I've been playing the drums and percussion for a long time now, but i would really like to get started playing and practise mallet-percussion. So my plan is to buy a marimba. ( I really want to buy it over the internett) I am thinking of a marimba ( 5 octave!) for a price around 5000 dollars- 8000 dollars. I know... marimba is an very expenisve instrument. But i have found some 5 octave marimbas with synthetic bars for around 6-7000 dollars. Are they worth it or should i spend more money and buy a marimba with real (rose)wood bars? Is there a difference in the sound???
If you are going to be playing outside or have it sitting next to an open window in a region that has larger weather/temeprature changes then get synthetic. (This includes moving to outside pits and outdoor concerts). Otheriwise get wood. Synthetic will change ppitch less due to weather changes. But Wood gives a nicer response and sound. At those prices get what you like or what you need (in that order).
I have seen several groups purchase Marimba One's. They look awesome and sound very nice.
If you are going to play with gorups that supply a marimba then get wood. If you ever sell it I think you'll get a better resale. But a synthetic will get you a fair resale.
Wooden bars almost always sound better. I find that synthetic have a muddy attack, although I haven't played on a lot of higher quality synthetic. All marimbas I've seen in professional orchestras have been wood. I also love the look of wood on instruments.
John has a point though, wood is naturally harder to take care of. It damages easier from chips and scratches and is more subject to weather. It also damages due to oils from your hands. To take good care of wood: get a fabric cover and moving blankets if you're planning on transporting it, a humidifier if you live somewhere where the weather changes rapidly (all wooden instruments have a habit of splitting open when seasons change where I'm from; Edmonton AB), and get a pair of thin gloves when you're handling the bars. You have to be careful with pitched percussion (wood/synthetic/metal) because even small damage from corrosion can change the pitch and make them unusable for professional performances.