Hey everyone I am in the processing of playing with a bunch of guitars, and I was wondering what difference having a laminated back and sides actually makes? I mean compared to a full solid wood guitar? Does it actually change the sound of the guitar? Or is it simply cosmetic? I did notice a sound a difference however both guitars where laminated but one was made of rosewood the other mahagony. Any answers to these would be great!

ps. I played with a Martin D-something that day, cried when I saw the price tag, beautiful guitar.
A solid wood guitar will sound better but only after you play it for a while for some reason they sound better the more they are played when they sit for long periods they tend to sound flat and dull the wood becomes more elastic from the vibrations giving it a deeper sound. That is why you may not notice a difference off the shelf.
Everything steve said is correct. I'll just add that the reason you probably don't hear a difference between wood types when it's laminated back and sides is because most of the time, but not always, laminated woods only use the exotic wood for the outside layer. They tend to have 3 layers. The outside is rosewood, or mahogany, or something else that good. This outside layer is very very thin and has no effect on tone. The middle layer is thick and tends to be something cheap like agathis, basswood, or nato. The inside layer is sometimes the exotic wood but more often another layer of the cheap stuff. So chances are that the two guitars you compared had similar woods for the thick middle layer. That thick middle layer will always be the dominate tone of the back and sides and the outside layers are strictly cosmetic and don't add to the tone.

Laminated sides tend not to sound as good, even when comparing new guitars, but from time to time will sound better than solid back and side instruments. This does change with time because laminated back and sides wear out when solid wears in.

The advantage to laminated back and sides is that it's cheap and that it's easier to take care of. You can bash around a laminate guitar quite a bit and not cause any real damage but a small bump of a solid guitar, in the wrong place, and put a crack in the side several inches long. You also don't need to worry about weather conditions as much with laminate guitars.

So laminated guitars have their place in the world even if you are and experienced guitarist but it's not due to the sound.
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Laminate back and sides used to mean a lesser sounding guitar. Nowadays some manufacturers have gotten the process down where you can get really good sound from a laminate back and sides and solid top. Blueridge has a line of laminate back and sides that sound excellent. I would recommend replacing any saddle and bridge pins with bone as this will maximize your tone. (You can get these cheap on ebay.)

I would mention Recording King but they have some QC issues. I would mention Zager Guitars but I would start a firestorm of idiocy so I won't mention them.
Last edited by Guitar Hack at May 15, 2011,
in most cases solid wood sounds better, and i find they sounds better than most laminates the second you pick them up, not after you've been playing. but there's some variables. i've played a few crappy solid guitars that didn't sound as good as the best laminate back and side guitars, which i'd say are seagull originals and coastlines, and blueridge. i also find that the yamaha 335 is all laminate, but sounds as good as some brands solid tops.

keep in mind that the wood under the veneer in laminate back and sides could be pretty much any wood, and could be a single layer or more than one layer. how well the laminate back and sides are glued, what glue is used - these things affect how good the guitar sounds because it affects the vibration of the wood, and that means more or less tone.

i have never heard of any regular issues with recording king - no more than martin or any other brand. their minor issues are strictly cosmetic in my experience, and in the experience of people on agf. it happens that an rk has an issue, but it's as rare as with more expensive brands of guitars.

some laminate guitars are stronger than some all solid guitars, but that's also not always true - it depends on the particular guitar, how it's made, what wood is used.
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Yes, there are laminates and laminates. My little Taylor GS Mini has laminate back and sides and a solid top. Sounds terrific; noticeably better than the other 500-dollar-range guitars I was looking at.
The laminate in this case is "sapele", a tropical hardwood similar to walnut.

If the laminate is just cheaper woods with a nice hardwood veneer on top for looks, it's not going to sound as nice as one made of layers of the better wood itself.
The reasons for using a laminate in these cases is that it's increasingly hard to find big, solid, clear chunks of hardwood to work with.
That's why Martin went to those three-piece backs on some of their models years ago... All of the really nice, big Brazilian rosewood (goncala aves) had been cut down.
The Indians grow a nice rosewood but the logs are smaller.
I don't know how this sapele is structured, it may be that you simply can't get a large, clear piece of lumber to work with.
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...which goes to show it's as much the skill of the builder as what they're working with

Not to mention the skill of the guitarist. I always like to say that 90% of your tone is in your fingers.
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The laminate in this case is "sapele", a tropical hardwood similar to walnut.

Sapele is actually known as "African Mahogany". It's tonal response is most similar to Mahogany, even though they come from different species of wood.

Nowadays, it's being used more often as a substitute for Mahogany because all the really nice Mahogany from South America is starting to get sparse. The Martin 15 Series guitars are now all using Sapele unless specifically mentioned. The Taylor 300 series also all use Sapele. Sapele is plentiful in Africa and can be harvested in sustainable amounts, unlike Mahogany.

In the coming days, you can probably expect Mahogany to be more similarly priced to Rosewood.
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There ya go..... I recall when exotic hardwoods from South America were not only the norm for guitars but also for things like gunstocks.
The Japanese were mad for fine woods, they have a long tradition of fine carpentry and they bought up huge quantities of these woods.....Everyone thought the rain forests were inexhaustible.
Not so....
There was a period when luthiers were running around looking for antique furniture that had been made from good pieces of fine hardwood so they could re-purpose into guitars...
Now of course we're seeing exotic materials like carbon fiber and such. Who knows what we'll be playing in 50 years? (Well, you younger guys, I don't plan to be around that long.)