While there have always been full-size jumbos kicking around in the Takamine catalogue, the EG523SC cutaway jumbo electro injected some traditional styling into the mid-price G Series, with its flame maple body and distinctly country vibe. Now, we get to grips with its buxom blonde cousin, the TF250SMC.
Maple back, sides and neck is the classic spec for a 17-inch jumbo, and there is subtle homage to both Gibson and Guild stylings here. That said, the execution and flair is
all Takamine. As standard, this model comes fitted with Takamine's well-received Cool Tube valve preamp.
Inside the soundbox it’s perfectly shipshape, bar the odd squidge of excess glue. Soundboard bracing follows a Takamine-designed ‘X’ pattern employing tall, sturdy-looking, square-sided non-scalloped struts, with three tapered tone bars covering the expansive lower bout. The logic here is that fairly stiff bracing should control the big body boom.
The top is a tight-grained Sitka spruce selection, with a warm orange hue and some eye-catching ‘feathering’. Its abalone centred black/ ivoroid rosette is typically clean cut, as is the matching perimeter purfling.
Back and sides both deliver some flame grain figuration, but the book-matched back panels are particularly vibrant. Sides get a single black edging seam, which is a little furry looking in places, and a tapered ivoroid end-joint strip. The back’s perimeter purfling matches the top’s but, while it’s generally clean cut, there’s a crude corner joint where the two ends meet – a mitre joint would have been neater.
Takamine necks are dovetailed into an L-shaped neck block for increased joint stability. The neck is a heel/shaft/ headstock construction, but the heel is a two-piece block, symmetrically divided lengthways. Conserving wood is the motivation here.
It’s no surprise to find the fingerboard’s vaguely familiar block pattern is an object lesson in precision shell-craft. Arguably more vital, the fingerboard, frets and nut are also immaculately presented. Neither ebony nor dark rosewood, the headstock face is actually dark-stained maple, with subtle, just detectable flame stripes across it. Tuners are top-notch Gotohs – always solid, always super smooth.
The pin-less bridge is popular with Takamine, and this one is tidy enough. Pearloid and black dot inlays successfully hide attachment bolts for the relatively bulky, underlying Palathetic pickup housing and the bridge’s ‘anchoring’ bolts.
Sprayed on after the neck is fitted, this polymer gloss finish has pooled a bit along the heel, but is an even ‘glass-like’ coating, notably thinner on the top. While not the most tonally sympathetic finish, it is durable, low-maintenance and protective.
The highly praised CTP-1 Cool Tube preamp is, like all this company’s units, functional, user-friendly and durably constructed; although the control panel is a bit cramped here. Its secret weapon is a 12AU7 valve circuit, which mixes sweet, thick harmonics and natural compression with the basic under-saddle pickup sound. Also, you can mix in a secondary pickup or microphone, plugged into the preamp’s underside. You don’t get complete blending capabilities, but it’s still a useful addition.
To play, the TF250SMC’s regular ‘C’-profile neck is both relatively deep – 21.4mm (first fret) to 24.5mm (10th fret) – and yet narrow enough to avoid bulkiness. Inevitably cosy, decent string spacing avoids over-cramped chords. However, it’s this review guitar’s ‘light and low’ action that really takes the strain off. Fingerboard binding edges need bevelling off, but, overall, it’s one of the slickest, fastest playing acoustic necks you’ll ever slide your hands over.
To carry off the aforementioned action, the tolerances of the neck, fingerboard and frets have to be spot-on or else it would choke out all over the place. While you can force buzzing at any point if you pluck this guitar hard, the end result is perfectly workable and about as effortless as an acoustic can be. Despite the cordial invitation up to the cutaway region, intonation at the 12th is not entirely consistent on this example. Also, check out the weight of this maple (a particularly dense hardwood) bruiser.
Despite the big soundbox, bass doesn’t dominate the show, while the mid-range is relatively scooped in comparison to, say, an archetypal dreadnought. Takamine’s leaning towards sparkly treble fits well with maple’s bright, reflective, penetrating tonal bias. There’s definitely a spicy edge to each pluck of the strings, although the top strings retain some sweetness amid their distinctly raspy, metallic ping.
Articulating nicely for fingerpicking, and proving a well-balanced strummer, it’s frustrating how quickly this jumbo succumbs and bottoms out. A higher action and heavier strings would help; but, for recording, or at high on-stage volume, this suppressed performance can work in your favour.
With Takamine’s pickup noted for its ‘cutting through’ quality, the basic flat electro tone is brittle. It responds well to some EQ pruning though, to reveal a more natural and workable tone that embodies the essence of this guitar’s polite natural response.
Hit the Cool Tube knob and the bass and mid-range are warmed up beautifully, in a way that EQ can never achieve, while the treble is rounded off and sweetened by the valve harmonics and compression. Immediately, this is much easier on the ear and more satisfying to play with.
As an acoustic guitar, the TF250SMC doesn’t represent anything particularly new, but like nearly all Takamines, as an electro-acoustic it is both functional and sexy; and you can’t
really quibble at the price.