Is Ovangkol 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 ovangkol is used in the construction of guitars and basses, it’s worth investigating whether it’s a good tonewood or not.

Is ovangkol a good guitar tonewood? Ovangkol is a great tonewood for fretboards and back/sides of guitars and bass guitars. It’s a dense yet relatively soft hardwood with a rich overtone profile and significant sustain, offering a warm tone. The wood is notably easy to work, and it looks and feels great, too.

In this article, we’ll discuss if and how ovangkol 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 ovangkol 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 Ovangkol 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.

Ovangkol is a tonewood from the tropical hardwood species Guibourtia ehie of the legume family (Fabaceae). It is native to tropical West Africa. Other names include amazique, amazoue hyedua, black yedua, Mozambique and shedua.

Other tonewoods from the genus Guibourtia include bubinga (Guibourtia demeusei and Guibourtia tessmannii) and mutenya (Guibourtia arnoldiana). To learn more about these tonewoods, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
Is Bubinga A Good Guitar Tonewood? Electric, Acoustic & Bass
Is Mutenye A Good Guitar Tonewood? Electric, Acoustic & Bass

The colours of ovangkol tonewood range between various yellow and red browns with darker brown, gray, or black stripes. Ovangkol has a medium-to-coarse texture with large, diffuse pores. Its grain is nearly straight and slightly interlocked.

Ovangkol is not listed in the CITES Appendices. IUCN reports it as being a species of least concern.

Ovangkol is relatively easy to work. Though pieces with higher silica content will dull tools faster, in general, the wood isn’t too hard on tools. It bends and planes nicely and glues and finishes well. Pieces with more interlocked grain are more prone to tear-out when sanding and planing, though this generally isn’t a big concern, especially with straight-grain pieces.

As a tonewood, ovangkol is incredibly well-rounded. Its tone is clear and full at the same time and lends itself to a variety of builds. The overtones are defined, and the wood has great sustain. It’s certainly on the warm side, though its treble range is nice and articulate as well.

Here are a few notable ovangkol specs:

  • Hardwood/Softwood: Hardwood
  • Colour: yellowish to reddish brown with darker brown, gray, or black stripes
  • Grain: straight to slightly interlocked
  • Texture: medium to coarse
  • Pores: diffuse-porous
  • Density: 825 kg/m3 / 51.50 lb/ft3
  • Janka Hardness (Typical): 5,900 N / 1,326 lbf
  • Elastic Modulus: 18.60 GPa / 2,698,000 psi
  • Tone (Warm/Bright Scale): warm
  • Price: moderate to high

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 Ovangkol 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.

Ovangkol can be a good option for electric guitar construction, though we rarely see it in commercial models. When we do, it’s generally used as the fretboard material, largely considered a substitute for rosewood in that sense.

Is Ovangkol A Good Electric Guitar Body Tonewood?

Ovangkol looks and sounds great, though it’s rather dense for use as a solidbody wood. It would make for a heavy and, therefore, uncomfortable guitar.

This tonewood looks fantastic and can certainly add to the aesthetic and warmth of the overall tone when used as a top/veneer material in electric guitar bodies.

Is Ovangkol A Good Electric Guitar Neck Tonewood?

Ovangkol is rarely used in electric guitar necks, though it certainly can be, and with good results. It makes for a heavy neck, though its well-rounded tone and clarity can warm up the guitar’s sound.

The wood is easy to work and stable, making it a durable choice for neck constructions. However, its weight makes it underappreciated, especially when there are so many superb neck woods to choose from (maple, mahogany, walnut, wenge, etc.).

Is Ovangkol A Good Electric Guitar Fretboard Tonewood?

Ovangkol is a dense enough wood for use as a guitar fretboard material. It’s a bit on the soft end, but it’s durable overall. The wood looks and feels great and offers subtle warmth and clarity to the sound when used as a fretboard material.

D’Angelico is a notable brand that uses ovangkol for some of its electric guitars’ fretboards.

Examples of electric guitars with ovangkol fretboards:


Is Ovangkol A Good Acoustic Guitar Tonewood?

Ovangkol is a relatively unknown yet tremendous tonewood for acoustic and classical guitars. It’s typically used as either the back and sides material or as the fretboard material.

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

Ovangkol is relatively easy to bend and finishes quite nicely. Its sustain and overtone profile make it a tremendous back/sides material, offering tonnes of tonal character and volume. It works well in small and large-bodies acoustics alike.

The warmth of ovangkol’s tone makes it an excellent choice for the gentler styles typically associated with nylon-string classical guitars. Its sustain and volume give it extra headroom for louder playing styles typically associated with steel-string acoustics.

Its clarity and full-bodied sound make ovangkol a great choice for backs and sides, respected by hobbyist luthiers and large manufacturers alike.

Taylor was arguably the first big-name brand to bring ovangkol into the spotlight as a legitimate tonewood for acoustic back and sides.

Talyor is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 13 Best Acoustic Guitar Brands In The World.

Examples of acoustic guitars with ovangkol backs and sides:

Is Ovangkol A Good Acoustic Guitar Body Top Tonewood?

Ovangkol is considered too dense for practical use as an acoustic top wood. The best soundboards are made from lighter woods with high stiffness-to-density ratios.

Of course, there’s nothing stopping luthiers from designing ovangkol tops. However, the sound would be warm and sustaining with roll-off high-end and likely would project nearly as well as the more commonly-used spruce or cedar tops.

Is Ovangkol A Good Acoustic Guitar Neck Tonewood?

Ovangkol is seldom chosen as an acoustic/classical neck wood. Again, that’s not to say it’s a terrible tonewood choice; in fact, its overtone profile and warmth can offer a decent tone. It’s definitely strong and stable enough to be a durable neck wood choice. However, it would make for a heavy neck, and it’s rarely ever considered.

Is Ovangkol A Good Acoustic Guitar Fretboard Tonewood?

Ovangkol is becoming a widely-accepted acoustic fretboard material thanks to its easy workability and availability. It feels smooth and offers a warm yet articulate tone to the fretboards of acoustic and classical guitar alike.

Examples of acoustic guitars with ovangkol fretboards:


Is Ovangkol A Good Bass Guitar Tonewood?

The sustain and rich harmonic character of ovangkol make it a good choice for bass guitars, too. Expect to see more ovangkol in bass fretboards in the coming years.

Examples of bass guitars with ovangkol tonewood:


Other Tonewoods

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