan Seume Tristan Seume is offline
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Sapele is a type of mahogany, anyway. However, I think it's personal preference - I've played lovely Sapele guitars, but I happen to not particularly favour its appearance. Again, a personal opinion.
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Old 04-16-2012, 06:38 AM
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I think it's perception. Just as mahogany suffered from being the repalcement for rosewood on low-end models, sapele suffers from being the low-end replacement for mahogany. Each is a perfectly good tone wood in its own right. Sapele tends to have a banded grain pattern. Some like it, some don't. But it's a good wood that suffers from its association as a replacement for mahogany when the latter is too expensive or too difficult to obtain in quantity.
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Old 04-16-2012, 06:40 AM
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I can only answer part of this question. Mahogany that has grown large enough for guitars is only available in Latin America or parts of Africa. Sapele is another type of mahogany that is typically found in Africa. I believe (although I have yet to find documented evidence) that the Sapele variety is a little easier to obtain in general.

I recently read an article in Taylor "Wood and Steel" that illustrated the labourious process involved in hand-cutting Latin American mahogany and bringing out of the forest via mule. There is only so much that is allowed to be cut each year, and it is strictly controlled.

From what other posts I was able to see, most folks agree that there is not a ton of difference between the two in terms of tone. You would be hard-presssed to tell the difference in a blind A/B of same guitar with just different woods.

So I think the answer is, it's not inferior, just different.
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Old 04-16-2012, 06:41 AM
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Mahogany & Sapele both come from the same family of tree (Meliceae). Sapele is the overall better balanced tone wood of the two. The grain and pore structure is tighter than Genuine Mahogany, and almost completely rot and weather resistant.

I posted this in another thread but find it more relevant here
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Old 04-16-2012, 06:41 AM
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Old 04-16-2012, 07:18 AM
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My understanding is that 'typical' Sapele is more dense than the 'typical' Honduran Mahogany most commonly available today. I believe there can be a difference in tone, but I'd say that one is not more desireable than the other; it depends on the instrument, the music, and your ear. For the music I play, and the guitars I buy, I tend to favor denser mahogany. In the past I've bought a guitar with a very dense set of Honduran, and an extremely dense set of Cuban Mahogany. However, I would have no issue buying a guitar built with Sapele.
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Old 04-16-2012, 07:26 AM
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Sort of answering my own question right here, but it seems that tone woods that are easier (and thus cheaper) to obtain, suffer from the perception that they are inferior to those that were once plentiful, but have now become difficult (and expensive) to obtain.

And it becomes a sort of "chicken & egg" situation ... Higher-end guitars tend to be made from the rarer tone woods (helping to make them higher-end guitars) and more affordable guitars are generally made from the easier to obtain woods (helping to make them more affordable guitars) ... but the question remains: Does an all mahogany Martin D-15 sound better than an all Sapele Martin D-15 ?? Or ... heaven forbid, vice-versa!

As mahogany and even East Indian Rosewood become harder and harder to obtain, will Sapele and Ovangol become acceptable on higher-end guitars ... at first as substitutes ... and then perhaps as equals to the less available current favorites??

Isn't this almost certain to happen ???

Or will carbon composites take over and make all tone woods obsolete ?



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Old 04-16-2012, 07:31 AM
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I love mahogany with spruce, but my 00-15 is all Sapele and I prefer this version than the all mahogany option as I found the all hog too dark for my taste.

The Sapele 00-15 is really balanced and quite sparkly with a great deal of warmth also.

So, to answer its not inferior, just a bit different. Just a different type of coffee as I see it.
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Old 04-16-2012, 07:38 AM
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Sapele is "comparable" to Mahogany. If you made 5 Mahogany D-15's and 5 Sapele D-15's, I would argue some of the Mahogany guitars would be better than some of the Sapeles, and vice versa.

That's why to me, auditions are critical. Regardless of price point, some guitars are better than others. Tone woods tell you what a guitar is made out of, not how good the entire package came together, and whether the guitar is average, not so much, or special.

Cherry picking let's you "know"......... Not always easy or practical, but IMO worth the effort, even if it means a road trip!
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Old 04-16-2012, 07:44 AM
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HEY YOU GUYS! KEEP IT DOWN! If too many people start appreciating sapele the prices will go up. Repeat after me. Sapele is a lousy tonewood & ugly to boot. I only bought it because it was cheaper.
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Old 04-16-2012, 07:53 AM
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Ha, ha ... good one, cracked me up !

Quote:
Originally Posted by 00Buck View Post
HEY YOU GUYS! KEEP IT DOWN! If too many people start appreciating sapele the prices will go up. Repeat after me. Sapele is a lousy tonewood & ugly to boot. I only bought it because it was cheaper.
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Old 04-16-2012, 08:07 AM
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If you prefer the typical tonal properties of sapele over mahogany then sapele is superior. If you prefer mahogany, then it is superior. The two do have similar tonal properties, however, and the extent to which they differ will be minimized by some and maximized by others.

For many years, when mahogany was plentiful and comparatively inexpensive it was thought of as a lesser tone wood. As it has become more scarce and prices have consequently risen, its status has increased. I expect the same thing to happen to sapele if it is over-harvested and becomes difficult to obtain.

Last edited by Herb Hunter; 04-16-2012 at 10:32 AM. Reason: Typographical mistake
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Old 04-16-2012, 08:09 AM
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I have become pretty partial to Sapele. I think in the hands of the right builder it is as good as any wood out there. I also think Taylor does a fantastic job with Sapele. Their 3 series guitars are, in my opinion, diamonds in the rough and one of the best bang for the buck guitars.
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