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.
Mahogany has always been one of the preferred tonewoods in acoustic guitars. Especially steel string acoustic guitars. Mahogany provides a velocity of sound unlike what rosewood can do. Most mahogany guitars are just mahogany bodies, and not mahogany topped guitars.
Mahogany has been used as a soundboard or acoustic guitar top since the 1920 at least. You know one when you see one, as the mahogany top gives the guitar the deep brown color from the top, and all the way around; for all mahogany top guitars you will see, are also mahogany body guitars.
Mahogany as a soundboard
All mahogany guitars are often much less expensive than mahogany guitars with spruce tops. Why? Spruce soundboards are very pricey. Mahogany is much more available and is also easier to shape into a guitar.
Mahogany is a heavier wood than spruce is. So when a mahogany top or soundboard is used on a guitar instead of a spruce one, the guitar will not be as loud as a spruce top guitar. The projection of notes from a guitar with a mahogany top will have less complexity, and more sustain. People say Mahogany tops can make you sound a better player, as your mistakes will be less obvious.
Because mahogany is a heavier wood than spruce, your brand new mahogany top guitar will take longer to get broken in than a spruce top guitar. You can get it all nice and broke in quicker and easier by using a heavy pick or otherwise heavy attack on the strings. Mahogany top guitars excel as a rhythmic instrument. You can get a terrific sound with a mahogany top guitar playing an aggressive rhythm style.
Mahogany top guitars are excellent for the person who loves to play chordal rhythm behind their own singing or someone else's. But mahogany top guitars sound terrific when finger-picked or flat-picked too. They provide less volume than spruce tops, but one can always use medium gauge strings for increased volume. Many mahogany top acoustics are built with a pre-amp and pickup system on-board.
The all solid mahogany Martin D-15M
The all solid mahogany Martin D-15 is as good as it gets. Whether you believe it or not, it is true - when these guitars were first manufactured they sold for just five hundred dollars. Well, these guitars caught on quickly and the price rose and keeps rising. They cost more than twice what they did in their debut today.
The Martin D-15 is beautiful in its understatement. As an all solid wood construction dreadnought, the thing is a true Martin in every way. I've played a dozen or more of these guitars at guitar stores, and every single last one was perfect. I so wish I had bought one when they were a brand new design and sold for so little.
Because of the deep overtones an all mahogany guitar provides, the guitar gives a great counterpoint to a spruce guitar. So if you play with someone, the contrast can make the music more whole in a tonal manner.
I just can't say enough how impeccably these guitars are put together, and what a great deal someone is getting when the purchase a Martin D-15M. Here are your bullet point specifications for this all solid wood construction, total heirloom quality Martin dreadnought:
Martin D-15M Guitar specifications:
- Construction: Mortise/Tenon neck joint
- Body size: D-14 fret
- Top: solid genuine mahogany
- Rosette: single ring
- Top bracing pattern: A-frame ''X''
- Top braces: solid sitka spruce 5/16''
- Back and sides: solid genuine mahogany
- Neck: solid genuine mahogany
- Neck shape: modified low oval
- Nut material: bone
- Headstock: solid/square taper
- Headplate: solid East Indian rosewood
- Fingerboard material: solid East Indian rosewood
- Scale length: 25.4''
- Number of frets clear: 14
- Number of frets total: 20
- Fingerboard width at nut: 1-11/16''
- Fingerboard width at 12th fret: 2-1/8''
- Fingerboard position inlays: diamonds & squares - short pattern
- Finish: satin
- Bridge material: solid East Indian rosewood
- Bridge style: belly
- Bridge string spacing: 2-1/8''
- Saddle: 16'' radius/compensated/bone
- Tuning machines: nickel open-geared with butterbean knobs
- Recommended strings: Martin Studio Performance Phosphor Bronze Medium Gauge (MSP4200)
- Bridge & end pins: solid black ebony
- Pickguard: delmar tortoise color
Martin D15M Review - How does it sound?
The Guild GAD-125
The Guild GAD-125 or D-125
The Guild GAD-125 will often also be referred to as the Guild D-125. We're talking about the same guitar here whichever you see it labeled as. This guitar is built to compete against the Martin D-15 in every single way.
This Guild guitar is all solid wood construction. So it is of all solid mahogany. The fingerboard and bridge, of course, are of Indian rosewood, just like the Martin. So what is the deal here? The Guild is built in China. This allows Guild to sell this guitar to you for less than what Martin sells the D-15 for. The D-15 is made in the USA.
Straight up, if you are not doing so well in the income department, but you want a top notch mahogany top and body guitar, then I'm going to head you over to the music store to buy this Guild every day of the week. I'm spotting these guitars used for $500 bucks and even less all day long. But by all means, play the Martin and the Guild, and do what seems best for you and your situation and fingers.You can get this Guild guitar in the natural finish like the D-15, or you can also choose the cherry red finish.Here are your bullet point specifications:
Guild GAD-125 Guitar specifications:
- Shape: Dreadnought
- Back: Solid Mahogany
- Sides: Solid Mahogany
- Top: Solid Mahogany
- Bracing: Scalloped Spruce
- Rosette: Mother-Of-Pearl Rosette
- Purfling: Cream/Black/Cream/Black
- Body Binding: Black
- Number Of Frets: 20
- Position Inlays: Pearl Dot Inlays
- Fretboard Radius: 16" (40.64 cm)
- Fretboard Material: Rosewood
- Neck Material: Mahogany
- Neck Finish: Satin
- Nut Width: 1.6875" (43 mm)
- Scale Length: 25.5" (64.8 cm)
- Hardware: Chrome
- Bridge: Rosewood
- Bridge Pins: Ivory Colored Plastic
- Tuning Machines: Chrome, Die-Cast
- String Nut: Nu-Bone
- Saddle: Nu-Bone
Guild GAD 125 vs Martin D-15 sound comparison
Guild D-125 Acoustic Guitar Demo
The Taylor 520 Dreadnought, all solid mahogany
You can always count on Taylor guitars to offer another take on anyone's theme. Sure as the sun rises, Taylor will offer an instrument of a similar recipe to what Martin or Gibson or Guild offers, but Taylor never copies anyone. They build their guitars differently. They brace the insides of the guitars differently, and so their guitars always sound like Taylor guitars.
While finding a Martin dreadnought which came from the factory with a pre-amp and pickup installed is a very rare thing, the opposite is true with Taylor guitars. Almost every Taylor acoustic guitar made will have a pre-amp and pickup installed from the factory. They do also make some without those things, but not so many. Taylor electronics are always first rate, and as good as you will find. Voiced differently from Martin, the Taylor 520 excels in mid-range punch.
The specifications listed below are for a Taylor 520. This guitar, without the electronics, sells for around fifteen hundred dollars. But much more frequently you will see a Taylor 520ce, which has a Venetian cutaway and the electronics. With those features, the Taylor 520ce cost around twenty five hundred dollars.
The people at Taylor are very proud of their electronics, and they should be. Should you decide to purchase one of their acoustic/electric guitars, you will have a fine thing indeed. The Taylor Expression System 2 (ES2) is a revolutionary pickup design that delivers the latest in Taylor's ongoing innovation in acoustic guitar amplification. The heart of the Expression System 2 is Taylor's proprietary behind-the-saddle pickup (patent pending), which features three uniquely positioned and individually calibrated pickup sensors.
The location of the sensors enables a more dynamic range of acoustic sound to be captured than ever before. 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.
- Shape: Dreadnought
- Back/Side Wood: Solid Tropical Mahogany
- Scale length: 25-1/2"
- Top Wood: Solid Tropical Mahogany
- Body Length: 20"
- Body Width: 16"
- Body Depth: 4 5/8"
- Nut & Saddle: Tusq
- Neck Width: 1-3/4"
- Neck/Heel: Tropical Mahogany
- Bracing: Forward Shifted Pattern with Relief Rout
- Fretboard Wood: Ebony
- Fretboard Inlay: Century
- Headstock Overlay: Ebony
- Binding: Ivoroid
- Bridge Pins: Ebony
- Tuners: Taylor Chrome
- Truss Rod Cover: Ebony
- Back/Side Finish: Gloss
- Top Finish: Gloss
- Neck Finish: Satin
- Pickguard: Black
- Case: Taylor Deluxe Hardshell Brown
- Number of Frets: 20
- Back Config: 2-piece No Wedge
- Buttons: Chrome
- Filler: (Body) Brown
- Fretboard Binding: Ivoroid
- Heel Cap Binding: Ivoroid
- Heel length: 3-1/2"
- Peghead Finish: Satin
- Peghead Binding: Ivoroid
- Peghead Logo: Ivoroid
- Rosette: Material Ivoroid
- Rosette Size: Single Ring
- Stain/Sunburst: Medium Brown Stain
- Type of Neck Joint: Scarf
Taylor - 520e All Mahogany Dreadnought Demo
Alvarez MDA66SHB Masterworks Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar
Alvarez MDA66SHB Masterworks
Alvarez has long been a personal favorite make of guitar for me. You don't see so many Alvarez guitars as you should. They do make instruments from very cheap beginner's guitars all the way up to instruments as good as can be made. And Alvarez guitars have a certain classiness to them. They aren't making copies of anyone else's guitar.
So this particular Alvarez guitar isn't so easy to find. But you may well find one. And if you do, you will find a gem. I'm seeing used ones online for five hundred dollars. But I'm not seeing very many of them. These are all solid wood construction guitars. They're made in Japan. And Alvarez is going the extra mile here with the use of bone nuts and saddles. These guitars will be every bit as good as the Martin and the Taylor.
Koa binding is catching on as an upscale appointment, and that is what Alvarez is using here.The Masterworks bracing system is forward shifted with scalloped, hand finished X braces that allow these guitars to project incredibly well. There’s lots of sustain and dynamic response. Either strummed or picked, the separation and balance across the strings is unprecedented in this price range. These all solid and seasoned mahogany guitars are a professional or serious amateur's dream.
- Dreadnought Acoustic
- Solid African Mahogany Top
- Solid African Mahogany Back and Sides
- Hand Finished, Scalloped Bracing System
- One Piece Mahogany Neck + Heel, 50/50 Semi Gloss
- Premium Die-Cast Gold Tuners withEbony Buttons
- Rosewood Bi-Level Bridge
- Rosewood Fingerboard
- Paua Abalone Inlays
- Acacia Koa Binding
- 1.5mm Paua Abalone Purfling
- Ebony Bridge Pins
- Real Bone Nut and Saddle
- High Gloss Finish
- Includes Case
- Top: Solid African Mahogany
- Top Finish: Gloss
- Back and Sides: Solid African Mahogany
- Neck Joint: Dovetail
- Neck meets body: 14th Fret
- Overall Length (mm) : 1042
- Body Width (mm) : 395
- Body Depth at Heel (mm) : 100
- Scale (inches) : 25 1/2"
- Number of frets: 21
- Case: Included
- Nut Width (inches) : 1 3/4"
Alvarez Dreadnought Guitar MDA66SHB
Seagull S6 Mahogany Deluxe SG Acoustic Electric Guitar
Seagull Guitars S6 Mahogany Deluxe - Natural
Seagull guitars out of Canada make some of the most bang for the buck value guitars on the North American continent. For five hundred bucks brand new you can own one of these all mahogany Seagull S6 Mahogany Deluxe guitars
These guitars come with a solid mahogany soundboard, but the backs and sides are laminated mahogany. But the guitar is acoustic/electric. So if you are someone who performs live often, this is one outstanding guitar to have for your shows. It'll be loud enough for you to practice with alone, and when you plug it in on stage, it's got top notch electronics on-board.
Seagull's S6 Mahogany Deluxe acoustic guitar offers smooth playability and great tone at an exceptional value. Its pressure tested solid mahogany top and laminated mahogany back and sides give you a warm, fat tone. Seagull's modified dreadnought body shape harnesses unwanted boominess and gives you a full-range tone that's great for all styles of music. The integrated set neck and compound curved top offer increased tuning stability, resonance, and projection
The only real drawback to this guitar is the thing does not come with a case. A guitar like this one literally deserves a hard shell case, but you'll have to buy yourself one of those separately. At just five hundred dollars new, you can get one of these used for probably around three hundred dollars. Here are your very basic bullet points:
- Pressure tested solid mahogany top offers superior tone, projection, and response
- Laminated mahogany back and sides deliver a detailed, warm tone
- Modified dreadnought body shape cuts unwanted boominess making it great for recording and live shows
- Silver Leaf maple integrated set neck offers tuning and playing stability and eliminates twisting and warping
- Tapered headstock gives you a straighter string pull, better tuning, and less stress, especially when using altered tunings
- Tusq nut and compensated saddle offer a sound similar to bone but with more harmonics
- Fishman Sonitone electronics deliver great plugged-in tone via an undersaddle pickup
- Thin, custom polish finish lets the guitar vibrate more freely
- Dual-function truss rods assure the perfect neck alignment and relief
- Handcrafted in Canada
Seagull S6 Mahogany Deluxe acoustic guitar review demo
Questions & Answers
Question: Where is the Tanglewood x47e on this list of Mahogany dreadnought guitars?
Answer: The Tanglewood X47e is a newer guitar than this article. If/when I do get to spend a solid 15 minutes or so with one, I decide it is better than one of the items on this page, then it may well replace one and be here. I definitely update pages in that exact way from time to time. As a matter of fact, I'll be going to a specific music store tomorrow. I've no clue what I'll get to play there, but I always learn something.
David on January 29, 2017:
I would take an Ibanez AC240 over the Seagull any day of the week.
Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on August 23, 2016:
Thanks a lot! I also get a lot of pleasure from the videos. And I always listen to several, if possible, for each guitar to find the one I like the best.
Judy Specht from California on May 25, 2016:
Nice comparisons article. Loved listening to the music as I read.