Takamine rejigged its range in 2013, essentially absorbing the Nashvilles into the new Pro Series 7 line with solid spruce over rosewood plus the CTP-2 valve preamp. Review by Rick Batey
Description: Cutaway electro-acoustic guitar. Made in Japan
Price: £2232 inc. hard case
Contact: Fender GB&I, 01342 331700 – www.takamineguitars/eu/uk
When Takamines arrived on the mainstream scene in the mid-’70s, they were lifesavers for working musos. Before then, the only really practical off-the-shelf electro-acoustics had been Ovations, but the revolutionary bowlback design was not to everyone’s taste. Takamines were essentially mid-range Martin copies, sturdily built by a Japanese team who obviously knew their onions, with a genuinely useable built-in pickup system – and in those days of low-fi soundhole magnetics and problematic stick-on bugs, that instant plug-in-ability really was a revelation.
The current Takamine Pro Series 7 guitars roost near the top of the company’s tree, just below the Signature Series and the annual Limited Editions. There are four models: a cutaway NEX, a slightly larger jumbo cutaway, a standard dreadnought, and our review subject this month – the Venetian cutaway P7DC dreadnought.
Befitting its high-end £2000-plus price tag, this Takamine is a luxury ride, and no mistake. The top is solid sitka spruce, extremely close-grained with lots of silky medullary lines, backed by hand-scalloped X-bracing. The back and sides are perfectly matched solid Indian rosewood, dark and evenly striped – it’s top-grade stuff.
The top, back, fingerboard and headstock are all bound in maple, the back has a maple centre-stripe, and the top binding has an extra inner layer of an exotic reddish-coloured wood, possibly pernambuco or dyed mahogany. The front is topped off by a soundhole ring in blue and green abalone, and even the pickguard stands out as a feature of real quality with its soft, swirly, ’50s-style tortoiseshell pattern.
The neck is one-piece mahogany, with a rosewood-faced headstock carrying gold-plated sealed tuners, and an ebony fingerboard with ornate snowflake markers in abalone. It’s a good deal wider than you might expect from a Japanese-built dreadnought, measuring 45mm at the nut – which in old money is exactly halfway between 1 3/4″ and 1 13/16″. Up at the 12th fret the neck measures 45.5mm across, and this all adds up to a fair old handful.
Takamine uses an asymmetric C-shaped neck profile which makes the neck slightly thinner on the treble side. It’s an unusual but subtle feature; some players might not even notice it unless told, while others may find it hard to get used to. Our review model could use a touch more fingerboard relief as the neck is almost dead flat and the D string can be made to buzz by digging in, but that’s just a settling-down thing, and overall the standard of fretting is as neat as the build of the rest of the guitar.
The rosewood bridge is fitted with Takamine’s long-established Palathetic pickup system with six individual piezo elements, one for each string, and this is linked to a CTP-2 CoolTube preamp mounted on the upper bass shoulder. It’s a fairly hefty unit as it incorporates a 12AU7 valve running at a low voltage to inject an element of goodly even-order harmonics into the tone.
In terms of controls the preamp is very well-equipped, with a volume slider, a three-band EQ complete with a semi-parametric midrange knob, a mixer knob for the CoolTube feature, a tuner, and a separate volume knob in case you wish to add a second pickup to create your own dual-source system… although unfortunately there’s no way of EQ-ing the two sources before blending, which would be a disadvantage. The entire tuner unit slides out neatly and easily to reveal four AA batteries which are likely to have a somewhat shorter lifespan than on any regular non-tube preamp.
The P7DC is an impeccably well-mannered dreadnought, with a soft attack and a rich, lush sound packed with chiming, rosewoody overtones. Instinctively you just want to strum it with a light pick to get the most out of all that plush complexity, and in fact you might say that this where this guitar really excels, as a classy-sounding rhythm device: it’s a very good singer’s guitar, if you like, which is no bad thing. Swapping to single-string stuff, there isn’t perhaps the mid thump and depth to excite a dedicated Martin lover, but it’s clear and balanced across the fingerboard and overall it does a clear and precise-sounding job.
With bare fingers you get the feeling that naturally enough this very new guitar still has some opening up to do, but it’s sweet, and the dynamics are more responsive than the weight of the guitar leads you to expect. It sounds precise and in-tune, and would most likely be an easy guitar to record.
The six Palathetic piezos are designed to sense some top vibration as well as direct string pressure and yet the system does come over as essentially in the undersaddle transducer camp in terms of overall response, with the usual advantage of high resistance to feedback but, in this case, particularly fine string-to-string volume. The EQ bands are well chosen and the ability to tweak the frequency of the midrange slider is a real boon.
The CoolTube knob gradually dials in a very likeable sense of added richness and body and also seems to slightly ease that piezo-y attack, and we found our a sweet spot at around one o’clock on the dial. We’d definitely leave that knob set there all the time: it’s a feature that makes a real difference.
Plush and efficient, that’s the Takamine P7DC. It’s extremely well-built, the materials are top-notch, and the CoolTube unit is a fine contender in the high-end preamp bracket. It is a slightly heavy guitar thanks to the preamp and batteries and that full-feeling neck is a very acquired taste, but if you like a wider nut and you want an practical stage instrument that combines outward tradition with a well-balanced UST system that sounds very good indeed, this guitar is hard to fault.