Limited edition guitars are big business – and don't the luthiers know it. As the cachet of owning a semi-unique instrument has snowballed in recent years, so has the regularity with which the major firms have released limited-production collector editions.
Takamine has been in the limited edition business longer than many, and has a better reputation than most.
Over the past two decades, the release of a single collectors' edition from Takamine at the Winter NAMM trade show has become something of an event, with the radically eclectic designs that have emerged over the years keeping anticipation at fever pitch.
This model delivers, offering a spec unlike anything else in the range and duly going out of production whether the demand is satisfied or not.
The first factor to consider when assessing the Takamine LTD 2007 ('The Storm') is how 'limited' it actually is.
In this respect, the statistics are encouraging. According to Takamine product manager Mike Markure, the total number of models produced for global distribution will number approximately 500, of which just 36 will be available to customers here in the UK.
Nor is the life span of the production run built on shifting sands. "The LTDs are only made for a couple of months," Markure told us, "and once the production run has passed, the feature sets of that particular guitar will never be made again."
Visually, the new LTD 2007 is a logical progression from the themes of nature and spirituality that have informed Takamine's collector models in the past.
While the LTD 2005 drew inspiration from water (the soundboard featured a flowing reed cut from wenge, silverheart, rosewood and ovangkol) and the LTD 2006 represented the elements of life around the rosette using koa, cocobolo, abalone and lapis stone, the 2007 model aims to evoke a thunderstorm via a black gloss finish, dark clouds gathering round the rosette and a streak of lightning flashing across the fingerboard.
Incredibly, it's the first black finish to appear on a Limited Edition Takamine since 1996, and arguably the strongest cosmetic package the company has released since the turn of the millennium.
As you would expect at this price point, the LTD 2007's materials are generally excellent, combining a reassuring sense of tradition with sporadic flashes of imagination.
Solid sapele (a type of African mahogany) is employed for the back of the cutaway dreadnought body, and this tonewood extends along the length of a thick neck to a purposeful headstock furnished with black chrome Gotoh tuners.
The soundboard is solid spruce and the fingerboard polished ebony, with split configuration bridge saddles passing the strings through an ebony bridge.
It's a functional, rather than fussy, combination, and offers little to criticise in the construction stakes bar the laminate format of the sides (a disappointment at this price).
As is Limited Edition protocol, the LTD 2007's more exotic materials are saved for the soundhole rosette and fretboard inlays.
In this instance, the rosette offers laser-cut imbuia, persimmon and acrylic 'clouds' that melt into the soundboard to stunning effect, while abalone has been neatly employed to fashion the lightning bolt that runs between the 12th and 21st frets.
The raindrop position markers at the lower register are less successful; their haphazard positioning looks more factory fault than force of nature.
If the LTD 2007's deep dreadnought body implies a mighty unplugged volume, then its pairing of the CTP-1 Cool Tube preamp with Takamine's Palathetic piezo pickup suggests a powerful performance under amplification.
Cool Tube technology has been well-documented since its introduction at Winter NAMM 2004 (the basic principle is that it incorporates a single 12AU7 dual triode vacuum tube for more responsive tone) and has impressed Guitarist on the handful of instruments on which it has featured. Its inclusion here starts to make this model feel very special.
In recent years, Takamine has used its hourglass Orchestra Model shape as the base of the Limited Edition models – with excellent results.
The LTD 2007 sees a return to the more traditional dreadnought format, and this could prove a dividing factor in the playability stakes.
While the fretboard is as luxurious as we could have hoped (thanks to unobtrusive fretwire and the polished nature of the ebony), and the neck profile fills the palm without swamping it, we felt the depth and weight of the LTD 2007 body added up to a playing experience that lacked a little of the speed and zip of its predecessors.
The flipside is a palpable sense of satisfaction and – as we will see – a rewarding and powerful tone.
Takamine stresses that the LTD 2007 is "not built to hang on a wall", and its unplugged performance gave weight to that claim.
On paper, its combination of tonewoods are perhaps the most familiar in the book, but in practice, we felt this model was an excellent reminder of how potent the pairing of spruce and mahogany can be.
Pushing through open chords with a light plectrum delivered a balanced sparkle and enormous volume, while picking with fingers over the soundhole brought character and background to even the most prosaic riffs.
The CTP-1 is a fantastic preamp with the ability to complement most styles of play, and its inclusion lifts the whole package.
The EQ sliders are intuitive, and the presence of an auxiliary input jack and volume knob (allowing players to control an additional pickup) is inspired – but it's the 'Cool Tube' drive control where this system pulls ahead.
Setting the level of effect placed on the signal of the Palathetic pickup gave us access to aggressive highs, swollen lows and huge harmonic character, and left the Takamine in a strong position.