This playable small-bodied acoustic delivers crisp, detailed, and deep tones that are similarly suited to solo performance and live ensemble work – and it's good value too.
Fine playing thinline acoustic-electric.
Battery was dead on arrival.
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Takamine has long been respected for producing superbly crafted acoustic guitars. The company’s new TSP 138C thinline acoustic-electric will certainly find favor with those looking for an instrument that delivers the sonic performance of a big-bodied flattop but has the nimble feel and playability of a semi-hollow electric.
The TSP 138C navigates the line by offering a thin hollow body with a cutaway, and a fast-playing neck with a profile that will be familiar to fans of late-’60s Gibson ES-335s (it features the same 24.75-inch scale length.)
Our review model arrived with a glossy Tobacco Sunburst finish (see specs for color options) and is an impeccably built and very lightweight guitar with an arched back and upscale appointments that include perfectly rendered multilayer bindings and a center stripe, an ivoroid heel cap, an abalone rosette, and gold-plated hardware.
The bound, gloss-finished neck has 22 nicely crowned frets with smooth ends, and the bone nut is carefully notched and rounded off on the corners for a hitch-free feel.
This is a guitar that invites you to play for long stretches, and between the excellent factory setup and tuneful intonation, the entire experience is highly satisfying and makes you appreciate how well Takamine has put it all together in this affordable, bang-for-your-buck winner.
An acoustically vibrant and resonant guitar, the 138C has a full, crisp acoustic tone that is deep and rich and completely free of the midrange honkiness that can sometimes accompany smaller-bodied acoustic guitars. The 138C sounds larger than its body size would suggest, and its has excellent sustain, which, of course, makes everything you play easier and more fun.
On the electronics side, the 138C is equipped with the CT-3N preamp system and proprietary Palathetic pickup, which uses six individually shielded piezo elements housed in a casing that directly contacts the bridge and soundboard, and reportedly provides 12 times the element mass of a standard piezo.
Tested through a Fishman SA 220, as well as a Fender Deluxe Reverb and a new Custom Vibro Champ Reverb, the 138C delivered a pleasing and natural sound that combined body and fullness with the quick attack and crisp response you’d expect from a thin-bodied instrument.
The low, mid, and high controls provide a lot of tone-sculpting power, and at performance levels in outdoor environments the variable notch filter worked well to mitigate feedback, making it easy to be heard alongside bass, drums, and electric guitars.
It also allowed for dialing in deeper, more bottom-heavy tones when feedback wasn’t an issue. The onboard tuner is convenient, and it’s also cool that the nine-volt battery is easily accessed from the control panel.
The TSP 138C is perfect for songwriting, solo performing, and ensemble work. It delivers a balanced sound and impressive acoustic volume, and it’s ideally suited for performing situations where stage levels can make it tricky to use a bigger-bodied instrument.
The portability of this guitar in its form-fitted “soft” case – which only weighs 4.8 pounds itself, and has a zippered pocket that’s large enough to carry a tablet, cords, strings, a strap, and other essentials – makes the TSP 138C a super-hip traveling “set” that is well deserving of an Editors’ Pick Award.
- PRICE: $1,499 street, soft case included
- NUT WIDTH: 1.653”, bone
- NECK: Mahogany
- FRETBOARD: Rosewood, 24.75” scale, 12” radius.
- FRETS: 21
- TUNERS: Takamine-branded Gotoh SG301 1:18 ratio
- BODY: Laminated sapele back and sides, solid-spruce top
- BRIDGE: Rosewood with two-piece bone saddle
- ELECTRONICS: CT-3N preamp system with Palathetic pickup
- CONTROLS: Volume, low, mid, high. Variable notch filter. Tuner with on/off button, battery status LED
- EXTRAS: Gloss finishes include Natural, Tea Burst, Tobacco Sunburst. Easy access 9-volt battery compartment
- FACTORY STRINGS: D’Addario phosphor bronze, .012–.052
- WEIGHT: 4.16 lbs (as tested)
- BUILT: Japan
- CONTACT: Takamine (opens in new tab)
Art Thompson is Senior Editor of Guitar Player magazine. He has authored stories with numerous guitar greats including B.B. King, Prince and Scotty Moore and interviewed gear innovators such as Paul Reed Smith, Randall Smith and Gary Kramer. He also wrote the first book on vintage effects pedals, Stompbox. Art's busy performance schedule with three stylistically diverse groups provides ample opportunity to test-drive new guitars, amps and effects, many of which are featured in the pages of GP.
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