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Author Topic: Rosewood versus Mahogany - once again . . .  (Read 284 times)
jpmist
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« on: October 17, 2022, 11:07:49 PM »

Today was string change day for my rosewood and mahogany 12 frets. A little steel wool and baby oil on the fretboard plus I had a new trick to polish the nut slots I tried out. While using my phone tuner app I noticed for the first time there was a waveform of the note at the bottom and a lightbulb went off over my head.

I recording the screen tuning up both guitars so I could compare the waveforms. The conventional wisdom is that rosewood has more overtones compared to mahogany which has more focused notes. My poor hearing is such that while I can go, "yeah, I sorta hear that" I've mostly taken that conventional wisdom on good faith.

Below are graphics from the tuner app showing the waveform for the low E and low and behold, even a 5th grader can point out which is the rosewood and which is the mahogany because there are almost twice as many tall peaks for the rosewood indicating a lot of resonance/overtones in addition to the main note.



An Airyware tech was kind enough to explain the waveforms a bit more - "The peaks you noticed there are not only octaves but also other harmonics aka overtones. The graph range depends on the currently active audio sampling rate. According to your screenshots your graph display range is about 20-800 Hz. Thus, your mahogany guitar (bottom) has pretty loud harmonics at x2(E3), x5(~G#4), x8(E5) & x9(~F#5) while rosewood one (top) shines more at x2(E3), x3(~B3), x4(E4), x7(~D5), x8(E5) & x9(~F#5)."

Pretty cool, so now I know. It's nice to have something objective to look at to explain what I'm hearing. The rosewood always struck me as having a very "lush" sound and now I know why. Wish I had thought of this before letting some silver oak guitars go a few years back. I had pondered letting the rosewood go eventually, but I can't now, can I!  rolleye
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jazzereh
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« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2022, 12:43:09 AM »

OK, not really sure what this all means but for me, I love the sound of my mahogany guitars just as I love the sound of my rosewoods, just as I love the sound of my walnut, just as I love....  aah what the hell.  To me it doesn't matter. 
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B0WIE
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« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2022, 12:11:32 PM »

 Good observations and good subject. You can even use software to very where your "dead" notes are (they all have them) as the fundamental will be weak but the overtones will be present.

I think there's an acoustic buyer's "trap" in that it's easy to feel you're getting 'more' with rosewood, or that you may be missing out on something with mahogany. But, sometimes, "less is more". Heavy overtones can create a muddy tone with certain play styles or songs, and overtones can mask the clarity sometimes. Other times, they fill up the spectrum in a magnificent way for solo work. I don't think one is better than the other. And, the player can adjust when they want to push the tone one way or another.

Overtones are an interesting subject and they affect our perception of everything we hear.
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jpmist
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« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2022, 12:54:27 PM »

OK, not really sure what this all means but for me, I love the sound of my mahogany guitars just as I love the sound of my rosewoods, just as I love the sound of my walnut, just as I love....  aah what the hell.  To me it doesn't matter. 


Sure, all guitars sound great! I suppose much of it is simply something to do for a retired dude who overthinks stuff. But I think back to the custom OOV-03 MH SB I used to have that spent 2 years banished to it's case under the bed cause there was just something missing in it's tone. It looked beautiful so it should have sounded beautiful, right?  So I'd always wondered why it didn't. Formerly I concluded that I spent a few decades playing a spruce top which "set my ear" so this mahogany top just didn't give me what I was used to. The closest I have now to a hog top is my Taylor 322 so I just now got the same sound wave graphic to ponder over.
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jpmist
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« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2022, 01:05:05 PM »

Heavy overtones can create a muddy tone with certain play styles or songs, and overtones can mask the clarity sometimes. Other times, they fill up the spectrum in a magnificent way for solo work. I don't think one is better than the other. And, the player can adjust when they want to push the tone one way or another.

Good stuff, thanks! My self taught guitar journey got me doing little fingerstyle melody riffs by copying a lot of Mark Knopfler's acoustic songs. I can see where I'd need a clear note without a lot of overtones for that so that's why I've been playing mahogany guitars forever. But I can also see where strumming a rosewood guitar is going to create a nice rich wall of tones which could also work for some songs.

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StringPicker6
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« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2022, 05:30:51 PM »

All I know is that Larrivee’s natural mahogany coloring is so beautiful, even with the satin finish.  I have no idea why other companies (looking at you, Gibson) stain or paint their mahogany necks, backs and sides.  All those other companies need to stop painting their backsides!! 
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jpmist
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« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2022, 06:19:31 PM »


Yep, Larrivee gloss mahogany is as good as it gets   

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markj
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« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2022, 11:43:54 PM »

Really cool that you took the time to do this.
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jpmist
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« Reply #8 on: October 19, 2022, 02:33:21 PM »

Really cool that you took the time to do this.

Thanks! - too much time on my hands for this retired dude and no wifey to impose a "honey-do" list.

It was surprisingly easy and I wish I had thought of it before. It's not hard to record what is happening on my iPhone screen and then do a screen grab of the waveform for each note to compare. I'd always read of mahogany giving a more focused note and now I understand wny. I've been able to do the same in GarageBand where they have an EQ function showing the waveform.

I may have created a monster as now my next project is to figure out which of my 3 OO's work best with a capo on the fifth fret. blush
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« Reply #9 on: October 21, 2022, 03:25:00 PM »

"I think there's an acoustic buyer's "trap" in that it's easy to feel you're getting 'more' with rosewood, or that you may be missing out on something with mahogany. But, sometimes, "less is more". Heavy overtones can create a muddy tone with certain play styles or songs, and overtones can mask the clarity sometimes. Other times, they fill up the spectrum in a magnificent way for solo work. I don't think one is better than the other. And, the player can adjust when they want to push the tone one way or another."

I agree with the above sentiment. I have a mahogany L-05 and sometimes wish for the L-09, but the warmth and clarity that comes out of my L-05 is perfect for my fingerstyle playing and matching vocals to. Sure it's more fundamental sounding, but for me it does the job so well. I do have an OM-09 (rosewood) coming that I can't wait to play, but it will only enhance my guitar repertoire, not replace.
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jpmist
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« Reply #10 on: October 21, 2022, 04:36:13 PM »

I do have an OM-09 (rosewood) coming that I can't wait to play, but it will only enhance my guitar repertoire, not replace.

I found a rosewood OO during Covid lockdown and boy was I surprised! Really nicer rich tone made me wonder why I waited so long to get one. Thinking now of using it more of a strummer  to back up my fingerstyle stuff I record on GarageBand.

Be sure to touch base when you get your OM-09. Am sure you'll be pleased!
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guitarman001
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« Reply #11 on: November 22, 2022, 04:04:36 PM »

Hog mid-range bump makes the guitar sound fuller and more snappy on its own. Sort of like how a mahogany Les Paul sounds a bit honky... that's like Larrivee 'hog. I love it.
The notes just seem to "pop" when plucked and it has a full character.
It does occupy the same sort of frequency range as vocals so I can see why some prefer rosewood for vocals.
When playing chords, 'hog lets you hear all the notes clearly - no mush.

Rosewood can sound sublime, very chimey... generally not great for chords (mushy).
But I subscribe to "less is more" and I tend to get fatigued playing a rosewood guitar too much.
It seems to have less character and is more polite than mahogany. For me, personally.
Note Larrivee mahogany is especially good - much better than other builders.

I just love Larrivee mahogany guitars. Got my first (OM02) ~20 years ago and still have it to this day. It was an instant "I love this thing" when I played it.
The necks on Larrivees are also amazing.
I have played £10k++ guitars that do not compare.

At the end of the day, the best guitar is the one that makes yuo want to play more and more. And that's my Larrivee's...

Oops, went overboard there... but I'm sure you Larrivee lovers can appreciate these words!
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Silence Dogood
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« Reply #12 on: November 23, 2022, 01:39:49 PM »

I have never had a RW- or mahogany-bodied guitar (my Larrivee is made of blackwood and the guitar I had before that was pressed-wood "Nato").  But my Larrivee does have the most beautiful mahogany neck on it.  Sometimes I just love looking at my guitar and appreciating the nice combination of woods used.  Something I've always wondered about, though: why are necks made of mahogany and never RW?  I guess I always assumed mahogany was stronger than RW, but if that were the case RW would not be used for guitar bodies. 
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