The Five Finest Mahogany Body Dreadnought Acoustic Guitars for Amateurs or Professionals
Mahogany Body Acoustic Guitars - A Very Special Sound
No doubt about it, mahogany body acoustic guitars have a very different and very special sound. While rosewood body acoustic guitars often have the appeal of the masses, and are, in fact, very special instruments as well - the mahogany lover also exists, and surely he or she has a lot to love.
Mahogany as a tonewood, it is just very very different from rosewood. Mahogany is easier to attain, and easier to meld or bend into shape for the body of an acoustic guitar. So, having had to spend less time in the construction of the mahogany body instrument, it rightly sells for less than does a rosewood instrument. The supply and demand scheme of things is another very significant market force in regards to mahogany body acoustic guitars, and there is no way around economics 101.
Mahogany, being more available on the market than rosewood, makes mahogany a less expensive wood for the guitar builder to attain, and then, it is less time consuming to produce a mahogany body guitar because mahogany can be shaped into an instrument with less work. The real beauty of mahogany, however, is its sound.
Literally, notes seem to explode out of a mahogany body guitar when combined with a spruce top. No doubt about it, a mahogany body and spruce top provide tremendous tonal velocity, and greater clarity than does a rosewood body and a spruce top.
So, in this article we will discuss dreadnought sized instruments with solid mahogany backs and sides, and with solid spruce tops. I'm going to plainly state here, that the instruments discussed will NOT be the least expensive, rather, the ones I consider to be the absolute best, and from the finest manufacturers of acoustic guitars.
The Martin D-18 Golden Era
The Martin D-18GE or "Golden Era"
I used to own a Martin D-18 Golden Era, and this is why I'm listing it first, but besides that, the majority of the instruments in this article will also be very similar to outright copies of the original mahogany and spruce dreadnought by C.F. Martin & Company.
The Martin D-18 along with the D-28 were both originally produced in 1931, and today, the instruments of either model produced before the second world war, are among the most sought after musical instruments from any manufacturer and in any time period anywhere in the world.
There are "pre war" Martin D-18 guitars on the market, but it is unlikely that many of my readers can afford such a guitar, and besides, the Martin D-18GE is a reproduction with only the very smallest differences than the originals. The very slight differences include things such as "the Popsicle brace," and such things really ought to be left where they are, as they weren't put there for any reason that could be considered invalid.
There are, of course, more production models of the Martin D-18 currently produced than just the D-18GE, the D-18GE, however, is the best of the best, and is superior in a number of ways to the D-18V, and all other variations of D-18 currently produced or formerly produced by C.F.Martin & Company.
What makes the Martin D-18GE such a superb instrument?
A couple of things make this guitar superior to other versions of the Martin D-18, first and foremost, the red or Adirondack spruce top makes it superior. There is no better wood for a soundboard on a guitar built for flatpicking, than a red or Adirondack spruce top. In most cases, the Adirondack spruce soundboard produces a louder, a clearer, and a longer sustaining tonality than does any other variety of spruce. Truly, red spruce is a "holy grail" tonewood, and that isn't something that will ever change. It can truly be banked on. Merely having a guitar with that tonewood as a soundboard makes that individual instrument something special, an heirloom, an investment, a real treasure.
Secondly, the Martin D-18GE comes with both a bone nut and a bone saddle, and those two pieces of precision equipment make for an additional boost to the D-18GE's tonal canon like sound. If you ever wish to hot rod an acoustic guitar, then simply replacing the most often non bone nut and saddle with bone, boosts any steel string acoustic guitar's tonal vitality.
What else makes the Martin D-18GE so special?
There are a few things still that make this guitar very very special, the forward shifted X bracing make it special, but that is also found on the D-18V by Martin, but not in the exact same configuration as in the D-18GE. One thing that truly makes the D-18GE different, is the width of the neck at the nut. The Martin D-18GE has a wider neck width at the nut than do standard Martin D-18 guitars, or the very popular D-18V guitars. The D-18GE has a one and three quarter inch width of the neck at the nut. In today's world of standard production Martin instruments, and in all other manufacturers that copy or attempt to improve upon Martin designs, the standard neck width at the nut is one and eleven sixteenths inches.
Sir, you stated you used to own a Martin D-18GE, so my question is this: Why do you no longer own that guitar, yet you think it was so spectacular?
That is a very fair question, and I must admit straight away that selling my own Martin D-18GE has been regretted almost ever since the day it was sold. I personally already owned more fine acoustic guitars than my skill level at playing seemed to justify to me. Also, I had then some very definite plans for my future, and what I needed was some cash to get those plans and goals accomplished. I sold my D-18GE in order to accomplish some things, and no, none of it worked out. I will plainly state that I would most certainly, and without a doubt re purchase another of these guitars should the situation present itself, and me be financially able to do so. I miss that guitar, and lament its loss very very often.
- Classic dreadnought body
- Solid Adirondack spruce top
- Scalloped 5/16" Golden Era bracing
- Solid genuine mahogany back and sides
- Mahogany blocks with dovetail neck joint
- V-shaped solid mahogany neck
- Fossil ivory nut and saddle
- Solid ebony fingerboard and bridge
- Old Style 18 abalone fretboard inlays
- Waverly nickel tuners with butterbean knobs
- Polished gloss finish
- Brazilian rosewood headplate
- Large Golden Era-style logo
- Black binding
- 25-2/5" scale
- 1-3/4" nut width
The Martin D-18GE or "Golden Era"
The Santa Cruz 1934 D Mahogany
The Santa Cruz 1934 D Mahogany
When it comes to the upper echelon of acoustic guitar builders and models offered in today's world, there is no manufacturer of such that I'd personally consider superior to those created by the Santa Cruz Guitar Company out of Santa Cruz, California. Yes, there are certainly some folks that create guitars I personally consider to be of equal status, but none superior.
My gushing over the Martin D-18GE is from having owned one, and likewise, my opinions concerning how awesome are the guitars produced by the Santa Cruz Guitar Company comes from me owning one still, but I do not own this, the Santa Cruz 1934 D Mahogany, and when one looks at the price of the thing, it is pretty unlikely I ever will own such a guitar, especially when the D-18GE is very similar, and costs less than half as much.
Like the Martin D-18GE, the Santa Cruz 1934 D Mahogany is a production instrument that comes with a red or Adirondack spruce soundboard or top. This might be a bit ridiculous, but please do note that the "1934" is a number in the model of the guitar, but has nothing to do with the year the specific guitar was produced, as the Santa Cruz Guitar Company is nowhere near that old. Forgive me, please, for feeling the need to state that bit of fact.
Please make no mistakes here, this guitar is very special, and is a total original in many ways, this guitar might be built from the larger design of the original Martin D-18s from the 1930s, but this guitar is unique in a lot of ways. The people at the Santa Cruz Guitar Company are master builders, the finest anywhere in the world, and when they produce this guitar, and call the woods selected and used "master grade" woods, you can be certain that these are the finest cuts of woods, and they have been tested for tonal response in more ways than you or I could name or understand without study, and they are, in fact, the finest woods available.
Besides the absolute surety of the individual guitars of this model having come from only the finest woods in the world, the guitar is also designed in an original way by also having one of the original production specifications associated with the Santa Cruz Guitar Company, the slightly larger than standard sound hole.
The following from the Santa Cruz Guitar Company's own website:
In 1934, the powerful 14-fret herringbone dreadnought was unleashed. This has become one of the most revered and sought after designs of the steel string acoustic guitar. No one has reproduced the essence of the iconic original, until now. The secret to the often superior tone of vintage instruments lies in aged woods (crystallized resins) and the relaxation of tensions built-in during manufacture. This is exactly what we account for in our 1934 D Mahogany Model. Master grade Mahogany cut in the 1930′s, Adirondack Spruce tops/bracing from the same era and real hot hide glue are among our secret weapons. Hot hide glue is a time tested, natural adhesive that sets glass-like and resonant for a quicker, cleaner response. This isn’t ‘like the old stuff.’ It is the old stuff. These rarified materials give us the foundation for a true and genuine vintage sound.
Now, there is more to it all than that, and of course the lack of fret markers outside the ultra cool and very proudly shown Santa Cruz Guitar Company emblem, is all very distinguished, there is also the matter of the Hide glue, and insofar as that is concerned, I believe that wasn't a thing brought back from the past by the Santa Cruz Guitar Company, but rather, by Dana Bourgeois, who's contribution to this field will be discussed shortly. If you do happen to be interested in learning more about Hide Glue, and its significance, well, you can start by going here. For the complete list of specifications for the Santa Cruz Guitar Company's 1934 Model D Mahogany, then click this link here from their own website.
The Santa Cruz 1934 D Mahogany
The Bourgeois Country Boy Deluxe
The Bourgeois Country Boy Deluxe
Now this article is meant to display the very finest mahogany body dreadnought guitars available today. This article is not about me, guitars I've owned, etc, however, as the author, it is beyond possible for my personal experiences to have not played a part in this.
1. I have in the past owned a Martin D-18GE, 2. I currently own a Santa Cruz Dreadnought, one of the finest guitars I've ever laid hands on, and 3. The only manufacturer of acoustic guitars that produced a guitar I have played that compared to the one I own and the one I used to own, and just might have even been superior was a Bourgeois guitar.
The one guitar produced by Dana Bourgeois I'd gotten to play wasn't a Country Boy Deluxe, but it was a comparable guitar to the Santa Cruz dreadnought I do own, and so straight away I realized the Bourgeois make was likely across the board as dedicated to outstanding craftsmanship as was anything by Martin or Collings or Santa Cruz.
Like the D-18GE and the Santa Cruz 1934 D Mahogany, the Bourgeois Country Boy Deluxe also features a red or Adirondack spruce soundboard. for ultimate clarity and projection. Unlike the others, the Bourgeois Country Boy Deluxe features flamed or figured mahogany on its back and sides for some additional visual beauty, and also gold plated Waverly nickel tuning machines.This guitar also features a very slightly different neck width at the nut, of one and twenty three thirty seconds inch.
While the Bourgeois Country Boy Deluxe might not be an exact built to specs replica of a pre war Martin D-18, why should it be? There is already the Martin D-18GE to fill that niche, and the Bourgeois has some additional beauty marks the D-18GE doesn't have. Dana Bourgeois doesn't exactly need to follow Martin bracing patterns or other specifications, he is beyond able and has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he can do things as well or better than anyone else in the realm of steel string acoustic guitars, and on his own terms.
The Country Boy Deluxe by Bourgeois compares very favorably price wise to the Martin D-18GE, so my thoughts are that these two instruments ought to be compared directly to one another for persons shopping for such an instrument.
The Bourgeois Country Boy Deluxe
The Collings D1A Guitar
The Collings D1A Guitar
Collings guitars out of Austin, Texas, has been serving all who own one very well for a while now, and in the process, they have served the state of Texas and its reputation by being one of the best guitar manufacturers on the planet. Now, who makes the best instrument, whether it is Martin or Collings, or Santa Cruz or Bourgeois, shoot, at this level, it is really subjective in most cases.
The Collings D1A will be so very similar in every way to the Martin D-18GE, that there is little in the way of differences to speak of, there are, however, some differences. First off, so far as the image I've provided here, that is indeed a Collings D1A, however, the headstock is not standard, as the Collings logo is typically more subdued than what is shown in the image to the right. That appears to be a custom shop abalone inlay on a standard production D1A.
Pre War Martin D-18 specifications, the Collings D1A has all of those, what it has that is special is its finish. Now, a finish on a guitar might not seem so critical to you, but I assure you that it is. Guitars sound great, and indeed, produce sound at all, from vibration. A thick sloppy finish, and the best made guitar might sound like a grocery bag. Not a Collings though, and not the D1A, as it has a hand rubbed varnish finish, which is thinner than nitrocellulose, and therefore allows that master grade Adirondack or spruce top to ring out as it should.
The Martin D-18GE, The Collings D1A, and the Bourgeois Country Boy Deluxe are all damned similar guitars, and besides that, priced roughly the same. Most stores that I've been in wouldn't have all three such guitars at the same time for comparison, but they just might have any two out of these, and I'm telling you that should you have two to compare, you'll not much miss the third, as it would be hard to beat any of them. The Santa Cruz model mentioned here, costs more than twice what these others do, and ought not even be considered unless you're really that wealthy, and already a professional musician.
The Collings D1A
The Huss And Dalton TD-M Sinker Guitar
The Huss and Dalton TD-M Sinker Guitar
Now so far as personal experience goes, I have absolutely none to offer here, as I have never in my days been so blessed as to get to play any guitar by Huss and Dalton, however, having seen their guitars on the web on the same dealer's websites as I see these other fine makes and models that I do have some sort of experience with, and also the fact that the Huss and Dalton TD-M Sinker guitar sells for even more than all save the Santa Cruz 1934 D Mahogany, I can only imagine the Huss and Dalton people to be simply amazing guitar builders. How could they not be when their instrument is in such company as the best I know of, and have laid hands on?
Well, lets tackle the obvious thing here, and that is this "Sinker" business. What is that all about, anyway? Well, the Sinker name refers to the exact mahogany used, and it comes from Belize, and the British, as is usual in history, used to colonize Belize, and capitalize on the resources there. Well, mahogany was one of the major resources in the nation of Belize, and the Brits would float the logs down the river to be sold, sometimes the logs would be too dense to float, and would just sink. These Huss and Dalton TD-M Sinker guitars are made from logs that have been sunk for a very long time, and the wood is very dense, and now, rather dried out again, but still just as dense.
Denser than normal mahogany can only make the properties of the mahogany as a tonewood more intensive, and those properties in all these guitars are that sound jumps out of them at a very fast rate, so these guitars by Huss and Dalton should be even louder than is typical from high end manufacturers that know all the tricks, use them, and make the finest guitars possible.
Like every other guitar listed on this article, the Huss and Dalton TD-M Sinker guitar features also a red or Adirondack spruce top. Also featured are special edition Waverly tuning machines, and an outright bone nut, saddle, and bridge pins - this thing is hot rod guitar to the max, and should best be compared to the Santa Cruz 1934 D Mahogany, though the Huss and Dalton still costs about half so much.
The Huss And Dalton Sinker Mahogany Guitar
Fine Mahogany Dreadnoughts - Conclusion
I hope you've enjoyed reading about some of these super special and very high end mahogany instruments. Mostly this was written in lamentation for the one I no longer own, and should have never parted with.
Yes, these are expensive guitars, and in the case of the Santa Cruz 1934 D Mahogany, very damned expensive. I like to read about such things, and after all, these are hardly as expensive as they would be were they rosewood body instruments, but I've covered some of that on another page concerning reproductions of the pre war D-28, if you happen to be interested - but that page didn't make a point of showcasing the most expensive, rather, the more reasonable side of town.
Another instrument that I've already discussed in some detail that falls into this class of instrument, but wasn't mentioned as I've already got a page about it, would be the Guild D-40 Jubilee, and check that out as well, as it is also a mahogany and Adirondack spruce guitar, and costs a bit less than any of these mentioned here.
As always, the final advice I can give if you are in the market for one of these guitars, is to go with your ears and fingers, as you will be investing a lot into something, and you shouldn't leave with a doubtful mind.