Tokai NES-80 CH (Cherry) Reviews 5

Guitars, like women, catch my eye immediately when they are unbelieveably beautiful. Mike's Music of Ontario, Canada (905-227-7941) did a superb job displaying this guitar on eBay for $599US. I was originally looking for a Gibson ES-335 or a new Gibson Country Gentleman. (I have a 1967 Gretsch C.G. but with a 17" bout it's like playing a stand-up bass on your lap) I was curious about this ES-335-style Tokai at 1/4 of the price that I was prepared to pay. Mike happily answered all my questions about it in fine detail so I had one shipped to me.

The red flamed maple finish is dazzling and nicer than any Gibson I have looked at. The binding, headstock detail and hardware are of such quality that I find it hard to believe that Gibson or Fender can't sell their guitars for even less than this one. Never mind looks, let's get to playability. After a few minor adjustments, the guitar plays like a dream. I play jazz, rockabilly and blues and the mellow vibrant jazz tones from this baby can change to a clear treble twang at the flick of a switch. The pickup output is like a cross between Gibson PAF's and Gretsch's Filtertrons.

The Tokai NES-80 is constructed like a 335 but the center block is made of mahogany and not maple chromyte like the Gibson. I have a solid maple Tele-style guitar that I built myself and the sustain is incredible. The mahogany has fairly good sustain but...could it have been better? Gold plating on any guitar, while it looks beautiful new, is only temporary. How long this stays on the hardware will have to be seen.

The neck is perfectly straight and the neck/body joinery is good. The inlays are obviously CNC milled and carefully applied. The fretwork is very smooth and silent when bending notes. The edges of the fingerboard are finished nicely and easy on the hand. (Gibson, take a lesson!) The Bigsby-style tailpiece stays amazingly well in tune.(Bigsby, have you thought about using a spring in yours?) I usually avoid "Hillbilly crowbars" but this one is good and I use it more than I thought I would.

Even if you can afford a big name guitar at a "Feel-like-you-bought-something" price, you've got to give these Asian-made guitars a try. Their quality has come so far over the years that, for the value, American-made stuff is having a hard time keeping up. (Why else have the big names moved most of their production off-shore?) I love my new Tokai. And I've got money left to take a Caribbean cruise.

Bo Fred Olsson, Actor, Musician rated this unit 5 on 2003-03-10.

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