Brazilian and African Blackwood – Question for those of you who are tone elders

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    • #2827
      Acoustic Soul

      The next Santa Cruz I’m picking up is going to be a custom RS, but after playing the Skye in Franklin, TN I was really impressed at how that OO was more enjoyable to me than my OOOO aka OM Grand.  The short scale, deep body, and 12 frets all contributed great things… and the adirondack and cocobolo didn’t present the issues I face with my italian cocobolo long scale shallow body 14 fret OOOO.

      That had me and my wife talking about what guitar we would like after the RS, perhaps not to replace the Grand right away but at least retire it to the closet of less inspiring tools.

      In person the only Brazilian Santa Cruz guitars I have played has been the 1934 D models.  I personally get nothing from square shoulder dreadnoughts from Santa Cruz, but am a fiend for the mahogany slope shoulder ones.  In the 1934 D the brazilian and adirondack just sound glassy, thin, and explosive in an annoying way for my hands and ears.  On the flip side I’ve heard some smaller guitars from Santa Cruz with brazilian have the best balance of overtones I’ve heard.  I liked that they’re really balanced and have a nice marriage of woody crystalline structure from the mids up and a clear low end.  It’s the ideal balance of warmth and clarity for me in the OOO that I was listening to.

      I’ve also heard some African Blackwood ones that sounded pretty good, I like the clarity in the mids on that.  I was wondering if it’s possible for those to sound more even and balanced all the way through the EQ like brazilian though.  They seemed like they could use some more depth on the bottom and roundness up top.  I mostly noticed the shining upper mids coming through.


      My question is , is the Brazilian rosewood today worth getting if it’s Tier 1?  A lot of people comment (except for the people trying to sell it to you) that what’s left today just isn’t much worth it.  But doesn’t Santa Cruz have old growth samples?  Any idea how they get ahold of that and ensure that it’s good enough to stand up to the Standard of Brazilian?

      My second question is prefaced by the fact that I have been disappointed by both Santa Cruz guitars I’ve had in EIR and Cocobolo.  The EIR was overly rich/dark on the low end and had a low mid wallop thing that I didn’t care for without enough wood in the mids.  The top end was nice but overly rounded.    The cocobolo on the other hand was definitely more pleasing than the EIR, but the low end is so wet it doesn’t have enough fundamental depth, it also isn’t quite woody or punchy enough in the mids, and overall the sound is too thin when strummed according to my wife.  That could have something to do with the model and the top wood for sure.  I just get this feeling overall that those woods are too dense sounding in regards to not having accompanying clarity or depth/punch.  The thing I have noticed in Brazilian is that it’s not like you’re taking away it’s positive rosewood qualities, it just also seems to have those other qualities of enough fundamental and clarity in the lows, very balanced and smooth woody mids for a rosewood, and then a harmonic structure that is just simply pleasing.

      I had wondered, well maybe I just need to save up for one of those in a OOO short scale deep body.  I also thought, I haven’t tried african blackwood though… but I wouldn’t want another disappointment rosewood guitar.  I will be eager to have the mahogany backed RS with an old growth adirondack top to play when I’m not feeling the smaller rosewood guitars, but nonetheless for the money and details I put into them they just didn’t live up.

      Santa Cruz guitars really builds quality instruments and it takes a while to learn their process, lingo, sound and everything.  It’s been enjoyable, although expensive for me 🙂

      What can you comment about the current stock of old Brazilian or African Blackwood?  Perhaps there is Cocobolo that is similar to Brazilian but my particular set is too much like a dark bell underwater?   I suspect in 25-35 years this guitar may start to sound right but I’m definitely not waiting that long unless it’s just in storage.  The main application I have found for the guitar I have now is to use it in the studio layered on top of other acoustics for splashes of color or drama.  I’m glad my journey has lead me here though, if I had originally ordered a VJ and not gone through all these guitars then I wouldn’t ever thought to order and old growth RS with a brazilian bridge or a SS DB Brazilian OOO.   I felt the Eric Skye was really enjoyable but just a tad small sounding when strummed.  I’ve always enjoyed the OOO model, but felt that it was a little thin and lacking authority, so the short scale and deep body to me makes sense.  I have come to find I LOVE the sound 12 fret guitars give.


      All expertise and comments appreciated, thank you fellows

    • #2839

      Wow – thats a very thoughtful and well considered analysis. Almost too much so, as it leaves me feeling that the nuance you want is something that probably only Richard Hoover could understand well enough to give you useful feedback –

      I have never been a fan of dreadnaughts – so I can’t respond to those thoughts. But I do have 2 braz rw guitars, both with sitka tops, one an OM, and the other a baritone – very different.  The braz is very nice, but with the price that it seems to take for really good quality braz, I’m not convinced its what I’d choose if I were ordering a new guitar.  But again, Richard is the one to talk to about that. There is some really fine braz out there – Richard may have it, or know where to get it, but it will not be cheap. I have a 000 in blackwood, and it has many of the same qualities, but it is 12 fret, and deeper body, and slot head, and euro spruce, so – almost completely different.

      I wish I could offer something as intelligent and useful as your original post, but I know I’d fail – but what I think you should do is send your thoughts to Richard, and see what he suggests to accomplish your goals. I’d love to hear his thoughts, amd which way you end up going! In the meantime, I’m gonna throw some fresh strings on the blackwood and braz OM, and see if I can hear some of the qualities you’ve so well described –

      Lots o’ SCGC guitars! But never ask which is my fav

    • #2843
      Acoustic Soul

      Hey Tad, I would love to hear you playing them live, sounds like you’ve got quite a collection.  I Facetime’d with Mr Hayden one time I don’t know if you’ve ever done that with guitars


      Yeah Richard said I need to drive or fly around and play some more models and such before I order another one since we’ve had two that were not as desired.  I’ve been doing just that and trying to research as much as possible, but the issue is when you go to these shops they are almost all sitka/eir or something.  Most of them are just stock, and I feel like the upgrades are necessary to get what I’m yearning for.  At a certain point you just have to understand their philosophy and tonal ear as a company I think and know what to order from them that will line up with yours.  No doubt their quality is the highest, I haven’t played anything in person that could best a Santa Cruz.  It’s just finding the one that sounds appropriate for me.

      Man, OOO african blackwood … that’s something that I would really like to hear more about.  Did you order a deep body or does it stock have a deeper body than OM?  Did you order 25.375 or short scale?

      I think when the time comes for me to speak with Richard it would be better face to face flying out to Santa Cruz.  I have two really good point of references though (the guitars they built for me) that I can point to and lots of experience I’ve gained with other models.

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