Is Nyatoh “Nato” 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 nyatoh is used in the construction of guitars and basses, it’s worth investigating whether it’s a good tonewood or not.

Is nyatoh/nato a good guitar tonewood? Nyatoh (often referred to as nato or “eastern mahogany”) is an affordable tonewood with a relatively bland tonal characteristic compared to real mahogany. Its low price and medium density, and hardness make it a great choice for bodies and necks of lower-end electric, acoustic and bass guitars.

In this article, we’ll discuss if and how nyatoh 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 nyatoh 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 Nyatoh Tonewood

Before we get into the characteristics of nyatoh tonewood, we should clarify what we’re discussing.

Nyatoh is the proper trade name for the hardwood timber of a good number of species within the genera Palaquium and Payena. These trees belong to the family Sapotaceae and are native to southeast Asia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Nyatoh is sometimes referred to as “eastern mahogany,” though it’s not true mahogany (from the genus Swietenia).

Nyatoh is often sold as “nato,” though it’s not true nato wood (from the genus Mora).

To learn more about nato (mora), check out my article Is Nato A Good Guitar Tonewood? Electric, Acoustic & Bass.

Nyatoh (Palquium/Payena) is not to be confused with Nato (Mora), though the two often are. Furthermore, their relatively limited usage in guitar and bass construction makes information on the two tonewood types even more confusing.

True nato wood is much denser and much harder. It grows in northern South America, southern Central America and the southern Caribbean island. However, because nyatoh is regularly referred to as nato, I’ll be using the terms interchangeably from here on out.

Nyatoh is considered a utility wood in the native regions where it grows. It is not commonly seen or sold in the United States.

Nyatoh heartwood can have a variety of colours ranging from light pink to reddish or purplish-brown. It’s a diffuse-porous wood with a fine texture. Its grain tends to be straight, though shallow interlocking is also common.

Nyatoh is not listed in the CITES Appendices. However, there are several species in the Palaquium genus listed in the IUCN Red List, mostly due to “a population reduction of over 20% in the past three generations, caused by a decline in its natural range, and exploitation.”

Nyatoh varies in workability between the species used. The different silica and sap contents will affect how the wood works with tools. Higher silica content blunts tools faster, while sappier pieces will clog tools faster. Pieces with lower silica/sap contents are easier to work, and Nyatoh is a fairly easy wood to work, all things considered. It’s stable and finishes well. It’s a bit difficult to bend, though well worth it in many cases.

Here are a few notable nyatoh specs:

  • Hardwood/Softwood: Hardwood
  • Colour: pale pink to reddish or purplish brown
  • Grain: straight to shallow interlocked
  • Texture: fine
  • Pores: diffuse-porous
  • Density: 620 kg/m3 / 38.71 lb/ft3
  • Janka Hardness (Typical): 4,760 N / 1,070 lbf
  • Elastic Modulus: 13.37 GPa / 1,939,000 psi
  • Tone (Warm/Bright Scale): bright
  • 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 Nyatoh 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.

Nyatoh/nato is becoming more popular as a cheap alternative for mahogany in electric guitars. Though many consider it to sound bland, it is and will continue to be a commercially-viable tonewood for electric guitars.

Is Nyatoh A Good Electric Guitar Body Tonewood?

Nyatoh/nato has similar density and hardness as mahogany and is used as a cheaper alternative for electric guitar bodies (mostly solidbodies but also hollowbodies). The wood makes for a heavier body relative to other common body woods (ash, alder, basswood, etc.) but is a solid, durable choice.

The tone is often debatable, and many consider it cheap-sounding to real mahogany. However, with electric guitars, the tonewoods used are arguably less important compared to the pickups (which isn’t the case with acoustics).

Examples of electric guitars with nyatoh bodies/tops:

Notice how the Japanese brand (Ibanez) lists the tonewood as “nyatoh,” while the American brands (Jackson, Gretsch and Squier) list the tonewood as “nato.”

Is Nyatoh A Good Electric Guitar Neck Tonewood?

Nyatoh/nato is a decent neck material as well. It is often used as the tonewood for solid necks and is also a good choice for laminate necks (with other wood incorporated into the design).

Again, there’s nothing spectacular about the tone of nyatoh/nato, though it is a solid, durable choice for electric guitar necks.

Examples of electric guitars with nyatoh necks:

Is Nyatoh A Good Electric Guitar Fretboard Tonewood?

Nyatoh/nato is a bit on the soft side for use as a fretboard material and, therefore, isn’t (just like how real mahogany isn’t used as a fretboard material). There are plenty of harder, smoother, more durable options available.


Is Nyatoh A Good Acoustic Guitar Tonewood?

Nyatoh/nato is a table substitute for mahogany in acoustic/classical guitars as well, making it a decent choice for back/sides and necks. Let’s discuss nyatoh/nato in acoustic guitars in this section.

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

Nyatoh/nato is somewhat difficult to bend, and it doesn’t have the greatest reputation as back and sides material for acoustic and classical guitars. That being said, its relatively low price point and durability make it a viable choice for lower-end models.

Again, there’s nothing particularly outstanding about the tone of nyatoh/nato tonewood. However, it’s a great choice for cheaper instruments.

Examples of acoustic guitars with nyatoh backs and sides:

Is Nyatoh A Good Acoustic Guitar Body Top Tonewood?

Unlike mahogany, nyatoh/nato is not considered a good top tonewood. Its projection is lacklustre, and its bland tone makes it an unpopular option for both classical and acoustic guitar tops.

Is Nyatoh A Good Acoustic Guitar Neck Tonewood?

Nyatoh/nato is a good, affordable neck material for acoustic guitars. It’s durable and easy to work, and its lack of tonal characteristics allows for its use in plenty of designs, albeit they are generally lower-end.

Examples of acoustic guitars with nyatoh necks:

Is Nyatoh A Good Acoustic Guitar Fretboard Tonewood?

Nyatoh/nato is a relatively poor choice for acoustic fretboards, especially when compared against the harder, denser, more characteristic fretboard materials (ebony, rosewood, walnut, etc.).


Is Nyatoh A Good Bass Guitar Tonewood?

Nyatoh/nato, as we could expect from the previous sections, makes for a fair body and neck tonewood for bass guitars. It’s certainly not the most exciting, tonally speaking, though it gets the job done, often at a fraction of the price of the more popular tonewoods.

Examples of bass guitars with nyatoh tonewood:


Other Tonewoods

Of course, there are plenty of other tonewoods besides nyatoh. 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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