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View Full Version : cedar top vs spruce top uke



diggersmom32
02-16-2015, 10:39 AM
I am still very new to playing ukulele. I'd like advice on cedar top and spruce top ukes under$400. Are there well-built ones available? Are they solid wood or laminate back and sides? Does Spruce top have a softer, fuller sound?

Recstar24
02-16-2015, 10:43 AM
Definitely look at mainland ukuleles. They have a red cedar top and a spruce top both under $300. Solid wood and very nicely done rope purfling.

I owned the red cedar and when I was first deciding I asked mike over at mainland about the two - he mentioned the spruce sounds a little fuller to his ears and the cedar is a little more crisp. Though I never heard the spruce the red cedar I owned had great volume, punch, and was indeed very crisp. After a month it really settled in and the tone started to round out. It's a very nice option, and would imagine the spruce to be a nice option too.

Keep in mind the above quote and impressions are specific to a certain brand, and that a different brand/builder will yield completely different results if they offer cedar and spruce in their line.

Hippie Dribble
02-16-2015, 10:44 AM
Interesting piece here (http://www.thisisclassicalguitar.com/cedar-vs-spruce-tops-classical-guitar/).

deschutestrout
02-16-2015, 11:36 AM
Mainland. GREAT ukes, awesome folks, and reasonably priced.

itsme
02-16-2015, 12:38 PM
I owned the red cedar and when I was first deciding I asked mike over at mainland about the two - he mentioned the spruce sounds a little fuller to his ears and the cedar is a little more crisp.
To my ears, it's the other way around. Spruce is brighter and crisper, while cedar is warmer and fuller.

Also, cedar is a softer wood. It will "open up" sooner than spruce.

kkimura
02-16-2015, 12:47 PM
Interesting piece here (http://www.thisisclassicalguitar.com/cedar-vs-spruce-tops-classical-guitar/).

Great reference, thanks!

Ukulele Eddie
02-16-2015, 01:11 PM
Another brand to consider would be Ohana. Don't know what size you play, but UkerDanno has an Ohana CK-80 for sale in your price range (search the market place here; it's also listed on Flea Market Music's market place). It has a Port Oxford Cedar top & myrtle body. In your price range, I'm also a fan of Cordoba, though they don't offer a cedar top. Regardless, in this price range there are some nice values to be had. Just be sure to buy from a place that offers proper set up and QC.

Let us know what you end up getting!

sam13
02-16-2015, 01:13 PM
To my ears, it's the other way around. Spruce is brighter and crisper, while cedar is warmer and fuller.

Also, cedar is a softer wood. It will "open up" sooner than spruce.

I agree with you. I have a Pono PC with Cedar and Spruce.

Cedar is Warmer, with fuller harmonics at the mid and lower end of the strum. Spruce has more harmonics at the upper end. More sustain.

Cedar doesn't open up as much. Spruce does. There are variations of both kinds of wood as well.

Hippie Dribble
02-16-2015, 01:13 PM
To my ears, it's the other way around. Spruce is brighter and crisper, while cedar is warmer and fuller.

Also, cedar is a softer wood. It will "open up" sooner than spruce.

What she said.

I prefer cedar tops for the more rounded voice. Caveat as always being the builder: thinness of top, bracing, design

katysax
02-16-2015, 01:27 PM
I have ukes with cedar and ukes with spruce. It totally depends on the uke. Cedar is softer and will show wear faster. All things being equal Spruce will be brighter and more focused. But it also makes a difference how opened up it is. An older spruce will be more like a newer cedar than a newer spruce.

dirtiestkidever
02-16-2015, 01:28 PM
Great reference, thanks!

Agreed. That is a great link.

I am far from an expert but I agree that cedar seems to give a fuller warmer tone (though perhaps a bit mushy). I love cedar tops. To my ears ukes can be a bit too harsh and jangly sounding. I think cedar tops reduce that as much as possible. It gives them the most guitar-like tone. Which is exactly why a lot of people would probably say they dislike cedar tops on ukuleles. It is all a preference thing but right now I really like the soft wood tops especially cedar.

diggersmom32
02-16-2015, 01:51 PM
Thanks Hippie Dribble. The article is informative indeed!

diggersmom32
02-16-2015, 01:57 PM
Thanks! Good info!

Nickie
02-16-2015, 03:49 PM
What a cool thread, thanks Hippie for the article. Trees and woods fascinate me. Not only do they make wonderful instruments, humans couldn't survive without them! Next time you're outdoors, thank a tree for the oxygen and shade.

Sylvan
02-16-2015, 05:09 PM
Great thread here as I have been wondering about this topic for a while. Does anyone have any opinions on which is more responsive to soft, low volume playing given the same construction?

igorthebarbarian
02-16-2015, 05:22 PM
I'll 2nd (or 3rd) the Mainland recommendation - email Mike at Mainland directly - he's a member on here too.
And/or Ohana from MIM's.
Ohanas and Mainlands are very similar and may be from the same factory specs. Can't go wrong with those.

Phuufme
02-16-2015, 05:44 PM
Agreed. That is a great link.

I am far from an expert but I agree that cedar seems to give a fuller warmer tone (though perhaps a bit mushy). I love cedar tops. To my ears ukes can be a bit too harsh and jangly sounding. I think cedar tops reduce that as much as possible. It gives them the most guitar-like tone. Which is exactly why a lot of people would probably say they dislike cedar tops on ukuleles. It is all a preference thing but right now I really like the soft wood tops especially cedar.

I agree with this. For me, my Pono ATSHC-PC (Cedar top Acacia back and sides) has a great less "jangly" but great performing uke sound.

AndrewKuker
02-17-2015, 12:19 AM
One of the videos I did recently... One player, one brand, one data point, but unaltered audio under exact conditions...

https://vimeo.com/118242381
Use true playback sources for an accurate listen to these particular spruce & cedar tops.
On a personal note, for over 20 years I've analyzed these sound board options on various brands and models. I just grow less opinionated every year, but I think katysax relayed my general experience best.

sam13
02-17-2015, 01:25 AM
One of the videos I did recently... One player, one brand, one data point, but unaltered audio under exact conditions...

https://vimeo.com/118242381
Use true playback sources for an accurate listen to these particular spruce & cedar tops.
On a personal note, for over 20 years I've analyzed these sound board options on various brands and models. I just grow less opinionated every year, but I think katysax relayed my general experience best.

This video is really great. A lot of finger action.

From a strumming point of view, it depends on the song for me and the colour I want to greate from the Ukulele.

Icelander53
02-17-2015, 04:05 AM
If you are a Tenor guy I'd certainly look at the Gretsch Mahogany cutaway. It costs around $200 but imo plays and sounds like a good $400 instrument. I have many higher end ukes but this guy is a favorite. Other than that I'm a cedar guy. BTW the Gretsch is a solid top and laminate back and sides.

Don't forget to consider a good used or factory second. Or save your money for a PONO cedar.

diggersmom32
02-18-2015, 07:19 PM
Thank you, very much!

kohanmike
02-18-2015, 08:51 PM
I have a Kala solid cedar top, acacia koa laminate body tenor cutaway with original Aquila strings that goes for around $360. I think it sounds and plays great. I also have the Gretsch mentioned. I added Worth CT strings, which helped it a lot, but to me it does not have quite as good projection and sustain as my Kala.

BBJohn
03-05-2015, 08:16 AM
You might want to consider Córdoba 32T or 35TS too( price $399 and $439) on HMS currently! Their 30series is really stunning and nothing like what they offer before!
Not sure if QC is a problem for 30 series but the one I tried at local music store is spot on for intonation and action! And when I compare them to the Pono low end model(AT MT ,etc) I found them at least on par with the pono! Due to the design of Pepe Romero Jr. it just sound so loud but still make really sweet sound!

Icelander53
03-05-2015, 01:02 PM
I have come to believe that the build is most important to sound. Tonewoods do have an effect but it may not be the main effect. Having said that I do prefer cedar to spruce. I have one spruce top and it's very decent (moku) but it rarely gets played cause the cedars have my heart.

ichadwick
03-06-2015, 02:58 AM
Spruce has the best elasticity of all the tonewoods, but there are differences in types of spruce, too. Englemann is considered the best by luthiers I have read commenting on tonewoods.

Because of its physical properties, spruce vibrates a little more than most other woods. This can result in more sustain, volume and clarity, but it also tends to be brighter.

With a small-bodied instrument, you already have brightness in the structure - the body has smaller surface area, smaller internal volume, smaller sound hole, higher string pitch - so the lower/larger soundwaves simply aren't able to be made. Spruce can enhance the brightness, but this can also come across as brash and sharp, and even unbalanced as the first and second strings stand out more.

I prefer cedar because it tends to mellow the inherent upper-register tones somewhat. But it does so at the expense of sustain and volume. This can be mitigated by the build - the shape, internal volume, soundhole size and placement, back and side materials, finish, type of string and saddle, etc. Using an ebony or even rosewood saddle can mellow the spruce's brightness without sacrificing too much sustain and volume.

Once you get to baritone and guitar sizes, spruce is more attractive as a tonewood (to my ears, anyway). Tenors - it depends on the build as to whether it sounds too brash.

But the bottom line is this: what sounds good to YOU? That's all that really matters.

Icelander53
03-06-2015, 03:31 AM
Thank you for that well laid out post with lots of great info. You made some great points and gave me a clue as to why I like the cedar top Pono's. Nice and warm but due to the pono build lots of great sustain.

chuck in ny
03-06-2015, 07:21 AM
Spruce has the best elasticity of all the tonewoods, but there are differences in types of spruce, too. Englemann is considered the best by luthiers I have read commenting on tonewoods.

Because of its physical properties, spruce vibrates a little more than most other woods. This can result in more sustain, volume and clarity, but it also tends to be brighter.

With a small-bodied instrument, you already have brightness in the structure - the body has smaller surface area, smaller internal volume, smaller sound hole, higher string pitch - so the lower/larger soundwaves simply aren't able to be made. Spruce can enhance the brightness, but this can also come across as brash and sharp, and even unbalanced as the first and second strings stand out more.

I prefer cedar because it tends to mellow the inherent upper-register tones somewhat. But it does so at the expense of sustain and volume. This can be mitigated by the build - the shape, internal volume, soundhole size and placement, back and side materials, finish, type of string and saddle, etc. Using an ebony or even rosewood saddle can mellow the spruce's brightness without sacrificing too much sustain and volume.

Once you get to baritone and guitar sizes, spruce is more attractive as a tonewood (to my ears, anyway). Tenors - it depends on the build as to whether it sounds too brash.

But the bottom line is this: what sounds good to YOU? That's all that really matters.



ian

good stuff.
i'm a cabinetmaker with already developed tastes in wood. yes the cedar is a good choice for small bodied instruments. the trouble is i don't even like making decks out of this soft stuff and wouldn't be inclined to pay money for a soft soundboard. it is a personal neurosis and one of many concerning wood.
you can ask stradivari whether spruce has a place in instrument building. i would love a spruce top instrument, just know it's not going to work out, bright, bright, bright.
ian has this mentally collated properly. by the time the body size increases, the rules bend, and spruce would be fine in a baritone. along these lines i like mahogany ukes for their warm tone. however things change at both ends of the spectrum. a lot of koa sopranos sound lovely, the body size not having enough volume to be brash, and koa baritones have the size to have mellow resonance.
good subject.