If you’re in the market for a mid-range acoustic guitar, you’ve probably come across Takamine and Tanglewood.
Both brands are relatively inexpensive compared to high-end counterparts like Martin or Gibson.
Both are reputable companies that produce good-quality acoustic guitars.
So how do you know which to choose?
To help answer that, I spoke to Steve Treble of Treblerock Music in Bristol.
Not only does Steve stock a range of Tanglewood and Takamine guitars, but Takamine President and Master Luthier, Mass Hirade, has even visited his shop on two occasions.
He’s the best person to answer the question Takamine vs Tanglewood – what’s the difference?
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Takamine vs Tanglewood: Expert Opinion
Steve explains the bottom line:
|“If you want a nice acoustic guitar for around £3-400, with good tonewoods and solid back and sides, choose Tanglewood.|
“But if you want an acoustic guitar for unbeatable plugged-in live performance, and you’re willing to spend a little bit more, choose Takamine.”
Tanglewood: Great Quality Budget Acoustic Guitars
Steve explained that the Tanglewood brand was launched back in the late 80s by the European Music Corporation (EMC). They are designed in the UK and built in China.
Like most budget models of the time, they were cheap and poor quality. But more recently, the entire line was redesigned. Today, Tanglewood guitars are very good quality.
Their thin tonewood tops and light bracing result in a rich sound. Most models come with built-in electronics that are pretty decent.
You can even buy Tanglewoods worth up to £1,500. However, the more expensive models are not popular because the brand is better known for its budget guitars. Plus, at this price point, you can afford a bigger name like Taylor.
Our experience with Tanglewood
Steve’s comments reflect my own experience. Here’s my Tanglewood TW 155 ST. It’s been discontinued, but I got it for around £450 10 years ago. It’s a decent guitar for the money. I don’t like how it sounds plugged in, but I rarely use it this way.
Famous Tanglewood players
Tanglewood isn’t a brand that you’d expect to see in the hands of pro musicians. But newer models are becoming popular amongst well-known artists. Examples include:
- Peter Green (Fleetwood Mac)
- Imelda May
- Steve Craddock (Ocean Colour Scene)
- Corinne Baily Rae
- Chesney Hawkes
Takamine: The Plugged-In King
Takamine guitars are entirely different to Tanglewoods – they aren’t great as unplugged acoustic guitars.
Takamines have thick tops and chunky bracing. They also have a huge hole where the preamp is fitted. These features make their guitars less resonant.
But this was done on purpose because it stops the guitar from feeding back when plugged in.
They don’t sound terrible unplugged. But if this is the main way you play acoustic guitars, you can get a better-sounding instrument for less money – like a Tanglewood.
But plug a Takamine in and it’s a different story. They are probably the best acoustic guitars you can get for live plugged-in performance.
Takamines produce a balanced sound, with little or no feedback, even at high volumes. This is thanks to:
🎸Less resonant body: As mentioned above, the body has a thick top and chunky bracing to restrict resonance and reduce feedback.
🎸Palathetic Pickup System: Takamine’s unique under-saddle pickup system features six individual elements that penetrate the bridge and make direct contact with the string saddle. Takamine syas this creates a “sonic linkage” with the string and generates a more articulate sound.
🎸Built-in preamps: Takamine is known for its high-quality preamps. They offer a range of sound-shaping options and deliver a rich, full sound. Best of all, they are modular, so you can easily upgrade or switch to a new sound whenever you want to.
Famous Takamine Players
Tonnes of well-known artists that use high-end vintage acoustic guitars in the studio, play Takamine’s when they’re on the road.
- The Eagles
- Bruce sringsteen
- Jon Bon Jovi
- Garth Brooks
Japanese Takamines are Hard to Come By
The only downside? The pros all play Japanese-built Takamines. But since the pandemic there has been a four-year waiting list to get your hands on them. Chinese-built models are still widely available but they don’t sound as good.
Our experience with Takamine
We’ve reviewed a number of Takamines and our experience roughly aligns with Steve’s comments:
👍Mateja is a big fan of the Takamine EG522SC classical electro-acoustic. He loves the way its TK40 preamp sounds.
👍Equally, Stefan scored the Takamine EG321C top marks for sound and thought the TP-4 preamp sounded excellent.
👎Kevin, on the other hand, was unimpressed by the Takamine GD20 NS. This guitar is a rarity for Takamine, as it has no electronics and is purely an acoustic guitar. Kevin felt it was hard to play and sounded flat.
Popular Tanglewood Models
Here are two of Tanglewood’s most popular models.
Steve explains that up until now, the flagship Tanglewood model has been the Dicovery.
It’s a nice looking guitar, with low action and Tanglewood’s own take on a Fishman EQ and pickup. It has a laminate top, which means it sounds a bit thin. But at just $300, it’s the perfect guitar for students and beginners.
The only problem? Tanglewood has stopped making them. Steve says he still stocks one or two, but they are becoming increasingly rare.
Sundance is one of Tanglewood’s newer ranges and was launched in 2017. They feature, high-quality wood, Fishman electronics and a price point ranging from around $400-$1,000.
This means you get a really decent guitar at a price most people can afford.
Sundance actually consists of two ranges: Historic and Reserve. The Historic range is Tanglewood’s take on popular vintage acoustic guitars from the 1940’s, while the reserve range consists of more modern designs.
Top Takamine Models
Here are three popular Takamine acoustic guitars.
The EN10C is a dreadnought shaped electro-acoustic. It used to be Takamine’s flagship model, along with the jumbo version, the EN20C. Both models have been discontinued, but it might be worth searching online for a used deal.
The Takamine G-Series is a huge range of guitars and body shapes. It includes parlor guitars and classical models. The main thing that unites them is they are affordable. This is Takamine’s main non-Japanese brand. This means they are relatively easy to come by, but you won’t get that legendary Takamine live experience.
This is Takamine’s Japanese built range. Once again, it encompasses a wide range of body shapes and models. However, the quality is much higher – and so is the price. The Pro Series starts at around $1,000. As mentioned earlier, these guitars are hard to find today and you maybe better looking for a second-hand deal rather than waiting four years for a new one.
Takamine vs Tanglewood: Conclusion
Takamine and Tanglewood are both great brands. But they fulfil two very different needs.
But Takamine’s offering is probably more specific and unique. There are lots of good quality beginner acoustic guitars out there from manufacturers like Yamaha and Fender. But no other brand really has the same focus on and reputation for plugged-in acoustic guitars that Takamine has.
Special thanks to Steve Treble at Treblerock Music for his help in putting this article together. To check out his full range of Takamines and Tanglewoods, visit his website or drop into his store at:
52 The Mall