Acoustic Guitar Tops


Compulsive Noodler
Mar 30, 2017
Sarnia, ON
I've been considering starting the Private Stock process for an acoustic guitar and have been looking around for wood choice ideas. I've noticed that there isn't too much variation in the woods used for the top/soundboard. Is it just because of the impact on tone? And if so, has anyone played an acoustic with an exotic top that can comment on how it sounded?

WA Paul

All dogs go to heaven
May 11, 2017
Bearclaw Spruce. Hard to go wrong with traditional spruce. Redwood and Cedar can be quite nice as well.


Curly Mango for something different.

Dec 3, 2012
In general, Spruce has been my go-to for years. But in recent times I've been partial to Western Red Cedar as well, depending on build.


Moondog Wily

Howlin' At The Moon!
Feb 12, 2021
Piccolomini Crater, Luna
I have played only a few exotic tops, and was not too excited about what I have tried. A couple of them were Koa (Taylors) and the other was Mahogany (not exotic, but not spruce). I have had my Martin D12-20 (Spruce top - vintage 1971) for >30 years, and it is still my favorite sounding acoustic. I could play an open E chord all day and be satisfied with what I am hearing. My 2019 Martin J-40 Jumbo sounds great (Sitka Spruce top), but I was hoping for better action. I still have some mods to try before I give up on it. Tonally though, it is what I was looking for and expected.

I too have a plan for PS PRS acoustic (although probably 3 months out from initiating start), so I will be interested in what you find. I do not have the opportunity to go out and try stuff because any real guitar stores are too far away, but hopefully early next year I will be able to get some in my hands in a quest for "the one". I will still get a PS acoustic, because I feel I should have one in my life, and I have heard nothing but great things about them. Hell, if Steve Vai loves his, they gotta be good, right? I also simply want PRS to build my "vision", it will be a Duesy! When I originally thought of my acoustic concept, I figured I would have Martin build it, but I am pissed with them on a corporate level, and so far in my PRS experience (albeit less than a year) has done nothing but impressed me!

I have read (and you probably have already done the same yourself) that Koa takes play time to really come into it's own tonewise. If it sits in a case, it doesn't develop it's signature sound. It may still sound good, and that play time stuff is true for all acoustics from what I know, but more so with Koa.

Best of luck, I will be following your journey as closely as is permitted!!


Hears Tones
Apr 26, 2012
I have Adirondack Spruce on my PS acoustic, with maple back, sides and neck, ebony fretboard, and carbon fiber truss rod.

It sounds as big and powerful as a grand piano - bold, responsive, yet capable of nuance as well. The idea behind the PRS acoustics is that you want the top to vibrate to project the sound, more so than the back and sides, so it's stiffly braced in the body, while the top vibrates more freely..

Nothing gives you that like Adirondack Spruce.

This isn't to say other tonewoods can't sound good, but they'll be different. Even European or Sitka spruce are a bit different from Adirondack and from each other.

The reason spruce is the traditional choice for stringed instruments like the guitar and violin families is that it's a flexible material, yet it's strong. As you get more into hardwoods, the flexibility that's needed for projection of the tone is impacted. A similar comparison can be made between condenser mics, with their very light mylar diaphragms, and dynamic mics, with their heavier paper cone diaphragms. Condensers will give you more immediacy and sparkle, dynamics will give you something else.

Cedar is more subdued, very well suited to classical guitars, and mahogany is different, too.

If looks are what's most important in your build, or you just feel like something different from a traditional acoustic guitar sound, I won't feel badly if you decide to completely ignore my post!


New Member
Apr 26, 2012

I have three with redwood tops. They sound great. Unfortunately, I'm no good at describing the sound. As a consolation here's a video of a guy playing a Tonare with the redwood top. There is an Angelus still at Lark Guitars in Texas.

My daughter has an all-Koa Angelus similar to 11 Top's and it sounds wonderful. Very well balanced with great projection.
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