5 Best Madagascar Rosewood Dreadnought Guitars

It would hard to be fancier than this Martin Custom Shop dreadnought. But the Madagascar rosewood is the new holy grail in tonewoods.
It would hard to be fancier than this Martin Custom Shop dreadnought. But the Madagascar rosewood is the new holy grail in tonewoods.

Dalbergia baronii - the rosewood of Madagascar

Madagascar's rosewood is the hottest thing going in steel string acoustic guitars. The CITES1 restrictions concerning Brazil's rosewood is absolutely why. Brazilian rosewood guitars are very very expensive to own these days. The rosewood of Madagascar is more available, but in truth, the cost of an instrument of solid Madagascar rosewood is quickly rising to the level of one of Brazilian rosewood.

Make no mistake about it, we people who love guitars and music care very much about these rosewood trees. We do not want to see these trees become extinct. We want the guitars too though.

So Brazilian rosewood guitars were replaced by East Indian rosewood guitars. East Indian rosewood has been seriously under-appreciated. Your best value in a rosewood guitar is always going to be the East Indian rosewood instruments.

As time has marched on, however, more and more Madagascar rosewood is being used in high end acoustic guitars. Madagascar's rosewood is much more similar to Brazil's rosewood than is Indian rosewood. How? Well, Indian rosewood is very uniform in its appearance. It is almost always the same color, and it lacks the wild swirls and visual appeal Brazilian rosewood so often has. Madagascar's rosewood had wide color variations as Brazilian rosewood does, but Madagascar's rosewood is lighter in weight than is Brazilian.

Madagascar Rosewood - Acoustic Guitar Tonewood Guide

Why are these Madagascar rosewood guitars so very expensive?

All species of rosewood, when used to make the back and sides of an acoustic guitar, will make for a guitar which sounds very different from either mahogany or maple. Rosewoods make for a much darker, more metallic sort of tonality. How can a wood sound metallic? Well, it does. I choose to describe it that way anyway.

Mahogany sounds woody. Rosewood sounds metallic. Rosewoods also produce a lot of overtones and harmonic response. Because these rosewoods are harder to come by than is mahogany and maple, builders would go ahead and make the guitars fancier, with more ornamentation. Specifically the ornamentation would be in more abalone inlay. You'll get a fancier rosette and fancier fret-board positioning marker inlays with a rosewood guitar.

Brazilian rosewood was always the holy grail because of both its visual aesthetic appeal and its tonal properties. These are subjective things, but one thing involved in the price of rosewood guitars is objective, and that is the time it takes to shape rosewood into a guitar body. It is much more time consuming to shape rosewood into a guitar body shape than it is to do the same with mahogany or maple.

In appearance and physical characteristics Madagascar rosewood is as close to a clone for Brazilian as could be found: the grain structure and porosity characteristics are virtually identical; the typical color is like Brazilian rosewood of the brick-red color way. The density range of Madagascar rosewood is virtually identical to Brazilian–between .8 and 1.0 specific gravity. Madagascar rosewood is less prone to the kind of tree-twist figure which sometimes creates instability and tendency to cracking in Brazilian.

Hair-line type fissures or cracks can definitely occur in the very finest of guitars made from solid Madagascar rosewood on the backs and sides. After spending so much money one may feel as though they've been careless with their prized guitar, but I assure you the cracks can happen regardless of your love and care. Alas, a hairline crack in the side of a dreadnought often winds up meaning absolutely nothing in terms of the instruments tonality and play-ability. It may cause the guitar to fetch less on resale.

Collings D2HGMR Custom Madagascar Rosewood


Collings D2HMR

A Collings D2H is their version of the Martin HD-28. A Collings D1 is their version of the Martin D-18, so the D2H is the herringbone D-28 by Collings. The Collings D2H comes standard with East Indian rosewood. You can absolutely order one of Brazilian or Madagascar's rosewood.

In the front and back images to your right you can see I've titled the photos with the numbers and letters combined as D2HGMR. Well, what does that mean? The G is for German spruce, and the MR, rather obviously, denotes Madagascar's rosewood for the back and sides of the guitar. Well, Bill Collings and Collings guitars will make a D2H with the combination of spruce and rosewood you want.

The purpose of this article is to display 5 of the very best makes of dreadnought guitars featuring Madagascar rosewood on the back and sides. I am not saying by displaying an image of one with German spruce that German spruce is better in combination with rosewood of Madagascar. Collings will certainly build you a D2HMR with Sitka, European, or Adirondack spruce for a soundboard.

The D2HMRs are custom order guitars. So these instruments will, when you see one, often have other custom features. Your Collings D2HMR can be built with one of three available neck widths at the nut. Alternate rosettes are available. Gold plated Waverly tuning machines. Different pick-guard coloring, with or without peg-head binding, with or without finger-board binding, and Collings will even build you one without herringbone trim; such are some of the options available. The following list of bullet points are the standard features except I'm listing Madagascar rosewood instead of Indian. What does such a fine Collings guitar cost? You'd best be prepared to spend a minimum of five thousand dollars to land one of these. Don't be surprised if the asking price is over six thousand.

  • Select sitka spruce top
  • Madagascar rosewood back and sides
  • Cross-cut grained ivoroid and wood nitrate strip rosette
  • Grained ivoroid top/back body binding
  • Herringbone trim with matching 2-style backstrip
  • Pre-war scalloped bracing
  • Tortoise-style celluloid pickguard
  • High gloss nitrocellulose lacquer finish
  • Mahogany neck
  • Square headstock with volute
  • 15 degree headstock angle
  • Ebony peghead overlay with inlaid Collings logo
  • Ebony fingerboard with ebony belly-style bridge
  • Mortise and tenon hybrid neck joint
  • 20 Frets, neck joins the body at the 14th fret
  • Modified V neck profile with 2 3/16" string spacing
  • 14"-26" Compound fingerboard radius
  • 1 11/16" Bone nut and drop-in saddle
  • 25 1/2" Scale length
  • Medium 18% nickel-silver fretwire
  • Abalone diamond and square fingerboard inlays
  • Fully adjustable truss rod
  • Ebony bridge pins and end pin
  • Nickel Waverly tuners with 16:1 ratio
  • Recommended string gauge - D'Addario EJ-17 (.013"-.056")
  • Collings deluxe hardshell case by TKL

The Martin Custom D-42 Madagascar rosewood dreadnought

The beautiful back and sides of a Martin D-42 Madagascar rosewood

Indian rosewood is never this color.
Indian rosewood is never this color. | Source

Martin Custom D-42 Madagascar Rosewood Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar

C.F. Martin & Company raises the bar with its D-42 Custom Madagascar rosewood guitar

The Martin Custom D-42 Madagascar rosewood dreadnought is anything but common, but they're easier to locate than any other Martin dreadnought with Madagascar rosewood used on the body. There has also been a very nice instrument titled simple the Martin Custom Madagascar rosewood dreadnought, which is very like an HD-28 in appointments, but has some unique binding and inlay and such.

For all the inlay and attention to historic details involved with the building of these Martin guitars, I'm amazed at how low the price is. The D-42 is just one step under the D-45 in adornment and inlay, and this guitar has the newest uber tone-wood, Madagascar's rosewood on the back and sides. These particular D-42 guitars go way past that, by using Hide glue in the construction. There is even an Italian spruce top on these guitars.

C.F. Martin & Company is essentially making the statement with guitars like this one, that they will absolutely not be outdone by the people at Collings and Santa Cruz, or Bourgeois. These dreadnoughts are almost always, of course, Martin's original designs. We're talking about a guitar here priced just a tick over ten thousand dollars. And it is still a bargain. Ten years from now these guitars will have appreciated in value more than many stocks or bonds.

  • Hide Glue Bridge, Neck, Braces, Top and Back to Body - Custom Certificate
  • Construction: Standard; Mahogany Blocks/Dovetail Neck Joint
  • Body Size: D-14 Fret
  • Top: Italian Alpine Spruce
  • Top Grade: 5-6
  • Top Braces: Sitka/Scalloped 5/16''
  • Pattern: DOMLE #3A / (1'' From Soundhole)
  • Top Binding: 11/64'' Grained Ivoroid
  • Top Inlay: .049'' B/W/B Boltaron/.066'' Poly/ .049''B/W/B Boltaron
  • Top Pearl: Style 42- .064'' Select Abalone Pearl (Mitered Corners)
  • Rosette: Style 45
  • Pearl Inlay: Select Abalone Pearl
  • Pickguard: Delmar, Faux Tortoise 3071, Self-Ad, Pattern 2B (D45 Style)
  • Back: Solid Madagascar Rosewood
  • Back Panels: Two-pc.
  • Purfling: Style 45
  • Center Strip/Loc. Stamp: Sitka Spruce Standard(CF Martin & Co Nazareth PA Made in USA Btwn 1st/2nd Brace)
  • Back Binding: 11/64'' Grained Ivoroid
  • Back Inlay: .0325'' B/W Boltaron
  • Sides: Solid Madagascar Rosewood
  • Endpiece: Grained Ivoroid
  • Endpiece Inlay: .0325'' B/W Boltaron
  • Block: Solid Genuine Mahogany
  • Neck: Genuine Mahogany- 12/4
  • Neck shape: Low Profile
  • Headstock: Solid/6 String Diamond/Square Taper
  • Truss rod: 2-Way Adjustable 356mm
  • Heelcap: Grained Ivoroid
  • Nut: Bone
  • Headplate: Solid Madagascar Rosewood
  • Headplate Bind: Grained Ivoroid
  • Headplate Inlay: .0325 B/W Boltaron
  • Headplate Pearl: C.F. Martin Block, Abalone Pearl
  • Tuning Machines: Gotoh Gold with Butterbean Knobs
  • Fingerboard: Black Ebony
  • Radius: 16''
  • Scale Length: 25.340'' (25.4'')
  • Width at Nut: Bound 1-11/16"
  • Width at 12 Fret: 2-1/8''
  • Fret Wire: G300
  • Frets Clear: 14
  • Total Frets: 20
  • Fingerboard Bind: Grained Ivoroid/Mitered
  • Pearl Inlay: Style 42 Snowflakes (Abalone)
  • Side Dots: Black Boltaron, .063
  • Side Dot Position: One at 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, Two at 12th, One at 15th & 17th Frets
  • Finish Type: Gloss/Satin Neck
  • Finsh Body: Non-Catalyzed Gloss/ Dark Filler
  • Finish Top: Non-Catalyzed Gloss/Clear
  • Finish Neck: Non-Catalyzed Satin/ Dark Mahogany Stain/ Dark Filler/Polished HP
  • Bridge: Black Ebony
  • Style: Standard Belly
  • String Spacing: 2-1/8''
  • Saddle: 16'' Radius/Compensated/Bone
  • Electronics: None
  • Strings: LifeSPan MSP 7200 Medium Strings
  • Bridge Pins: White with Abalone Pearl Dot
  • Case: Geib-style 545E Cabernet hardshell case

The 710CE Limited Edition Madagascar Rosewood Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Guitar

Taylor 710CE Madagascar back side

Taylor did a limited edition run of 710ce guitars with Madagascar rosewood. Every Taylor 710 comes with an Englemann spruce top. Taylor is very fond of Englemann spruce. The folks who do the Martin style dreadnoughts are not so fond of Englemann, but Taylor braces their guitars very differently.

Taylor guitars are not built to sound like Martin, so the use of Englemann spruce is just another step in the direction of being distinct and unique. Almost every Taylor dreadnought built is an acoustic/electric. The c in the 710ce denotes the cutaway, but one can see that with their eyes readily enough. The soft cutaway Taylor most often uses is properly called a Venetian cutaway.

Taylor guitars are guitars built to offer the best of acoustic and electric play possibilities. The electronics on-board are superb, and something one takes pride in as they do the tonewoods and build specifications.

Using proprietary pickup technology developed at Taylor, the onboard Expression System incorporates three different magnetic sensors. Two strategically placed Dynamic Body Sensors affixed to the underside of the soundboard capture the complex nuances of the top's vibration, while a Dynamic String Sensor mounted beneath the fretboard extension registers string and neck vibration. The preamp boosts the pickup signal cleanly, without the need for artificial EQ "coloration." The balanced, low-impedance signal the Expression System produces can run direct into a mixer or PA in most situations, and is free of distortion at almost any volume. Three simple, unobtrusive onboard control knobs preserve the aesthetic beauty of your Taylor, yet allow you to easily adjust the volume, bass, and treble to suit your personal preferences and performance environment.

Unless Taylor runs some more batches of these 710ce Madagascar rosewood guitars, you will have to get yours used. It is very very likely the people at Taylor will build more Madagascar rosewood editions of the 710, and likely the 810 and 910 too.I'm seeing these used guitars for sale at around three thousand dollars. Here are more bullet point specifications for the Limited Edition Taylor 710ce Madagascar rosewood guitar:

  • Dreadnought body style
  • Madagascar rosewood back and sides
  • Engelmann spruce top
  • Abalone soundhole rosette
  • Tropical American mahogany neck
  • Ebony fretboard
  • Abalone dot fretboard inlays
  • Rosewood headstock overlay and binding
  • Ebony bridge
  • Tusq nut and saddle
  • Gold-plated Taylor tuners
  • Elixir light-gauge strings with NANOweb coating
  • Adjustable truss rod
  • Standard II bracing (Forward Shifted Pattern with Relief Rout)
  • Gloss finish

Bourgeois DB Signature D Adirondack and Madagascar Rosewood

The binding on this beautiful guitar is of curly koa wood. What a stunner this thing is.
The binding on this beautiful guitar is of curly koa wood. What a stunner this thing is.

Bourgeois DB Signature Dreadnought Madagascar Rosewood and Adirondack Spruce

One thing I've stated in the past and will state again is - the finest guitars I've ever played were made by The Santa Cruz Guitar Company, and by Dana Bourgeois of Bourgeois guitars. I can say that with a clear head and feel confident about it. But you have to realize there are lots of guitars in this world, and my experience is surely not the most vast there is. Also, my thoughts and opinions are just that.

But you will find I'm hardly alone in my praise of Santa Cruz and Dana Bourgeois. This is absolutely the golden age of guitar building, and the competition out there has never been even close to as stiff as it is now. Somehow, Dana Bourgeois keeps finding ways to sculpt ever the more beauty from wood and wire, creating visually and tonally stunning masterpiece guitars

The koa wood body binding on these Dana Bourgeois signature series guitars are what makes these truly unique. All of them feature Adirondack or red spruce (two terms meaning the exact same tonewood) - and the back-strip binding is Dana's unique design as well. Dana Bourgeois was one of the first builders to recognize the use of Madagascar rosewood as the logical and most worthy replacement for Brazilian rosewood.

Another of the aesthetically pleasing extras used on the Bourgeois DB are the snakewood button Waverly tuners. In early editions of the DB Bourgeois, maple binding was used, and the Waverly tuning machines were gold. But all Dana Bourgeois DB signature dreadnoughts are premium HD-28 style guitars of Adirondack and Madagascar rosewood. These guitars are going to set you back at least five thousand new, and possibly more. These guitars are not mass produced. Bourgeois is a small scale operation, and this ensures Dana's production is limited to only the finest steel string acoustic guitars you will find. All appointments are as upscale as it gets. Ebony is used for fret-boards and bridges. Bone nuts and saddles are used, as is Hide glue.

Bourgeois DB Signature Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar Demo

Martin D28 Authentic 1941 Acoustic Guitar


1941 D-28 Authentic back side of Madagascar rosewood

The Martin D-28 Authentic 1941

Martin D28 Authentic 1941 Acoustic Guitar

The Martin 1941 Authentic is extremely similar to the Martin D28GE. The GE is substantially more expensive only for its Brazilian rosewood. The Authentic designation here along with the year is to tell you this guitar is essentially the same as the more expensive GE, but instead is using Madagascar rosewood.

Because of the work being done by folks like Bill Collings and Dana Bourgeois, Martin is also re-employing the use of Hide glue. Guitar snobs, and I'm speaking of myself and the likely readers of this page, are forever into the most minute of details. It can get pretty academic, or one could say, pedantic; but the bar is forever being raised.

To create these masterpiece 1941 D-28 Authentic guitars, the people at C.F. Martin & Company literally took one of their museum pieces out, put it under a microscope centimeter by centimeter, and created these guitars to be as exact as humanly possible to the one from 1941. But of course these are of Madagascar rosewood, not Brazilian.

Fossilized ivory bone nuts and saddles are something I absolutely believe in. You had better believe they improve the volume and clarity of an acoustic guitar. Adirondack spruce is used here as it was in 1941. Red spruce can be superior to sitka, but the finest sitka tops are as good as red spruce. This is my opinion. The Martin D-28 Marquis model should be compared to this one before you buy. The Marquis model is Indian rosewood with Adirondack spruce on top. If you can't tell a difference between the Authentic 1941 and the Marquis, then save yourself some thousands, my friend. These 1941 Authentic D-28 guitars are going for just under seven thousand dollars. Again, these will appreciate in value as time goes on, just as sure as the sun rises. Here are your bullet point specifications:

  • Natural Finish with Aging Toner
  • D-14 Fret Body Size
  • Solid Adirondack Spruce
  • Solid Madagascar Rosewood Back and Sides
  • Solid Genuine Mahogany Neck
  • Ebony Fretboard
  • 25.4" Scale Length
  • 1-11/16" Nut Width
  • 20 Frets
  • Diamonds & Squares - Long Pattern Golden Era - Circa 1941 Inlays
  • Standard ''X'' Scalloped (Authentic Style) - Circa 1941 - Rear Shifted
  • Solid Adirondack Spruce 5/16'' Top Bracing
  • Zig-Zag (Authentic) Back Purfling
  • Grained Ivoroid Binding
  • Authentic 1941 Barrel & Heel Neck Shape
  • Fossilized Ivory Nut and Saddle
  • Solild Madagascar Rosewood Headplate
  • Waverly Nickel 1129 Tuners with Oval Knobs

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Comments 4 comments

Athlyn Green profile image

Athlyn Green 5 months ago from West Kootenays

Beautiful guitars. The vids were helpful.

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 months ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

Thanks Athlyn!

paula 4 months ago

Wesman...ole pal, ole buddy.....Will you play one of them thar fancy GEE-TARS for us and sing this song? Sure would love you for it!!!! Effer

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 months ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

Now that's a classic. But I'd never heard it before today. You sure you're not a secret Texan?

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