Acoustic Guitars: Solid Tops vs Laminate Tops

For a guitar, the tonewood used plays a major role in its sound quality. In other words, the star of the show is the tonewood. The fretboard, body, and neck of the acoustic guitar can have many types of complementing wood, but importance should be given to the soundboard, also known as the top. This is the first point of contact with the strings, and their vibration goes to the entire guitar through the top wood. This piece is the home to the soundhole and the bracing, both help to shape the sound of the guitar.

The acoustic guitars’ top is of 2 types – solid and laminate. Below are the differences between them.

What is a solid top?

To put it simply, a solid top is a single piece of wood that has been carefully shaped and fitted in the guitar. You can say that from the source to its fitting in the guitar, it remains as a single piece of wood.

What is a laminated top?

This is the top where more than one piece of wood gets used in the making. The thinner layers of many different wood types join together when a combination of heat, pressure, and adhesives gets applied.

Features where they differ

Tone: A solid top can give a nice full resonant tone which gets better with age. This is due to a process called ‘opening up’. This process is nothing but the loosening of wood’s fibres that occurs slowly with time. In other words, the more you play with a solid top guitar, the better it will sound.

This does not mean that the laminate top produces a terrible sound. Here, the tone is much flatter and cannot give you good bass tones. The highs can often be like tiny sounds, and the overall volume will be less. With time, the laminate top will not improve its sound as like the solid top.

  • Value

Since a single piece of wood is present in a solid top, surely its value is much higher than the other type. On the other hand, vintage laminate tops with good craftsmanship retain their value. So, this factor is completely dependant on the quality of the guitar.

  • Looks

There is no doubt that solid top guitars look much better because it can give an increased overall sense of quality. Not much straight grain is present in the laminate top. But this type is all about durability and value. So, if looks are not your main things then is a good top guitar.

  • Resistance to weather

This is where the laminate top shines. They are highly resistant to humidity and temperature changes. This is good, especially for beginners who don’t know much about acoustic guitar care.

For a solid top guitar, the changes in the humidity can cause shrinkage, which leads to cracking of the top. Though you can repair it, it will sound different after that.

Conclusion

Both top and laminate top guitars have their pros and cons. But which is the best one will entirely depend on your needs and preferences.