Engelmann is an interior spruce (not acclimated to coastal regions). The old and big Engelmann grows on the sides of interior mountain slopes. It is unique to the interior mountains of British Columbia (BC) and the north-west mountainous regions of the USA. However, the best of this Engelmann grows more north, well into BC, where the winters are cold and the growth is slow - producing tight and even grain and white colour.
Unfortunately, Engelmann is not a large tree, and it does not grow long sections of clear wood (without branches or knots). As a result, it is particularly difficult to find and select, and the yield of tops (per cubic meter) is quite low, by Sitka and Cedar standards. It is no exaggeration to estimate that less than one in 10,000 logs is suitable for guitars. Fortunately, it is not as expensive as Sitka Spruce, but its low yield keeps the cost of the tops almost on par.
The most appreciated quality of Engelmann is its white,even appearance. It also has longer medullary rays than Sitka, and if cut perfectly radially, the soundboards have beautiful "silking".
It is easier to grade than Sitka simply because there is less variation in colour, although winter growth lines and discolouration from exposure can be unattractive.
The highest grades of tops are very rare. Like Sikta, almost every batch of logs produces many low grade tops and only a few high grade tops. Moreover, the logs must be collected slowly, as they are only found "here and there" during logging operations, so a batch of logs being processed at our factory can have come from many different locations.
Engelmann is a strong wood but not as dense or hard as Sitka. It therefore produces a more modulated sound, somewhat quieter, and the tops are easier to "break in". Some of the most expensive guitars in the world are lovingly created by luthiers who treasure AAA/Master-grade Engelmann Spruce.
It is a superb classical guitar soundboard, and has very successfully replaced increasingly rare European Spruce.
Engelmann Spruce looks similar to German Spruce. It tends to have more even grain spacing than German Spruce. If beautiful appearance is an objective (as well as excellent quality sound), almost nothing matches the stunning, creamy, silky look of a top grade Engelmann soundboard.
Some specialist luthiers (with big reputations) use only the highest grade Engelmann Spruce. Nothing else will do!