The top is the sounding-board of the instrument, and is the main resonating surface where thestrings attach to the bridge. A solid-top guitar will always have a richer, more well-defined tonethan one with a laminate or wood-ply top. It is also not uncommon to find guitars with solid-topsbut with wood-ply backs and sides. A guitar salesperson will always try emphasize that the guitar they are selling has a solid-top -sometimes even when it is not. Buyer beware! A good way to check is look closely at the grainpattern of the top on the outside of the guitar and compare that with the grain pattern on the inside,looking through the guitar's soundhole. This takes a keen eye, but if the little striations in the grainpattern of the wood match up on the outside and on the inside, you can be sure you have a solid-top instrument in your hands. Then again, I have played some plywood-top instruments that soundfine and are perfect beginner guitars. A good sounding classical guitar wouldn't amount to much if the guitar's neck wasn't in goodshape. Play the guitar on every fret, from low to high on each string, and listen for unusual buzzesor notes that cannot be played cleanly. This could be due to frets that are of uneven height, ormore seriously, a sign that there is some warpage in the neck or fingerboard. If you're new toguitar-playing, ask the store salesperson to play the instrument for you at various points on thefingerboard, and listen closely. This will also give you the chance to check out the tone of each ofthe different classical guitars in the store, but from a listener's perspective, which will help you inyour decision on which one to buy. A good classical guitar will usually have a neck made of mahogany, but nyatoh is also becomingpopular because it is as sturdy as, but cheaper than mahogany. Higher-end classical guitars will always come with ebony fingerboards. Rosewood, usually dyedblack to look like ebony is the more common fingerboard wood of choice for lower-endinstruments. You can usually tell a real ebony fingerboard from its very fine wood grain - it is jet-black, sometimes with streaks of light-brown, and is almost mirror-smooth. Rosewood, on theother hand, is reddish-brown and has a coarser grain texture. Inspect the guitar closely for cracks or splits in the wood, especially at the glue joints. Higher-endguitars with nitrocellulose finishes will sometimes exhibit light finish cracks at seam points on thebody or where the guitar neck joins the body. This is due to the guitar being subjected to suddendrastic changes in temperature or humidity. These shouldn't be mistaken for physical cracks.Nitrocellulose is a hard, crystalline finish and is very unforgiving in this regard. Regardless of finish-type, all guitars will benefit from an occasional wipe down with a clean polishcloth and a good quality guitar polish. My favorite guitar polish is manufactured by Maguire's - itpolishes to a high sheen and even keeps fingerprints away! Check also that the bridge is well-seated on the guitar's top. There should be no gaps between thebridge and the guitar's top and there should definitely be no signs of the bridge lifting or pullingaway from the body. Here, it is also a good idea to check if there is any swelling on the lower boutof the guitar's body, after the bridge - a sure sign that the instrument has absorbed too muchmoisture due to high humidity. This is easily remedied by placing the guitar in a low humidityenvironment, such as in an enclosed room with a dehumidifier.