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Three Best Koa Body Dreadnought Acoustic Guitars For Serious Amateurs and Professionals

Updated on June 7, 2017
Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw started playing the guitar when he was 12 years old. He loves nothing more than to pick one up and pluck some strings.

Koa As A Tonewood

As time has gone on, and the original sorts of tone woods have become increasingly rare, a rather fine and wonderful thing has happened; luthiers and consumers of fine acoustic guitars have both had to try new things, and they've both discovered that new tone woods are very often not only good, but fantastic.

There is no reason to lament the decline in availability of fine tonewoods such as Brazilian rosewood, there is reason, however, to conserve it, and demand that international laws be upheld to sustain ecological diversity, and old hardwoods in the rain-forests be respected, and never allowed to become extinct. Along this journey in time and music, we've all come to discover a nice large list of non traditional tonewoods that luthiers may employee in the creation of top notch, heirloom quality acoustic instruments. A true favorite among players and builders alike, Koa wood, is not only fast becoming popular, but easily now recognized as being every bit as fine a tonewood for bodies of guitars as any of the older or more traditional woods.

Being rather more like mahogany than rosewood, but somewhat more favourable towards a balanced mid-range tonality, there is where Koa wood can be found on the tonal pallete. Of course Koa is a tonewood from the islands of Hawaii, and to the eye, the coloration will range further with variables than does mahogany, and generally, will be darker to somewhat orange-ish brown.

In this article we will explore three of the best Koa bodied dreadnought acoustic guitars, and these guitars will not necessarily be inexpensive at all, but rather, they'll be the kind of guitars a very serious amateur or professional would use to make music for a lifetime. I always talk about models I am either specifically familiar with, or models from manufacturers I am familiar with, and therefore trust their craftsmanship despite me not having had the opportunity to spend time playing the specific model in question.

Behold The Beauty Of Koa Wood On A Martin D 42K

Martin Guitars And The Martin D-42K

Of course C.F. Martin & Company is forever at the fore of the acoustic guitar manufacturing game, and not just in the USA, but indeed, globally. Nobody truly has ever achieved the respect and production Martin guitars have, and Martin is forever at or near the front of the pack when new innovations, new woods, and new designs are being uses as well.

Now there is nothing really new about the Martin D-42 design at all, but the "K" at the end of the model D-42K indicates that solid Koa is used as the wood of the body, the back and the sides of this otherwise upscale D-28 style dreadnought. If one were to beg the question, what is a Martin D-42, exactly? Then the answer would be, It's the second most expensive standard production model Martin dreadnought, but it is offered in with many different options.

Whenever one purchases any Martin D-42, it goes without saying the instrument will come with the highest quality solid spruce top available, will feature the traditional high X and scalloped bracing, beautiful abalone inlay, solid mahogany neck, solid ebony fretboard, Gotoh gold plated tuning machines, solid ebony bridge with abalone inlay, solid hard shell case, and as always, a spectacular limited lifetime warranty to the original owner.

Every time I search for used models of a Martin D-42K online, I find the page either not requested, or a page that shows the guitar and its specifications, with the ever so sad mention that it is no longer available. These guitars aren't the most available Martin instruments out there, but if you shop around, you should be able to land one for just under five thousand dollars. Yeah, I know, that isn't cheap at all - it is a Martin D-42 price, however, and only the D-45 is a more upscale and expensive standard production Martin instrument.

Under no circumstances should the reader assume the D-42K is the only Koa wood Martin guitar available. In fact, there are Koa wood martin guitars available for under a thousand dollars, and then, there are guitars such as the Martin D-50 Koa Deluxe, priced at over fifty thousand dollars.


  • Solid Sitka spruce top
  • Maple and black fiber rosette
  • Solid figured koa wood on the back and sides
  • Low-profile solid mahogany neck
  • Solid black ebony fretboard and bridge
  • Headplate is solid East Indian rosewood with abalone Martin inlay
  • Abalone snowflake fingerboard markers
  • Black-and-white body binding front and back
  • Gotoh gold-plated tuners
  • Tortoise-color pickguard

A Very Nice Bit Of Playing On a Martin D-42 Koa Wood Dreadnought

The Famous Gibson Hummingbird Dreadnought With Koa Back And Sides

The Gibson Hummingbird Acoustic Guitar With Koa Wood Back and Sides

Now the Gibson Hummingbird acoustic guitar, like the D-42 by Martin, has been around for a very long time. In fact, the Gibson Hummingbird was created in the 1960s to provide a mahogany body dreadnought guitar with more upscale appointments than it's Martin competition, the Martin D-18. Of course the only real difference here between a regular mahogany body Gibson Hummingbird and this one, is the Koa body, witch truly will only vary slightly to the eye and the ears of viewers, and players or persons listening to music produced from such a fine American masterpiece of an acoustic guitar.


  • Honeyburst finish (Extremely Rare)
  • Top Species: Solid Sitka Spruce
  • Back and Sides: Highly Figured Koa
  • Marquetry: Checkerboard
  • Body Binding: 8-ply with abalone on top, 5-ply on back
  • Neck Species: Mahogany
  • Scale: 24-3/4"
  • Fingerboard Species: Ebony
  • Fingerboard binding: single-ply with birdsbeak
  • Number of Frets: 20
  • Inlays: Original "Hummingbird in Flight" Inlay
  • Nut Width: 1.725
  • Other Inlays: Hummingbird Headstock Inlays
  • Bridge Inlay: Abalone Orpheum
  • Tuners: Engraved Gold Grovers
  • Pickguard: Hand Inlaid and Engraved Pickguard
  • Case: Hardshell

These fine Gibson Hummingbird Koa wood guitars are also available via custom shop with Adirondack spruce tops, but the regular Sitka spruce top model is priced at around five thousand seven hundred dollars.

A Lovely Demonstration Of A Gibson Hummingbird Koa Wood Dreadnought Guitar

Taylor DN-K Dreadnought Koa


Taylor DN-K Dreadnought Koa

Bob Taylor and his terrific Taylor guitars out of California are not going to be outdone by anyone. They'll always have their unique designs, and unique internal bracing patterns allowing for their own distinctive and uniquely Taylor tonality.

I humbly submit for your approval, the Taylor DN-K, a dreadnought guitar with a solid spruce top and all solid Koa wood back and sides. This guitar is priced far better than the Gibson or the Martin guitars I've listed above, and it is priced new at around three thousand three hundred dollars.

Now again, do not think this is the only Koa dreadnought guitar that Taylor Guitars produces, it isn't, it is merely the most traditional style Koa dreadnought they produce, and so, it wins my personal selection. Facts are, not only does Taylor manufacture other Koa dreadnoughts, it also manufactures guitars made entirely of Koa, and I do mean utilizing Koa as a top or soundboard as well as the wood used for the backs and sides, that, however, would be another subject altogether.


  • Type/Shape: 6-String Dreadnought
  • Back & Sides: Hawaiian Koa
  • Top: Sitka Spruce
  • Soundhole Rosette: Abalone
  • Neck: Tropical American Mahogany
  • Fretboard: Ebony with Maple Binding
  • Fretboard Inlay: Abalone Koa Series
  • Headstock Overlay: Ebony
  • Binding: Ivoroid with Abalone Top Trim
  • Bridge: Ebony
  • Nut & Saddle: Tusq
  • Tuning Machines: Gold-plated Taylor Tuners
  • Scale Length: 25 1/2 Inches
  • Truss Rod: Adjustable
  • Neck Width at Nut: 1 3/4 Inches
  • Number of Frets: 20
  • Fretboard Radius: 15 Inches
  • Bracing: CV - Sitka Bracing w/Relief Rout
  • Finish: Gloss
  • Color: Natural Koa
  • Electronics: Taylor Expression System®
  • Left-Handed: Available; No Charge
  • Body Width: 16 1/4 Inches
  • Body Depth: 4 5/8 Inches
  • Body Length: 20 Inches
  • Overall Length: 41 Inches


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    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Thanks very much, Aleister888! I love little more than visiting guitar stores and ...playing every acoustic guitar in the store if they'll let me!

    • profile image

      Aleister888 5 years ago

      These guitars are simply beautiful, excellent Hub, really enjoyed reading it.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Thanks very much, Good Sir! If there were a guitar store nearby, I'd beg them daily for a job.....I'd be there constantly anyway :)

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Very interesting hub and great review of these very beautiful guitars !

      Vote up and more !!!

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      True, Fiddleman, but I've got an uncle that paid $10 dollars for a Martin D-18 at a flea market.

      Nobody knew what it was because some damned fool had spray painted it black.

    • profile image

      Fiddleman 5 years ago

      Like finding a needle in a haystack but it does happen. My luck somebody else beat me to it! lol

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Hell Yeah!

      I've probably got all the guitars I'll ever have. I've got three really good ones. I'll never ever get tired of "tire kicking" in guitar shops though, and the really good places don't mind you doing it either. Hell, guitar stores are where I learned what all I did like, and didn't like in fine guitars.

      $3,500 for ANY Brazilian guitar is a total steal these days.

      I'd like to find late 60's Martin's that are scratched to hell, maybe need a reset neck...somewhat trashed out old guitars....but if it's a 28', then it's Brazilian! I'd love to be able to locate some stuff like that on the cheap. I know just the guy to take something beat up to to have it all fixed just right!

    • profile image

      Fiddleman 5 years ago

      Probabably impossible but wouldn't you like to walk into a guitar shop and try all 3 out, you know just kick the tires. I was 50 before I could ever get a Martin but once I held it in my hands, there have not been any regrets. Gary has a fairly new Brazilian Rosewood D42 and got a steal at $3500. It doesn't fit my hands as well as it does his and needless to say he is a very happy camper.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      HAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!!!! Them suckers are expensive!!!!!!

      If it were me, I'd probably grab that's at least in the sane sort of price range.

      I think the Koa really sounds a whole lot like mahogany. I don't think a whole lot of folks would be able to hear the difference, but some could.

      I do think the Koa is a bit more attractive to look at than mahogany though :)

    • profile image

      Fiddleman 5 years ago

      I have heard only rave reviews for the Koa wood guitars. One of my former GE Managers ordered a Koa wood tenor guitar but I never got to hear it played. Three great makers and options available for the Brazil and Indian Rosewood. Wes you have just flung a craving on me, I want one of those Martins!!!


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