A torrefied top makes this classy and super-playable Takamine a sweet-sounding alternative to vintage.
High-quality, all-solid cutaway dreadnought from one of the top names in the acoustic-electric market.
Side-mounted preamp controls.
Forty years ago, Takamine introduced its Palathetic system—an acoustic-guitar pickup with six individual piezo transducers that, to many ears, created a more realistic amplified sound than any other device on the market. The system created such a stir that some players cannibalized the electronics from Takamine guitars for use in their own instruments.
Takamine’s reputation as a great guitar for live amplification has remained consistent in the decades since. And it’s a testament to the Palathetic’s great utility that its basic original design is still intact and used on many Takamine guitars, including the EF360SC TT reviewed here. But with a “toasted” torrefied top, the EF360SC TT utilizes more than the company’s solid electronics to create a great sounding whole. And if this guitar is any indication, the Japanese builder is making some of its best guitars to date.
Baked to Perfection
The EF360SC TT is a dreadnought with a Venetian cutaway—hence the SC (soft cutaway) in the model name. The TT stands for Thermal Top technology, which is Takamine terminology for torrefaction: a process where raw wood is treated via a high heat/low oxygen “toasting” process that (in theory) changes the wood’s characteristics to sound and respond more like the wood on a vintage guitar. Torrefaction also darkens the coloring of wood, to a degree, and the solid spruce on the review model has taken on a rich amber hue that contrasts nicely with the deep browns of the non-torrefied, solid Indian Rosewood back and sides.
The EF360SC TT is very attractive, in a subdued and traditional way. Ornamentation is minimal and tasteful, with ivoroid body and neck binding, multi-layer purfling on the soundboard and the back, and a rosewood headstock overlay adorned with a script T. My only complaint about the design is that the guitar’s black pickguard looks a bit down-market compared to the rest of the appointments.
Handmade in Takamine’s shop, in Sakashita, Japan, the EF360SC TT is well built, to say the least. Construction is immaculate from headstock to endpin. Nut slots are perfectly notched, as are those on the split saddle. The frets are perfectly seated, polished, and free of jagged edges. Inside there’s not a trace of excess glue or any other artifacts of the manufacturing process.
A Refined Workhorse
Though the torrefied top is intended to give the EF360SC TT a mature voice, the slim C-shaped neck and faultless, high-gloss finish give the Takamine a decidedly modern feel. At well over five pounds (the extra weight is largely attributable to the electronics system), the EF360SC TT doesn’t entirely float on the lap. On the other hand, many guitarists will find that the EF360SC TT plays better than the typical dreadnought. It shipped from the factory with perfect low action. There were no dead spots or buzzing anywhere along the neck, and intonation was spot-on. While 1.75" nut width is increasingly common these days—and not just the preference of fingerstylists—the EF360SC TT’s nut width is a more typical, vintage-style 42.5 mm (1.67 "). But just as with those older guitars, the Takamine doesn’t feel cramped in the slightest.
The EF360SC TT doesn’t seem geared toward a particular style, in the way that, say, an old Martin D-18 or D-28 is a quintessential bluegrass machine. Nor does it always sound completely vintage. At times it seemed to be missing some of the depth you hear in the best vintage flattops. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. And where it might lack a totally authentic vintage voice, it compensates with a balance that makes it forgiving to play and adaptable to many musical situations. Whether I picked G runs on the EF360SC TT, strummed hard, or tried delicate fingerpicking in DADGAD and open-G tunings, I was impressed by the guitar’s evenness between registers, projection, and sustain. The bass is strong without being boomy, the midrange is punchy, and the trebles are clear and full. It’s also certainly reasonable to expect the EF360SC TT to age as gracefully as a vintage instrument, even with its torrefied head start.
Potent Plugging In
In addition to the undersaddle pickup, the EF360SC TT is equipped with the CT 4B II preamp, which is available only on Japan-built Takamines. The preamp includes +/-5db low-, mid-, and high-band EQ sliders, a volume control, and a built-in chromatic tuner. While the tuner is set to the standard A440, it can be calibrated to other frequencies. When the tuner button is pressed, it mutes the guitar’s output, for silent tuning onstage. It’s hard to get excited about the aesthetics of the side-mounted preamp, but the unit’s functionality makes up for its lack of visual appeal. It’s intuitive, the EQ is super flexible, and, plugged into a Fender Acoustasonic amp, the system delivered a very convincing reproduction of the guitar’s acoustic sound.
Takamine uses torrefied woods to excellent effect in the EF360SC TT. It’s fantastically flexible and beautifully built. It has the solid feel and the sonic versatility of a real workhorse that you may be very reluctant to put down.