Mahogany vs Rosewood

The sound differences of using mahogany or rosewood back and sides on acoustic guitars.

Ultimate Guitar
Mahogany vs Rosewood
Mahogany or rosewood, what does that mean?

Guitars are built using different kinds of wood. The two most common woods for the back and sides of acoustic guitars are rosewood and mahogany, combined with a spruce top.

In this video I've got two guitars with the same body shapes, one with mahogany and one with rosewood back and sides. We all know what mahogany and rosewood looks like but what is the difference in sound?

People tend to describe the different sound of the woods like this:


Woody dry sound, a bump in the mid range of the frequency spectrum and bright. Some say that the mid range of mahogany can be a in conflict when playing with a singer, because that mid range bump lies precisely where our voices tend te be on the frequency spectrum.


Overtones, clarity, bells, deep bass. In comparison with the mahogany less mid range, which can be a good or a bad thing!

Of course it's very important who built the guitar, every brand sounds different, but I think these guitars pretty much reflect my opinion on the sound of those tone woods.

The boxy, meaty, earthy bright and very fundamental mahogany vs the bassy and packed bells and overtones Rosewood.

If you want to find out for yourself, ideally play two identical guitar (if that's even possible) built with different woods, like the martin 18 vs 28 series.

So what do they sound like? Give it a listen in this video!

YouTube preview picture

Don't make your choice on the basis of this movie, or any other recording that is, always check it out with your instrument, the woods react differently to body shapes, and even then every brand is different.

But it's good to have some base knowledge about the sound, and it's always better to hear the differences then to have the described.

So, that's it, check out the store, and give it a go in real life!

This was Paul Davids,

2 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Keyworks Kid
    As a guy who builds guitars for a living, rosewood has no equal. The clarity that can come from rosewood is in my opinion leagues ahead of every other tonewood out there. However the quality of your wood doesn't mean jack if your structural design and overall craftsmanship are subpar. As well, with the new CITES law the lutherie market has taken a huge hit. Import and export of exotic and tropical woods has become increasingly (and to a degree unnecessarily) difficult and cumbersome. The restrictions on building rosewood guitars is going to put a lot of small-time luthiers out of business unless they learn to adapt and overcome.
    I also build guitars, and I don't understand why you think it is so difficult to get "rosewood." Do you specifically mean Brazilian Rosewood? There are many types of Rosewood that are still perfectly legal in the US. Also, the impact of making Brazilian Rosewood illegal is affecting the big companies just as much as anyone else... It's 100% illegal unless you had the timber before the ban. Any other endangered wood that is not outright illegal is easily obtainable in the US. I can get Cocobolo, Gabon Ebony, Honduran Rosewood, Wenge, Padauk, Bubinga, Purpleheart, Bloodwood, Zebrawood, Ziricote, and more at my local hardwoods warehouse. Someotimes they even get some particular cool woods like Persimmon, Texas Ebony, Granadillo, and Macassar Ebony. If I want something else, I can just order it. It may not be bulk pricing, but in my experience, someone who wants to spend as much money as I charge for a custom instrument does not care that the wood will be $400 more because it must be shipped in from Australia.