How torrefied wood affects acoustic guitars: demystifying the process that is said to give new instruments vintage tones from the get-go

Taylor 514e
(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

Is the tone really in the wood, and do old guitars really sound better because the wood has dried out? The answers are yes and no. Contrary to popular belief, the seasoned wood used for guitar building doesn’t actually continue to dry out in the sense that all the moisture evaporates off. Even after kiln drying, the water content does vary to some extent, and it tends to fluctuate with atmospheric conditions. 

Few would dispute that vintage and modern acoustic guitars tend to sound different. Different doesn’t necessarily mean better, but for some players ‘vintage’ equates to tonal nirvana. Is there a way to build ‘vintage’ tone into brand-new guitars? Advocates of roasting or torrefying wood believe there is, and the science may back them up.

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Huw Price

Huw started out in recording studios, working as a sound engineer and producer for David Bowie, Primal Scream, Ian Dury, Fad Gadget, My Bloody Valentine, Cardinal Black and many others. His book, Recording Guitar & Bass, was published in 2002 and a freelance career in journalism soon followed. He has written reviews, interviews, workshop and technical articles for Guitarist, Guitar Magazine, Guitar Player, Acoustic Magazine, Guitar Buyer and Music Tech. He has also contributed to several books, including The Tube Amp Book by Aspen Pittman. Huw builds and maintains guitars and amplifiers for clients, and specializes in vintage restoration. He provides consultancy services for equipment manufacturers and can, occasionally, be lured back into the studio.