(acoustic) Dreadnought Vs Cutaway's

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Tyler N
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(acoustic) Dreadnought Vs Cutaway's

Post by Tyler N » January 10th, 2008, 7:53 pm

Hi my noobie question is regarding the difference between these two guitars. I had trouble finding related articles online so I hope I get some informative answers here.

I wanted to know if Dreadnoughts project better sound and tone than their cutaway versions?

I know that the advantage to cutaways are that you can play higher up on the neck, but my concern is all about sound, and if dreadnoughts sound better and I plan on spending hmmm about 1500$ which one should i go for?

if it helps, my style of music is fingerstlye, anyone know which type of guitar is best suited for this style?

thank you

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Re: (acoustic) Dreadnought Vs Cutaway's

Post by ldavis04 » January 11th, 2008, 5:26 am

As a fingerstyle player myself, I perfer cutways...I have a Taylor "Grand Auditorium" style, but also have a Martin DN cutway...of the two, the Grand Auditorium has a richer, smoother sound to my ears, at least when playing fingerstyle..the DN has a deeper, bassier sound, and the mids aren't as clean sounding.

Just my .02 cents....
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Re: (acoustic) Dreadnought Vs Cutaway's

Post by dogbite » January 11th, 2008, 11:56 am

I spent around 1200 for my acoustic.
I love this guitar. it is so well balanced and very playable.
it is loud and resonant. playing up on the higher register
the notes sound clear and bright. no loss of volume at all.

my only complaint is that the sound hole faces away from me and I can't hear how gorgeous the guitar sounds.


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Re: (acoustic) Dreadnought Vs Cutaway's

Post by mmoncur » January 12th, 2008, 12:28 am

I played lots of acoustics before settling on mine, and while some sounded amazing and others sounded so-so, I didn't notice any particular correlation between cutaway/non and the sound. Decide which version you prefer (looks? high fret access?) and then play every one you can get your hands on until you find one that sounds great. Be sure to play more than one of each model, because even those can vary.

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Re: (acoustic) Dreadnought Vs Cutaway's

Post by Musenfreund » January 12th, 2008, 7:11 am

The cutaway is still a dreadnought. There is some discussion about loss of volume in a cutaway, but it's pretty much a purely academic discussion. My first acoustic dreadnought did not have a cutaway, my second did. I much prefer having the cutaway. I can't detect any loss of tone/volume due to the small area lost to the cutaway. On the other hand, I have been able to reach frets I wouldn't otherwise have available. And bear in mind, if you're playing for an audience, you'll most likely be amplified as well. My vote would always be for the cutaway. By the way, another fellow in the band plays a guitar without a cutaway -- an Ovation. My guitar, an Alvarez, has a cutaway and more volume than the Ovation.
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Re: (acoustic) Dreadnought Vs Cutaway's

Post by Mike » January 12th, 2008, 8:22 am

Tyler N wrote:I wanted to know if Dreadnoughts project better sound and tone than their cutaway versions?

I think like Musenfreund said, it's an academic discussion.

It comes down to 3, note worthy, personal issues.

1) Sound - How do YOU like the sound. Bring a friend to the store so he/she can play it for you so you can hear how it sounds. If you don't have a friend, most guitar stores have a diverse group of people that play and they have no problem jammin' out for ya. Stand at various angles and distances and really soak up the sound.

No two ways about this one, YOU have to like the sound.

2) Comfort - How does it feel to YOU. You might very well have this guitar the rest of your life. Might as well get something comfortable.

Comfort though, can be slightly compromised because of 1) and 3).

3) String spacing - Are the strings close like an electric or spread further apart. Personally, I like my strings further apart for finger picking. I have large hands so I can roll my fingers around more comfortably at a wider spacing.

All in all, YOU have to like the guitar. Shop around and test every one you can reach (and even some you can't :wink: ). Don't judge a book by it's cover either. There are some great sounding low cost guitars and there are some awful sounding expensive guitars.

Good luck!


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Re: (acoustic) Dreadnought Vs Cutaway's

Post by CitiZenNoir » January 12th, 2008, 12:35 pm

Hi :D

Well, as far as the sound of a cut-away vs. non cut.... I have to agree with the rest of the posters here.
The sound difference is negligible (To my ears anyway).
If I have detected any sound difference in them, it was more in a low end way... More bass in a non-cut acoustic.
Though I really can't say for sure that it was caused by the full body - it did seem that way on the few I have played.

I also agree that it's so much easier to play with the cut-out.
I was always banging into the full body ones where the cutout would have been.
And playing up high (which happens more than you'd think) is absolutely dreadful on a full body.

As for which kind of guitar is best suited for fingerstyle.... If you mean sans-pick, than I would suggest getting one
with a cedar soundboard (top).

I play with my fingers, and I have a cedar top on my acoustic.... Much easier to hear.
Cedar is a weaker wood than the usual spruce (which is very strong and dense).... It's weakness allows it to vibrate
more easily.
Making it ideal for use without picks.

Conversely - using a pick on a cedar top acoustic may sound (and usually does sound) awful.
The top is akin to a speaker cone, and a pick will overload the cedar, making it vibrate too much, resulting in a sorta
blown speaker sound - an unpleasent one.

If you plan on just using your fingers, it should be no problem.
Notice that most good classical acoustics (for fingerpicking) have cedar tops.

On the other hand - a more diverse combo would be to get a spruce top with rosewood sides/back (as opposed to the more common mahogany sides/back).

The rosewood allows more volume, or more brightness with fingerpicking than the darker sounding mahogany does....
And you still have a spruce top that takes well to a pick.

This is the acoustic that I would suggest trying:

It falls right into your price range at $1200.00 U.S.
In my opinion, an absolutely gorgeous guitar.
The one I played had the most wonderful multi-dimensional sound with a beautiful tone quality.
It played easily as well. Very comfortable.

It is a spruce top/rosewood side/back acoustic.... and I played it with my fingers.... no problem on the volume or brightness.

They also make a cedar top version - the Tan15C.... Sorry to say that I haven't had the pleasure of playing that version.
(Though judging by the pictures, I prefer the look of the spruce top on this particular model)

Best of Luck,

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Re: (acoustic) Dreadnought Vs Cutaway's

Post by Tyler N » January 12th, 2008, 5:46 pm

All you guys are so Awesome!

I will DEFINITELY take in the information i've learned and added bonus's in your post into my ever growing knowledge of this marvelous instrument.

I cant thank you guys ENOUGH!

I am a finger picker, and also like the diversity of incorporating strums into my playing, so the advice about the woods was so helpful.

and that takamine guitar looks gorgeous, I wish i can try it

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Re: (acoustic) Dreadnought Vs Cutaway's

Post by Tyler N » January 12th, 2008, 10:43 pm

CitiZenNoir do you advise (especially in my case) to stick with solid spruce or cedar top, and make sure the sides and back are "solid" rosewood

CitiZenNoir wrote: Best of Luck,


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Re: (acoustic) Dreadnought Vs Cutaway's

Post by CitiZenNoir » January 13th, 2008, 1:55 am

Hi Tyler :D

Well, for a finger player, I would not hesitate in recomending a cedar top.
I can't remember when exactly I got my acoustic.... has to be more than 12 years ago now,
and it's the only one I've ever had.
A cedar top. (Ovation Custom Balladeer - I wouldn't recomend getting an Ovation though :| )
It's served my style well (The cedar top that is).

I alternate between using my fingers/thumb to pick and sometimes pluck the strings, to
strumming with either the side (tip) of my index finger, or pinching my index/thumb together
(As if holding an imaginary pick)

I would imagine that a light gauge pick might be able to be used... Though I prefer to use HEAVY picks when
I actually do use them (on my electric).
I have a very light touch, and dislike the 'sound' of floppy picks LOL.

I know several people with spruce top/ mahogany side/back acoustics (and I've played many others at GC),
and playing with my fingers.... can't get any volume out of 'em.
Even when I finally break down and grab a pick; since I play so softly with them as well, I have a hard time
getting a decent volume out of them.

And as far as tone goes - Mahogany is suppose to produce 'bright airy trebles' (according to Martin)....
To my ear mahogany saps treble.
It's a very low end sound to me.
(as was my old 60's Gibbo SG - all mahogany.... Very much lacking in high end)
(as opposed to George Harrison's all rosewood Tele - beautiful high end sparkle, and wonderful even overall sound)

The Takamine Tan16C that I played had that quality - A nice EVEN sound across the frequencies.
Well balanced soundwise.
Very pleasant :D

It was the only spruce top guitar I've played that I actually liked.

It would be hard for me to recomend a cedar top over that Takamine.
As I said - it had the most brilliant multi-dimensional sound to it....
Having the lower (regular acoustic) sound, with a real.... ummmm, almost like a muted string strum on top of that.
Just beautiful for strumming.
So full of character.

That guitar aside - cedar over spruce for finger style.

And Rosewood over mahogany for the sides and back.

The Tan16C has a solid spruce top, and a solid rosewood back....
The sides are actually rosewood laminate.
I'm sure solid rosewood sides would cost a bit more.

Alot of the sound in an acoustic actually comes from the inside bracing as well.
I don't know what kind was on that Takamine - though I remember being able to clearly see it while I was playing.
(Unlike my Ovation, haha)

It also has a rosewood fretboard - which has a nice warm sound and the slowest note decay.
(as opposed to my Ovation, which has an ebony fretboard. They have the coldest sound and fastest note decay)

So there are a few factors for you to consider.
And regardless of how I like my acoustics.... You have to find a sound that You like.
So - go ahead and use this info as a guide, and go try as many acoustics as you can.
Having this info on hand will make it easier for you to identify the qualities that you find pleasing.

Again - Good Luck,
and keep us posted!

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Re: (acoustic) Dreadnought Vs Cutaway's

Post by gnease » January 13th, 2008, 8:53 am

So here's some of the rest of the story:

There are counter examples for many of the woods-specific opinions listed above. If you want a guitar that feels good for you, then you must play it (I know: obvious). If you want to hear the true sound, then listen to somebody else play it; and listen from the audience perspective. As Dogbite mentions, the timbre is often different in the playing versus the audience positions. You also need to consider the main use of the guitar. If you are a solo fingerstyle player, the choice will probably be much different than that for use by a flatpickin' bluegrass maniac or gypsy jazzer or worship rhythm guitarist. Some guitars are very good all-around performers, but excel at no particular style. These are good first "step up" guitars, and usually a compromise somewhere between being a warm, deep rhythm monster and a pristinely clear fingerpicker with less low end.

All the talk of woods is interesting and there are guidelines ... but, those mentioned above are not only debatable, but ignore the fact that the construction techniques change as the price goes up. If a luthier is putting pricey solid rosewood rims and a bookmatched solid back on a guitar, it is very likely that the bracing design and implementation is more "high-end" as well. The top wood selection (actual specimen, not type) and shaping is likely to be better, and the builder may even tune the top. Also, not all spruces and cedars are the same (and best looking are not always best sounding!). Solid cedar generally is accepted to sound pretty much the same from the day it's made into a guitar, whereas spruce ages, and sounds different and often better 10, 20 years down the road. The term "mahogany" covers so many sub-species of woods, it is difficult to know what one might be getting in a particular guitar or brand. But generally, there are few miracle deals, and "you get what you pay for."

The face (top) area of the guitar, along with bracing, shape and thickness, wood, bridge design (shape, wood, mass) and undoubtedly other, more subtle variables go a long way toward determining the fundamental loudness and timbre (tonal balance, attack, sustain ...). The type of a guitar -- dreadnaught, jumbo, grand auditorium, cutaway/non-cut -- determine the area and shape of the top. The body size and shape also set the internal air volume, which determines Helmholtz resonance. That resonance has a lot to do with the low end (bass) characteristic of the guitar, which is often mistaken for the primary loudness. I say mistaken, because the volume of the high (frequency) end is mainly determined by top design and may actually cut through the volume of a band more than the bass end (think mandolin or Nashville tuned guitar). Some examples: Fingerstyle players often choose smaller bodied, less bassy guitars to emphasize a clear high end. Flatpickers will gravitate to the dreads to get the booming single note volume. Fill players seem to dig cut-aways to get that high end access.

There is more, but back to the key advice: play it to feel it and have someone else play it to hear it. And listen to the type of music played on it that you will play. And more, find a person that will strum it (soft and hard -- there's a difference), fingerstyle, flatpick, bottleneck ... whatever. Learn its strengths and weakness, as even the best often don't do something well. Then decide. If there are budget constraints (if? hah!), then do the tonal evaluation by finding a higher end guitar you like timbrally, and use that as your goal in finding that less expensive guitar. You may find that laminated rims and back and materials from which these are made make less of a timbral difference than you expected. Oh yeah, and remember: Not every guitar of a particular model sounds the same. If you find one that is close, but not quite to your liking, try a few of the same model.


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Re: (acoustic) Dreadnought Vs Cutaway's

Post by Nick » January 13th, 2008, 9:22 am

ditto both sides.

I'd agree with play them and listen, on the other hand I've never found a mahogany guitar that I've liked. So wood type can enter into it. I won't exclude them in the future. As a matter of fact it's become something of a challenge for me to find the right one.

Construction is a really big part of it too. I've only had one Martin that I liked and I've tried them in all kinds of wood. It isn't the construction is bad, quite the contrary, it just doesn't resonate with me.

I've found dream guitars in all price ranges, in all kinds of wood, in all different styles.

The point I was trying to make is that you just never know. You have to play them. Don't buy one because it's supposed to be good, buy the one that is good to you. Buy the one that will make you want to pick it up and play.
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Re: (acoustic) Dreadnought Vs Cutaway's

Post by dhodge » January 13th, 2008, 10:32 am

One more thing concerning sound - as mentioned, listen on both sides of the guitar, as player and as audience. In fact, one good thing to try if you're wavering between a couple of guitars is to turn your back on the performer, so that you don't know which guitar is being played. That way you can concentrate solely on the sound.

But also be sure that whoever is playing the guitar you're listening to plays it in the same approximate manner and style that you would. Meaning that if you're a beginner, have the person strum some simple chords and pick in not too complicated a pattern. Reason for this is that a good player can make (almost) any guitar sound reasonably good and that it's easy to get caught up in listening to the artistry instead of the sound. You want to know what you're going to sound like. Or at least get a good idea. Once you're set with that, then have whoever's playing give it a go so you can hear what it's going to sound like when you get better!

Good luck and keep us posted on your progress.


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Re: (acoustic) Dreadnought Vs Cutaway's

Post by CitiZenNoir » January 13th, 2008, 12:30 pm

Good to see ya! :D
Long time, no debate.

Well, there's never really a debate between us....
As Dylan said - We always did feel the same, we just saw it from a different point of veiw. :twisted:

Lots of good points, and info (as always).

Yes, everyone always seems to think of the 'Dread' as the holy grail acoustic - though not always so.

I would concede that you know more about the body styles than I do - perhaps a bit more on them from you....
I know I would like to hear about them :)

As far as my leaving the spiecies of wood out.... I just felt that I was already overloading with info.
My hope was that I had given enough for a good start, and that Tyler would try out some guitars... find several contenders,
then report back with more questions that could be answered with more depth as the understanding grew.

Same with construction techniques.

I understand that in the old days - a HUGE part of the Martin signature sound was brought on by the construction, and internal
bracing.... That's not so huge a difference these days - particularly in the lower end models.
(Of course, I'm sure there's no substitute for a super high end Martin)

With the budget stated - I felt that 'species' would not be too great a factor.
I'm sure that the rosewood on an acoustic of that price is going to be East Indian.
And that the sides would more than likely be vaniered (which still does impart some of the characteristics of the top vanier).

Brazillian rosewood is very rare, and so very much more expensive.

As far as the spruce tops go - Sitka is more than likely to be encountered.
Of course there are Adirondack spruce tops as well, which produce a different sound than sitka spruce.

If a 'better' wood, or rarer wood is sought out on a guitar of that price - the rest of the guitar would surely suffer in quality.

As far as Mahogany goes - First off, Thankx Nick.... I was really getting bummed that I cant find a mahogany guitar that I like....
I was starting to doubt myself! :shock:

Yes many sub-species.... To a mahogany lover, the sound difference may be noticable.... Not so much to me (believe it or not)
They all just seem to cut the highs to high/mids to my ear.

Though I do believe that if genuine mahogany is desired - it must say just that: Genuine Mahogany.
Of course there are two main species of Genuine Mahogany as well! LOL.

And as far as knowing if an area is made of solid wood or not - it will say SOLID rosewood back (meaning, yes - solid),
and rosewood sides (meaning, NO - vanier)

Also - great advice David :)

Great to see you all again :D

And I hope we haven't gotten too far outta reach for ya Tyler :wink:

Last edited by CitiZenNoir on January 13th, 2008, 12:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: (acoustic) Dreadnought Vs Cutaway's

Post by CitiZenNoir » January 13th, 2008, 12:50 pm

Oh, just a couple more quick things....

I mentioned fretboard woods...

A little bit more depth there.

Usually, you'll find ebony boards on cedar top acoustics...
This is because of the fast decaying qualities.
The logic being that finger pickers are generally going to be using a cedar top.
So for such styles as classical/flemenco type fast runs and things of that nature,
an ebony board would allow fast/snappy notes to be played.

Rosewood boards have a warmer quality with slow decay (which is kinda like saying; more sustain)
A bit more resonance with rosewood.

I was also hoping to hear from Kathy on this.
If I remember, she prefers Taylor acoustics....?
While her husband goes for the Martin sound.

I'm sure she could share some valuable knowledge here, as well as provide us with her obligatory response for
whenever we get into heated tone wood posts.... How'd that go again Kath????
"What a bunch of geeks!"
Something like that, aye :mrgreen:

Ken :wink:
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