5 of the Best Small-Body Cedar Top Steel String Acoustic Guitars
So you've been playing guitar for a while, and you know your style is finger-picking and chordal accompaniment. You know you don't want a dreadnought because maybe they are too big for you to play comfortably, or you recognize they've got an overwhelming bass response and you want a guitar with a much more even tonal character. You know these things, and so you know you are interested in moving on up to a professional level instrument, and you want a small bodied guitar with a cedar top.
Cedar top guitars are thought to have a warmer tonality. They provide more sparkle and nuance when played lightly, and they break in faster than spruce top guitars too. Cedar is a softer wood than spruce, and so, it can be chancy to use medium gauge strings and any alternate tuning involving strings tuned to higher pitches than standard. Such things can be done with cedar tops, but one must be mindful.
Why buy a small body cedar top acoustic guitar?
The smaller body guitar, besides offering the even tonal character, offers the ideal instrument, ergonomically speaking, for just about anyone. Whether you are male or female, you can wrap your arms around the small body guitar and feel much more in control of it than you may feel playing a dreadnought or larger size guitar. If you are a youth who is a serious amateur, then you can get on with the small body guitar, and regardless of how large you grow, you've still got something you won't outgrow.
Another aspect of these cedar top small body guitars are they offer a great alternative for someone who's been a classical guitarist. These guitars are well known to be a finger-stylist's instrument, but with the steel strings you can certainly widen your tonal offerings while continuing to work on your fingerpicking technique.
While you'd never employ flatpicking on a classical guitar, with one of these small body cedar top guitars you can indulge yourself, also, with a pick. Or not. But there are endless possibilities here.
Finally, this list is of very professional level guitars. Any of these would be a lifetime musical partner. And one you could pass on to future generations of guitarist.
Taylor 714ce Acoustic/Electric Guitar
1. The Taylor 714ce Acoustic/Electric Guitar
All concerns about the need for volume evaporate away with the Taylor 714ce grand auditorium acoustic/electric guitar. These things have the technological marvel that is the Taylor Expression System on-board. So you can play plugged or un-plugged, and hear every note sparkle.
The necks of the Taylor acoustic guitars are things of outright ergonomic beauty. Oh, some persons love the fat neck of Gibson guitars, others love the sharp V of Martin guitar necks; but nobody ever complains about the feel of the neck of a Taylor guitar. Taylor just does things right. The only complaints you'll ever hear about Taylor guitars are from persons who are working for the competition.
It is important to note here, for everyone, that not all Taylor 714ce guitars are cedar top guitars. Some will have a spruce top. Taylor covers all the bases for persons wanting one of these fine grand auditorium body guitars. You can most certainly have one your own way.
You can even get one of these guitars set up for nylon strings instead of steel strings. But for our purposes here, we will be discussing the steel string variety. As you can see, the guitar is available with and without a sunburst finish. And by all means, you can have one without the electronics and without the cutaway too.
Even more options are available with the Taylor 714 guitars. East Indian rosewood is the most common rosewood used today for guitars, and so it is the most frequently used wood for the back and sides of the Taylor 714s. That said, there are also some Taylor 714s made with cocobolo. Cocobolo is a dense, stiff tropical hardwood with a fairly bright tone. Sonically, it's similar to koa, but resonates a little deeper on the low end, although it doesn't have quite the full low end of rosewood or ovangkol. Fast and responsive, with moderate note decay, it's articulate with lots of note distinction.
The link up above here regarding the Taylor 714ce is to amazon.com where they've got the cedar top, east Indian rosewood cutaway acoustic/electric version for sale. But there are still more options, including a walnut body. Here are some basic specifications for the Indian rosewood and cedar 714ce in sunburst:
- Vintage Sunburst Top Finish
- Grand Concert Auditorium Shape
- Western Red Cedar Top
- Indian Rosewood Back and Sides
- Tropical American Mahogany Neck
- Ebony Fretboard
- Standard II (Forward Shifted Pattern) Bracing
- 25.5" Scale Length
- 1-3/4" Nut Width
- 15" Fretboard Radius
- 20 Frets
- 3-Ring Ivoroid Soundhole Rosette
- Ivoroid Heritage Diamond Inlays
- Ivoroid Binding
- Indian Rosewood Headstock Overlay and Binding
- Ebony Bridge
- Tusq Nut and Saddle
- Taylor ES® Electronics
- Chrome Plated Taylor Tuners
How does it sound? Indian Rosewood/Cedar Top and 714ce Taylor Guitar Demo
The Lowden F23 Guitar
2. The Lowden F23 Guitar
First I should make a disclaimer here. Do a bit of honesty—I have never seen a Lowden guitar of any model. You could say its something of great interest to me to get done. I totally want to be able to spend a solid half hour or so, at least, with a Lowden guitar.
Here in North Texas I've simply not had the pleasure. So in this case, I'm going on reputation, and Lowden has an exceptionally good one.
Looking at these guitars, one could think they're looking at a jumbo sized instrument due to the proportions. This is not the case with the F23 or any Lowden 'F' guitar. The F series is the Lowden mid sized series of guitars. The Os are more or less what we'd think of as jumbos. The F series are grand auditorium or orchestra model in size.
You can tell a lot about a brand of guitar by the asking prices. These Lowden are absolutely in the same league as the Taylor up above. But we shouldn't compare this Lowden F23 with the Taylor in any way. This F23 by Lowden is an altogether different guitar, as it's solid wood back and sides are of walnut. Walnut is thought to be a very direct tonewood.
There isn't a huge lot of history involved with walnut being used as a tonewood for guitar bodies. That said, walnut is now established, and catching on. Who doesn't want to have a little something out of the ordinary when it comes to tone? You won't find many musicians who want to blend in with the pack. A musician typically wants to be noticed as distinct. Well, with a walnut guitar you can get some distinction. The wood is thought to provide the overtones of rosewood and the distinct separation of notes associated with mahogany.
Paired with a western red cedar top this Lowden F23 is not inexpensive. These guitars sell for over four thousand dollars new, and you will be hard pressed to find one used. Lowden has these instruments in production, but the scale of production is small enough these Irish made guitars can be thought of as boutique instruments. And they are in great demand, as their sterling reputation is becoming more widely known.
- Model: F23
- Back & Sides: Walnut
- Soundboard: Red Cedar
- Neck: Mahogany-Rosewood
- Fingerboard: Ebony w/ Ebony Binding
- Neck Profile: GL Standard
- Scale Length: 650mm
- Binding: Figured Sycamore
- Purflings: Sycamore-Walnut-Rosewood-Mahogany
- Tuners; Gotoh 381's Gold w/ Ebony Buttons
Lowden F23 Cutaway Review
Seagull Coastline S6 Folk Acoustic Guitar
3. Seagull Coastline s6 Folk Acoustic Guitar
The Seagull Coastline S6 folk acoustic guitar brings us to a place of very good value and quality, while not forsaking affordability. You also get another very interesting recipe of new tonewoods here, as the Seagull Coastline S6 is of a western red cedar top, and cherry wood back and sides.
At around five hundred dollars, the Seagull provides a lot of value with its solid cedar top. This is a great guitar for the beginner to intermediate level player to own and to love for many long years. The dimensions are those of a classical guitar, and there's no mistake in that, as the guitar is for finger-style play. The one caveat concerning the price here is this guitar does not come with the a case. The case for it is sold separately. This is something Seagull does fairly often so as to get someone into a very good quality guitar at a very affordable price.
What can we say about Canadian wild cherry as a tonewood? Cherry is another newer wood being used for acoustic guitars. C.F. Martin & Company is making cherry wood dreadnoughts these days; and if Martin guitars are doing a thing, then it is an all out legitimate deal. Seagull by Godin is a great brand too. Cherry is thought to be like walnut - somewhere between rosewood and mahogany. The color of a cherry wood guitar will change over time though; but you won't notice it, likely, unless you've kept a before picture to compare to later. This guitar has laminated cherry back and sides.
Now if you watch the video I have here for this guitar, the man in the video mis-spoke when he said the guitar has solid cherry back and sides. This is not the case, the back and sides are laminated cherry. But you can hear the guitar, and it sounds fantastic. For just a bit more money one can get the same guitar with electronics for acoustic/electric play.
- Pressure tested solid cedar top offers superior tone, projection, and response
- Laminated wild cherry back and sides deliver a detailed tone between warm mahogany and bright maple
- Folk-sized body is similar to a classical shape but offers more mids making it perfect for fingerstyle and solo guitar
- Integrated set neck offers tuning and playing stability and eliminates twisting and warping
- Tapered headstock gives you a straighter 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
- Thin, custom polished finish lets the guitar vibrate more freely
- Dual-function truss rods assure the perfect neck alignment and relief
- Handcrafted in Canada
Acoustic Guitar Review - Seagull Coastline Folk Cedar
Breedlove Solo Concert Acoustic-Electric Guitar
4. Breedlove Solo Concert Acoustic-Electric Guitar
The Breedlove Solo Concert acoustic/electric guitar is the best bang for the bucks here. Today these guitars are priced at just $799.00; and for that amount invested you get quite a lot in return. I've personally sat in a Guitar Center booth with one of these on more than one occasion and was really impressed by the build quality and tonal response these cedar and rosewood guitars offer.
I flatpicked the guitars, and they sounded great to me. This is a pin-less bridge guitar. There are no bridge pins, as the strings seat underneath the bridge firmly. The thinking insofar as using this style of bridge is simple - you get more soundboard for there not being six holes drilled through the top for the bridge pins to seat the strings. Why do that when you can seat the strings in the bridge itself? It's non-traditional, but the logic is sound; and the guitar sounds great.
New ideas hardly stop with the pin-less bridge. This guitar has what is referred to as a BBT or Breedlove Bridge Truss. The use of the truss is supposed to allow for a freer vibrating soundboard. And besides that, because the soundboard is more free to vibrate, they use a thinner slice of cedar for it. Now, I can understand someone having misgivings about all of this; but fine acoustic guitars are fragile things regardless. And the truth of the matter has always been that the more fragile the guitar is - the better it sounds.
There is one thing about this Breedlove Bridge Truss that isn't mentioned on other sites like Guitar Center, or Sweetwater, etc - the BBT should allow for the use of heavier gauge strings. And medium gauge strings forever provide better sound than light gauge; they're just rougher on the fingertips. But normally a cedar top guitar is not the guitar one wants to use medium gauge strings with because the cedar tops are softer than spruce, and more prone to bowing out from the use of heavy strings.
This guitar is called a solo concert guitar because it is just that, a guitar you can use for a solo concert, as it is an acoustic/electric guitar. This Breedlove has an under-saddle L.R. Baggs pickup and a 3 band EQ pre-amp with an on-board tuner. All top notch stuff. The soundboard is, of course, solid western red cedar, and the back and sides are of high pressure laminated east Indian rosewood. The guitar comes with a foam insulated gig bag so the guitar is not unprotected. But for a guitar this good, I'd definitely want to save for a hard shell case. Further specifications are as follows:
- Body type: Concert
- Cutaway: Single cutaway
- Top wood: Solid Red Cedar
- Back & sides: Rosewood
- Bracing pattern: Info not available
- Body finish: Gloss
- Orientation: Right handed
- Neck shape: Info not available
- Nut width: 1.69" (43mm)
- Fingerboard: Rosewood
- Neck wood: Mahogany
- Scale length: 24.9"
- Number of frets: 20
- Neck finish: Gloss
- Pickup/preamp: Yes
- Brand: L.R. Baggs
- Configuration: Undersaddle piezo
- Preamp EQ: 3-band
- Feedback filter: Notch, Phase
- Tuner: Yes
- Headstock overlay: Rosewood
- Tuning machines: Chrome
- Bridge: Rosewood
- Saddle & nut: Info not available
- Number of strings: 6-string
- Special features: Pickup System
- Case: Gig bag
Breedlove Solo Concert Acoustic-Electric Guitar Introduction | Full Compass
5. The Takamine TF77-PT OM CW Japan Solid Cedar Top & Solid Hawaiian Koa Back & Sides guitar
The people who build the Takamine high end guitars over in Japan are first rate, world class; and they're letting everyone know it too. They continually make new models of very high quality guitars with very unique and interesting design elements.
This Takamine TF77-PT is no exception. It pairs a solid western red cedar top to solid koa back and sides. Koa is yet another fine hardwood which we are seeing more and more of in fine guitars. And we all benefit from the increasingly diverse nature of guitar building materials. Today is the golden age of guitar building; and if there is any complaint from me concerning Takamine, it is the unsubstantial complaint I have about their naming their guitars. The TF77-PT should have a much more appealing name, one which fits its quality and terrific visual aesthetic, and tonal appeal.
I can't believe this guitar sells for as little as it does. These go for, at present, just under two thousand dollars new. If it said Taylor on it instead of Takamine, this would be a four thousand dollar guitar. That inlay on the 12th fret is fantastic in every way. Absolutely distinct, original, and tasteful.
Takamine is starting to refer to their electronics for guitars such as this one as peer-less. Well, that isn't entirely true, but it isn't necessarily false either. Takamine’s proprietary CTP-3 Cool Tube™ preamp system paired with the unique Palathetic™ under-saddle pickup for peerless amplified response. The dual-channel CTP-3 provides low-voltage tube tone, variable from bright and brilliant to thick and warm, three band EQ with semi-parametric midrange, auxiliary input and volume (for use when a second pickup is added), and an onboard chromatic tuner.
These guitars are very very competitive to the best of Taylor. I would highly recommend playing a Takamine and a comparable Taylor guitar before buying either. I consider them equals, and it's going to happen that the prices for these Takamine guitars such as this one rise as their reputation does. I also encourage anyone reading this to listen to the guitar on the video. What a great sound!
- Top Solid Cedar
- Back Solid Hawaiian Koa
- Sides Solid Hawaiian Koa
- Neck Mahogany
- Fingerboard Rosewood
- Nut Width 1.675” (42.5mm)
- Electronics CoolTube (CTP-3)
- Finish Gloss Natural
- Case GC700
- Case Included Yes
Takamine tf77-Pt Demo Featuring Lance Allen
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2016 Wesman Todd Shaw