Wesman Todd Shaw started playing the guitar when he was 12 years old. He loves nothing more than to pick one up and pluck some strings.
Guitars used to be much smaller than they typically are today. The guitar was just a rhythm instrument used for chordal accompaniment behind a singer or a soloist playing another type of instrument. But everyone recognized what great potential the guitar held. The things just weren't loud enough.
So the guitars started to get longer scale lengths. The longer the length from the nut to the saddle a guitar has, the more string tension there will be when the guitar is in standard tuning. More string tension creates more volume when a note is plucked. But there was still a desire for more volume, and so the size of the body of the guitar grew larger.
C.F. Martin & Company always led the way on guitar innovations in the early 20th century. It was Martin who introduced the orchestra model, which was just a 000 model with longer scale length. Then Martin created the dreadnought body style. The name was an allusion to the HMS Dreadnought battleship. It was an exceptionally large ship at the time, and the body dimensions of a dreadnought guitar were quite a lot larger than previous designs had been.
The Age of Electricity and Electrified Guitars
By the 1920s, electricity was changing everyone's lives for the better. At least there was a lot more comfort available. A body could keep his or her beer cold. You could do with less candles for the increasingly available electrified lighting.
Electricity made entertainment in the form of music something which could now be enjoyed by much larger crowds. Sounds were amplified. Microphones were invented, and wouldn't it be nice if we could put something like a microphone inside of a guitar?
The first pickups for acoustic instruments were, in fact, carbon button microphones. These weren't very effective, as they produced a too weak signal. By the 1940s, pickups were built which would be recognized as such by the people of today.
Why Buy a Mahogany Body Acoustic-Electric Dreadnought guitar?
To be very frank about it, you only ever need to own an acoustic/electric guitar if you play live, with a band, or just accompanying yourself, in front of crowds. You can't go trusting a venue to have the proper microphone and amplification system you would need for your guitar. You need to have an acoustic/electric and a proper amplifier for it.
Why a mahogany body acoustic/electric dreadnought? The dreadnought body shape is the single most common acoustic guitar body shape. But you only want a dreadnought if you are comfortable playing one. Why mahogany? Mahogany is very different from rosewood. It is considerably less expensive, and the tonality its tonewood offers is quite a lot different.
Where rosewood is darker, mahogany is brighter. But for a working musician who we can assume has a limited budget, mahogany bodied acoustic/electric guitars can get any job done, and get it done for fewer dollars. That all said, this list of five mahogany body acoustic/electric dreadnought guitars are all guitars which are for the serious amateur or professional guitarist.
The Taylor 510ce
The leader of the pack in this category of guitar is clearly the Taylor 510ce. The 'c' and the 'e,' respectively, stand for cutaway and electric. Taylor guitars were ahead of the game, incorporating cutaways and electronics in the majority of their guitars before it was cool. And because of this, their Taylor Expression System is the state of the art in electronics for acoustic/electric guitars.
As the years have passed Taylor guitars have changed the way they internally brace their instruments. Besides that, they've also updated their Taylor Expression System a few times. So an older used Taylor 510ce won't sound and feel just like a newer one will. Also, older guitars are considerably more broken in, there is always also that factor.
The Taylor 510ce is currently using Taylor's ES2. Taylor's proprietary behind-the-saddle pickup (patent pending), which features three uniquely positioned and individually calibrated pickup sensors. The people at Taylor believe this is the best electronics systems for acoustic guitars, and they are not alone in this. Together with Taylor's custom-designed "professional audio"-grade preamp, this system produces exceptional amplified tone and responsiveness. On stage through a PA, plugged into your favorite acoustic amplifier, or direct into recording software, the Expression System 2 faithfully conveys the voice of your Taylor guitar.
Taylor uses Engelmann spruce as its tonewood for the soundboard on the 510ce. Engelmann spruce, more than any other type of spruce, acts like a cross between spruce and cedar. So with an Engelmann spruce top, the softly plucked notes of a fingerstyle player can have more nuances and overtones than with the usual Sitka spruce. The guitar will also respond well to the flatpicker and the strumming of rhythm playing. Here are the bullet point specifications:
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Taylor 510ce Acoustic/Electric Guitar features:
- Type/Shape: 6-String Dreadnought
- Back and sides: tropical American mahogany
- Top: western Engelmann spruce
- Soundhole rosette: abalone
- Neck: tropical American mahogany
- Fretboard: ebony
- Fretboard inlay: small pearl dots
- Headstock overlay: Indian rosewood
- Binding: Indian rosewood
- Bridge: ebony
- Nut and saddle: Tusq
- Tuning machines: Chrome-plated Taylor Tuners
- Strings: Elixir medium gauge strings with NANOWEB Coating
- Scale length: 25 1/2"
- Truss rod: adjustable
- Neck width at nut: 1 3/4"
- Number of frets: 20
- Fretboard radius: 15"
- Bracing: standard II (forward shifted pattern)
- Finish: gloss
- Cutaway: Venetian
- Electronics: Taylor Expression System 2
- Taylor Deluxe Hardshell Case
Taylor 510ce with some bluegrass flatpicking
Gibson's Workhorse, the Gibson J-45 Standard Acoustic/Electric Guitar
The Gibson J-45 has been in production since 1942. Gibson refers to this guitar as the working musicians workhorse guitar. Because it is priced to sell to the working musician. It is a no frills guitar most often used for acoustic blues, or chordal rhythmic strumming behind someone singing country and folk music. But the J-45 can be used to make any sort of music. It is a mahogany body slope shoulder dreadnought with a spruce top.
You can absolutely get a J-45 without the sunburst finish; but those are more rare. The most of them you will ever see will be with the deep sunburst finish. You can also get a J-45 with rosewood, or even Koa bodies, but those are much more expensive, and again, much less common than the mahogany body Gibson J-45 acoustic/electric guitar we have all come to know and to love.
There are signature series J-45s, and there are limited edition J-45s, and there are mahogany top J-45s. There is no end in sight to the J-45, as it is one of the single most widely owned, sought after, and recognized guitars on the planet. There are a ton of different Gibson J-45s with all manner of different features on them which you could run into when out shopping for your ideal mahogany body acoustic/electric dreadnought.
Most J-45s you see will have Sitka spruce tops. Sitka spruce is a damned fine variety of spruce, and makes for an outstanding soundboard, or top for a guitar. Adirondack spruce is less common, and thus, more expensive. When the J-45 debuted on the market in 1942 this was not the case, Adirondack spruce was plentiful, and was used as a standard feature. Today you pay a couple thousand dollars more for Adirondack spruce, but it truly isn't worth that much more money in terms of what you get. Most persons wouldn't be able to tell the difference.
The Gibson J-45 standard is a perfect stage guitar for the performing musician. And the standard instrument is very very good. In this day and age of technological wonders, Gibson can hardly be expected to make anything but a better guitar today than ever before. Below are the specifications for this world wide renowned American classic:
Gibson J-45 Standard Acoustic/Electric Guitar features:
- Body type: Slope shoulder dreadnought
- Cutaway: Non-cutaway
- Top wood: Sitka Spruce
- Back & sides: Mahogany
- Bracing pattern: Scalloped
- Body finish: Nitrocellulose lacquer
- Orientation: Right handed
- Neck shape: Slim Taper
- Nut width: 1.725" (43.8mm)
- Fingerboard: Rosewood
- Neck wood: Mahogany
- Scale length: 24.75"
- Number of frets: 20
- Neck finish: Nitrocellulose lacquer
- Pickup/preamp: Yes
- Brand: L.R. Baggs
- Configuration: Soundhole mounted preamp
- Headstock overlay: None
- Tuning machines: Nickel Grover Rotomatics
- Bridge: Rosewood
- Saddle & nut: Black Tusq
- Number of strings: 6-string
- Case: Hardshell case
- Accessories: Owner's manual
- Country of origin: United States
Gibson J-45 Standard Acoustic-Electric Guitar Review
Seagull Artist Mosaic Element Acoustic-Electric Guitar Natural
I really can't stress enough how good a value buy an all solid wood construction Seagull guitar truly is. These are made in Canada, and they are made well, and sell for killer prices. I mean, these guitars are damned fine guitars, and I'm not sure how they can afford to let them go at prices as low as they do.
This guitar, the Seagull Artist Mosaic Element Acoustic-Electric Guitar Natural goes for just over a thousand bucks, and is professional grade all the way. This is a standard mahogany dreadnought, but this guitar has a cedar top. What's the difference? There isn't as much of a difference as you might think.
Cedar soundboards respond beautifully to light attacks. Yes, you can flatpick a guitar like this with a cedar soundboard - but these guitars will respond most adroitly to chordal strumming and fingerpicking. If you are a very heavy handed picker who uses a heavy pick, and you are digging into the strings very loudly, the cedar top could be over-driven. But in my experience, you'd have to have an exceptionally heavy handed approach for such a thing to be an issue to where it affects the sound of the guitar negatively.
This fine Seagull guitar is dressed out in herringbone trim like a Martin HD-28. That's some fancy trim this thing is wearing. And for around eleven hundred bucks!! Brothers and Sisters, this guitar is a steal. The value goes deeper still, these guitars have Adirondack spruce braces inside. They will ring like the most beautifully made bells in the world. They have L.R. Baggs pickup and pre-amp inside.
Here's the small catch, there is no hard shell case sold with the guitar - you can save up to buy that separately, or pick up a used one somewhere. Yes, the guy in the video I put here on this page says the guitars all come with cases. But I'm looking at Guitar Center and Musician's Friend, and they both say this isn't the case, irony intentional. If you buy one from Amazon.com, which I have linked up above a couple paragraphs from here, you do get a case. Here are the guitar's specifications:
Seagull Artist Mosaic Element Acoustic/Electric Guitar features:
- Body type: Dreadnought
- Cutaway: Non-cutaway
- Top wood: Solid cedar
- Back & sides: Solid mahogany
- Bracing pattern: Info not available
- Body finish: Custom polished semi-gloss
- Neck shape: Info not available
- Nut width: 1.8" (45.72mm)
- Fingerboard: Rosewood
- Neck wood: Mahogany
- Scale length: 25.5"
- Number of frets: 21
- Neck finish: Custom-polished semi-gloss
- Pickup/preamp: Yes
- Brand: L.R. Baggs
- Configuration: Undersaddle
- Headstock overlay: Info not available
- Tuning machines: Info not available
- Bridge: Rosewood
- Saddle & nut: Info not available
- Case: Sold separately
Seagull Artist Mosaic QII Acoustic-electric Guitar Demo
The Guild D-40CE
The Guild D40ce is my kind of guitar. I like playing bluegrass type music, and this guitar more than any of the above is suited towards that avocation. This is a made in the USA Guild, so its quality level is off the charts. Ren Ferguson is running Guild these days, and that man doesn't play around with quality standards, he raises the bar.
This guitar compares directly to the Taylor 510ce. Some people prefer Taylor, others prefer brands like Guild. What I'm saying here is the best possible thing would be for the prospective buyer to be able to try this Guild and the Taylor 510ce one after another. They are similar styles of instruments built to have different characters.
The Guild D-40ce has a different on-board pickup and pre-amp from other brands. Guild isn't using Fishman or L.R. Baggs, they use something called D-TAR Wavelength. This is an 18 volt system which uses two AA batteries.
Reading about these Guild guitars online in guitar forums and such, there is some confusion I would like to clear up. The Guild D-40ce is a made in the USA all solid wood construction guitar. This guitar should be and will be more expensive than either the GAD-40ce, or the Guild D-140ce, both of which are made in Asia somewhere.
The Asian made Guild guitars are good guitars, but they won't cost as much as the USA made, and may not have the same level of care used in their manufacture. If you see someone online selling a Guild D-40 for a suspiciously low price - be advised the person may be misleading you. They are likely selling a Chinese Guild and pretending it is an American Guild. Below are the bullet point specifications for the USA made Guild D-40ce:
Guild D-40ce Acoustic/Electric Guitar features:
- Category: Standard
- Body Style: Dreadnought
- Top: Solid Sitka Spruce
- Bracing: Scalloped Red Spruce
- Back: Solid Mahogany
- Sides: Solid Mahogany
- Scale Length: 25.625" (65.09 Cm)
- Neck: Mahogany
- Fretboard: Rosewood
- Fingerboard: Radius 12" Radius (305 Mm)
- No. of Frets: 20
- Position Inlays: Pearl Dot Inlays
- Nut: Bone
- Nut Width: 1.6875" (43 Mm)
- Bridge: Rosewood
- Saddle: Bone Saddle
- Bridge Pins: Bone Bridge Pins
- Body Finish: High Gloss Lacquer
- Neck Finish: Satin Lacquer
- Hardware: Chrome
- Machine Heads: Gotoh Die-Cast
- Strings: D'addario Exp 17 Coated Phosphor Bronze, (.013-.056 Gauges)
- Pickups D-Tar Wave-Length End Pin Mounted Preamp W/ Volume & Tone Module
Guild D-40CE Standard Fingerpicking Demo
The Martin DCPA4 Performing Artist Series Acoustic-Electric Guitar
Sapele is often referred to as African mahogany. Whether or not this is deceiving is a subject of some discussion in many a forum. Sapele is also sometimes referred to as 'sapele mahogany.' American mahogany, Honduran mahogany, South American mahogany - many of these species of trees are of differing Genus. So they are certainly very different species.
Because the question of what is and is not mahogany is rather complex - and because Sapele is often called mahogany along with various other woods which aren't so closely related to whichever one a body considers to be THE real mahogany; this Martin is included here. Sapele is gaining market share as a tonewood; and besides, is gaining a very good reputation among players.
In any case, the Martin DCPA4 Performing Artist series acoustic/electric can be had with either a sapele mahogany body, or an east Indian rosewood body. These are all solid wood guitars with little inlay work, and bridges and fret-boards of Richlite. No one can accuse me of shrinking from controversy. Richlite is even more controversial than the question as to whether or not sapele is mahogany.
These are fine guitars, every solid wood construction Martin is. Maybe the harshest condemnation I've seen of these was someone saying Martin was imitating Taylor guitars here. Martin guitars are never imitations - but the reference, I think, had to do with Martin using alternative materials, and making a production instrument with a cutaway and electronics. Martin uses Fishman electronics, and they are second to none.
Martin DCPA4 Performing Artist Series Acoustic/Electric Guitar features:
- Body size: D-14 fret cutaway
- Top: solid sitka spruce
- Rosette: two ring
- Back material: solid sapele
- Side material: solid sapele
- Binding: black boltaron
- Neck shape: performing artist profile
- Headstock: solid/square taper
- Scale length: 25.4"
- Fingerboard width at nut: 1-3/4"
- fFngerboard position inlays: offset dots - white abs
- Bridge material: black richlite
- Bridge style: performing artist belly
- Tuning machines: chrome enclosed w/ large buttons
- Pickguard: tortoise color
- Case: 375pa hardshell -brown
- Interior: label none
- Electronics: Fishman F1 analog
Martin DCPA4 Siris Review from Acoustic Guitar
Questions & Answers
Question: What do you think of Richlite guitars?
Answer: First of all, I absolutely LOVE ebony. The thing is, solid black ebony is increasingly difficult to acquire. And the sad truth is, brown ebony is just as good a material, but guitar builders want the blackest of black ebony. I understand this perfectly, that black ebony board looks and feels fantastic. It's a dense hardwood, and should last more than a lifetime.
Richlite is going to be 100% sustainable, and so whether you or I like it, or not, we're going to start seeing a whole lot more of it. And it's good to be sustainable. I definitely think a guitar where ebony had once been used, and now the instrument is being sold with richlite - I think the price should be discounted for that.
No, I'm not seeing prices drop for the richlite, but they sure should be. I'm sure it's a great material for fingerboards. It wouldn't be used to replace ebony were it not dense enough for the purpose, but I guess we'll have to see how richlite is holding up 50 years from now, and ...I kinda don't expect to be here then.
© 2016 Wesman Todd Shaw
Wesman Todd Shaw on October 11, 2019:
I'm not having any problems at all with that, Jim, as the D-15 is an Mahogany top AND body guitar, and so, is discussed on the article about THOSE kinds of guitars, and not THIS type of guitar.
Jim Fitzroy on October 11, 2019:
How can you hsve a discussion about Mahogany guitars without including the Martin D 15?
Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on June 17, 2019:
I was really happy with my Martin D-18GE, which had that width nut. At the same time, I was happy with my HD-28VR, and my Santa Cruz, both of which had the standard 1 11/16"
My hands aren't small. I'm not especially large, but I'm pretty thin. I think most men do probably have fingers of greater circumference than me.
Glad you can find what suits you best. I'm lucky in that regard, as I can be pretty happy outside of that specific specification.
Patrick Clark on June 17, 2019:
It really disappointing that Guild, which is one of my favorite Guitar makers and I own 2, doesn't offer a 1¾ nut width on their higher end models like the D-55 or the D-40 in this list. They don't have a "custom shop" yet so I got the Westerly series models because they have the wider nut width. I'll be get a small body Guild from the Westerly series because of that very reason. Once you play an acoustic with a wider nut it's almost impossible to go back to the smaller widths.
Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on January 27, 2019:
@Carl - I'll never in this lifetime have a negative thought or word for Martin or anything they do. Seagull is a very terrific make of guitar though!
Carl on January 26, 2019:
I have a Seagull A-E. phenomenal Suddenly, my $2,000 Martin is my backup,
Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on November 08, 2018:
Cheers Patrick - from one guy with dreams to own more fine things to another!
I don't get out and about as much as I used to. Just seems like I don't see US made Guild around much.
Patrick Clark on November 07, 2018:
I'm all about the Guild, Taylor is right up there but I don't like the Dreadnought cutaway from Taylor, it's gotta be the grand auditorium or grand symphony (14 or 16)i.e 514ce or 516ce in a Taylor but Guild are a dream to play. I have both but not as nice as these models Guild D-240e and Taylor 114ce. Lower end models for someone on a budget like myself. Someday soon I'll have a higher end Guild, my all time favorite is the D-55.
Real Tours India from New Delhi on July 20, 2016:
Before starting Real Tours India Company, i am crazy about Guitars. Playing Guitars is just my passion & you post very good information regarding guitars.