Saturday, July 20, 2013

Takamine EF341SC Acoustic / Electric Guitar Review

Hiya! John Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen are both from the Garden State, but that is not all they have in common. They both prefer the same acoustic / electric guitar for live performances: the Takamine EF341SC. These guys are at the highest level of the game and can play and/or endorse whatever instruments they want to, so there might be something to this.

Takamine is a Japanese guitar maker that has been in business for over 50 years now. Don’t sniff at their products and say that imports are junk, because they build some fantastic instruments. Thought they have built some solid-body electric guitars, they are best known for their acoustic and acoustic-electric steel string guitars. In 1978 they were one of the makers on the forefront of acoustic-electric guitar technology, and have been leader in pre-amplifier design and application ever since. Beside Bon Jovi and Springsteen, other notable Takamine users are Glenn Frey and Kenny Chesney. By the way, the company is named after Mount Takamine in the Gifu Prefecture of Japan.

The EF341SC (rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?) is part of their Legacy Series, that is hand-built in their pro series facility. It is a single-cutaway acoustic-electric dreadnought with a glossy black finish that covers up some very nice woods. It has a solid cedar top with scalloped X bracing and solid maple sides and back. The black finish contrasts nicely with the white 6-ply body binding and concentric rosette soundhole inlay. There is a single-ply black pickguard and a rosewood bridge with a bone saddle.

The body is pretty large, measuring almost 16 inches across the lower bout, and ranging from four to five inches thick. That big sound has to come from somewhere, you know.

The mahogany neck is a peach, and it is connected to the body with a dovetail joint. It has a 1.675-inch wide bone nut, and the cutaway allows access to all 20 of the frets. The bound rosewood fretboard has an 11.81-inch radius, and tasteful snowflake inlays. They call them snowflakes, anyway, but they look more like little plus signs to me. At the end are Takamine-branded chrome sealed-back tuners. They are probably made by Gotoh.

The EF341SC comes standard with the CT-4B electronics package, which is really neat. It uses a Palathetic under-saddle pickup, and it has a control plate on the upper bout with a 3-band EQ and a volume control. This panel also has a convenient (and surprisingly good) built-in tuner. The 9-volt battery is also accessed through this panel. Using a conventional battery and having it so easy to get at is a true bonus, in my book.

Craftsmanship is top-notch, with terrific fretwork and a great action right out of the box. It is very easy to play, and it is comfortable enough for the longest gigs. The black finish is flawless, which isn’t terribly easy with this color. These are very strong guitars, and I have seen them take a remarkable amount of abuse and still play and sound wonderful.

But the true magic is in how this Takamine sounds. Unplugged, it has a full and rich sound. It does not need any electronic trickery to make it work, in its nature it is a great-sounding instrument. The cedar top and maple body combine to give it a sweet and mellow tone or a powerful jolt depending on how hard you lean into it.

Once you plug it in you will hear what these big-time performers like about these guitars. The CT-4B relays the instrument’s sound very accurately. It instills a sense of warmth for more casual playing, but when it is played hard it can really cut through the rest of the stuff going on in a loud mix. This versatility is essential for a performer that is using it in a rock environment, but that still wants to be able to ooze out a ballad every now and then.

This is all really good stuff, and it works very well for recording too!

The only downside for me is its appearance. I am not a fan of the glossy black finish, as I prefer natural-finish acoustic guitars (and the black shows fingerprints and smudges like crazy), but it does look quite spectacular under stage lighting. Besides the color, I cannot think of anything I do not like about this guitar.

Compared to other guitars on the market, you get a lot of performance for the money on this one. The Takamine EF341SC has a list price of $1799 and a street price of $1249, which includes a very nice hard case.. Used ones are a pretty good deal, coming it at around half of that. If you need a stage-capable acoustic, especially if your music is more rock-oriented, you really ought to give one a try.

Mahalo!

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