Is Meranti A Good Guitar Tonewood? Electric, Acoustic & Bass


Guitars are made of numerous different parts, many of which are made of wood. The choice of wood in the guitar body (the solid body and laminate in electric guitars and the sides, back and top of acoustic guitars), neck and fretboard all contribute to the overall playability, feel and, of course, tone of the instrument. Since meranti is used in the construction of guitars and basses, it’s worth investigating whether it’s a good tonewood or not.

Is meranti a good guitar tonewood? Meranti is a “budget-friendly” tonewood selected due to its availability and affordability over its tone. It’s fairly strong and stable yet lightweight, making it a good choice for bodies (solid and hollow). Its tone is relatively neutral/bland, and it’s considered too soft for necks and fretboards.

In this article, we’ll discuss if and how meranti tonewood is used in electric, acoustic, classical and bass guitar construction with a keen focus on its tone.

Note: in my research for this article, I used Sweetwater’s extensive guitar database to find examples of guitars with meranti in their construction. The links to the guitars in this article will send readers to Sweetwater’s site for more information. Sweetwater is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 10 Best Online Audio Gear/Equipment Retailers.


Table Of Contents


Characteristics Of Meranti Tonewood

Meranti tonewood comes from a variety of species within the genus Shorea (family: Dipterocarpaceae). These trees are native to India, Southeast Asia, Indonesia and the Philippines. The timber from such trees is often referred to as meranti. Still, it can be listed under various names, including lauan, lawaan, seraya, balau, bangkirai, and Philippine mahogany (though it’s not a true mahogany: being from the genus Swietenia).

Since meranti encompasses so many different species (over 100), there is significant variation in colour, ranging from pale brown to dark reddish-brown. The texture is nearly always coarse, with large, diffuse pores throughout. The grain of meranti is typically straight, though sometimes interlocked.

Meranti is not listed in the CITES Appendices. However, there are several species in the Shorea genus listed in the IUCN Red List, mostly as being “being critically endangered due to a population reduction of over 80% in the past three generations, caused by a decline in its natural range, and exploitation.”

Meranti is relatively easy on woodworking tools. Some species will have higher silica content, which will blunt tools at a faster rate. It’s a tonewood that glues, stains and finishes nicely. Its soft, porous nature makes it somewhat difficult to bend, and care should be taken when sanding and planing to achieve smooth results. Furthermore, its short grain makes it notably brittle.

Meranti tonewoods are balanced and bland. The tone is fairly consistent across the frequency response with low sustain and good clarity. The overtone profile isn’t particularly complex, with subtle warmth from the low end to the high-end.

Here are a few notable meranti specs:

  • Type: Light red meranti
  • Hardwood/Softwood: Hardwood
  • Colour: pale brown to dark reddish-brown
  • Grain: straight or interlocked
  • Texture: coarse
  • Pores: diffuse-porous
  • Density: 480 kg/m3 / 29.97 lb/ft3
  • Janka Hardness (Typical): 2,460 N / 553 lbf
  • Elastic Modulus: 11.39 GPa / 1,652,000 psi
  • Tone (Warm/Bright Scale): balanced
  • Price: low
  • Type: Dark red meranti
  • Hardwood/Softwood: Hardwood
  • Colour: dark red or purplish brown
  • Grain: straight or interlocked
  • Texture: coarse
  • Pores: diffuse-porous
  • Density: 675 kg/m3 / 42.14 lb/ft3
  • Janka Hardness (Typical): 3,570 N / 803 lbf
  • Elastic Modulus: 12.02 GPa / 1,743,000 psi
  • Tone (Warm/Bright Scale): balanced
  • Price: low

Sources: wikipedia.org and wood-database.com

Here are links to the official website of the IUCN and Cites:
IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature)
CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora)


Is Meranti A Good Electric Guitar Tonewood?

Before we begin, I should mention that tonewoods don’t have nearly as much of an effect on the overall sound of an electric guitar as they do on an acoustic guitar. The guitar pickups, strings, the signal chain and the amplifier all play a huge role in the overall tone of an electric guitar. It’s not all about the wood, though it is a factor.

Meranti is a bland but viable tonewood choice for electric guitars. In terms of tone, it doesn’t add much, though tonewoods aren’t as important in electric guitars as they are in acoustic guitars. It’s relatively light and easy to work while also being readily available.

Is Meranti A Good Electric Guitar Body Tonewood?

Meranti is considered a low-end tonewood for electric guitar bodies. Its medium-density means it won’t be too heavy. Its clarity and low sustain mean it won’t add much to the tone. The tone of these guitars will largely depend on the pickups.

Ibanez is known as a big-name brand that experiments with lots of exotic woods. It uses meranti in some of its entry-level solidbody electric guitars.

Ibanez is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top 13 Best Bass Guitar Brands In The World
Top 13 Best Electric Guitar Brands In The World

Examples of electric guitars with meranti bodies/tops:

Is Meranti A Good Electric Guitar Neck Tonewood?

Meranti is a bit too brittle and soft to be a great electric guitar neck tonewood.

Is Meranti A Good Electric Guitar Fretboard Tonewood?

Meranti is definitely too soft to be a great electric guitar fretboard tonewood.


Is Meranti A Good Acoustic Guitar Tonewood?

Meranti is also a decent, affordable tonewood for acoustic guitars.

Is Meranti A Good Acoustic Guitar Body Back/Side Tonewood?

When meranti is incorporated into an acoustic or classical guitar design, we can bet it’s used as the back and sides material.

Though the wood is challenging to bend, it holds its shape decently well once filled and finished. It’s a balanced tonewood and helps resonate frequencies fairly evenly from top to bottom.

Yamaha is a notable guitar brand that utilizes meranti in some of its entry-level acoustic and classical guitars.

Yamaha is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top 13 Best Acoustic Guitar Brands In The World
Top 11 Best AV Receiver Brands In The World
Top 13 Best Bass Guitar Brands In The World
Top 11 Best DAW Control Surface Brands In The World
Top 10 Best Live Sound Mixing Board/Console Brands
Top 11 Best Mixing Board/Console Brands For Home Studios
Top 11 Best PA Loudspeaker Brands You Should Know And Use
Top 11 Best Studio Monitor Brands You Should Know And Use
Top 11 Best Subwoofer Brands (Car, PA, Home & Studio)
Top 11 Best Synthesizer Brands In The World
Top 9 Best Digital Piano Brands In The World
Top 11 Best Acoustic Piano Brands In The World
Top 11 Best Drum Brands In The World
Top 11 Best Soundbar Brands On The Market

Examples of acoustic guitars with meranti backs and sides:

Is Meranti A Good Acoustic Guitar Body Top Tonewood?

The overall lack of sonic character combined with brittleness makes meranti a relatively poor top material. This is especially true when compared to the spruce and cedar varieties commonly used in acoustic and classical guitars.

Is Meranti A Good Acoustic Guitar Neck Tonewood?

Meranti is a bit too brittle and soft to be a great acoustic guitar neck tonewood.

Is Meranti A Good Acoustic Guitar Fretboard Tonewood?

Meranti is definitely too soft to be a great acoustic guitar fretboard tonewood.


Is Meranti A Good Bass Guitar Tonewood?

Meranti is an affordable tonewood option for bass guitars as well, though generally restricted to solidbody body material. The neutral tone doesn’t sound great but doesn’t sound terrible either.

The example below shows a higher-end electric bass with a meranti body.

Examples of bass guitars with meranti tonewood:


Other Tonewoods

Of course, there are plenty of other tonewoods besides meranti. Here is a list of other tonewoods with links to check out more in-depth articles on each:


This article has been approved in accordance with the My New Microphone Editorial Policy.

Arthur

Arthur is the owner of Fox Media Tech and author of My New Microphone. He's an audio engineer by trade and works on contract in his home country of Canada. When not blogging on MNM, he's likely hiking outdoors and blogging at Hikers' Movement (hikersmovement.com) or composing music for media. Check out his Pond5 and AudioJungle accounts.

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