Laminate woods - does the wood really make a difference to the tone?

CalBrit

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My "basic" understanding is that a laminated wood is a sandwich of layers of wood. In an instrument this provides strength and minimizes the risk of splitting (and possibly reduces production costs). Some argue there's a tonal trade off between solid and laminate construction though there are some ukulele manufacturers and builders that can achieve remarkable tonal results with laminates. I understand about the sound of solid wood instruments maturing which is not really the case with laminated ones. However, what I don't understand is if there is as much of a distinct difference in sound between say a mahogany laminated uke and a koa laminated uke as there is with the solid versions. Doesn't the process of laminating the wood remove most of the tonal nuances?
 
If the top is laminated then the type of wood is just for show. Also laminated bodies do not compromise tone as much as laminated tops. Laminated ukes on Amazon are sometimes listed as SOLID wood. That means its not liquid or gaseous but still laminated.
 
only in your brain - flashy visible grain is just wallpaper. I'm also imagining levels of surface gloss don't affect tone like they would on a natural board. But structural differences in laminate construction result in tonal variation - hence the success of Kiwaya's thinner laminates and others.
 
A laminate usually consists of a hardwood core, poplar or birch sandwiched between outer veneers. To answer your question of whether a koa veneer sounds different then a mahogany veneer: Bob Taylor of Taylor guitars has stated publicly that it makes no difference. Taylor guitars is one of the largest and most successful guitar manufacturers in the world so I tend to listen to someone with that much real world experience
 
A laminate usually consists of a hardwood core, poplar or birch sandwiched between outer veneers. To answer your question of whether a koa veneer sounds different then a mahogany veneer: Bob Taylor of Taylor guitars has stated publicly that it makes no difference. Taylor guitars is one of the largest and most successful guitar manufacturers in the world so I tend to listen to someone with that much real world experience
That the wood used in a laminate tone wood makes no difference sounds reasonable to me. And therefore should we address the tonal affect of the glue used in laminates? For example does using hot hide glue to make a laminate result in a better sounding instrument than if you used Tite Bond? This begs the question of what glue is actually used in the manufacture of laminates.
 
My understanding is that most of the tonal quality comes from the sound board, is this correct? Do laminate back and sides at all impinge on the tonal quality of a solid wood sound board?
 
I asked Magic Fluke Co if there was any audible difference between the 2 laminate tops they offer, one a hoop pine laminate, the other a walnut laminate. Here's what they replied:

"There is a very subtle sound difference between the Hoop Pine and the Walnut. While both are going to be durable, the Walnut is slightly warmer and richer than the hoop pine"
 
I believe that Bob Taylor was referring to laminates for the back & sides, not the sound board (top) when saying there is little difference in sound. This is the reason ALL Taylors have solid wood tops.
 
I believe that Bob Taylor was referring to laminates for the back & sides, not the sound board (top) when saying there is little difference in sound. This is the reason ALL Taylors have solid wood tops.
I understand that but I was curious as to whether laminate sides influenced the sound of an all solid top.
 
If I played you ten otherwise identical sound samples recorded on ten different ukes, I would bet you anything that you couldn't guess which material each uke was made from. Human ears don't work like that.

There's much to be said for laminates. They're cheaper, and environmentally they make better use of resources than solid body instruments do (especially the ones made of rare woods). None of mine are laminates anymore, but I have no problem with them per se - it's just that I only kept the ones that had stories attached to them.
 
Considering how difficult it is to make a nice clean laminate, it would seem more labor intensive than solid. The top layer IS solid wood before it becomes a laminate. Why not just make that sheet a little thicker and stop there?

I prefer laminate being more durable and usually staying crack free. Most of mine are 16 years old and all are still like the day they were made. I'm not paying extra for something that is more likely to come apart. A solid uke may be perceived to sound better in comparison, maybe not. The sound that leaves a ukulele is the final result of dozens of variables. Each of them affects the end result, which is judged by personal preference. Six solid models and six laminates will likely have 12 different sounds. Have 12 people rate the sounds. The lists wouldn't match and the top six wouldn't all be solid.

You can have a so-so sounding solid uke, or a good laminate. As they say, "It's all in the details".
 
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You can have a so-so sounding solid uke, or a good laminate. As they say, "It's all in the details".
In general I think of a laminate as a way to save money on materials. Since I believe the cost of a custom ukulele is dominated by labor cost, I would ask whether luthiers ever choose laminate over solid wood. It's also probably the case that a custom is sufficiently expensive, that a luthier might worry that it would be harder to sell a laminate instrument.

Following that line of reasoning, there is a kind of built in bias because more expensive instruments tend to have both more solid wood and better craftsmanship.
 
Not all laminates are equal. Some higher end ones are made of one tone wood to provide more stability but retain some wood characteristics. But the majority are made of a thin veneer over a core wood. This is for appearance only and often veneers are made of very figured woods that would be unstable or sound horrible by themselves. It should noted that the birch and poplar core woods that are mentioned are usually great tonewoods, but they are not pretty.
 
This makes me wonder if a solid top with laminate back and sides sounds as good as an all solid instrument with the same build quality.
With the body the type of construction and size are more important than wood, so for example if it has an arched back and deep body there will be more projection and volume regardless of wood choice. Also body resonance is usually suppressed due to arm and player contact so laminate vs solid body is more a matter of status symbol.
 
This makes me wonder if a solid top with laminate back and sides sounds as good as an all solid instrument with the same build quality.
Allen McF of Barron Rivers has recently started using laminated sides for his builds. Believe this is to increase stiffness and improve the sound quality.
 
I have a Cordoba 20sm which is 4 or 5 years old I think. It's a solid top mahogany with laminated back and sides. The tone is really nice and it has a great sustain for a soprano. I use it tuned to A with low G for fingerstyle. Personally, I think this is the best of the Cordoba series and for a decent price.
 
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