Across the pond, the folks at Tanglewood have cooked up an impressive array of acoustic guitars in a line that features most of the usual suspects: dreadnoughts, jumbos, folks, parlors, a “baby,” and a bass. The two instruments reviewed here were put through a battery of strumming and picking tests in both live and recording situations.
The Sundance Pro TW45DLX-FC4 sports what Tanglewood calls a Super Folk body style—an appealing shape that’s a little smaller than a dreadnought. The solid Canadian cedar top looks warm and inviting, and the mahogany back and sides are dark and rich. The finish on the 45 is especially smart: You get a slick, high-gloss look on the body, and a smooth, worn-in, semi-satin feel on the neck.
The rosewood bridge and fretboard go well together. However, the dry woods looked just a tad out of place against the glossy body. A touch of lemon oil dressed them up nicely. The green abalone position markers and headstock inlay look great, and are tastefully rendered. Finally, the Grover tuners work flawlessly, and their gold finish sits beautifully with the cedar top.
The TW45’s frets are generally clean and well dressed. I spotted a couple of rough ends where the tangs stuck out a bit over the binding, but, to be fair, these were on the bass side where the neck meets the body, so they didn’t really affect my playing. The frets themselves are nicely polished and evenly set.
The TW45 has a nice ring when playing open chords, and the comfy neck makes first-position riffing a breeze. There is no scarf joint to attach the headstock to the neck on Tanglewood guitars. Instead, the neck is a one-piece affair with a cool volute on the back of the headstock. This contributes to this model’s solid feel and good sustain. Really digging into the TW45 produced some buzzes—particularly on the D and G strings—that necessitated a trussrod tweak. Strumming big open chords produced good volume without much compression, but something in the midrange seemed a little incoherent. I had better results voicing chords in a more open fashion, say, with a bass note on the low E and the upper voices on the top three strings, rather than bashing all six. (This is admittedly a subtle point. Another tester didn’t find anything amiss in the 45’s midrange response.)
Where the TW45 really seemed to shine was on single-note lines. This is a great acoustic lead guitar—perfect for open-position bluegrass shredding and acoustic blues solos. Double-stops are mean and growly, and swept arpeggios jump right out. The extended cutaway makes for easy access to the highest register, and those notes came through clearly and intonated sweetly.
The Fishman Classic 4 pickup/preamp/ EQ system is a perfect match for the 45. It brings out the best qualities of the acoustic voice, and it’s a real no-brainer to operate. I was very impressed by how easy it was to get low end without woofiness, and brilliant highs without shrillness. Through a Hughes & Kettner zenTera (set to the Acoustic model), a Rivera M100, and a Yamaha Magicstomp Acoustic straight into a P.A., I had no trouble getting great amplified sounds. Depending on the part, you can crank the bass control for a walking bass line, or blast the treble and brilliance for chimey high-string parts or harmonics. Nice!
Tanglewood has done a fine job with the TW45DLX, which offers good looks and musical sounds at a smart price. Gigging acoustic guitarists—particularly lead players—will find much to like about this guitar.
In the dreadnought realm, Tanglewood presents the Sundance Pro TW15DLX. Although it comes from a more classic aesthetic, the 15 looks every bit as good as its sibling. It features all solid wood construction, and the abalone soundhole decoration is a beautiful touch that lends just the right amount of elegance to the top. The tortoiseshell binding on the body and neck is super cool. It’s an unobtrusive way to add some flair and movement to the guitar’s outline—almost like someone wrapped a big pick around the TW15. The gold Grovers look great and work smoothly.
Smacking a big, fat E chord on the TW15 reveals its power—this guitar can pump out some volume. The low end is rich and doesn’t overpower the highs, and the overall tone is balanced and pretty, but with plenty of muscle. The TW15 sounded great for fast strumming, and it lent itself well to chunky rhythm work. And because the action was set a little on the high side, I could really lean into it for a huge clang with no buzz.
Fingerpicked passages have good definition, thanks to the TW15’s nice balance. The tight yet beefy low-end response also makes it a great detuning guitar. It sounded fabulous in DADGAD, and gorgeously complex in the Ani DiFranco-approved D, A, D, F#, G, D tuning. It’s resonant and big and a lot of fun to play.
I did some recording with the 15, and I discovered it to be a fine studio guitar, as well. Due to its stout bass response, aiming the mics a little further up the neck than normal seemed to work best. And, because the TW15 produces such different frequencies than the TW45, layering the two produced a stunning acoustic sound. (A third track using the TW45’s Fishman pickup was probably gilding the lily, but I went for it anyway.) In a jam setting with another acoustic, an acoustic bass, and a drum machine, the TW15 could more than hold its own in terms of volume.
The TW15DLX seems equally happy being strummed or fingerpicked, and it cranks out plenty of rich, musical sound. To sum up, this is a great deal on a beautiful, handcrafted acoustic.