Sunday, October 8, 2017

1981 Takamine EF341 Acoustic Guitar Review

Hi there!

I have been a fan of Takamine acoustic guitars for a long time, and think that the EF341SC models are pretty much the ne plus ultra of killer steel string acoustics as they are very well made and come with wonderful electronics packages. I am not alone in this, as John Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen both play this model on stage and they can play and/or endorse whatever instruments they want to, so there might be something to my feelings on this subject.

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. Though 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 Kenny Chesney and the late Glenn Frey. By the way, the company is named after Mount Takamine in the Gifu Prefecture of Japan.

Today we are going to look at an earlier version of the EF341SC, a 1981 EF341, which is very similar except there is no body cutaway or onboard tuner. It is an 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 EF341 came standard with a really neat onboard electronics package. It uses a Palathetic under-saddle pickup, and it has a control plate on the upper bout with a 3-band EQ, a volume control, and a battery check button. 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 just a bit of bridge lift after 36 years of service and no real issues. It is very easy to play, and it is comfortable enough for the longest gigs. The black finish is holding up well, 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, as by 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 preamp reproduces 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!

Compared to other used acoustic guitars on the market, you get a lot of performance for the money on this one. Really nice Takamine EF341 guitars sell for around $600 on Reverb and eBay, which is a lot less than a new EF341SC which go for around $1249. If you need a stage-capable acoustic, especially if your music is more rock-oriented, you really ought to give one a try – these are hard to beat!

Mahalo!

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