Hands-on review: Takamine ETN40C acoustic/electric guitar - solid cedar beauty
(John Gorbe | Posted 2011-01-13)
Takamine began their acoustic/electric journey in 1978. The company already had roughly 15 years invested in fine guitar building and instituted this level of craftsmanship in their acoustic/electric line. Fast-forward to 2011 and you have a guitar that has built a consistent following and respect among professionals and amateurs alike.
Their latest work of art in the Natural Series lineup is the ETN40C. This instrument immediately caught my eye due to its natural solid cedar top and decorative ovangkol and rosewood rosette. It has a warm and inviting appearance that makes you want to pick it up and start making music.
The ETN40C features a solid cedar top and a solid mahogany back and laminate mahogany sides. Cedar is a mellow sounding tone wood and produces a slightly darker sound when compared to a spruce top. The mahogany supplements the tonal characteristics of the cedar to make for a very warm sounding guitar. Staying true to its classy appearance is a delicately laid rosette made of ovangkol and rosewood. The use of woods used here is a great choice against the cedar top, which aids in the subtle beauty of the guitar’s appearance. The neck is also mahogany mated to a rosewood fingerboard.
I really like the neck on this guitar. Many times a company will make a very comfortable fitting neck but place a finish on it that becomes tacky and difficult to navigate as you play. Takamine made this guitar a player in every way right down to a neck that not only feels great in the hand, but contains a satin finish as well that’s smooth and graceful.
This neck will also feel great in the hands of a picker as well as a finger stylist thanks to the 1 11/16” nut width. I played many styles on this guitar including finger style and plectrum and it felt very comfortable. The smaller body and cutaway also helps to make this a versatile guitar. Takamine calls this body style a “NEX” shape.
The CT4B preamp is designed to be user friendly and musical. One glance across the controls will tell you everything you need to know about the workings of the electronics. The preamp features 3 bands of EQ, volume control and built-in chromatic tuner.
Controlling the EQ is achieved by moving sliders on top of the guitar. Sliders are clearly labeled for bass, mid and treble frequencies. I must add that I didn’t feel a need to boost or cut any frequencies due to the naturally pleasing sound of this guitar. The volume is also controlled via a slider. One push of a button mutes the output section and activates the chromatic tuner. I had no problems tuning this guitar since the tuner section features a 2-step arrow stage for reading the “Flat” and “Sharp” status of each string and is very responsive.
The only thing I didn’t like about this preamp was the construction of the battery compartment. I had to use my finger to push on a small tab to release the lock on the compartment. This tab didn’t feel solid and I didn’t feel a decisive locking motion when replacing the 9-volt battery. This is a small complaint however, given the quality and attention to detail to this point I would expect the same care here.
The guitar plays wonderfully up and down the neck and the feel is solid. The smaller waist on the body also made for a comfortable playing experience when I was sitting down. I didn’t feel at any time that the guitar was leaning which should give a player more confidence in control without any worries to the guitar moving around.
I was surprised at how balanced the sound was as well. No, I didn’t produce the low-end rumble of a dreadnaught guitar. You’re not going to find that with this style body. What I did produce was a tight sound that didn’t leave me desiring more volume in any frequency. Every region of sound complimented each other enough that to have more bass, mids or treble would have made for an unbalanced sound.
I play a lot of fingerstyle technique so I was happy to know that not only is the string spacing versatile for strummers and finger pickers, the sound is sensitive and reactive to both as well! This is where the tone woods come together with the soundboard bracing. There appears to be just enough brace support to provide strength to the top but not enough to suffocate and make the soundboard stiff. I could feel a nice amount of resonance playing with my fingers that made the experience personal. This can’t be said for a lot of acoustic guitars.
Finally, the tuning machines are made by Gotoh and featured a smooth gear ratio. The tuning machines also felt tight and predictable with no slipping which is very important to me.
The bottom Line
For $1149 Takamine has produced a guitar that competes well in this price segment and may give some of the better-known companies a good run for their money. Whether you’re playing on stage, in your living room or the recording studio, the ETN40C will get the job done in style and make your wallet happy.
The ETN40C can be purchased at http://stores.ebay.com/patsmusiccenter
John Gorbe is a guitar editor for MGR and a professional guitarist/instructor.