REVIEW: Takamine EG510SC

Ya gotta love a good Takamine. They play great, they’re an absolute pleasure to set up, and the electronics always do a great job of taking all of what’s so damn good about them and pushing it out to your audience without fuss. But they can also be pretty darn expensive. Takamine’s G series guitars offer much of the same quality construction, clever design, complex tone and flat out cool looks as their Japanese made buddies, but at a lower price. The division includes over a dozen distinct dreadnaught models, with options including cutaway and non-cutaway models. 12 strings, straight acoustics and acoustic electrics.

The EG510SC on review is of the dreadnaught cutaway variety, with a solid spruce top, nato back and sides, and a TK4N preamp with piezo under-saddle pickup.
The benefit of a solid top, as opposed to a less expensive laminate, is that over time the wood ‘settles’ in a sonically pleasant way. After a few years of the wood resonating as one piece, some magical voodoo seems to happen and any impediments to the transfer of energy just sort of …flitter away. I’m sure there’s a scientific explanation for all this, but I prefer the magic explanation, so let’s just say that fairies did it.

Before plugging the EG510SC in to hear its amplified tone, I sat and strummed it for a while to hear its natural voice. I pretty much immediately concluded that this would be the perfect guitar to back up a solo vocalist, because notes and chords took on a lush background of overtones which almost made it sound like there was another instrument in the room. I don’t have a symphony orchestra on hand but I imagine the tone would fit beautifully in that setting too. I didn’t expect this level of detail and warmth in a guitar in this price range, and of course wood being wood you’re likely to find some that aren’t this rich and maybe even some that are moreso, so as with every guitar, try a few examples of that model if you can before settling on the one you take home. But on first impressions straight out of the box, the tone was quite impressive given the price.

Plugging in to my recording setup, the natural resonance of the body is of course not transferred by the piezo pickup, but instead you get to hear the clarity of the preamp. With two selectable midrange contours, a 3 band graphic EQ and a notch filter, the tone shaping facilities here are exhaustive, and the guitar’s characteristics can be altered to sound like a full jumbo, a delicate acoustic fingerpicker, a loud strummer and everywhere in between. Piling on the delay and reverb, I was able to come quite close to the sensitivity and dynamics of Tommy Emmanuel’s classic “Initiation” track, which amused me for hours. Of course you probably don’t want to add that degree of ambience for general playing, but due to the piezo nature of the pickup, you’re not getting any of the sound that’s bouncing around inside the guitar’s body, so you might still want to add some degree of reverb or maybe even a gooseneck mic mounted in the body.

Like all Takamines I’ve played or set up, the playabilty of this guitar was near perfect from the beginning, and Takamine’s famous two-piece compensated bridge saddle kept everything nicely intonated. While it may not have quite the level of craftsmanship as its Japanese-made cousins, this is still a very cool guitar.