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

Is Richlite a good guitar tonewood? Richlite is technically synthetic, so it’s not truly wood, though it is considered a good “tonewood.” It offers a remarkably balanced tone across lows, mids and highs. Richlite is a superb choice for fretboards but isn’t practical in necks or acoustic or electric guitar/bass bodies.

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

Richlite is not a wood, though it’s often used in guitar designs in place of real wood, particularly as the fretboard.

Richlite is actually made from resin-infused paper in a content mixture of roughly 65% recycled paper and 35% phenolic resin. The colour of the Richlite is generally produced as a combination of the paper colour and the amber tone of the resin.

Unlike most wood, Richlite is inherently stable and resistant to change due to environmental factors. It’s durable and hard but can be machined just like regular hardwood tonewoods.

As a “tonewood,” Richlite is remarkably balanced, offering less defined character than the other tonewoods, producing wonderful lows, mids and highs.

Here are a few notable tonewood specs applied to Richlite (note that there will be some specs that are not directly applicable to synthetic Richlite):

  • Hardwood/Softwood: N/A (Composite)
  • Colour: variable
  • Grain: N/A
  • Texture: variable
  • Pores: N/A
  • Density: 1,250 kg/m3 / 78.0 lb/ft3
  • Janka Hardness (Typical): N/A
  • Elastic Modulus): N/A
  • Tone (Warm/Bright Scale): balanced
  • Price: expensive

Source: richlite.com


Is Richlite 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.

As discussed, Richlite is not a true tonewood since it’s not true wood. However, it’s a viable alternative to real wood, particularly as the fretboard material of electric guitars. It’s not used in bodies or necks, largely due to its heaviness and relatively poor tonal characteristics.

Is Richlite A Good Electric Guitar Body Tonewood?

Richlite is rather heavy and makes for a poor electric guitar body tonewood. It also wouldn’t sound as good as the typical options (mahogany, alder, ash, maple, poplar, basswood, etc.).

Is Richlite A Good Electric Guitar Neck Tonewood?

Richlite also isn’t generally used in electric guitar necks. It’s considered too heavy, and there are plenty of better real wood options on the market (maple, mahogany, walnut, wenge, etc.).

Is Richlite A Good Electric Guitar Fretboard Tonewood?

Where Richlite is used, however, is in electric guitar fretboards. Here, its relatively neutral tone and hardness come as its advantage. Sure, Richlite is expensive, but it is a great alternative to real fretboard wood, which is typically also expensive (rosewood, ebony, etc.). The hardness and machinability of Richlite make it a superb choice for electric guitar fretboards.

Godin, in particular, has opted to incorporate Richlite into a number of its electric guitars.

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

Examples of electric guitars with Richlite fretboards:


Is Richlite A Good Acoustic Guitar Tonewood?

Richlite is a viable tonewood alternative for acoustic guitar fretboard but is too heavy and bland, tone-wise, for practical use as body (back, sides and top) or neck material.

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

Richlite isn’t bent as much as it is shaped by cutting away material and adding resin and paper. Its bland sound and relatively high weight make it impractical as back and sides for acoustic guitar, especially when there are so many superior options to choose from (mahogany, rosewood, sapele, etc.).

Is Richlite A Good Acoustic Guitar Body Top Tonewood?

Softwoods and softer hardwoods with high stiffness-to-weight ratios are typically chosen for tops since they tend to have superior sound projection (spruce and cedar softwood, along with mahogany and maple hardwood). Richlite is on the other end of the weight spectrum.

Additionally, it doesn’t have particularly impressive projection characteristics. Therefore, it’s an impractical top material for acoustic and classical guitars.

Is Richlite A Good Acoustic Guitar Neck Tonewood?

Richlite also isn’t generally used in acoustic guitar necks. It’s considered too heavy, and there are plenty of better real wood options on the market (mahogany, maple, nyatoh, etc.).

Is Richlite A Good Acoustic Guitar Fretboard Tonewood?

Richlite is a great alternative to real wood as an acoustic/classical guitar fretboard material. It’s hard, smooth, durable, resistant to temperature changes, and holds frets incredibly well. It won’t alter the guitar’s tone to a great degree, but it’s a solid option for small-shop luthiers and large-scale manufactures alike.

Martin, in particular, has opted to incorporate Richlite into a number of its acoustic guitars.

Martin is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top 13 Best Acoustic Guitar Brands In The World
Top 11 Best Acoustic Guitar String Brands On The Market
Top 10 Best Classical Guitar String Brands On The Market

Examples of acoustic guitars with Richlite fretboards:


Is Richlite A Good Bass Guitar Tonewood?

As we can probably guess from reading the sections on electric and acoustic guitars, Richlite is a viable option for bass guitar fretboards, though it’s largely ignored for bodies and necks. This is certainly the case.


Other Tonewoods

Of course, there are plenty of real tonewoods. Here is a list of the different 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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