Wednesday, September 11, 2013

1981 Takamine F-349 Acoustic Guitar Review

Hiya!

Over the years I have owned and played a few Japanese-made Takamine acoustic guitars and have never been disappointed with their craftsmanship, playability or tone.

Takamine is a Japanese guitar maker that has been in business for over 50 years now. They have started building guitars in other countries, but all of their high-end guitars still come from the land of the rising sun. Don’t sniff at their products and say that imports are junk, because they build some fantastic instruments. Though they have built some solid-body electric guitars, they are best known for their acoustic and acoustic-electric steel string guitars. By the way, the company is named after Mount Takamine in the Gifu Prefecture of Japan.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, this company became famous (or notorious) for building righteous Martin guitar copies that earned them a strongly-worded memo from the Martin legal department. Today we are looking at one of these animals: a 1981 F-349.

The F-349 (catchy name, isn’t it?) is a copy of the Martin D-17, their mahogany dreadnought. They went whole-hog on their reproduction, with using Martin’s headstock shape and logo script. I can see why Martin was upset, particularly when you consider that this is a nice guitar, and surely provided unwanted competition for a fraction of the price. This would be a lawsuit guitar, if a lawsuit had ever been filed.

The body has the traditional dreadnought size and shape, with 14 frets free from the body. The jury is out on whether this one has a solid mahogany top and body, as there is no S or SS in the model name, which is usually (but not always) the designation of a solid wood instrument. It appears to be solid to me, though it is hard to tell as the soundhole is blacked out around the edges, and when looking at the hole where the pick-up jack was installed shows the body to not be a laminate. Who know, and actually who cares at this point? It is a nice-sounding guitar.

Like the Martin D-17, ornamentation is sparse. The body has a multi-ply binding around the top and a simple black binding around the back while the neck is not bound at all. The rosette is elegant, and combined with the black pickguard and black-painted bridge it fits in well with the visual theme of the guitar.

The mahogany neck has its original 20 chunky frets, and they are skillfully sunk into the rosewood fretboard. The peghead has chrome-plated sealed tuners, probably made by Gotoh. This Takamine shares the D-17’s 1 11/16-inch nut, and 25 ¼-inch scale. The fretboard is a bit more curvy with a 12-inch radius, instead of 16-inch.

The condition of this F-349 is very good, especially for a 32 year old guitar. There is very little wear to the original frets, no cracks or evidence of repairs, and only small dings and chips here and there – no signs of abuse here!

This one came to me with a DiMarzio humbucker mounted to the soundhole, which sounded ok when plugged in, but stifled the sound of the instrument when played acoustically. After removing it, the sound was more rich and volume increased noticeably. The only scar from this installation is a ½-inch hole in the lower bout.

After a quick set-up with new strings (light gauge), I have to say that this Takamine is really a peach. It is not the loudest dreadnought I have ever owned, but I never expected that going into this deal. It has a sweet and mellow tone that is tolerant of the occasional mis-fretted note, and the volume is nicely balanced from string to string.

The frets are still level, and it is a very easy-playing guitar with no fret buzz. It is not the greatest fingerstyle guitar, but for the basic stuff I am using it for, it is a fabulous guitar. It would be a terrific instrument for a beginner, for sure. I am holding onto this as a guitar to loan to friends that are considering taking up the instrument.

If you are looking for one of these guitars, remember that they are 30 years old now, so you should look it over carefully or have a luthier check it out. Just look for the usual stuff: bridge lift, cracks, evidence of previous repairs, and fret wear.

Compared to other new guitars on the market, you get a lot of performance for the money on this one. Finding a used Takamine F-349 is not terribly difficult, and they are still very reasonably priced, at around $350 to $450 for a nice example. If you need a durable budget acoustic, you might want to track one down!

Mahalo!

6 comments:

  1. I own one. Got it froma country singer in 1980, and she has served me well ever since. Plays awesome and when others play it they dont want to give it back!

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  2. Bought my 1979 made EF 349 new and still love it

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  3. Saved up paper route $$ to purchase at $125 when I was 10 or 11 and played it and several others for hours before settling on "the one." I am older w/ more $$ and have several other more expensive guitars. As said before, though, it is a great player, I still love it, and will never get rid of it.

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  4. Have one, Got it free from a friend of mine. Went to his house for a jam and it was crying in the corner due to the lack of attention it got. I asked him about it and he said it was mine if I wanted it. I had it for a year before I really got much into working on it. I fixed it up and it works great for an bluegrass jam session and it has nice resonance and response. Not a D-28 but its magnificent for the price and in my opinion better than almost any guitar in its price range.

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  5. I have one in mint condition not one scratch not one ding on it

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