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Author Topic: Adirondack Spruce Tops  (Read 252 times)
William2
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« on: January 18, 2023, 04:16:33 PM »

I've been watching some demos of Eastman guitars that have Adirondack Spruce tops and some of them compare Adirondack Spruce with Sitka spruce tops. Some of the comments claim that the Adirondack Spruce tops sound muffled and others responded by saying it takes time for Adirondack Spruce tops to open up. Is this true and is it worth the wait? Does it eventually sound better than Sitka in some way? Is it punchier than Sitka and if you were to pair Adirondack Spruce with a short scale instrument would you have the power of a long scale instrument with a Sitka top?
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Queequeg
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« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2023, 12:33:29 PM »

I have two guitars with Adirondack tops. They’re both small body guitars. I certainly would not describe the sound as muffled. The reason I say this is that I play fingerstyle, and if that were a problem, it certainly would manifest itself with the articulation of individual strings.
And I might agree that it provides a punchier sound (which is nice to have with a smaller body guitar) but there are so many factors that go into a guitar build that I don’t know that I could say for sure.
I have often wondered why Jean doesn’t use Adirondack.
(I think I know why he doesn’t like cedar, but that’s a whole n’other discussion.)
Anyway, he’s pretty much the King of Sitka.
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« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2023, 01:17:10 PM »

Anyway, he’s pretty much the King of Sitka.

I would bet the 2 biggest factors would be the extensive amount of experience with that specific product and a nearly inexhaustible supply leads him (and the company) to stick with Sitka.  Not that he/they don’t experiment, but having a predictable end product is pretty important.

Ed
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William2
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« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2023, 02:51:40 PM »

I have two guitars with Adirondack tops. They’re both small body guitars. I certainly would not describe the sound as muffled. The reason I say this is that I play fingerstyle, and if that were a problem, it certainly would manifest itself with the articulation of individual strings.
And I might agree that it provides a punchier sound (which is nice to have with a smaller body guitar) but there are so many factors that go into a guitar build that I don’t know that I could say for sure.
I have often wondered why Jean doesn’t use Adirondack.
(I think I know why he doesn’t like cedar, but that’s a whole n’other discussion.)
Anyway, he’s pretty much the King of Sitka.

I guess I just think of Adirondak as being a more expensive wood or harder to get. You don't see Adirondak lower end Martin instruments. And yet, Eastman seems to be able to put Adirondak on so many of their models. In fairness to the side-by-side comparisons the instruments were new dreadnoughts, and the Sitka instruments had a longer string mensur. That could be the reason for the muffled comment and the comment that Adirondak needs time to open up. I can say from an appearance standpoint, I prefer the looks of Sitka. I never like that wide grain spacing I see on many Adirondak topped instruments. But I was told that is a characteristic of Adirondak. Which leads me to another question, who determines the quality of a wood? You see some makers claiming this top is AAAA quality. Is this the company's opinion or is there some accepted measurable standard everyone uses?
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Queequeg
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« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2023, 03:39:41 PM »

I guess I just think of Adirondak as being a more expensive wood or harder to get. You don't see Adirondak lower end Martin instruments. And yet, Eastman seems to be able to put Adirondak on so many of their models. In fairness to the side-by-side comparisons the instruments were new dreadnoughts, and the Sitka instruments had a longer string mensur. That could be the reason for the muffled comment and the comment that Adirondak needs time to open up. I can say from an appearance standpoint, I prefer the looks of Sitka. I never like that wide grain spacing I see on many Adirondak topped instruments. But I was told that is a characteristic of Adirondak. Which leads me to another question, who determines the quality of a wood? You see some makers claiming this top is AAAA quality. Is this the company's opinion or is there some accepted measurable standard everyone uses?
You’re correct about the wider grain on Adirondack. Sitka is prettier in this regard. But I think it provides for more flex.
 I can’t speak to the time it takes to open up. Somewhat subjective I suspect. I have never bought a guitar based upon what it might sound like at some point in the future.
As to AAAA ratings my understanding is this is entirely cosmetic, and also subjective in my (very humble opinion).
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Queequeg
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« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2023, 03:45:16 PM »

I would bet the 2 biggest factors would be the extensive amount of experience with that specific product and a nearly inexhaustible supply leads him (and the company) to stick with Sitka.  Not that he/they don’t experiment, but having a predictable end product is pretty important.

Ed
Yep. Makes sense to me.
But I’ve never seen or even heard of a single adi-topped Larrivee.
There’s some cedars out there, but not a lot.
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« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2023, 05:50:12 PM »

Yep. Makes sense to me.
But I’ve never seen or even heard of a single adi-topped Larrivee.
There’s some cedars out there, but not a lot.

And the moon spruce and European spruce (unless they are the same.)

FWIW, I agree 1000% on the breaking in stuff.  I would never buy a guitar based on what it might become in the future. 

Ed
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teh
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« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2023, 10:13:13 PM »

William

If this link opens for you, it will provide a detailed description of Martin’s methodology for grading wood. The author of this article is Todd “Spoon” Phillips who is knowledgeable.

http://onemanz.com/guitar/martin-wood-grading/

As an example, my custom 000 12 fret Martin (spruce over mahogany) has a grade 5-6 Sitka spruce stop and Adirondack grade 3-4 would be about the same price as the Sitka 5-6. Having said that, I am confident that Jean Larrivee hand picked the moonwood spruce for the Forum VI guitars built in 2021. Both of these guitars have a special place in my small collection of guitars and I’m glad that I had an Anthem Dual Source pickup installed at the factory by Larrivee. I would say my experience ordering two Custom Larrivees (2015 and 2021) was equal if not better than my experience with Martin’s custom shop.

I agree with the concept that someone shouldn’t order a guitar with a top based on what they think it will sound like in the future. I am also not sure what a torrified (baked) top will sound like in 20 years. I don’t know enough about the science to know if that’s worth the risk. I’d take my chances on buying a 40 year old guitar that aged naturally.
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Queequeg
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« Reply #8 on: January 20, 2023, 02:20:21 AM »

William

If this link opens for you, it will provide a detailed description of Martin’s methodology for grading wood. The author of this article is Todd “Spoon” Phillips who is knowledgeable.

http://onemanz.com/guitar/martin-wood-grading/



Thanks for the link. That was interesting and informative.

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William2
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« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2023, 01:17:38 PM »


Thanks for the link. That was interesting and informative.



Thanks for finding this. I found this really valuable. And I watch Spoon Philips demo videos all the time. I'm saving this one!
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B0WIE
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« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2023, 03:16:25 PM »

Like most comments sections on videos, it sounds like this one was full of misinformation. First, you won't understand the differences in adi and Sitka from listening to a video. It's something you have to feel first hand because much of it is down to the way they respond to your playing.

 Also, the "opening up" thing is largely overstated. Any changes are subtle and take a very long time. If one sounds muted, it's not the adi, it's the builder. The only guitar tonewood I've found to significantly change, to where it sounded like a different instrument, was koa used as a top.

Sitka is slightly brighter. Adi is a little richer. But, the major differences are in the response. Adi is very touch sensitive and wants to shout at even a light attack. The highs are laid back until you drive the top a bit. The bass is always strong and the overall volume potential is higher. You see adi (falsely, IMO) called a wood for flat pickers because of how it responds to a strong attack.

Sitka is lighter in the bass until you push it a bit. You can play Sitka lightly until the notes just fall away (great for those who like dynamic control, not as good for people who want the compression adi brings). When pushed, the top doesn't keep up quite as well as adi so the clarity and articulation you get at low volumes goes in the opposite direction when you play aggressively.

I'm overstating things a bit for the purpose of explaining the differences but you really get it once you spend some time with both tops. Changes in response can change the way you play, and that's why a video doesn't help.

Regarding wood grades, adi is naturally "uglier" (grain is wider and less straight) and will be scored lower most of the time. I had a conversation about this with the man who harvests much of the adi Collings and Martin use. A lower grade adi guitar can be expected to perform on a level similar to a better Sitka top. But, visual grades don't tell you about density and such so they're only a clue as to what the sonic quality might be.

Like everything wood related, it's down to the builder. If you put adi on an Eastman it's still an Eastman. Go for the builder you like, find the body style you prefer, then try a few of their different woods. The wood never comes before the builder or body style.
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Queequeg
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« Reply #11 on: January 20, 2023, 03:25:30 PM »

Like most comments sections on videos, it sounds like this one was full of misinformation. First, you won't understand the differences in adi and Sitka from listening to a video. It's something you have to feel first hand because much of it is down to the way they respond to your playing.

 Also, the "opening up" thing is largely overstated. Any changes are subtle and take a very long time. If one sounds muted, it's not the adi, it's the builder. The only guitar tonewood I've found to significantly change, to where it sounded like a different instrument, was koa used as a top.

Sitka is slightly brighter. Adi is a little richer. But, the major differences are in the response. Adi is very touch sensitive and seems to shout at even the lightest attack. The highs are laid back until you drive the top a bit. The bass is always strong and the overall volume potential is higher. You see adi (falsely, IMO) called a wood for flat pickers because of how it resounds to a strong attack.

Sitka is lighter in the bass until you push it a bit. You can play Sitka lightly until the notes just fall away (great for those who like dynamic control, not as good for people who want the compression adi brings). When pushed, the top doesn't keep up quite as well as adi so the clarity and articulation you get at low volumes goes in the opposite direction when you play aggressively.

Regarding wood grades, adi is naturally "uglier" (grain is wider and less straight) and is not graded to the same visual standards. I had a conversation about this with the man who harvests much of the adi Collings and Martin use. A lower grade adi guitar can be expected to perform on a level similar to a better Sitka top. But, visual grades don't tell you about density and such so they're only a clue as to what the sonic quality might be.

Like everything wood related, it's down to the builder. If you put adi on an Eastman it's still an Eastman. Go for the builder you like, find the body style you prefer, then try a few of their different woods. The wood never comes before the builder or body style.
Bowie, your posts are always very thoughtful and insightful. Thanks. 
As I said the two adirondack tops I have are both small bodied guitars and I specifically chose them precisely because of what you stated which I bolded above. It's a great top for fingerstyle and small guitars.
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William2
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« Reply #12 on: January 20, 2023, 09:27:43 PM »

I agree, I always look forward to Mr. Bowie's comments. I play strictly fingerstyle myself. Maybe I should try an instrument with an Adirondak top. I noticed you say your instruments have small bodies. Are these response characteristics less important with a large body instrument?
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Queequeg
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« Reply #13 on: January 21, 2023, 12:20:33 AM »

I agree, I always look forward to Mr. Bowie's comments. I play strictly fingerstyle myself. Maybe I should try an instrument with an Adirondak top. I noticed you say your instruments have small bodies. Are these response characteristics less important with a large body instrument?
Well, to the extent that jumbos and dreads are by design both louder and exhibit greater bass response than OMs or parlor sized guitars.
I like to hear my thumb on the bottom strings even (or perhaps especially) while playing a parlor.
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B0WIE
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« Reply #14 on: January 21, 2023, 03:34:06 PM »

Thx for the kind words.
Question wasn't asked toward me but I'll throw in my opinion that wood characteristics are more pronounced in larger instruments, and less in smaller ones.

I share a lot of Queequeg's thoughts on the matter. My smallest adi topped instrument is a 00 and while it's not big on bass, it's definitely not anemic and I can push the thumb a little harder to get more bass when I need it. That goes back to adi having less of a "ceiling" when pushed. It just doesn't choke. The strings and action become the limiting factors in terms of volume and dynamics.

I hope none of this makes it sound like I think Sitka is bad or a compromise. It's wonderful and has it's own strengths.
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D-09 Brazilian w/ Eagle inlay. D-02-12
Used to own and love; SD-50, J70 maple Mermaid, SD60sbt, D03R, LV03E.
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