The Five Best Brazilian Rosewood Dreadnought Acoustic Guitars
Brazilian Rosewood And Adirondack Spruce
When you've hit that big lottery payout and you decide to spend some of it on acoustic guitars that are made from woods so rare that the price is still somewhat frightful, you head on down and you purchase a dreadnought of Brazilian rosewood and red Adirondack spruce. That is just how it goes, and boy, don't we all wish you'd purchase one for us too.
Having said all that, there ought to be some specifics about what Brazilian rosewood is, and why it is considered so special. Economics 101 could be said to be what makes Brazilian rosewood so special, and by economics 101 I entirely mean the laws of supply and demand. There is always, of course, much more to the story than simple economics 101, as we have yet to determine why the demand for such a thing is high, and why the supply is low.
Dalbergia nigra is the exact genus and species for the tree we refer to as Brazilian rosewood. It is only found in Brazil, so it can't much be confused with other species of rosewood. The wood from this tree is very hard, and it is very heavy, it has a wide array of coloration it may have, and also virtually unlimited grain patterns. Simply put, it is very beautiful to the eye, and has forever been sought after for that purpose, and was often used in very expensive furniture. Its strength and weight also made it ideal for structural beams in buildings, but all of that is rather depressing on this end, as the wood in the hands of guitar builders produces a tonal response unlike any other - harmonic overtones abound when Brazilian rosewood is used in conjunction with spruce soundboards.
Not everything in the world of Brazilian rosewood and acoustic guitars was ever perfectly wonderful, the wood is very difficult to shape into the body of a guitar, and besides that, it will sometimes inexplicably develop hairline cracks in it - regardless of how well kept the individual instrument might have been. These hairline cracks are really only a visual problem, and not so severe a structural one, but anyone that has paid for a Brazilian rosewood body guitar surely feels a huge deal of anguish over such instances, these instruments are lots of things, but inexpensive is never one of them.
In 1992 international legislation and agreements ended the deforestation of old grown Brazilian rosewood, but as it is, the stumps left from felled trees decades before is now yielding some wood, and some otherwise un used, or re used stocks of the wood still manages to turn up here and there - all highly prized by whoever gets it, and forever let it be known, this stuff is special.
This article will cover some of the finest guitars offered today with Brazilian rosewood, you can expect anything here but something cheap, or inexpensive. While I think it would be awful for someone to own any of these guitars and not spend a lot of time playing them, I also wish to advise that any of these should be looked at as an investment, as they are all very expensive. Fragile investments of wood, glue, abalone, frets and strings, bone nut, saddle, bridge pins, and tuning machines.
The Martin D-28GE Adirondack Spruce Top, Brazilian Rosewood Back and Sides
The Martin D-28GE
Originally, there was the Martin D-28, and in the 1930s on up to the second world war, the D-28 was made with both red Adirondack spruce, and Brazilian rosewood. The pre-war Martin D-28 guitars are among the most sought after instruments of any variety anywhere in the world, and have been for some time, will be, probably the rest of our human history. Bold statement? No, they are, along with a handful of other guitars, such as the Martin D-18GE, theStradivari of guitar.
As time went on and the second world war ended, C.F.Martin & Company made some decisions, and those decisions largely proved to be bad ones. The way in which the pre-world war two instruments were made was thought to equate to overly fragile guitars, and truth be told, they were fragile instruments, and they'd been built that way for tonality, not durability. Well, the management at Martin offered a lifetime warranty to original owners, and so they felt that by making their guitars sturdier, they'd save themselves a lot of free warranty work, and they did. The problem came when the public realized the Martin product was no longer as spectacular as it once was, but nothing changed at all with Martin until other companies started offering instruments built to the pre-world war two Martin specifications.
In 1969 C.F.Martin & Company switched from Brazilian rosewood to East Indian rosewood.. This is important to know, as anyone dating a Martin rosewood instrument should be able to see the single digit in the year making a ton of difference in the value of a guitar.
Mr. Shaw, you're not being so wonderfully clear here, you mentioned structural changes following the second world war, and then you skipped all the way up to 1969, to mention a change from the use of Brazilian rosewood, to East Indian rosewood, do you mind taking just a moment to go over these structural changes?
Hey sure, none of that is a problem, but first I must state that there is absolutely nothing "poor" about any of the Martin guitars ever made, there is only better or worse in regards to structure, or tonality, but as to answer the question, Martin stopped using the FORWARD shifted X brace, and instead, went to a REAR shifted X brace. The forward shifted X brace is often called a "high X brace," and the "X" of the brace is located about an inch towards the back of the sound hole towards the bridge of the guitar.
Martin designs are copied all over the world, and besides the external physical wood configurations and body being copied, the internal structure has forever been copied as well, and the "high X" brace is a hallmark of a guitar being a better one than one without it. But not only did Martin stop using the forward or high X brace, they also towards the end of the second world war, stopped scalloping their braces. If you'd like to see exactly what is meant by the term "scalloped braces," then I've got a great link for you to peruse here.
Friends, who are we to say that Jimmy Page's D-28 a lesser guitar than the one formerly owned by the late Clarence White? Who are we to say that Johnny Cash's Bon Aqua D-28 was a lesser guitar than those owned by Tony Rice? There are a lot of factors involved in a guitar and its building, more than most folks realize, and the instrument is forever the sum of its parts, and not its specifications. The specifications, however, are often big factors insofar as who owns the thing, and especially is this true in regards to Brazilian rosewood.
There are, of course, more things to talk about here. What is important to know is that every single Martin D-28 with herringbone trip is a "high X" guitar, and the ones without herringbone trim, are simply not, those are your rear X braced guitars without scalloped bracing. Simple, right? Herringbone trip= high X or forward shifted X brace, and scalloped bracing, no herringbone trim = rear shifted X brace, and no scalloped bracing.
There is a lot more to the D-28GE than that, as the Martin HD-28VR is the Indian rosewood and sitka spruce guitar.Why put an "H" in front of the "D" for the HD-28VR? Just so you are certain to know it is a high X herringbone guitar. Why is the D-28GE not called the "HD-28GE?" I dunno, it is definitely a high X herringbone guitar....but I think the people at Martin think the "GE" for "golden era" ought to tell you everything. I'm the person that tries to explain it all so that it makes sense to folks trying to figure it out, you won't find anyone trying harder to do that for you, dearest reader.
A Martin D-28GE or Golden Era
Taylor 910 Cutaway With Brazilian Rosewood Back and Sides
The Taylor Thirty Fifth Anniversary Dreadnought With Brazilian Rosewood Back And Sides
Bob Taylor is a big man in the realm of acoustic guitars, and besides that, he practically controls the entire market in the USA insofar as ebony is concerned. Ebony is a pretty big deal in regards to woods for instrument building, but not as big a deal as is Brazilian rosewood, and Bob Taylor can get a hold on that stuff too, and then, having it, utilize it in some very special ways that nobody can really regret.
Now thirty five years into the history of Taylor guitars, we have Bob Taylor with enough Brazilian Rosewood to put out a limited edition dreadnought in commemoration, and for a cool sixteen thousand dollars, you too can own one.
The Taylor Guitar Company is a big company, but these guitars were personally designed by founder Bob Taylor, who also personally selected every cut of wood for every individual guitar of this model. Saying that Bob Taylor is a master builder, is well, and understatement. When shopping Taylor guitars in any price range from any configuration of woods, what ought to be known is that they are NOT built to be like Martin guitars, Bob Taylor's Taylor guitars are unique, braced differently (not using the Martin X bracing pattern), and voiced to sound like TAYLOR guitars, not Martin guitars, Gibson Guitars, or anyone else's guitars.
The Taylor 35th Anniversary Dreadnought is a guitar very similar to the Taylor 910, however, the Taylor 910 isn't an instrument that always features Brazilian rosewood, but has, along with the Taylor 810, also been available with the Brazilian rosewood upgrade as an option. Likewise, the Taylor 35th Anniversary Dreadnought is a combination of the two special woods, Adirondack or red spruce, and Brazilian rosewood. The Taylor 810 and 910 dreadnought guitars have from time to time been available or via the custom shop, definitely available with either or both of those woods rather than the standard Sitka spruce and East Indian rosewood. So in any case, I provided a nice front and back picture of a Taylor 910 with a soft cutaway featuring the Brazilian rosewood, mostly, so as the reader could get another shot of the wide variety of gran patter or coloration inherent in Brazilian rosewood.
The Taylor 35th Anniversary Dreadnought is also an acoustic/electric instrument with on board pre-amp and pickup, something Taylor has made a huge part of their guitar building. On the 35th Anniversary Dreadnought by Taylor, the Taylor Expression System, or "ES" is pretty much something I'd suspect that is groundbreaking insofar as capturing the essence of such a complex tonality as produced by Brazilian rosewood and Adirondack spruce. Two magnetic sensors for the red spruce soundboard, and an independent magnetic sensor for the strings make this Taylor Expression System and Brazilian rosewood 35th anniversary masterwork something truly special, and beyond the pale. .
A Santa Cruz 1934 Model D Brazilian Rosewood, Front, and Back.
The Santa Cruz 1934 D Brazilian Rosewood Dreadnought
Now I can't truly say enough to anyone how fine is any guitar produced by the Santa Cruz Guitar Company. I own a Santa Cruz Model "D," mine is the one hundred and thirty first guitar the company ever manufactured. I couldn't be more impressed with it, and anyone playing it skillfully would hardly be able to dazzle the guitar aficionado more with another make's instrument. Mine, however, is not this model, as mine wasn't so thoroughly and technologically tested and constructed as these are.
My friends, truth be known, I consider the Santa Cruz Guitar Company as the finest manufacturer of acoustic guitars on planet Earth.
Sure, I admit I am totally biased in favor of the Santa Cruz Guitar Company, and their guitars....and you probably thought I was the biggest C.F. Martin & Co fan on Earth, right? Well, I might be that, but I prefer Santa Cruz. Yes, I own one, Yeah, own a Martin too. So what? When it gets to this level of craftsmanship, things get tricky, and very very subjective, but if you ever happened to want to know what an eighteen thousand dollar acoustic guitar sounds like, the video below ought to let your ears hear it, and I swear to you had the same fella played the same thing on a three hundred dollar guitar, the difference would be so vast that the span of distance between New York City and Western Ireland...wouldn't much make for a good enough analogy.
So far as doing what I'm doing here, creating web pages I hope to be informative about what is easily one of my favorite subjects on the planet, high end acoustic guitars, Artisian Guitars with a dot and a com and without the spaces, is one of the better online resources for that, but I think I'm better, obviously, but Artisian Guitars had the following information to say about these beauties:
That is where the basis for Santa Cruz's 1934 D comes in. Not only replicating the methods and techniques used in the 1930s, but using pieces of wood cut then as well. Each piece of Brazilian Rosewood and Adirondack Spruce were cut in the 1930s - that's over 75 years of aging and crystallizing to allow the intense, balanced, rich, and unbelievably loud tone that Brazilian and Adirondack together are known for to shine. According to Richard Hoover, the Brazilian used on this guitar was downed using a method abandoned by about 1950; dating it to as early as the 1930s. Based on the growth rings, the living tree itself was over 150 years old.
For more and exact specifications for this, the likely to be finest Brazilian rosewood guitar available anywhere in the world, go here.
The Santa Cruz 1934 D Brazilian Rosewood
Bourgeois Vintage Dreadnought - Brazilian Rosewood and Adirondack Spruce
Bourgeois Vintage Dreadnought - Brazilian Rosewood and Adirondack Spruce
Now many times I've said this, and its worth saying again, C.F.Martin & Company is the source for all these guitars, the idea maker, the paradigm setting entity, the originator, so forth, and so on. Very often the guitars made by Martin are exquisite, superb, outstanding, and above the fold. Not all of them are, however, and I must state rather simply that I have never played a guitar made by the Santa Cruz Guitar Company that was not of the highest imaginable quality in regards to play-ability and also tonality. I have ONLY ever played one guitar made by the Bourgeois company, and it was as good as any Santa Cruz. In regard to the specifications of the thing, I'll list them below, please do know that these specifications are going to be very very similar to the same as are the Martin D-28GE specifications, and the Santa Cruz 1934 D's specifications.
Why does the Santa Cruz costs so much more? I'm not exactly certain. I can not truly claim it is "better" than any other guitar listed here.
- Top: Adirondack
- Back and Sides: Brazilian Rosewood
- Scale: 25.5"
- Nut Width: 1 3/4"
- Neck Material: Mahogany
- Fretboard: Ebony
- Bridge: Ebony Belly
- Bracing: Adirondack assembled with Hot Hide Glue
- Headstock Shape: Solid
- Headstock Overlay: Ziricote with Satin Finish
- Headstock Inlay: Bourgeois Logo
- Inlays: Long Pattern Square & Diamond
- Rosette: B/W Fiber
- Purfling: Vintage Style Herringbone Border w/ Black Purfling
- Body Binding: Ivoroid
- Fretboard Binding: Black
- Backstrip: Zipper
- Pickguard: Vintage
- Nut Material: Bone
- Saddle Material: Bone
- Saddle Spacing: 2 5/16"
- Bridge Pins: Fossil Ivory
- Case: Hardshell Case Included
- List Price: $8195
The Bourgeois Vintage Dreadnought
The Blueridge BR-260 Pre War style Brazilian rosewood dreadnought
The Blueridge BR-260 Brazilian rosewood dreadnought
Blueridge guitars are made in China. This does not make them cheap, it makes them less expensive. The craftsmanship of these instruments is extremely good, and the price is more right than you will ever know until you play one.
Brazilian rosewood provides a distinct tonal characteristic not found in its cousins. Chinese manufacturers are not faced with the same restraints as American ones, and so Chinese instrument builders can attain the precious wood far easier than can the good people in the USA and Canada. So, if price is prohibitive for you, but you demand the tonality in an instrument that only Brazilian rosewood can grant you. Blueridge is your guitar maker, and the is your guitar. Here are the specifications for this instrument, priced at around only twenty five hundred bucks. Blueridge BR-260
- Select solid Sitka Spruce top with hand-carved parabolic top braces in authentic prewar forward X-pattern
- Premium, hand selected, solid Brazilian Rosewood back and sides, all of a matching set
- Ebony fingerboard with pearl dot position markers and ebony bridge
- Neck is a low profile, solid mahogany with a dovetail neck joint and adjustable truss rod with with traditional carved diamond volute detail
- 1 11/16" nut width
- Scale length of 25.5"
- The headstock is beautifully adorned with an original, floral design, abalone and mother-of-pearl inlay
- Natural high-gloss finish with aging toner is applied to the top for that perfect vintage look
- Body is bound in grained ivoroid with traditional Herringbone purfling for that "Style 28" look
- Bone nut and saddle
- Saga's exclusive Dalmation, tortoise-style pickguard
- Accurate vintage-style 14:1 ratio nickel-plated open-back tuners with butterbean-style buttons
- Shop Adjusted
Blueridge BR-260 at The Fellowship of Acoustics
Conclusion - Brazilian Rosewood And The Dreadnought Guitar
I've played untold hundreds of steel string acoustic guitars in my life, maybe a thousand or more even. Brazilian rosewood guitars are indeed special, and those who've got the ears to hear it (I'd think picking up guitar tone nuances to be something that comes with more experienced fans and musicians) - all know what I say is true. East Indian rosewood is a very fine tonewood, but it is not Brazilian rosewood, it is just different.
I would not say here or to anyone that Brazilian rosewood is better or worse than mahogany, maple, East Indian rosewood, or any of the increasingly large number of tonewoods used for the backs and sides of acoustic guitars - I only say Brazilian rosewood is very unique, very beautiful, and completely different in looks and acoustic tonal response than any other wood, and that besides that, the demand vs supply of the stuff has made it very expensive, and our deforestation and lack of respect for the stuff in days gone by has made the supply vs demand what it is.
Do the prices offend you? They shouldn't. That is indeed just the way things tend to go, but if you own or can afford a Brazilian rosewood guitar, you will have something precious, and very valuable, and you might have something the future can not offer to you.
If you learn more about the wood and acoustic guitars in general, you just might find one for any ridiculously low price at someone's yard sale, garage sale, or at a flea market. Keep your eyes open!
Questions & Answers
Jeff Huffman From Smithfield, NC is another excellent Luther. I own two of Jeff’s guitars, one is a pre-war Brazilian with red Adirondack, second one is a Cocobolo back and sides with a red Adirondack top. Everyone I speak to about Jeff are amazed at the craftsmanship of these beautiful instruments. Will we be seeing any of Jeff Huffman instruments in the future on this site ?