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What is a Double Top Guitar?

A double top guitar has two tops. Simple. But while easy to describe, the benefits of this type of construction far outweigh the sum of its parts. Read our guide to find out why you should consider a double top guitar.

What is a double top guitar?

A double top acoustic is almost exactly what you think – it has two tonewoods for its top. But acoustic guitars have been constructed with a single top for hundreds of years, so why would we want two?

For any acoustic guitar, the top material and bracing are two of the most important factors that affect the instrument’s sound and response. The key improvements that come with a double top include enhanced dynamic range, nuance, tonal range, sustain, and stability.

Sounds good! So, why aren’t all guitars made like this? Well, it’s not quite as simple as sticking two pieces of wood together. Let’s have a look at how a double top is constructed and what benefits it brings.

How is a double top made?

A double top guitar, also known as a composite top or sandwich top, is actually a three-layer design. The top is made with two outer layers of hardwood and a special inner layer of strengthening material. In the case of the Hartwood Libretto Double Top Acoustic Guitar and the Hartwood Libretto Double Top Classical Guitar, the middle layer is made from a unique space-age material called Nomex.

What is Nomex?

Nomex is a Kevlar polymer produced in a honeycomb-like hexagonal structure. It was originally designed for use in the aerospace industry by DuPont and is used today in a huge range of applications. “From keeping people safe while drilling beneath the earth’s core to rocketing into space” (DuPont).

Back down to earth, a double top guitar uses a thin layer of Nomex placed between two hardwood timbers such as spruce or cedar. This three-layer construction provides structural and tonal benefits compared to a single top guitar.

Find out more about Nomex here.

How does a double top guitar compare to a single top guitar?

The physical benefits of a double top versus a traditional solid top include increased strength, enhanced flexibility, and a noticeable reduction in weight. The result of this construction is an instrument which responds with superior resonance and responsiveness.

A double top guitar can also provide a larger sound from a smaller body, and you’ll notice a sharper attack to notes, making them crisp and articulate.

All these benefits will become noticeable when you realise how well a double top guitar responds to your playing. Every detail and dynamic will be enhanced, every nuance and subtlety accurately recreated. These types of guitars enhance the most delicate of fingerpicking, powerful strumming, and everything in-between.

Watch this comparison between a Hartwood Libretto classical guitar (double top) and a Hartwood Renaissance classical guitar (single top):

Watch this comparison between a Hartwood Libretto acoustic guitar (double top) and a Hartwood Villanelle acoustic guitar (single top):

Is a double top thicker than a single top?

A double top is relatively thick when compared to a standard laminate top guitar. As such, a double top acoustic guitar will respond more like a solid top instrument, with a familiar palette of tones.

The difference to a solid top guitar is the layered construction. While the sonic capabilities may be similar to that of a solid top, the double top construction also brings the added benefits of high-quality lamination, encouraging a broadened range of both low and high frequencies.

Does a double top guitar need bracing?

Acoustic Bracing

A double top guitar still needs traditional bracing. However, with the Nomex and hardwood layers in the top providing all the strength and flexibility, the bracing inside the instrument can be used differently.

Traditional bracing on single top guitars is used to both support and tune the response of a guitar. In a double top guitar, the strength is already there, so the bracing can be utilised exclusively to tune the voice of the instrument.

The benefits don’t just stop at the soundhole either. A double top is less likely to crack than a traditional solid top guitar as the pockets of air inside the Nomex layer allow it to breathe. This, in turn, makes it exceptionally resistant to changes in humidity and temperature, granting you great tuning stability and a consistent tonal response in a variety of climates. You’ll also have the reassurance that your guitar can withstand years of performance, practice, and recording.

Should I buy a double top guitar?

If you’re an acoustic or classical guitarist, a guitar is the tool you use to channel your inner musicality. You need an instrument which has the dynamic range to convey any emotion, and the tonal subtlety to bring out all the nuances of your technique.

No matter what your style of playing, you’ll immediately feel the benefit of a double top instrument. The layered top construction is purpose-built to enhance all the things you know and love about traditional acoustic guitars. Sustain? Dynamic range? Tonal balance? It’s all there, and it’s all enhanced with a double top guitar.

At Gear4music, we sell two guitars with a double top construction, the Hartwood Libretto Double Top Acoustic Guitar and the Hartwood Libretto Double Top Classical Guitar. Whether you’re a student looking for more acoustic volume and sustain or a seasoned player looking for more nuance and responsiveness, a double top instrument is well-worth a further look.



  1. Robert J St Cyr

    Nice article, a couple of inaccuracies. You say that the top is less likely to crack due to the air pockets allowing it to breathe. Most cracks in tops run along the grain of the wood. The inner and outer layers in a double top are reinforced by the nomex glued on them which resists cracking. They will actually “breathe” less than a solid wood top. You say the hardwood layers when you talk about bracing – almost all guitars, steel string and nylon string use softwoods (spruce, cedar and redwood for their bracing). Interesting to not too – Mathias Dammann one of the originators of the composite top has stopped using nomex. Many luthiers use balsa wood, or cedar that has been machined so there is less weight as the central layer rather than nomex.

    • Michael

      Hi Robert. Thanks for your comment – you really know your stuff!

      We’re always looking to improve our content so it’s great to hear some insight from our readers.


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