What Is Ovangkol?

Guibourtia ehie goes by a few different names, including amazique, amazoué, hyedua, mozambique, & shedua. But when its wood appears in guitars, it is commonly referred to as ovangkol. The tree is native to tropical west African countries, such as Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria. A heavy and dense wood, it’s a popular pick for various uses, including furniture, flooring, joinery, and, of course, musical instruments.

Why Is It Used in Guitars?

Ovangkol is a relative of rosewood, one of the all-time classic tonewoods. But with rosewood’s well-documented sustainability issues, guitar makers have been on the lookout for alternatives that can take up some of the slack. And ovangkol fits the bill nicely: well-rounded tone, pleasing warmth, and good physical properties. Not to mention it’s significantly cheaper than rosewood!

Advantages and Disadvantages

To summarise the wood’s advantages:

Well-rounded tone that’s similar to rosewoodHighs are closer to maple than rosewood
Great clarityWhile warm, it’s brighter sounding than rosewood
Good warmth and depthLess hard than some comparable tonewoods
Excellent resonance, with good sustainHeavy
Sustainable wood
Cheaper than rosewood
Attractive finish

How Is Ovangkol Used in Guitars?

While it’s too heavy to use as an electric guitar body, ovangkol is stable and strong enough to be an option for necks. Ovangkol necks are relatively rare, but they are out there. Similarly, while it isn’t the most common choice right now, the wood can happily be utilised on fretboards. But because it shares many of rosewood’s tonal characteristics, it can really shine when used on an acoustic guitar’s back and sides.

How Does Ovangkol Sound?

With a well-rounded overall tone, ovangkol has similar strong lows as rosewood and a comparable overall warmth. The highs veer a little more towards maple than rosewood, and it tends to have a bit more in the mids too. Overall, ovangkol offers great tone with excellent clarity and sustain.

Is Ovangkol Sustainable?

It was because of fears over the sustainability of classic tonewoods that guitar manufacturers pursued alternatives. And thankfully, as things stand, Ovangkol is abundantly available - it isn’t listed in the CITES agreement, which protects endangered flora and fauna. For further reassurance, look no further than Breedlove, a guitar manufacturer based in Oregon that takes sustainability seriously. Their Organic Pro Collection, which notably uses only fully sustainable, ethically harvested materials in its construction, features ovangkol fretboards.

Are Ovangkol Guitars Expensive?

In terms of wood alone, ovangkol is cheaper than rosewood, like-for-like. But it is still relatively new to the market, meaning its use isn’t that widespread. Ovangkol has featured in some mid/upper range models from Taylor Guitars and Martin Guitars, two of the finest acoustic manufacturers around. But in most cases, these models sell at premium prices. That said, it has started appearing in mid-range models from manufacturers such as Tanglewood, and even Fender. So as market coverage expands, expect to see an increased number of reasonably priced models.

How Durable Are Ovangkol Guitars?

Overall, ovangkol ranks as a moderately durable wood, with a Janka hardness test rating of 1,330 lbs. While not quite as hard as rosewood, it’s significantly stronger than mahogany, for instance. This durability rating means you shouldn’t worry too much about picking up many dents. It also has moderate resistance to wood rot, and, as it’s stable enough to be considered suitable for guitar necks, you shouldn’t have any issues with warping.


When it comes to cleaning an ovangkol acoustic body, handle things the same way you would any other acoustic guitar. Polish regularly with an appropriate cleaner and store in a case when you aren’t noodling. If you have an ovangkol fretboard, you can use a damp cloth to remove any built-up dirt before applying a little mineral or lemon oil to finish things off. Alternatively, you could use a suitable wax on your fretboard to help bring out the original colour and enhance grain depth.

Are Ovangkol Guitars Good?

While ovangkol is a relative newcomer to the guitar world, the fact that the likes of Taylor, Martin, and Fender are putting their name on the wood speaks volumes. Your personal preferences will play a massive part in deciding whether you think it’s up to the task. But a wood that offers many of rosewood’s great benefits while being cheaper and sustainable? Sounds pretty good to me!


Rosewood is the obvious first alternative to consider if your budget allows it. Alternatively, you could take a look at bubinga, another sustainable rosewood alternative. If you’re after even stronger mid-range performance, then mahogany must be a contender. Or, if it’s treble you want, then maybe think about maple or koa.

Find Your Guitar

If you’ve decided that ovangkol is the way to go, why not head to our Finder tool? You can enter all your requirements, including tonewood, budget, and body type, and start searching for the perfect guitar.