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carol m

Cedar Top vs Spruce Top Audio Comparison

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I found this article and clip about the cedar top sound versus the spruce top sound. It's on 2 classical nylon string guitars, but played by the same person, playing the same piece, and the guitars are made by the same luthier.

Buying a Guitar

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Thanks Carol. What a great experiment.

To get the best comparison, I opened the video in two windows and switched back and forth listening to the same passage of music on both guitars. Have to say I was surprised at how close the sound is. I've always tended to cedar, probably afraid the spruce was going to be too sharp. But that's not the case. Really bugger all difference except for a direct comparison. So at the end of the day it still comes down to the individual guitar that you pick up, whether it sounds right to your ear or not.

I think I feel GAS coming on.

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This is pasted from a reply i once received from an Alhambra sales rep.

On the other hand, as far as we know, Cedar gives a warmer, mellower sound, and opens up quickly (6 months) while Spruce gives a clearer sound, but it takes long to open up (4 years).

In general, Cedar masks the tone more, so it is the favourite for beginners. Spruce gives more possibilities in tone colour, but you clearly hear mistakes and bad tone.

Cedar provides a warmer and louder sound than a Spruce top provides. We could say the Spruce provides a sweeter sound. However it is difficult to describe personal feelings and we always try to avoid that.

It does not matter what the top is made of (Cedar or Spruce) in regards the gain of sound over the years. However the gain in a guitar with a spruce top the gain is more evident and significant than the gain of the same guitar model with Cedar top. Note that the guitar made with Cedar top also gains but the improvement it is not as evident (probably because they start from a point where the sound of the cedar top is louder).

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When I bought my first acoustic I didn't know anything about tops or solid vs laminate or anything. I went to a big guitar store and walked around for about an hour checking the sound of the open strings as they hung or stood there. My limit was under $1500. I decided to not go with anything under $500 which left about 30 in that price range. I narrowed the choices down to 4 and then played them each a bit.

It took me about 2 hours (and 2 thinking breaks in the coffee shop next door) to choose, and I didn't go with the most expensive of the 4. Much later I found out I'd chosen a solid cedar top Takamine and I couldn't have been happier with it. It has mahogany back and sides, so now I just wonder how a cedar top with rosewood back and sides might sound.

Eddie: I noticed that you bought a Huss and Dalton cedar top with rosewood sides. Do you have a sound sample?

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I had a cedar and ovangkohl. The ovangkohl has a very close resemblance in regards to rosewood, and the ballance was very nice to my ear. I now own two higher price spruce/rosewood acoustics and miss the old D5 at time. It was a dread and had a very strong bass which could boom if played hard, but very controlable if nursed with a lighter attack.

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This might explain why my Takimine Spruce top always sounded a little "brittly". I always just thought it was the strings that I was using....perhaps not!

hb

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Skinny: The Maton you're renovating is a cedar top - couldn't help noticing - I looked long and hard for a cedar top lefty acoustic a year ago, but the choices of lefty was so limited locally. I found a store with 2 lefty's, one a cedar top, but when I compared the two (the cedar top was much cheaper) I went with the spruce top. But, I still find myself googling for a lefty cedar top that I can play before I buy. Haven't found one yet.

ambetanterik: it says cedar is 'good for beginners' and 'more forgiving' and 'spruce reproduces any poor tone' and I think that's all true. My cedar top sounds good always, but my spruce top almost never, especially in the trebles (it's only slightly cheaper).

I want to play the cedar top all the time, but the spruce top much less. Also the Takamine looks gorgeous (to my eyes) and the other one is 'just a guitar'.

It is starting to sound better though and I don't think it's due to an improvement in my playing. I keep changing it's strings trying to find the warmth of the cedar top but it doesn't make much difference. Maybe a really expensive spruce top would sound good even if it was me playing it, but that's not likely to happen anytime soon (for both the price and the skill level reasons).

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Carol. luthiers have been making guitar tops from both Cedar and Spruce for centuries for a very good reason.....they are both excellent tone woods.

The comparison you posted above shows clearly just how beautiful both woods are.

The Cedar guitar was a tad warmer/softer in some parts, the Spruce was a tad livelier/brighter in some parts.

The bass on the Cedar is melt in your mouth stuff and full of life, but the bass on the spruce is sharp and clear.

The treble on the Cedar is mellow, the treble on the spruce shines.

Probably a more important factor in sub AU$1,500 guitars is the quality and thickness of the finish (something I've been learning a lot about recently), a potentially great guitar can be strangled by an over thick coating of whatever finish is being used.

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Yes people do say the finish will effect the tone. The finish on my spruce top is very light and not at all shiny - can't remember what they called it, and the wood is quite pale. The finish on the cedar top is shiny and the wood is a deeper, warmer, richer brown. I can't help myself, but I like the look of the cedar top much more.

I think it's interestsing to hear Kirk play his Palm acoustic - it sounds fantastic - crisp and clear and beautiful tone, but it probably cost a lot more than $1500 and is not being played by a 'beginner'.

There's also the difference that steel strings make compared with cedar/spruce on a nylon string guitar. A cedar/steel will sound less 'hard' than a spruce/steel. . And probably less harsh in the treble. Some people call this 'bright' or 'clear'. My apruce top top e string sounds tinny and thin no matter how I try and no matter how thick a string I put on it. The mid and bass sounds are ok on the spruce top though.

Did you notice that Ruben says good Flamenco guitars are made with spruce? I guess they need the crisper and clearer sound for that style, but his guitars also sound full, warm and resonant. But the price/nylon/beginner factors apply there too.

And personal preferences are always the most important factor. I remember your acoustic for Anji sounded great - not like a spruce top at all. :laughingg:

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Here is a short track recorded on My Huss & Dalton Cedar top with Rosewood back and sides.

Mic: Rode NT1 (condenser) about 2 ft away from the mic with the guitar and probably too hot on the setting but never made it to the caution zone.

First time for the Rode.

Nothing special just a track I was working on.

Seranade.mp3

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Very very nice Eddie. Great playing too. It would be good if it was longer.

Have you ditched your Shure 87A and MXL990 mics? The Rode sounds great - 2 feet away and still catches everything clearly. Great recording.

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That was a great demonstration. I too prefered the cedar on that particular comparison, but it well could have been the other tiny differences between the two guitars. Guitars really are individuals!

I'm experimenting with a Redwood top on a guitar I'm trying to build. If I ever get it done, I'll post that sound. I understand some professional luthiers in N. Calif. have been experimenting with Redwood here and there. (With me, its because I had it in the shop.;)

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