Ever since Takamine introduced built-in pickup systems in its high-quality flattops in 1978, the Japanese guitar company has been a dominant player in the acoustic-electric market. Takamine now has a staggeringly diverse line of these stage-ready guitars, encompassing both the modern and traditional in body sizes of all types, with the Nouveau series offering contemporary interpretations of classic designs. We checked out the TF77-PT, a brand-new all-solid-wood guitar based on a 14-fret OM (orchestra model) with a superb electronics package that will appeal to modern players.
While classic OM guitars are most commonly built with spruce tops and rosewood or mahogany bodies, the TF77-PT has a cedar soundboard with back and sides of koa, a species native to Hawaii. The top is sprayed in a sunset burst—a glossy finish, subtle in its range of color, that brings out the natural beauty in the tightly grained cedar and blends nicely with the warm, natural koa body. The guitar’s satin-finished neck is made of mahogany and topped with an ebony fingerboard.
The TF77-PT has elegantly straightforward cosmetics. Its simple rosette is made from abalone and encircled with black-and-white lines that are echoed in the body binding and back stripe. The headstock sports a rosewood overlay displaying only the Takamine logo. The unbound fingerboard has plain white side dots and is devoid of other position indicators, save for a 12th-fret marker depicting a palm tree and sunset.
Craftsmanship on the TF77-PT is excellent. The guitar’s 20 medium frets are well seated and smoothly polished. The nut and twin saddles (one for the bottom four, and a separate one for the two treble strings) were flawlessly cut out of bone. Not a blemish can be found in the body’s polyester finish, which is nice and thin, allowing the wood to vibrate optimally. The guitar’s innards are also meticulous; no shortcuts appear to have been taken in sanding and gluing the braces and kerfing.
The TF77-PT has a C-shaped neck that is ample but not overly large. Its contour will appeal to strictly acoustic players as well as electric guitarists accustomed to the generous necks found on vintage solid-bodies and reissues. The 111/16-inch-wide nut is narrower than nuts on most OMs (usually 13/4 inches) but is very comfortable and offers adequate room for fingerpicking.
The action on the TF77-PT was low and easy. It was a breeze to play barre chords up and down the neck as well as brisk single-note runs across the strings. Notes rang clear and true in all registers. I encountered only one small annoyance when playing the guitar: the strap button on the heel is installed rather far back, toward the end of the heel, and jutted against my palm when I ventured to the highest frets.
Overall, the TF77-PT sounds rich and warm. It has excellent response, projection, and sustain, probably on account of its solid koa and cedar body. To audition the guitar for versatility, I ran through some Jimmy Page–style figures—fingerpicking, strumming, cross-picking, and single-note soloing, in an assortment of tunings. Despite the body’s smallness the TF77-PT responded favorably when strummed in standard tuning, as in “Over the Hills and Far Away,” with ample headroom and a strong midrange. The guitar’s smooth Gotoh tuners made it a breeze to get into double dropped-D tuning, which sounded robust and well balanced with Travis-style fingerpicking on “Going to California.” In D A D G A D, I flatpicked a solo to “Black Mountain Side” and enjoyed the guitar’s definition and natural reverb—a faint echo proceeded each note.
The TF77-PT is outfitted with Takamine’s own Palathetic pickup, which differs from a conventional undersaddle pickup in that it is made up of six individual piezo transducer elements affixed to the bridge plate, allowing for superior string separation and a natural sound. Also included is a CTP-2 CoolTube preamp, featuring a 12AU7 vacuum tube and powered by four AA batteries. Mounted on the guitar’s left shoulder, this unit features a sliding volume control and three-band equalizer, the midrange control of which has a separate dial for adjusting frequencies between 200 Hz and 8.5 kHz. There’s also an easy-to-use digital tuner that automatically displays the name of the note closest to the one you play and can be calibrated between A = 438 and A = 445.
To test out the TF77-PT’s amplified sound, I plugged into a Fender Acoustasonic. With the equalizer set flat, the sound was nicely balanced, and the sliders worked well for subtly bolstering the bass or attenuating the treble. With the tube function set to zero, the preamp sounded good but a bit sterile. Dialing up the tube sound yielded increasing warmth and vividness, making it sound more organic and acoustic, ideal for solo or ensemble playing.
Modern Acoustic-Electric OM
Takamine’s TF77-PT is a superb acoustic-electric that uses an OM-style design as a point of departure. Its cedar top and koa sides make for a lovely unplugged sound, while its Palathetic pickup and CoolTube CTP-2 preamp provide an amplified sound that is uncommonly organic and warm. A multipurpose instrument, the TF77-PT responds equally well to strumming and fingerpicking, in standard and alternate tunings. And with its all-solid woods and top-notch construction, the guitar is sure to get even better with age.
SPECS: Solid cedar top with scalloped X-bracing. Solid koa back and sides. Mahogany neck. Ebony fingerboard. Rosewood bridge. 25.375-inch scale. 111/16-inch nut width. 27/32-inch string spacing at saddle. Gloss polyester/urethane finish. Gold Gotoh tuners. Takamine Palathetic piezo pickup. CTP-2 CoolTube preamp. D’Addario EXP16 light-gauge phosphor-bronze strings. Made in Japan.
PRICE: $2,579 list/$1,799 street.
MAKER: KMC: (860) 509-8888; takamine.com.