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In round-ups there’s usually one instrument that stands out above the rest, or the judgement has to be qualified to take account of models configured for specialist playing styles. Here, however, there’s barely a cigarette paper between the four in terms of build quality, playability or value - all of which are pretty much consistently excellent.
What makes this even more of a photo-finish is not just their identical pricing, but the fact that all four are dread electros designed for general duties, with mainstream neck profiles that aren’t appreciably different to one another. Aside from subjective cosmetic preferences, there are, of course, nuances of sound - both acoustic and powered - which will sway you one way or the other.
Unplugged, the Takamine and Yamaha share the gold star - the former for its ringing exuberance, the latter for its balanced overall resonance and sweet poise. That said, the Crafter’s subtly earthier tone is far from shabby, while the Vintage has a lot of warm, rich-toned promise even if it isn’t quite yet there in full. In a powered context, the Crafter’s LR-T-4T preamp puts in a very convincing showing.
It smooths out any acoustic shortcomings, the EQ ranges eschew extremes and it’s simply a very enjoyable, musical system to work with. Much the same can be said of the Vintage’s Aero+ and Yamaha’s System 55T, though like the Crafter unit, the Yamaha’s is low on gain, to the extent that you may well be plugging the FGX into your amp’s high-gain input to ensure enough outfront level.
That irritation certainly doesn’t afflict the Takamine’s gutsy TP-4T, though the system suffers from being too gung-ho in the mids and treble, so it needs tailoring to offset that. But let your own ears be the final judge on all this.
In the meantime, treat this round-up as a ready-made sub- £500 shortlist and you won’t go far wrong, because one thing’s for sure: we’d be more than happy to take to the stage with any one of them.