Laminate vs Solid Wood Acoustic Guitars: How to Choose
For years, the laminate vs. solid wood acoustic guitars argument has raged. Purists say there’s nothing better than a solid wood guitar, which is why it costs more. Others say that laminate wood guitars are just as good, or even better than solid wood ones, even though it is cheaper.
Who’s right? We are here to help you decide by telling you everything you need to know about laminate vs solid wood acoustic guitars, including the definition and unique features of laminate and solid wood acoustic guitars. Hopefully, this guide helps you select the best acoustic guitar according to your preference.
What is a Laminate Guitar?
Laminate acoustic guitars have a body of laminate wood, which is pressed plywood that’s held together with glue and given a veneer coat (1). It’s not as dense as solid wood but still delivers a rich sound, depending on the manufacturing process of the guitar maker.
Laminate guitars are an excellent option:
- Looks like a solid wood guitar
- Costs less
- Better grain and tonewood highlighting
- Resilient to extreme temperature and other climate factors
- Stable build
What is a Solid Wood Acoustic Guitar?
Solid acoustic guitars are made with real wood, and the quality is typically determined by the type of tonewood used. The best guitars have a top, back, and sides made from maple, mahogany, red spruce, or rosewood (2).
The quality and type of wood will affect the tone and price of the guitar. For example, mahogany acoustic guitars cost more and have a solid, punchy tone that emphasizes bass and treble. Red spruce has a loud tonal quality that’s clearer and richer (3).
Other benefits of solid wood acoustic guitars are:
- Unique grain patterns
- The tone of the guitar evolves as the tonewood ages
- Authentic acoustic tonal properties
- High-end products favored by professionals
What about Solid Top Acoustic Guitars?
Solid top acoustic guitars are hybrids that combine the best parts of laminate and solid wood guitars. Most of the guitar’s body is made with laminate wood to keep the cost down, while its soundboard is made with solid tonewood for a richer resonance.
The laminate wood’s climate-resistant features boost the durability of a solid top acoustic guitar’s body, making it a resilient product with an awesome sound. It is ideal for guitarists who are on the road a lot and need a guitar that can take a beating and keep on singing.
How to Choose
The right type of guitar for you will depend on your priorities:
- Is it visually appealing?
- Do you want a guitar to last a lifetime?
- Do you want a better sound?
- Are you on a budget?
Let’s explore laminate vs solid wood acoustic guitars for each of the above questions.
You’ll want a guitar that looks great, but is it your priority? The best looking guitars are typically built from exotic wood, which increases the price.
For example, guitars that are made with Brazilian rosewood (4) or cocobolo have a gorgeous hue. The limited availability of these wood types makes it expensive, though.
You can still find a gorgeous guitar that’s made with laminate wood, available in diverse color variations and grain patterns. You can get one with an aesthetic that mimics natural wood or exciting colors that aren’t available with solid wood guitars.
If you intend to travel with your guitar, you’ll need something hardy and resistant to extreme weather.
Solid wood guitars are durable but not as durable as laminate guitars. For example, these guitars don’t fare well when exposed to rapid fluctuations in temperature and humidity (5), which can cause the wood to warp and crack.
Laminate guitars are far less susceptible to these damages and handle the wear and tear well.
Tone and Sound
For most guitarists, the sound quality of a guitar outweighs every other consideration. Laminate guitars have greatly improved over the years, and even inexpensive models generate rich, gorgeous sounds.
If you want a laminate guitar that can match the rich sounds, balance, and depth of a premium solid wood guitar, you’ll have to get a top-of-the-line choice, though.
Related: Electric vs Acoustic Guitar
Gone are the days when a cheap guitar meant an inferior sound quality. If you are on a tight budget, you can still find an excellent laminate guitar for less than a thousand dollars. It will last for several years with no sound quality deterioration.
If you are all about premium sound and build, and can afford it, there’s nothing wrong with splurging on a premium solid wood acoustic guitar.
You should be able to pick a winner in the laminate vs solid wood acoustic guitars contest. If you are unsure, a solid top acoustic guitar offers you the best of both worlds.
- How laminates made? Retrieved from https://strathmoredesign.com/laminatehowitsmade
- How woods can affect sound. Retrieved from https://www.fender.com/articles/gear/how-7-different-woods-affect-your-acoustic-sound
- Tonewoods. Retrieved from https://bourgeoisguitars.net/tonewoods-htm/
- Brazilian Rosewood Dreadnought Acoustic Guitars. Retrieved from https://spinditty.com/instruments-gear/The-Finest-Brazilian-Rosewood-body-Dreadnought-Acoustic-Steel-String-Guitars-For-Serious-Amateurs-and-Professionals
- Guitar Humudity and Temperature Levels. Retrieved From https://www.dawsons.co.uk/blog/safe-humidity-and-temperature-levels-for-guitars