Much of Takamine's focus this year has centred on the company's budget models, many of which are now being sourced from China rather than Korea.
However, the brand's core business – in prestige terms if not quantity – continues to be its Japanese-made instruments, now being produced in a recently opened state-of-the-art factory.
Our review electro is an example of this new facility's workmanship but are debuts to boot.
Takamine's NEX body shape, first seen on Santa Fe guitars in the early nineties, in effect defined what we now call the mini-jumbo (or grand auditorium if you're that way inclined).
Over the years, however, most such models – particular the electros – have been cutaway NEXC versions, so it's refreshing to welcome this non-cut EF444S-TBS.
Without the cutaway, the design assumes a quite different persona to the obviously stage electro personality of the NEXCs.
It more clearly shows its vintage-like folk roots, which Takamine emphasises on the EF444S, courtesy of a tobacco sunburst top that nicely evokes an old Gibson picker.
The lighter central area is a little patchy in colour here and there on the solid spruce top (you often don't know how stains will take to a piece of wood until you actually do it), but the general appearance is mightily attractive, and the body's gloss lacquering comes very well buffed.
The laminated mahogany back and sides – the latter a relatively capacious 110mm deep at their maximum point – aren't bursted, but stained to a reddish brown that's fairly dark but still light enough for you to appreciate the graining of the timber.
There was early talk that the UK model would come with cheaper nato back and sides, but be assured this is genuine mahogany. And so it should be at the price.
Given the guitar's traditional styling, one perhaps might have expected to find a fingerstyle neck, but as we've already described, the EF444S carries the same slender-in-width affair as the dreadnought.
In practice this isn't too much of a drawback because, as with anything else, you get used to what you're presented with, and it's a neck that always feels compact and comfortable.
However, wider-neck Takamines are few and far between, and it seems that the company might have taken the opportunity to add one more to the roster, not least because the guitar is aesthetically so well suited.
If you yearn for an airier-necked picking tool, you certainly shouldn't be disappointed with the EF444S's sound.
It's a joy, actually, with a free-breathing, open-voiced suppleness, sweetly bright trebles and a healthy portion of warmth, depth and snap when played harder.
The CT4BII system largely works well with these engaging acoustic traits.
Because of the guitar's more mid-scooped sound compared to the dreadnought, the high end can sound a little papery, which may require backline adjustment to provide a slightly mellower starting point for the treble band.
Conversely, the instrument understandably needs a bit more bass boost for an equivalent low-end fullness, but the onboard EQ has the scope to deliver this.
These are but minor tinkerings in a very enjoyable playing experience.
As far as perceived value is concerned, the one disadvantage Takamine has with this debut is it seems expensive compared to other electros that offer all-solid construction for less money.
The reality is that for the important criteria of build, playing enjoyment and sound, it comfortably justifies its price point. We'd happily own it!