Are Laminate back and sides stronger than solid hard woods?

Milspec

Poster Extraordinaire
Joined
Feb 15, 2016
Posts
8,331
Location
Nebraska
I remember reading an article about the Takamine EF341 guitar always having laminated sides and back because they could be made stronger and lighter than traditional solid woods. It has always been a popular guitar and seems to sound good, but I could never wrap my arms around the price since it is not a solid wood body guitar, which I always viewed as a cost cutting measure and inferior.

Help me out here, is Tak slinging BS or is that true? Are they really worth the price?
 

Jakedog

Telefied
Ad Free Member
Joined
Mar 26, 2003
Posts
23,785
Location
The North Coast
Taks are great workhorse guitars. I’ve had several over the years. Including a 341SC. I’ve never come across one that sounds like a high end all solid guitar when played unplugged. But that’s not what they’re for. They’re engineered and designed to be played plugged in. Especially on a loud stage. In that application, they have little competition.

They play unbelievably well, and are very, very stable. Which makes them great live/tour acoustics. The preamps and pickups are also top notch.

My Cole Clark is the only acoustic I’ve had that sounds better plugged in than my Taks did.

I’ve never been a fan of the G series. I’ve never picked one up that made me want to buy it. They bear pretty much no resemblance to the MIJ pro level stuff outside of looks. But the MIJ “Pro series” Taks are worth every penny as far as I’m concerned. Wonderful gig guitars that last forever, are super reliable and stable, and work great on stage.

If you want a boutique bluegrass cannon they aren’t it. Totally different kind of instrument. If you want a bulletproof stage guitar that sounds great plugged in, doesn’t give you feedback problems, and pretty near plays itself, the 341SC is unbeatable at its price point.

In answer to “are laminates stronger”, the answer is yes. They are not prone to cracking or splitting with temp or humidity changes, and can take more of a beating without serious damage. It’s still an acoustic guitar, you don’t wanna go around bouncing it off the pavement. But laminate back and sides can generally take a lot more abuse than solid woods.
 
Last edited:

acousticnitemare

Tele-Meister
Joined
Oct 25, 2022
Posts
151
Location
hiplanes
I have the Tak F360SC lawsuit cutaway a/e, rosewood back & sides, spruce top, ebony fretboard, palathetic pup. I believe it has laminated back & sides. It sounds fine unplugged but as @Jakedog noted above, it's not a bluegrass cannon. It sounds great plugged in, so much so that, the story I heard some time ago, Ricky Scaggs bought one because he thought so much of the pickup.
In any event, IMO it doesn't suffer from the laminate construction. It's like 40 yrs old +/- and no notable repairs. Lightning fast action :) .
 

perttime

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Apr 13, 2014
Posts
2,082
Location
Finland
When a laminate is done for sound and durability, it can be very good indeed. It takes good materials and some additional work when you are doing it right. So, doesn't come cheap.

Laminate to cut costs is very different.
 

northernguitar

Poster Extraordinaire
Joined
Jan 18, 2009
Posts
6,204
Location
North of Toronto
My new Martin 12-string has HPL back and sides. Purists may sniff. I think it’s sweet as honey. Running my hand over it, I think it feels different. Tapping it has a slightly more trebly sound. Playing this guitar is pure joy and it sounds delightful. As for look, see for yourself. Top guitar is my Martin. Bottom is solid Mahogany on my Godin Metropolis.
B7C54767-A52A-4B35-883A-E579A45F2548.jpeg
 

VintageSG

Poster Extraordinaire
Joined
Mar 31, 2016
Posts
5,847
Location
Yorkshire
Laminate ( done properly ) is stronger. Grain crossing etc. Laminate done properly can be lighter. Thinner for the given strength = lighter. Laminate done properly is less prone to warp and splitting.
I'd rather have a thin, resonant laminate than solid for its own sake.
I have ukuleles with all laminate, laminate sides+back with solid top and all solid construction. It's a close call between one all laminate model and and one with a spruce top/laminate sides and back as to which has the better sound. The laminate used in both cases is very thin, 3-ply, almost veneer thickness per layer, and boy, does they 'jump' in the hands. The cedar top, mahogany back and sides sounds nice, but in comparison is a little flaccid.

Done properly, aside from sniffer de corque, it's preferable in many aspects. Strength, durability, ease of manufacturing and consistency come to mind. Even a laminate top, done properly, is worth listening to.

Worry not. Play and enjoy.
 

bottlenecker

Poster Extraordinaire
Joined
Dec 6, 2015
Posts
7,143
Location
Wisconsin
I don't know anything, but I just listened to an interview with Brian Gallup where he says he builds with laminate sides for strength/stiffness, and to decouple them acoustically from the top. Solid back though. I think laminate sides are an interesting idea, but I've never heard a flattop with laminate back that I've liked.
 

Chiogtr4x

Doctor of Teleocity
Ad Free Member
Joined
Mar 29, 2007
Posts
15,284
Location
Manassas Park, VA
I have a 1993 Martin D-1 ( my baby!) which as a 'budget Guinea pig experiment' for Martin, using cost-cutting materials and build.
It turned out to be a good instrument. and the design success to spawn their various budget lines over the years.

The D-1 ( later models followed).has a solid Mahogany back, but laminated sides- as it was determined that sides were just as strong as solid.
I'm not sure, but thinking there was no acoustic/tonal advantage of solid vs.lamiinate of the sides but yes, on the back.
 

Boreas

Doctor of Teleocity
Joined
Nov 3, 2019
Posts
10,779
Age
67
Location
Adirondack Coast, NY
I think laminates lost some cred early on because they were a little thicker than they needed to be, so tended to be heavy and dead. As processes developed and heavy lamination glues were minimized, they came into their own. But after manufacturers thinned them out and improved their laminating and manufacturing processes, they have become a very good alternative to solid wood, if not superior for sides. I am equally impressed by HPL, although to my ears they definitely SOUND like HPL and not wood. I recently converted my Little Martin LXM (HPL top/back/sides) to Nashville strings and tuning and I doubt I will switch it back. It handles the upper-end very well with a lot of definition. It obviously never was a bass monster. Very easy on the fingers.

If you want a close-up look at Taks, watch Howard Stern's recent interview with Bruce Springsteen. He is surrounded with Taks in various tunings and I was very impressed WRT their tone in an "acoustic" setting. I wasn't paying much attention, but I believe they were all plugged in and they sounded very warm and woody. Not at all what I expected based on their "tinny" reputation. Of course these were all WELL broken in and tweaked, but they had character of their own. Give it a watch if you can.
 

Sax-son

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Mar 20, 2019
Posts
2,512
Age
71
Location
Three Rivers, CA
I have a 1993 Martin D-1 ( my baby!) which as a 'budget Guinea pig experiment' for Martin, using cost-cutting materials and build.
It turned out to be a good instrument. and the design success to spawn their various budget lines over the years.

The D-1 ( later models followed).has a solid Mahogany back, but laminated sides- as it was determined that sides were just as strong as solid.
I'm not sure, but thinking there was no acoustic/tonal advantage of solid vs.lamiinate of the sides but yes, on the back.
I also have a Martin D-1 (1995) that I purchased new back in the day. It has the laminated sides as well. It has beautiful tone and it is hard to tell that it even has laminate sides because Martin did such a good job on those guitars. I am not usually a dreadnaught size player, but there is a reason that I have kept it all these years. I would match it up against any Mahogany back D-18 for tone.
 

zombywoof

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Mar 4, 2006
Posts
4,263
Location
These Days NE Ohio
I always thought of laminate as being stiffer rather stronger. Back in the day though it was not uncommon to see guitars such as Regal 12 strings built with a laminate neck being touted as "warp proof."

But there is laminate and there is laminate. You have the "good" stuff which is even layers of the same wood glued together. Gibson has gone this route since the 1930s with models such as the L Century. They claimed it cost them more in labor and scrap costs than building with soldi wood.

Then you have the "not so good stuff" which is generally two layers of a nice veneer with some cheap filler material. This is what gave rise to the poor reputation laminate acquired.
 
Last edited:

Chiogtr4x

Doctor of Teleocity
Ad Free Member
Joined
Mar 29, 2007
Posts
15,284
Location
Manassas Park, VA
I also have a Martin D-1 (1995) that I purchased new back in the day. It has the laminated sides as well. It has beautiful tone and it is hard to tell that it even has laminate sides because Martin did such a good job on those guitars. I am not usually a dreadnaught size player, but there is a reason that I have kept it all these years. I would match it up against any Mahogany back D-18 for tone.

My D-1 has been a best friend since 1993, a 'million gigs and jams' ( and now 3rd set of frets, tuners, other...)
Always loved its warm/bright tone ( a little on the 'dry' side- not too zingy) and maybe not the loudest volume, but balanced.

I also now play OM-28 style Blueridge ( all solid) that is definitely less bass, more mid-honk, and maybe volume than the D-1.
In our casual Bluegrass group, it thinks it's a dreadnought! It is kind of brash or articulate
 

schmee

Telefied
Ad Free Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2003
Posts
22,696
Location
northwest
Yes, they are less crack prone, I guess you could call that "stronger". I dont find a huge difference in plywood back and sides, but a lot of difference in a plywood top. I have a few solid wood acoustics and they are better to me. But my new Guild 240 is ply back and I like it. I can hear the difference though.

'77 Fender /Yamaha Dreadnaught. SOLID rosewood sides and back! Spruce top. An amazing acoustic and it's just a Fender!
Guild F5CE solid throughout.
'51 Gibson
'38 Martin (sold)
 

Nicko_Lps

Tele-Meister
Joined
Oct 10, 2021
Posts
278
Age
38
Location
Greece/Rhodes Island
laminated sides and back because they could be made stronger and lighter than traditional solid woods
Yes they are indeed stronger.

Consider laminated sides more like a sort of "plywood" which is stronger than solid wood, less prone to shrink/expand due to weather conditions and very small chance for it to crack.

Now lighter? Definitely not, a 3mm wood is just wood. A 3mm laminated wood is a few layers of wood and a few layers of glue in between which makes it heavier than wood. Now how much extra weight? Obviously close to nothing.
 

kuch

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Sep 30, 2011
Posts
2,206
Location
Great Northwest
I picked up a Martin 000-1R for my grandson a few years ago when prices were under $3 bills. It came with a K&K pickup installed by the previous owner. Solid spruce top with laminated rosewood back and sides, not HPL. I must say it sounds pretty good. Not as good as my solid wood Martins that would cost $K's today, but pretty sweet.

Gotta make the comment though about 335's, 330's, and other hollow/semi-hollow guitars: they're all laminated tops and backs too. And everyone raves about them.
 




Top