Southeast Asian Rosewood

Rosewood: Southeast Asian, Amazonian & Honduran

Southeast Asian rosewood is an endangered species. This wood is no longer harvested for guitar manufacture, and is therefore extremely hard to find from legitimate sources.

Southeast Asian rosewood has the exotic colors that make Brazilian rosewood so highly sought. It tends toward a reddish cast. Black grain lines offer contrast, but without the unique branching typically seen in rio, as the Brazilian species is also known.

Furthermore, Southeast Asian rosewood is often regarded as being remarkably similar to rio in sound. When played, it rings out loud and strong. But this wood is no mere copycat—it has a unique sparkle of its own, sounding particularly lively toward the high end while still displaying character in the bass notes.

In Short
  • Extremely rare.
  • Often sold illegally.
  • Resonant.
  • Lively lows.
  • Sparkling highs.

Amazonian Rosewood

Amazonian rosewood, while not found on the majority of guitars today, is probably one of the least rare species of rosewood. No trade restrictions on this wood are in effect at the time of this writing. It is still uncommon, however, as most of it comes from one supplier.

Brazilian rosewood and Amazonian rosewood are commonly confused. They are actually two separate species that grow in different parts of Brazil. Contrary to popular perception, Brazilian rosewood does not grow in the Amazon rainforest like Amazonian rosewood does.

In appearance, Amazonian rosewood is fairly similar to Brazilian rosewood, but with somewhat finer and straighter grain. But note the word somewhat. There are many excellent pieces of Amazonian rosewood in existence that can boast an exceptionally unique, striking appearance.

Amazonian rosewood is a little denser than rio, giving it a deeper, bassier sound. It is slightly less resonant, but makes up for that with power and crystal clarity.

In Short
  • Somewhat rare.
  • Striking in appearance.
  • Heavy.
  • Bassy.
  • Somewhat less resonant than other rosewoods.
  • Projects sound well.
  • Clear.
  • Good sustain.

Honduran Rosewood

Not only is Honduran rosewood a less common selection, in January 2017 it fell under the treaty restrictions that impact buying and selling Indian rosewood guitars. Little wonder—this species is quite rare, growing only in Belize. Needless to say, Honduran rosewood is difficult to obtain these days.

In appearance, Honduran rosewood is far more subtle than the bold and striking Brazilian rosewood. It is tends to look pinkish or purplish with fine grain and minimal contrast. To some luthiers and guitarists, this makes a Honduran rosewood guitar bland; to others, it adds a more subtle element of beauty.

Honduran rosewood is denser than rio wood, putting it in a class of its own. It has a strong tone with excellent sound projection. Its harmonic properties are very complex, giving it a rich sound unlike any other. There is a trade-off to this complexity, however—the notes of a Honduran rosewood guitar, while still articulate, are not as impeccably clear as with some of the other rosewood species.

The tonal range is well balanced across the spectrum. As with most other dense woods, however, Honduran rosewood really shines in the bass range.

In Short
  • Rare.
  • Heavy.
  • Subtly beautiful.
  • Balanced.
  • Excellent bass response.
  • Tonally complex.
  • Projects sound well.
  • Excellent sustain.
  • Warm tone.