Small, well-priced and with a cutaway, this Tanglewood might suit a fingerpicker who plays on stage and is looking for something a little different. Review by Rick Batey
Description: Mini jumbo-sized electro-acoustic. Made in Korea
Contact: Tanglewood – 01937 841142 – tanglewoodguitars.co.uk
Tanglewood’s ‘Super Folk’ design is an interesting angle on the big-selling small-guitar format, and it features in the catalogue at every point from affordable to posh. It isn’t a parlour, being wider; it isn’t a 000, being more rounded; it’s more a mini-jumbo, a bit like a Gibson Emmylou Harris, but with a cutaway.
You’ll find a Super Folk in the Liberty line-up for £169, in the colourful Discovery Super Folk range for £189, in the plain-looking Roadster group for £229, as a Sundance Natural at £569, as three different models in the Sundance Pro team between £699 and £799, once in the Sundance Elegance set – that’s the one we have for review this month – at £599, and finally twice with a high-end Sundance Heritage tag at £949 and £1149… and there are apparently yet more to come. It’s obviously a design that Tanglewood very much believes in.
So the TW45 EG E, which falls bang in the middle of this spread price-wise, is a compact folk-type guitar, 378mm wide across the lower bouts, or a shade under 15″, which is a touch smaller than an OM; it’s also an eighth of an inch shallower, so it’s very compact. Nevertheless it’s a full-size guitar neck-wise with a 25.5″ scale and a nut width of 43.5mm, which is a hair’s breadth below the accepted modern ‘fingerpicking’ standard of 1.75″.
From the dark look of the wood used for the main part of the TW45’s back and sides you might think it’s rosewood, but it isn’t – it’s laminated mahogany, left natural on the inside but stained a dark colour on the outside with the finish so opaque that you can’t really see any grain. Around the back is the TW45’s main visual hook – a wide wedge of curly, crazy-grained quilted ash veneer driven up the middle, like the centre section of the back on a Martin D35. Though the colour of the ash is matched elsewhere on the guitar by the plain maple body and neck binding, some might feel it looks a little surprising against all that dark-stained mahogany – like a wodge of Cheddar driven into a chocolate cake. Still, it’s striking-looking stuff.
The TW45 has a solid spruce top, gloss-finished like the rest of the body, with an ABS and maple soundhole rosette, a stylised tortie scratchplate, and a chunky rosewood bridge in Tanglewood’s familiar ‘flying eagle’ shape with a compensated bone saddle. Neck angle is healthy, the action is fine, and there’s plenty of saddle.
As for the neck, it’s a very easy-playing slim C shape with a rounded heel and matt finish (with a bit of a sharp ridge where it meets the gloss inside the cutaway – but mostly the finish quality is fine). The fingerboard is rosewood with tasty tiny dot position markers on the front and dark dot side markers in the maple neck binding. The headstock is maple-bound too, and has a Martin-style carved dart volute behind the nut and a set of nickel-plated vintage-style open-gear tuners. The nut is bone, and well-cut, and with frets that are really nicely-fitted and shaped it’s a decent player all the way up the fingerboard with no problems at all. The Tanglewood website mentions D’Addario EXP strings but here a headstock hangtag proclaims the presence of Elixirs; at a guess, they’re Nanoweb 12-53’s in phosphor-bronze.
Two things tend to happen as you play a guitar for a few minutes: it warms up, especially as a brand new instrument, and of course all of us tend to instinctively adapt to wring the best from what there is. The first impression of the TW45 is that it’s somewhat shallow and boxy-sounding; quick and fairly loud for its small body size, but a touch on the light and tinny side.
After a little time that characteristic seems to recede and reveals itself again only when you strum, but when played lightly it’s quite a nice fingerpicker or combined fingers/pick instrument in a modern, slightly spangly manner. It’s also good in the mids and up the neck, and it works very well for more old-timey thumbpick styles… in fact under these conditions it’s got a thunky, snappy midrange that makes it a far better small-body Gibson soundalike than a fair few L-00 copies we could name. Now that was unexpected.
The TW45 comes with a Fishman Sonitone undersaddle pickup with an output jack in the endpin (and a second strap button in the heel, which is good to see), plus a budget battery holder in a bag on the neckblock, and volume and tone control wheels tucked inside the soundhole. All that can realistically be said is that it’s a perfectly functional system in the undersaddle Fishman camp, with no string balance problems at all and controls that work well.
The TW45 EG E is a lightweight, compact guitar with an easy-playing neck. It’s a good looker for the money, with the bonus of a reasonable undersaddle pickup system with convenient soundhole controls. The overall sound failed to impress us as much as the Java TWJF E reviewed late last year, but we think it works for light-handed fingerstyle and, conversely, heavy-handed thumbpick abuse, and like all Tanglewoods it’s a well-judged package, and a hard guitar to dislike.