The new Japan-crafted Takamine P3MC is a fine example of how a stage-centric, amplification-oriented acoustic can be forward looking while retaining a lot of vintage-style sound and construction virtues.
In the four-plus decades that Takamine has sold guitars in the United States, the company has won scores of professional devotees—particularly among performers who face the challenge of amplifying acoustics on big stages. Bruce Springsteen and Oasis’ Noel Gallagher—both of whom have, in their respective seasons, vied for biggest-band-in-the-world honors—used Takamines to solve the problem of making acoustics sound great in stadiums. And while the art of acoustic amplification has opened up a lot of new and different avenues to great acoustic guitar sound in the last decade or so, there is little arguing or challenging Takamine’s knack for building great-sounding acoustic-electrics that are virtually bulletproof and, at times, exquisitely and masterfully built.
With its tapered headstock, venetian cutaway, and rather substantial preamp interface, the very reasonably priced new PM3C is an unmistakable sprout from the Takamine family tree—it’s stage-ready and built for reliable plug-and-play service. Crafted in Japan, this cedar-and-sapele flattop is a reminder how well built and playable Takamines are by any standard. It’s also a fine example of how a stage-centric, amplification-oriented acoustic can be forward looking while retaining a lot of vintage-style sound and construction virtues.
Mellow and Modern
Depending on which side of the “vintage is king” divide you’re on, you’ll either find the P3MC’s design refreshing or a little too new-world. What isn’t up for debate is how well it’s put together. The only irregularities I could find anywhere were some very small spots of excess glue around the kerfing and neck block, and pearloid plastic plugs just adjacent to the saddle that failed to sit flush and were cut a bit rough.
Though cedar’s sonic qualities are the best reason to use it for top wood on an acoustic, few woods are as subtly handsome. The P3MC’s satin finish reveals a lovely, straight grain, feels silky smooth, and gives the guitar the modest-but-solid aura of rural high craft. It’s one of those guitars where a pickguard would upset the visual balance, and you won't find one here. However, that might be a practical addition here, given how the finish showed pick scratches below the soundhole after a few days of use. The only real adornments are a dark hardwood marquetry rosette and very pretty black, white, and wood binding.
The bridge is classically Takamine—a fine piece of wood design that functionally deviates from tradition while imparting a modern woodwork sensibility. It’s also home to Takamine’s split-bone saddle, which improves intonation and facilitates more accurate and specific intonation and action adjustments over the life of the guitar.
A lot of guitarists came through the house while our test P3MC was around, and few failed to be struck by how good the Takamine felt in hand. The mahogany neck has a fairly substantial C profile that seems to reduce hand fatigue over the course of a long rehearsal. More notably, the action is low and fast. It’s rare to encounter an acoustic with action this low that isn’t plagued by fret buzz. And it adds up to a flattop that’s conducive to fleet-fingered pull-offs, hammer-ons, and legato work—even if its 1 5/8" nut is slightly less than ideal for fingerstyle—and it makes complex chords virtually effortless.
If there’s any drawback to the low action, it’s that it makes digging in for big blues bends a little more challenging—especially for those with bigger, fatter fingers. That’s remedied easily enough with a little neck relief, however, and finding an acoustic that leaves you more concerned with action that’s too low rather than the opposite is a not a bad problem to have.
Cedar might be one of the most unsung tonewoods, and its virtues shine bright here. In delicate fingerstyle settings, it’s simultaneously warm and responsive to a light touch, and it exhibits a cool combination of snappy, concise decay and warm afterglow that’s a perfect middle ground between mahogany and spruce.
Aggressive strumming of the P3MC highlights the strong midrange presence derived from the marriage of cedar and the compact orchestra-sized body. Those same attributes, however, mean a certain lack of low-end thump and sustain that might put off players accustomed to the low-end potential of, say, a spruce-and-rosewood dreadnought.
The upside of this tone equation is that it can be ideal for strummers who tend to operate in a rock-oriented band where a bassist and drummer provide most of the low-frequency punch. And it’s a great match for the CT4B II preamp and proprietary Palathetic pickup system (which uses individual piezo transducers for each string). Running through a Fishman Loudbox amp and a Mackie PA, the P3MC had a sweet, jangly midrange that was rarely colored by any nasty piezo artifacts—even at high volume and under heavy pick attack. The preamp is not only forgiving, it’s highly tunable. And the 3-band EQ is both responsive and flexible, with a cut/boost capacity of 5 dB in either direction—which makes it a lot easier to tailor for varied performance environments. The very cool tuner is great for a couple of reasons—you can change your reference pitch from A440 to dial up alternate tunings or to, say, play in tune with an eccentrically tuned piano or pitch-shifted backing track. More streamlined preamps are out there, but few can leave you feeling quite as well equipped for any performance environment as the CT4B II.
Takamine has always appealed to players with more modern performance concerns. Its smart, well-executed designs have made it one of the vanguards of amplified acoustic guitars, always keeping the company a relevant presence in a fast-changing and competitive amplified acoustic market. And the P3MC excels at all the things that have made Takamine popular in that corner of the guitar cosmos. But it’s also a reminder of how thoughtfully and well built the company’s guitars can be.
Workmanship on our P3MC was exceptional, and even the very minor imperfections seemed more like the product of a human touch rather than a CNC rig gone awry. The playability, meanwhile, is something no machine can deliver on its own, and this guitar is among the sweetest-feeling flattops we’ve seen over the last year. At less than $1,200 bucks, it inhabits a pretty crowded field of very good flattops. But with tones this distinct and playability this good, the P3MC stands apart from the pack.
Watch our video demo: