Roundup: 5 New Takamine Acoustic-Electrics - GuitarPlayer.com

Roundup: 5 New Takamine Acoustic-Electrics

Takamine has been making fine guitars for over 50 years now, and the company has certainly come a long way since its beginnings in 1959 as a small, family-owned instrument-making shop in the Japanese town of Sakashita.
Author:
Publish date:

Takamine has been making fine guitars for over 50 years now, and the company has certainly come a long way since its beginnings in 1959 as a small, family-owned instrument-making shop in the Japanese town of Sakashita. Named for mount Takamine, which towered above the original factory, the company over the years has been an innovator in acoustic guitar technology, developing such things as the Palathetic under-saddle pickup, quickly replaceable preamp modules, and laser cut inlays. Takamine has also created signature models for players such as Steve Wariner, Garth Brooks, Kenny Chesney, John Jorgensen, and Glenn Frey.

This lineup of acoustic-electrics presents five of Takamine’s latest models, which range in price from $949 to $2,899. We evaluated these guitars on the basis of their construction, playability, and acoustic and amplified sound. For the latter, we tested the guitars though an AER Compact 60, an UltraSound CP100, and a ZT Lunchbox Acoustic.

P1D

When Takamine first won the hearts of North American guitar players in the early 1970s, it was with a line of instruments that could have easily been mistaken for Martin dreadnoughts and 000s. Of course the company has come up with many original designs in the time since, but my first thought when I opened the case for the P1D was that it was harking back to Takamine’s early days. But while the P1D does indeed sport traditional dreadnought dimensions and austere appointments, it’s actually a great example of fusing vintage designs and contemporary features.

In the case of the P1D, the most obvious departures from tradition are found in its cedar top (a choice that was never found on vintage steel-strings and is rare on a dreadnought, even today), a pinless bridge with a split saddle, and, of course, the guitar’s electronics, which match Takamine’s trusty Palathetic bridge pickup with a CT4B II preamp that includes an on-board chromatic tuner and 3-band EQ. Under the hood, the guitar is braced with non-scalloped and fairly heavy X-bracing, which isn’t unlike the pattern used on most Martin dreadnoughts built from the ’50s to the ’70s. Bluegrass players with a heavy attack often prefer straight braces to the generally more popular scalloped design, as they often lead to great headroom and more volume when the guitar is played hard. But the combination with a cedar top—which tends to be known for offering great sound under a softer attack—makes for an interesting juxtaposition.

When I picked the P1D up to play, the first thing I noticed was that its comfortable, D-shaped neck profile had enough girth to offer a good compromise between slimmer contemporary necks and chunky vintage designs. The guitar came set up with light-gauge strings and very easy-to-play action; my guess is that players who strum may want to raise the strings a bit to get buzz-free performance. The second thing I noted was that the guitar had a really cool and individual voice. For starters, the P1D possessed a lovely fingerstyle sound, with a much quicker response than many dreadnoughts. And while its setup wasn’t conducive to aggressive flatpicking, its strumming tone was loud, rich, and considerably more balanced than what I’m used to hearing from a dreadnought.

Plugged into an AER Compact 60 amp, the guitar’s onboard electronics displayed their strengths by accurately relaying the P1D’s inherent qualities. The Palathetic pickup’s sensitivity meant that some of the string buzz that came with the territory of harder playing was more audible through the amp than it was acoustically, but overall, I felt that the guitar sounded great, without requiring much fiddling with the preamp’s EQ sliders. And anyone who has run into feedback problems while trying to amplify more lightly built dreadnoughts is going to be relieved to hear that the P1D stayed remarkably controllable even at the AER’s upper volume ceiling.

Without a question, the P1D is a very versatile guitar. Offering great tone regardless of whether it’s played with fingers or a flatpick, acoustically or plugged in, this would make a great ax for a player looking for one guitar to do everything. —Te ja Gerken

MODEL

P1D

CONTACT takamine.com
PRICE $949 street

Specifications

NUT WIDTH 1.675"
NECK Mahogany
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 25.3" scale
FRETS 20, 14 to body
TUNERS Chrome die-cast
BODY Solid cedar top, sapele back and sides
BRIDGE Rosewood with split bone saddle and pinless base
ELECTRONICS CT4B II Preamp System with built-in tuner
CONTROLS Volume, 3-band EQ
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario EXP 16 Coated Phosphor Bronze, .012-.053
WEIGHT 4.98 lbs
BUILT Japan
KUDOS Versatility. Balanced tone.
CONCERNS Aggressive flatpickers may wish to raise the factory action.

P3MC

Small-bodied acoustic-electrics with cutaways have long been a staple in Takamine’s offerings. The company offers several shapes that fit this description, and has models with these features throughout its pricing structure. One of the latest examples is the P3MC, which is part of Takamine’s relatively new Pro Series. With a 15 1/4" wide lower bout, the guitar’s body is very similar to the traditional Martin 000/OM body in its dimensions, but on the P3MC, this doesn’t result in a clone of a vintage design. Instead, the guitar’s cedar top, pinless bridge, and clean visual lines lead to an appearance not unlike that of many luthier-made custom guitars.

Cedar tops are favored by many fingerstylists, and given how Takamine chose to forego a pickguard on the P3MC, it appears that the company had these players in mind when it designed the model. Immediately impressed by the instrument’s quick response to some timid strumming in standard tuning, I gave the smooth-operating tuning machines a few twists to get into DADGAD in order to give the P3MC a solid fingerstyle workout while improvising around Turlough O’Carolan’s “Si Bheag Si Mhor.” Not surprisingly given its cedar and sapele (an African wood that’s often compared to mahogany) construction, the guitar had a fairly bright voice, especially as I played toward the louder end of its dynamic range. But while some cedar tops become brash under a heavy attack, the P3MC retained a pleasant warmth, though it definitely had an assertive quality. This character was confirmed when I tried the guitar with a flatpick. While it was certainly possible to overpower the instrument with aggressive strumming, it offered a remarkable richness, balance, and respectable volume when played with a bit of restraint.

The P3MC includes Takamine’s own electronics. Due to its complete integration into the guitar’s bridge, the Palathetic pickup does a great job of sensing a complex signal. Accordingly, plugged into an AER Compact 60 amp, the instrument’s amplified tone mirrored its acoustic performance: It had a nice lush and natural quality when played relatively soft, but got a bit bright under the weight of a flatpick. The CT4B II preamp’s 3-band EQ did help in taming the tone a bit, and overall, the system was easy to use and sounded mature.

Given the guitar’s great fingerstyle tone, my only complaint is that I wished that it had a wider, more OM-like neck, as the string spacing felt a bit tight when playing multiple moving lines. But players with small hands or those used to electric guitars are bound to be in complete bliss with the P3MC. —Teja Gerken

MODEL

P3MC

PRICE $1,149 street

Specifications

NUT WIDTH 1.675"
NECK Mahogany
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 25.3" scale
FRETS 20, 14 to body
TUNERS Gold die-cast with amber buttons
BODY Solid cedar top, solid sapele back, sapele sides
BRIDGE Rosewood with split bone saddle and pinless base
ELECTRONICS CT4B II Preamp System with built-in tuner
CONTROLS Volume, 3-band EQ
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario EXP 16 Coated Phosphor Bronze, .012-.053
WEIGHT 4.78 lbs
BUILT Japan
KUDOS Excellent fingerstyle tone. Uncomplicated electronics.
CONCERNS Fingerstylists might want a wider neck.

P4DC

When I was wor king music retail back in the 1990s, our top acoustic line was Takamine. I got to play (and sell) a truckload of their instruments, and I was always impressed by the tone, playability, electronics, and quality of them. It was with a hint of nostalgia that I opened the deluxe hardshell case that ensconced the P4DC. What I saw was a classic cutaway dreadnought design with subtle but classy binding and super-cool “dot-in-dot” inlays. The amber buttons on the smooth and precise tuning machines round out the P4DC’s good looks.

I tuned it up and strummed a few chords. The P4 gives you everything you want from a dreadnought: good volume, brilliant highs, a taut low end, and excellent separation and clarity from string to string. That clarity also contributes to the fact that this is a great hybrid picking or fingerpicking guitar. Individual notes seem to pop right out of the soundhole, lending arpeggios or crosspicked lines a crisp, distinct quality that is very musical. The split-saddle bridge design gives the P4DC very sweet intonation all the way up the neck, which further enhances the chordal possibilities.

This guitar arrived with a great setup, with comfortable action that was still high enough to allow loud, hard strumming with only slight buzzing around the seventh position. Those hard strums didn’t cause the P4DC to compress, however, resulting in a big dynamic range. The easy action also made hammer-ons and pull-offs a breeze, giving rise to intricate fingerpicked passages incorporating pull-offs to the open strings, again with excellent clarity and definition.

Of course, players have always been drawn to Takamine for their sweet pickup systems, so I was anxious to amplify the P4 and hear how it might fare as a gigging tool. The answer is, great. Plugging into a ZT Lunchbox Acoustic amp, I instantly liked what I heard: a full, ringing tone that didn’t have me frantically reaching for EQ. On that subject, the 3-band EQ in the CT4B II system that the P4 ships with is voiced incredibly well. You can crank the mids without it getting honky; you can notch them all the way without the tone sounding overly scooped. Even the treble slider, which can turn most amplified acoustics into shrieking sonic ice picks, can be pretty much maxed out and the tone never gets shrill. Sweet! Boosting the bass frequencies will understandably bring about feedback, but that control is also very effective at nuking the woofy low-end feedback that plagues so many amplified acoustics.

The preamp system also features an onboard tuner. It’s a handy thing to have and it’s accurate and easy to read. It has a hip added bonus too: When you engage the tuner button, the LED glows red and signal still passes through the output jack. Hit that button again and you’re still in tuner mode, but now the red light flashes and the output signal is muted. Hit it one more time and the tuner is off. It’s even smart enough to only do that when a cable is plugged into the P4DC. Otherwise, the tuner button is simply an on/off switch. Well played!

There’s a reason so many top pros stick with Takamine for their entire careers. They consistently make guitars that sound, play, and look great and this instrument is no exception. Acoustic players in general and gigging guitarists in particular should check out this guitar. —Matt Blackett

MODEL

P4DC

PRICE $1,349 street

Specifications

NUT WIDTH 1.675”
NECK Mahogany
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 25.3” scale
FRETS 20, 14 to body
TUNERS Gold die-cast with amber buttons
BODY Solid spruce top, solid sapele back, sapele sides
BRIDGE Rosewood with split bone saddle and pinless base
ELECTRONICS CT4B II Preamp System with built-in tuner
CONTROLS Volume Control, 3-band EQ
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario EXP 16 Coated Phosphor Bronze, .012-.053
WEIGHT 5.3 lbs
BUILT Japan
KUDOS Easy playability. Great looks. Excellent electronics.
CONCERNS None.

P6JC

This jumbo-sized cutaway acoustic-electric has the fancier appointments you expect in this price class, including gold-plated hardware, a book-matched, solid flamed maple back; laminated flamed maple sides; a sweet looking mother-of-pearl rosette; and flawless white binding that outlines the top and back, and runs along the edges of the ebony fretboard—which itself is adorned with pearl snowflakes. It’s all set ablaze by a beautiful gloss sunburst finish that makes the P6JC a real beauty to behold. Dig a little deeper, though, and you find scalloped X-bracing under the top, and an asymmetrical neck profile that is intended to better fit to the shape of your hand. I couldn’t detect much difference in feel over a standard neck, but it hardly matters because combined with the expertly worked frets, reasonable action, and tuneful intonation, the playability is quite satisfying.

The P6JC has a bold acoustic sound with excellent top-to-bottom balance. The low end is firm and deep, the mids are complex, and the highs are sweet and well detailed. It adds up to a guitar that hangs well in an acoustic setting with no amplification, and also has what it takes to deliver a stout acoustic tone when plugged into an amp or P.A. system. In this context the P6JC’s electronics add a level of versatility that outmatches most acoustic-electrics. The CT4-DX system features 4-band EQ, a Volume slider, and an easy-to-read chromatic tuner with selectable pitch calibration. There are also twin notch filters with variable frequency ranges (0 to 5kHz) and selectable -4dB or -12dB of cut. These narrow-band filters can be used to great advantage for eliminating pesky feedback, yet they have minimal impact on tone, which is great. There’s also a Blend knob that you can use to sweep between two different pickups if you choose to add a second transducer to the instrument. The CT4-DX is powered by dual 9-volt batteries for enhanced headroom, and you can quickly change them by pressing two tabs on the preamp and pulling the entire unit out of the guitar.

The narrow-ish neck on the P6JC is cool for electric players who may not want or need the extra spacing between strings that a fingerstyle player might be accustomed to. And while the heavier strings and medium action could inhibit speedier picking, the configuration that Takamine has chosen for the P6JC works well for most acoustic tasks and probably yields the best overall tone. In short, if the air moving capabilities of a jumbosized guitar are what you’re looking for and you want advanced electronics and a healthy dollop of visual pizzazz, the P6JC is worth an audition. —Art Thompson

MODEL

P6JC

PRICE $2,399 street

Specifications

NUT WIDTH 1.675"
NECK Maple
FRETBOARD Ebony, 25.3" scale
FRETS 20, 14 to body
TUNERS Gold die-cast with pearl buttons
BODY Solid spruce top, solid flamed maple back, flamed maple sides
BRIDGE Rosewood with split bone saddle and pins with pearl dots
ELECTRONICS CT4-DX Preamp System with built-in tuner
CONTROLS Volume, 4-band EQ, dual notch filters w/-4dB and -12dB buttons, tuner on-off and pitch buttons, Mix control for use with optional secondary pickup.
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario EXP 16 Coated Phosphor Bronze, .012-.053
WEIGHT 6.06 lbs
BUILT Japan
KUDOS Excellent build quality. Sweet sounding. Hip electronics.
CONCERNS None.

P7DC

While this cutaway dreadnought offers a similar level of quality and cosmetic refinement as the P6JC (the main differences being the natural spruce top, wood binding on the body and neck, and wood back stripe with white borders), it has a completely different preamp in the guise of the CTP-2 Cool Tube system, which uses a 12AU7 tube in the audio path along with a Blend knob to control how much tube signal you want in the mix. Power is supplied by four AA batteries that are gripped in a plastic holder on the lower part of the control panel. The chromatic tuner also resides in this section, which slips out for easy battery changes.

Takamine introduced the Cool Tube system over ten years ago, and it’s something worth checking into if you seek warm amplified tones. With the Cool Tube blend knob up halfway and higher, the fullness of the tones increased significantly though our test amps, and any trace of piezo coloration seemed to vanish in the process. Through some amps, however, the guitar also became more prone to feedback as the Cool Tube control was cranked up. The semi-parametric midrange notch filter didn’t help much either, so it seemed best to just run lower settings and at least get some benefit from what the tube circuitry has to offer. Hmm, if only the more sophisticated filter controls on the CT4-DX preamp (as fitted to the P6JC) could be melded with the Cool Tube electronics …

Back to the P7DC’s acoustic side, this large-bodied guitar with its rosewood construction proved quite the sonic cannon, able to project a big, robust tone with little effort. It’s definitely louder and punchier than the P6JC, and you can also hit the strings hard without experiencing much compression—all of which combines to make this guitar a great choice if you do a lot of playing without amplification.

In terms of playability, the P7DC will appeal to fingerstylists who prefer the less cramped feel afforded by a wider neck—one that also is a bit fatter than that of the maple-necked P6JC. Lighter strings and tad lower action would make this guitar more accommodating to lead players, though the stock setup is fine for strumming rhythm parts in a band or backing a singer-songwriter.

The P7DC is a sweet-looking guitar and the Cool Tube preamp is definitely a useful feature for players who seek rich sounding amplified tones. That said, unless you need the extra sonic oomph that rosewood offers, and/or prefer a neck with more generous dimensions, the similarly decked out P6JC with its sophisticated electronics is a tempting alternative, not to mention it comes in for $500 less. —Art Thompson

MODEL

P7DC

PRICE $2,899 street

Specifications

NUT WIDTH 1.78", bone
NECK Mahogany
FRETBOARD Ebony, 25.3" scale
FRETS 20, 14 to body
TUNERS Gold die-cast
BODY Solid spruce top, solid rosewood back, and sides
BRIDGE Rosewood with split bone saddle and pins with abalone dots
ELECTRONICS CTP-2 Cool Tube preamp system with 12AU7 tube and built-in tuner
CONTROLS Volume, 3-band EQ, Cool Tube blend control, Midrange Frequency control, Aux pickup blend control, tuner on-off and pitch calibration buttons
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario EXP 16 Coated Phosphor Bronze, .012-.053
WEIGHT 5.64 lbs
BUILT Japan
KUDOS Excellent build quality. Loud and punchy. Tube enhanced amplified tones.
CONCERNS Feedback can be hard to mitigate at high Cool Tube settings.

RELATED