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Old 05-04-2019, 02:25 PM
Ozarkpicker Ozarkpicker is offline
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Default Top Wood Qualities

Generally speaking...on, say a small (00) body mahogany Martin...how are the tonal qualities of Sitka Spruce, Engleman Spruce & Adirondack Spruce different.
What would be the advantages of Engleman & Adirondack over a "standard" Sitka spruce soundboard that are worth spending more on?
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Old 05-04-2019, 02:48 PM
The Bard Rocks The Bard Rocks is offline
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Wood varies not only by the species, but by the piece and by whoever is "working" it. Englemann is better suited for less aggressive playing & works well for delicate fingerpicking. Adirondack has what they call "headroom" and can work well for someone who wants it would and is not afraid to whale around a bit to get it. Other spruces tend to come in-between.

But, remember, the species is only part of the equation.
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Old 05-04-2019, 03:02 PM
J Patrick J Patrick is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ozarkpicker View Post
Generally speaking...on, say a small (00) body mahogany Martin...how are the tonal qualities of Sitka Spruce, Engleman Spruce & Adirondack Spruce different.
What would be the advantages of Engleman & Adirondack over a "standard" Sitka spruce soundboard that are worth spending more on?

Can-O-worms question....i have owned and played multiple guitars with these three spruce species as well as a number of euro spruces as well....I could not accurately ascribe specific tonal qualities to any of them...

I have however developed an understanding of what to expect in terms of responsiveness-handling and which types my style of play works well with...

...Adi holds an advantage when it comes to an aggressive style overall but it can still be a super responsive spruce on a small bodied lightly built guitar....euro spruces often are great for the lighter touch but play a German Spruce dreadnaught like a Santa Cruz Tony Rice and you’ll be able to dig in just fine....

Sitka is an enormously unappreciated spruce and many of the best guitars both large and small I have played sported Sitka tops...same goes for Englemann..

....I tend to keep my guitars regardless of wood species....I think I can say that the species of wood has never been a factor in whether or not I like or keep a guitar..
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Old 05-04-2019, 04:47 PM
mercy mercy is offline
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I think of Sitka as being raw and Engleman as gentle, euro is sort of in between. Ive not played Adi.
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Old 05-05-2019, 09:38 AM
Alan Carruth Alan Carruth is offline
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I'm an apostate: IMO spruce is spruce, and what matters is the density. Engelmann tends to be lower in density than most of the others, based on my measurements, Euro is denser, and then come Sitka and Red. Stiffness along the grain at a given thickness pretty well tracks density, but in such a way that a denser top will tend to end up heavier, assuming they're built to the same stiffness. A light weight top tends to be more 'responsive', while a heavier one will usually have more 'headroom'. To say that there are a bunch of other variables involved would be a gross understatement. Keep in mind that there's a wide range of variation between pieces of wood of the same species: some of the densest tops I've gotten were Engelmann spruce, the densest piece of softwood I've tested is old European spruce, and I've gotten Red that was close to the lowest in density of any spruce I've seen.

In the end, a luthier doesn't work with a 'species' of wood, but with a piece of wood. If they're good they evaluate it on it's own merits, and work with it from there. Luthiers are, of course, as prone to buying into the prevailing myths as anybody, and will hear what they expect to hear, just as players will. Still, if you're after a certain sound you should find somebody who tends to build that sound, tell them what you want, and let them pick the top.
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Old 05-05-2019, 09:45 AM
Gordon Currie Gordon Currie is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alan Carruth View Post
In the end, a luthier doesn't work with a 'species' of wood, but with a piece of wood.
This ought to be a sticky here.
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Old 05-05-2019, 09:46 AM
mcduffnw mcduffnw is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alan Carruth View Post
I'm an apostate: IMO spruce is spruce, and what matters is the density. Engelmann tends to be lower in density than most of the others, based on my measurements, Euro is denser, and then come Sitka and Red. Stiffness along the grain at a given thickness pretty well tracks density, but in such a way that a denser top will tend to end up heavier, assuming they're built to the same stiffness. A light weight top tends to be more 'responsive', while a heavier one will usually have more 'headroom'. To say that there are a bunch of other variables involved would be a gross understatement. Keep in mind that there's a wide range of variation between pieces of wood of the same species: some of the densest tops I've gotten were Engelmann spruce, the densest piece of softwood I've tested is old European spruce, and I've gotten Red that was close to the lowest in density of any spruce I've seen.

In the end, a luthier doesn't work with a 'species' of wood, but with a piece of wood. If they're good they evaluate it on it's own merits, and work with it from there. Luthiers are, of course, as prone to buying into the prevailing myths as anybody, and will hear what they expect to hear, just as players will. Still, if you're after a certain sound you should find somebody who tends to build that sound, tell them what you want, and let them pick the top.

This post^^^...From this point going forward...Should just automatically be inserted, by one of the moderators on duty, into the beginning of any new thread about "Top Woods What are the differences in Tone" or any such variant thereof.

This IS the truth that Mr. Carruth speaks folks.

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Old 05-05-2019, 04:27 PM
Tony Burns Tony Burns is offline
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alan hit the nail right on the head -as he usually does -
totally agree with him -and the fact that every piece of wood is different its hard to pick the right type of wood- when you should be looking at the actual piece of wood.
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Old 05-05-2019, 04:49 PM
mercy mercy is offline
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I think, we are an opinion forum, that the common spruces we discuss here have certain tendencies. A luthier or experienced builder, not a hobbyist, will take into account the specific piece of wood and work to produce his sound. So I think it is valid to discuss species. Some people say they cant hear the difference, I think I can as they tend to be progressively softer. There are other characteristics of the different species also but that is another thread.
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Old 05-05-2019, 05:17 PM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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Yes, there are tendencies that the various species of spruce tend to have, mercy, but tendencies are all they are. Every species of spruce can really, truly mimic every other species of spruce in every single aspect - in tone, appearance, density and cross grain stiffness - and that overlap between species is much more common than the folks who say: “Adirondack will give you this sound, Sitka will give you that sound” ever seem to recognize.

So attempting to categorize these different woods by which characteristics they supposedly have is one part oversimplification and another part wishful thinking.

It’s tempting to pigeonhole things this way, I grant you, but it’s not especially useful. Or accurate.

Hope that makes sense.


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Old 05-05-2019, 05:29 PM
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justonwo justonwo is offline
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All of the luthiers Iíve worked with at least use the general sound qualities of the various spruce species as guide posts for wood selection. They do, of course, end up working to the strengths of a particular board.

For the guys Iíve worked with, Iíve never heard any of them say, ďthe species of spruce doesnít matter at all. Iím just going to pick a particular board that I think will get the job done.Ē

I canít speak from firsthand knowledge because Iíve never built a guitar. I do agree with Wade that there can be a ton of overlap. Euro that sounds like Adi and vice versa.

This guide is as useful as any.

https://bourgeoisguitars.net/tonewoods-htm/
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Old 05-05-2019, 06:26 PM
Alan Carruth Alan Carruth is offline
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If you're buying a production instrument, where they work to the average of the species, then the average instrument will more or less reflect those 'species' properties. There will be a fair amount of variation between examples of 'the same' model with 'the same' wood, of course.

As far as I can tell, having tried it, I don't think it's possible to make 'identical' pairs of instruments, even when you use 'the same' wood. It's a darn shame: it would make it a lot easier to suss out whether there actually is a difference between species if you could.
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Old 05-05-2019, 10:35 PM
ManyMartinMan ManyMartinMan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcduffnw View Post
...From this point going forward...Should just automatically be inserted, by one of the moderators on duty, into the beginning of any new thread about "Top Woods What are the differences in Tone" or any such variant thereof. This IS the truth that Mr. Carruth speaks folks....
While I agree completely - truth has little to do with anything here. You can post an undeniable fact and more than one person will tell you how wrong you are. If truth was the end all, most threads would have 3 responses. Maybe 4.
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Old 05-06-2019, 05:54 AM
stringjunky stringjunky is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by justonwo View Post
All of the luthiers Iíve worked with at least use the general sound qualities of the various spruce species as guide posts for wood selection. They do, of course, end up working to the strengths of a particular board.

For the guys Iíve worked with, Iíve never heard any of them say, ďthe species of spruce doesnít matter at all. Iím just going to pick a particular board that I think will get the job done.Ē

I canít speak from firsthand knowledge because Iíve never built a guitar. I do agree with Wade that there can be a ton of overlap. Euro that sounds like Adi and vice versa.

This guide is as useful as any.

https://bourgeoisguitars.net/tonewoods-htm/
Are they selecting timber pieces that fits the expected tonal signature of their species though and rejecting the outliers in a form of confirmation bias?
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Old 05-06-2019, 10:26 AM
Alan Carruth Alan Carruth is offline
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stringjunky2 asked:
"Are they selecting timber pieces that fits the expected tonal signature of their species though and rejecting the outliers in a form of confirmation bias?"

Again, I've tried my best a few times to make 'matched' guitars using wood that was 'sister cut' for all the parts. Everything was controlled as closely as I could. For the most recent pair, which were the most closely matched, we did 'blind' listening tests. Virtually everybody who heard them could tell that they were different.

It is certainly true that on average there are differences between the different species of spruce. These diminish a lot when you control for density. If you build tops to a certain target stiffness it works out that a denser top will tend to be a bit heavier, and that will generally translate into less 'responsive' guitar with more 'headroom'.

As far as I've been able to tell, if you start with two tops of different species, say Euro and Red spruce, that have the same density, and Young's modulus along and across the grain, the two instruments will probably be no more different than two made from 'the same' wood. This would be a very difficult experiment to do properly. You'd need to do it several times to be really sure, and even once is a lot more work than just making a couple of guitars. Keep in mind that 'same' or 'different' is an easy thing to judge, but assessing degrees of difference gets to be a can of worms.

Keep in mind too that luthiers are just as much subject to belief in the myths as anybody. Everybody hears what they expect to hear. I always try to keep in mind what I call 'Feynman's Dictum', as stated in his essay 'Cargo Cult Science', that "You are the easiest person for you to fool". This goes for luthiers too.

I'm not saying that there absolutely is no difference between the different species of spruce, once you control for such things as I mentioned above. What I am saying is that I have yet to be able to come up with any decent evidence as to either the existence or nature of that difference. Every suggestion I've gotten for some measurable difference of a sort that ought to affect the tone has not panned out when I've looked for it. Maybe I'm not measuring enough samples, or doing it carefully enough. Maybe there is a difference but we haven't yet figured out what it is or how to measure it. I'm not a big fan of leprechauns or fairy dust: if there is a systematic difference it has to be measurable somehow. Under the circumstances the only reasonable stance IMO is that there is no systematic difference between different species of spruce. I'll be happy to admit I'm wrong when somebody comes up with proof I can accept.
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