All laminate Vs solid top

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ZonularZonular Frets: 27
Hey guys, after a bit of research I've discovered my steel string acoustic I've had for close to 20 years is a all laminate construction, it sounds good to me.

Im shopping around for a parlour guitar, for some fingerpicking blues.im looking to keep it under 200 quid if possible

From your wealth of experience, how much difference would I hear between cheaper all laminate parlour Vs a cheaper solid wood like a Harley Benton? 


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  • english_bobenglish_bob Frets: 3455
    In my limited experience I'm not sure it makes as much difference as you might think. I've heard some amazing all-laminate guitars (albeit at twice the price you're looking to spend) and some unspectactular cheaper solid top guitars.

    Shops are open again. I'd say that the tried and tested advice is still the best: go play some.

    Don't talk politics and don't throw stones. Your royal highnesses.

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  • ZonularZonular Frets: 27
    Sadly in Dublin, so shop ain't open yet
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  • GTCGTC Frets: 144
    In my limited experience I'm not sure it makes as much difference as you might think. I've heard some amazing all-laminate guitars (albeit at twice the price you're looking to spend) and some unspectactular cheaper solid top guitars.

    Shops are open again. I'd say that the tried and tested advice is still the best: go play some.
    I agree with the above. Generally I would say guitars with solid tops are better because they are usually used on better instruments overall. However, a decent laminate used by a good builder can sound extremely good - although, in my experience the sound of good laminate top is more controlled than a solid top.

    Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules. You have to try them to find out.
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  • english_bobenglish_bob Frets: 3455
    GTC said:
    However, a decent laminate used by a good builder can sound extremely good - although, in my experience the sound of good laminate top is more controlled than a solid top.


    Yep. It's been a while since I went acoustic guitar shopping, but the last time I did I spent a lot of time trying out solid top acoustics in the ~£400 range. The laminate Martins for a few hundred quid more sounded significantly better. 

    That said, I don't think the OP is going to encounter that sort of dilemma in the hunt for a £200 parlour guitar. If I was forced to buy blind I'd probably steer towards the solid tops for the same reason you gave, but I'd much rather get my hands on some actual guitars.

    Don't talk politics and don't throw stones. Your royal highnesses.

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  • GandalphGandalph Frets: 428
    If you don’t mind the narrow nut I’d consider an all laminate Gretsch Jim Dandy over a solid top Harley Benton for some finger picking blues. 
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 55409
    It's definitely true that in general a solid top sounds better than ply, but there is some considerable overlap.

    However, if you want a smaller-size guitar for fingerpicking blues, I would [caution: stuck record :) ] recommend the Vintage V300M - it's a solid mahogany-topped small-bodied guitar, roughly midway between a parlour and a 000, sounds great, and is under £200 new. They do a spruce-topped model as well, but the mahogany has more character in my opinion.

    I actually play mine more than my Gibson Dove...

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone." - Walt Kowalski

    "Just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't understand." - Homer Simpson

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  • ZonularZonular Frets: 27
    Realistically at lower price points I figure construction is going to win over "better materials" 
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  • paulnb57paulnb57 Frets: 2082
    edited April 15
    Gandalph said:
    If you don’t mind the narrow nut I’d consider an all laminate Gretsch Jim Dandy over a solid top Harley Benton for some finger picking blues. 
    Some people love em some dont, but a (laminate) Gretsch Jim Dandy, is to me, a nice little parloury,  acoustic, I didnt even realise the nut is “narrow”
    Stranger from another planet welcome to our hole - Just strap on your guitar and we'll play some rock 'n' roll

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  • ZonularZonular Frets: 27
    ICBM said:
    It's definitely true that in general a solid top sounds better than ply, but there is some considerable overlap.

    However, if you want a smaller-size guitar for fingerpicking blues, I would [caution: stuck record :) ] recommend the Vintage V300M - it's a solid mahogany-topped small-bodied guitar, roughly midway between a parlour and a 000, sounds great, and is under £200 new. They do a spruce-topped model as well, but the mahogany has more character in my opinion.

    I actually play mine more than my Gibson Dove...
    I think I may have read the ngd post of your picking it up for 20 quid , if that's a steal!

    Funny I like the boxy sounding blues sound, yet I'm worrying about quality of wood
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 55409
    Zonular said:

    I think I may have read the ngd post of your picking it up for 20 quid , if that's a steal!
    Yes, I did - although to be fair it needed a lot of work. I have to admit that I probably wouldn't have given one much thought if I'd just seen them in shops at the normal price and never played one, but having found it by accident I'd happily buy another.

    Zonular said:

    Funny I like the boxy sounding blues sound, yet I'm worrying about quality of wood
    For me it splits the difference perfectly - it's got that barky midrangy bluesy tone, but with enough inherent quality that it doesn't just sound rough.

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone." - Walt Kowalski

    "Just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't understand." - Homer Simpson

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  • LastMantraLastMantra Frets: 1675
    edited April 15
    I don't really know but I've got (my son has) a little seagull acoustic which is laminate and it sounds pretty good to me. But then I'm not really into fancy acoustics. 

    I've heard it said that a solid top will improve with age whereas a laminate top won't. What it sounds like now is how it will always sound. 
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  • GandalphGandalph Frets: 428
    paulnb57 said:
    Gandalph said:
    If you don’t mind the narrow nut I’d consider an all laminate Gretsch Jim Dandy over a solid top Harley Benton for some finger picking blues. 
    Some people love em some dont, but a (laminate) Gretsch Jim Dandy, is to me, a nice little parloury,  acoustic, I didnt even realise the nut is “narrow”
    I sold mine not too long ago to another forum member and regretted it as soon as it left. 
     
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 55409

    I've heard it said that a solid top will improve with age whereas a laminate top won't. What it sounds like now is how it will always sound. 
    Often said - whether from ignorance or snobbery, I'm not sure - but not true. Laminate might age a bit more slowly, but it still does.

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone." - Walt Kowalski

    "Just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't understand." - Homer Simpson

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  • LastMantraLastMantra Frets: 1675
    edited April 15
    ICBM said:

    I've heard it said that a solid top will improve with age whereas a laminate top won't. What it sounds like now is how it will always sound. 
    Often said - whether from ignorance or snobbery, I'm not sure - but not true. Laminate might age a bit more slowly, but it still does.

    Ah OK. I'd have thought the glue would make a difference there but maybe not.

    I've never noticed.
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 55409
    LastMantra said:

    Ah OK. I'd have thought the glue would make a difference there but maybe not.

    I've never noticed.
    The glue does make a difference, but plywood is still at least 90% wood.

    Old ply guitars don't sound like new ply guitars, they sound 'old' - which is difficult to define, but you know it when you hear it :).

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone." - Walt Kowalski

    "Just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't understand." - Homer Simpson

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  • KilgoreKilgore Frets: 4235
    edited April 15
    At that sort of price range I don't think it makes a great deal of difference for finger picked blues.
    Recording King have a number of parlours with either laminate or solid spruce tops for under £200.

    Sigma have some "parlours" actually 00s around the £300 mark that might be worth a look. 

    If you're looking for a solid top "blues box"  I would spend some time deciding whether you prefer the sound of mahogany or spruce. 
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  • LastMantraLastMantra Frets: 1675
    ICBM said:
    LastMantra said:

    Ah OK. I'd have thought the glue would make a difference there but maybe not.

    I've never noticed.
    The glue does make a difference, but plywood is still at least 90% wood.

    Old ply guitars don't sound like new ply guitars, they sound 'old' - which is difficult to define, but you know it when you hear it :).

    Cool then I look forward to hearing it when my son is actually old enough to play it properly (he's only 4). Atm it's tuned to open e and he lies it across his lap and strums. Often with a slide, like that Healey chap  :)

    I suppose it could depend on how much glue has soaked into the wood. Plus it's not a given that it will sound *better* with age I presume? 


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  • BingManBingMan Frets: 29
    beat me to it
    Was going to say for £200 there isn't much point deciding between solid and laminate, its better to just find a guitar that fits the bill. Blues sounds great on laminate guitars... unless you want a more sophisticated tone (think Clapton unplugged)... but for some delta stuff, the cheaper the better most of the time, you just want them to be playable

    Recording King do their Dirty 30 range which are really great for that depression era blues sound and seriously cheap. Would probably fit the bill nicely

    https://www.coda-music.com/catalogsearch/result/?cat=0&q=recording+king&order=relevance&dir=desc










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  • In that price bracket and a bluesy sound, definitely Recording King. With a little patience I'm sure you will find something second hand on Adverts.ie
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  • bugilemanbugileman Frets: 33
    edited April 24
    I used to go in for the hype that a solid top is better. But after years of collecting, buying etc its all a load of BS! I'd put my old Takamine or Yairi laminate top, up against alot of guitar's and they sound superb. They do give tone projection etc like a solid top should, but you have to remember its also down to how the guitar was built in the first place! High pressure laminate tops are actually very good, unlike some of the more generic ones.
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  • ToneControlToneControl Frets: 9297
    If you think about how an acoustic guitar top works, it's like a speaker cone.
    It needs to be able to change shape as it vibrates, it's not like a piston speaker driver, although some makers try to reduce the coupling of the bracing near the edge of the top to get a bit more overall movement.

    Studies have been done on how the tops vibrate, and they have several frequency modes going on at the same time
    this video has an exaggerated view of this:


    to influence these modes and vibration patterns, makers plane some parts of the top to be thinner, and use different bracing patterns, and shave some parts of the bracing away, to fine-tune the vibration characteristics

    Historically, luthiers have developed these techniques with solid wood tops. They will know what works and what doesn't.
    It's not impossible to use these approaches with laminate, but the characteristics of laminate will be different, and also I doubt you could plane it in the same way - you'd hit glue layers I assume. 
    I'd guess that if a luthier had developed these skills from studying experts and experience, all with solid woods, then it would be a case of "starting over" if you tried to do this with laminate.

    I would think that the manual effort and time spent on tweaking tops and bracing on "boutique" level acoustics would cost so much that the cost saving on using laminate would be trivial in comparison

    Mass-Production line guitars would not have this kind of fine-tuning, and could be made with solid or laminate

    I'd guess that some laminate might have good characteristics for vibration, but it would require effort and cost to source it and maintain consistency. It's possible that someone might come up with a design that uses laminate that sounds excellent.

    In fact, there is a thing in classical guitars called the nomex double top, which is a 3 layer construction. It's much stronger, and the bracing can be reduced. Lattice bracing is possible (Not crystal lattice! ;-) )


    I've got one of these, and have tried a steel-strung one, very impressive.

    It might be possible to achieve something similar with laminate woods, I wonder if anyone has tried
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  • ToneControlToneControl Frets: 9297
    However, with cheap guitars I would work on the assumption that laminate tops would be very hit and miss, and that solid tops made in China with decent QC would be more predictable
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  • ToneControlToneControl Frets: 9297
    Zonular said:
    Hey guys, after a bit of research I've discovered my steel string acoustic I've had for close to 20 years is a all laminate construction, it sounds good to me.

    Im shopping around for a parlour guitar, for some fingerpicking blues.im looking to keep it under 200 quid if possible

    From your wealth of experience, how much difference would I hear between cheaper all laminate parlour Vs a cheaper solid wood like a Harley Benton? 


    and to answer your question directly:
    I think Thomann have very good prices for their far-east-made guitars, I think a £200 Harley Benton would be £300-£350 with a different name on the headstock. QC is generally good, and they will sort things out when things go wrong.

    However, with acoustics, trying one out is the best thing

    Most Parlour guitars I have tried sound incredibly boxy, so definitely worth trying out, unless that's the sound you want. You usually need to pay more to get non-boxy-sounding ones

    I'd say that choosing a parlour model over a normal small or grand-auditorium size would probably have at least as much effect on the sound quality as different brands or use of laminates at that price level.

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  • olafgartenolafgarten Frets: 1533
    If you think about how an acoustic guitar top works, it's like a speaker cone.
    It needs to be able to change shape as it vibrates, it's not like a piston speaker driver, although some makers try to reduce the coupling of the bracing near the edge of the top to get a bit more overall movement.

    Studies have been done on how the tops vibrate, and they have several frequency modes going on at the same time
    this video has an exaggerated view of this:


    to influence these modes and vibration patterns, makers plane some parts of the top to be thinner, and use different bracing patterns, and shave some parts of the bracing away, to fine-tune the vibration characteristics

    Historically, luthiers have developed these techniques with solid wood tops. They will know what works and what doesn't.
    It's not impossible to use these approaches with laminate, but the characteristics of laminate will be different, and also I doubt you could plane it in the same way - you'd hit glue layers I assume. 
    I'd guess that if a luthier had developed these skills from studying experts and experience, all with solid woods, then it would be a case of "starting over" if you tried to do this with laminate.

    I would think that the manual effort and time spent on tweaking tops and bracing on "boutique" level acoustics would cost so much that the cost saving on using laminate would be trivial in comparison

    Mass-Production line guitars would not have this kind of fine-tuning, and could be made with solid or laminate

    I'd guess that some laminate might have good characteristics for vibration, but it would require effort and cost to source it and maintain consistency. It's possible that someone might come up with a design that uses laminate that sounds excellent.

    In fact, there is a thing in classical guitars called the nomex double top, which is a 3 layer construction. It's much stronger, and the bracing can be reduced. Lattice bracing is possible (Not crystal lattice! ;-) )


    I've got one of these, and have tried a steel-strung one, very impressive.

    It might be possible to achieve something similar with laminate woods, I wonder if anyone has tried


    Eastman sell 'Double Top' acoustics with a similar lattice. I've never played one, but have heard good things. 
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  • koneguitaristkoneguitarist Frets: 3619
    I bought my Sigma DR28H back in 1988, Laminate back and sides and solid top. Been a wonderful guitar and to me sounded a lot better than guitars twice the price. 
    It’s the one guitar I would grab if house was on fire, despite not being able to play it due to my hands being so bad and it’s such a skinny v neck. 
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  • Balrog68Balrog68 Frets: 99
    Gretsch Jim Dandy or Fender CP60 ... I've had both, both very good and within your budget. 
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  • ZonularZonular Frets: 27
    Balrog68 said:
    Gretsch Jim Dandy or Fender CP60 ... I've had both, both very good and within your budget. 
    Out of interest, which is the better buy?
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  • Andy79Andy79 Frets: 615
    The Fender CP60 is a real piece of junk in my opinion. Can’t speak for the Gretsch but I’d put my lunch money on the Vintage Paul Brett Statesboro being far better, it’s a pretty decent guitar. it’s built better because there was actually input regarding its construction from a guy who understands guitars. It’s light and dynamic. Also cheap. Almost theft

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  • ZonularZonular Frets: 27
    In between starting this thread and now, I actually pulled the trigger on the Harley Benton clp15, sadly on back order, last night my dog had a surprise visit to the vet (he's ok) so cancelled the back order
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  • ZonularZonular Frets: 27
    Update. Picked up a s/h recording king dirty thirty. Great fun 
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