12/12/2017

Review: Tokai TST-50 Modern

Tokai Guitars’ extremely well-made Japanese – uhm – tributes to classic electric guitars from the 1950s and ’60s were one of the main reasons why industry giants, such as Fender and Gibson, started their own Far Eastern brands, like Squier and Epiphone, in the Eighties.

Yet Tokai doesn’t cling slavishly to the past, instead the company is also regularly coming up with up-to-date versions of their best-loved models. Their newest updated Strat-style electric is the Tokai TST-50 Modern (999 €; comes with a hard case), which was developed in cooperation with Tokai Guitars Nordic.

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You could be forgiven to think the TST-50 Modern was a cracking 1960s reissue model at first glance, especially as some of the basic ingredients are virtually identical:

We find a bolt-on maple neck with a rosewood fretboard, and a premium class alder body adorned with a beautiful two-tone sunburst finish.

But a closer look at the headstock gives us a clue that this isn’t a run-of-the-mill TST-50:

A bullet truss rod adjuster on the TST-50 Modern allows you to tweak your neck relief without having to detach the neck from the body, as on vintage style S-type guitars. But despite the bullet truss rod, Tokai have chosen – wisely, in my opinion – to stick with the original four-screw neck attachment.

The Tokai TST-50 Modern comes with a 9.5 inch fingerboard radius, which means that the feel is slightly flatter than on vintage Stratocasters (that usually feature a 7.25 inch radius), but still more curved, and thus more Fender-ish, than Gibson’s flatter 12 inch radius. The TST-50 Modern also sports chunkier frets (Dunlop 6105), making it easier to play than the thin wire used on vintage originals. In combination with the flatter fingerboard radius the bigger frets also make string bending a great deal less work. As a final flourish this models gives you an additional fret (22 instead of 21).

The classic six-screw Stratocaster vibrato bridge was a huge engineering achievement back in 1954. No other vibrato offered that much travel, coupled with excellent sound and very fair return to pitch.

Now – 60 years later – many players do look for an even smoother and more precise ride, than what the vintage model can offer. For these guitarists the Tokai TST-50 Modern offers a modern, two-post vibrato bridge – the Gotoh 510T model.

Gotoh’s 510T-vibrato comes with the company’s groundbreaking FST-block. The string channels inside the FST-block have been drilled much deeper than in a vintage block, which anchors the ball ends much closer to the bridge plate. The strings then pass the bridge plate at a shallow angle, without being pressed hard against the plate’s sharp edges. Thanks to Gotoh’s FST-system the vibrato’s return to pitch is improved vastly, because the strings’ ball ends stay in place firmly. Additionally, this system cuts down significantly on string breakages due to friction between the strings and the bridge’s base plate (like normally seen on vintage Strat bridges).

When it comes to its pickups and control layout, Tokai’s TST-50 Modern follows a classic footpath – a trio of Tokai’s acclaimed Vintage ST pickups, along with a five-way switch, a master volume, and tone controls for the neck and middle pickups. Hidden beneath the three-layer scratchplate there’s a humbucker routing, in case you want to customise you guitar further.

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Vintage or modern, fans of Strat-style guitars expect a high level of ergonomics from their instrument, and Tokai’s Japanese TST-models never disappoint. All the body contours have been copied from the famous 1957/58 originals – it doesn’t get any more streamlined than this.

The satin-finished neck features an oval C-profile, which is just the Sixties-type of neck shape I enjoy the most on an S-style guitar. Thanks to the flatter fretboard radius and the medium-jumbo frets, the playing feels of the TST-50 Modern is similar to that of a well-loved, much-played, and refretted vintage model (but without any scratches or dents, of course).

The Gotoh 510T vibrato works like a dream. It’s smooth and precise, but doesn’t add any unwelcome metallic overtones or sharpness to the sound (unlike some Floyd Rose bridges).

The Tokai TST-50 Modern sounds like a top-drawer Strat should.

Here’s a clip with the Tokai TST-50 Modern plugged into a hand-wired Tweed Champ clone (a Juketone True Blood):

I’ve used Electro-Harmonix’ Germanium 4 Big Muff Pi and Nano Big Muff Pi pedals on the demo track (in addition to the Tokai and a Blackstar HT-1R valve combo):

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Gear reviewers often face criticism for not ”dishing the dirt” on the equipment they test, but in the Tokai TST-50 Modern’s case there isn’t really anything negative to write about. This is an extremely well-made updated version of the most famous electric guitar of them all. The Tokai combines modern playability with delicious vintage sounds.

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Tokai Guitars TST-50 Modern

999 € (quality hard case included)

Finnish distribution: Musamaailma

Pros:

+ Japanese craftsmanship

+ sensible updates

+ playability

+ sound

+ outstanding value-for-money

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08/12/2017

Kitarablogi + Rockway – kitarapaketti-katsaus tulossa

06/12/2017

Hyvää itsenäisyyspäivä! Happy Independence Day! #Finland100

05/12/2017

Juha Ruokangas: Why do handmade guitars cost so much? – Part 2

22/11/2017

Testipenkissä: Tokai TST-50 Modern

Japanilaisen Tokai Guitarsin erittäin laadukkaat, mutta suhteellisen edulliset – kröhöm – kunnianosoitukset 1950- ja ’60-luvun klassikkosoittimille olivat yksi pääasiallinen syy sille, että esimerkiksi Fender ja Gibson perustivat 1980-luvun alussa omat aasialaiset tytärmerkkinsä Squier ja Epiphone.

Tokai ei kuitenkaan elä menneisyydessä, vaan valmistaa pikkutarkkojen klassikkokopioiden lisäksi Japanissa myös nykysoittajien tarpeisiin vastaavia kitaroita ja bassoja. Uusin modernimpi malli on Tokai Guitars Nordicin kanssa yhteistyössä kehitetty Tokai TST-50 Modern (999 €; kova laukku sis. hintaan), nykyaikainen Stratotyylinen sähkökitara.

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Ensisilmäyksellä TST-50 Modern näyttää 1960-luvun vintage reissuelta, ja monet kitaran perusaineksista ovatkin perinteisiä:

Vaahterainen ruuvikaula ruusupuuotelaudalla, sekä premium-luokan lepästä veistetty runko kaksivärisellä liukuvärityksellä.

Mutta jo viritinlavasta näkee, että tämä ei ole rivi-TST-50:

TST-50 Modernin kaularautaan pääsee nimittäin suoraan käsiksi sen bullet-tyylisen säätöruuvin ansiosta, kun taas vintage-tyylinen ruuvikaula täytyy usein irrottaa rungosta kaularaudan säätämistä varten, koska säätöruuvi sijaitsee rungon puoleisessa päässä.

Tokai TST-50 Modern -mallin 9,5 tuuman otelautaradius on loivempi kuin vintage-Stratoissa (joissa se on 7,25 tuumaa), mutta yhä kaarevampi (= Fendermäisempi) kuin esimerkiksi Gibson-kitaroissa (12 tuumaa). Kitaraan on myös asennettu vintagea tuhdimmat nauhat (Dunlop 6105), minkä ansiosta soittotuntuma on nopeampi ja vaivattomampi kuin vanhanaikaisilla, ohuilla nauhoilla. Yhdessä loivemman otelaudan kanssa, korkeammat nauhat tekevät myös bendauksista helpompia. Piste iin päällä on Modern-mallin tarjoama lisänauha (22.).

Perinteinen, kuuden ruuvin varaan laakeroitu Strato-vibra oli vuonna 1954 todella mullistava keksintö. Se tarjosi muita vibroja runsaasti laajemman liikeradan, ja sen “soundi” ja vireisyys olivat hyvät.

Nyt, 60 vuotta myöhemmin, monet soittajat vaativat kuitenkin hienostuneempaa vibratoa vintagea jouhevammalla ja tarkemmalla käyttökokemuksella. Heille Tokai TST-50 Modern tarjoaa nykyaikaisen, veitsenterälaakeroidun Gotoh 510T -vibratallan.

Gotoh 510T -tallassa on firman mullistava FST-blokki. FST-blokissa kielikanavat on porattu niin, että kielet on ankkuroitu vintagea lähemmäksi vibran pohjalevyä. Kielet myös kulkevat pohjalevyn läpi loivassa kulmassa, jolloin ne eivät hankaa reikien reunoja vasten. FST-blokin ansiosta kielet pysyvät myös rankassa käytössä paremmin paikoillaan, mikä parantaa tallan vireisyyttä. Kielet myös katkeilevat huomattavasti vähemmän, koska ne eivät painaudu voimakkaasti teräviä metallireunoja vasten, kuten Straton vintage-vibratossa yleensä.

Mikkien ja elektroniikan suhteen Tokai TST-50 Modern luottaa klassikkoaineksiin – kolme Tokai Vintage ST -yksikelaista, sekä master volume ja kaksi tonea (kaula- ja keskimikeille). Kolmikerroksisen pleksin alle on kuitenkin jo tehtaalla tehty tallamikrofonille humbucker-kokoinen kolo mahdollistamaan vaivattoman lisäkustomoinnin.

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Nykyaikainen tai ei, Strato-tyyliseltä kitaralta odotetaan aina mahdollisimman hyvää ergonomiaa, ja Tokain japanilaiset TST-mallit edustavat kyllä lajinsa huippua. Rungon muotoilu on kopioitu suoraan 1957/58-vuosien Stratoilta – sulavampaa runkoa saa kyllä hakea.

Mattalakatussa kaulassa on ovaali C-profiili – juuri sellainen varhaisen 60-luvun muoto, jollaisesta tykkään S-tyylisissä kitaroissa eniten. Loivan otelaudan ja medium-jumbo nauhojen ansiosta soittotuntuma on kuin paljon soitetussa, uusilla nauhoilla varustetussa vintage-kitarassa (mutta tietysti ilman naarmuja tai painaumia).

Gotoh 510T -vibratalla toimii mallikkaasti. Tallan toiminta on jouhevaa ja tarkkaa, mutta se ei tuo soundiin minkäänlaista ei-toivottua terävyyttä (jollaista esiintyy monien Floyd Rose -tyylisten tallojen yhteydessä).

Soundiltaan Tokai TST-50 Modern on aito laatu-Strato isolla L:llä.

Tässä Tokai TST-50 Modern on kytketty käsinjuotettuun Tweed Champ -klooniin (Juketone True Blood):

Demobiisissä on käytetty Electro-Harmonix Germanium 4 Big Muff Pi- ja Nano Big Muff Pi -säröjä Tokain ja Blackstar HT-1R -kombon lisäksi:

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Laitetestaajia aina patistetaan kertomaan “likaisia totuuksia” heidän testaamistaan laitteista, mutta en todellakaan löydä mitään negatiivista sanottavaa Tokai TST-50 Modern -kitarasta. Se on erittäin laadukas sähkökitara, jossa on nykyaikainen soitettavuus, mutta herkullinen vintage-soundi.

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Tokai Guitars TST-50 Modern

999 euroa (laadukas laukku kuuluu hintaan)

Maahantuoja: Musamaailma

Plussat:

+ japanilaista laatutyötä

+ käytännöllisiä päivityksiä

+ soitettavuus

+ soundi

+ erinomainen hinta-laatu-suhde

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21/11/2017

Huomenna: Tokai TST-50 Modern

17/11/2017

Juha Ruokangas: Why do handmade guitars cost so much?

08/11/2017

Rockway + Kitarablogi – Ukulelekatsaus on ilmestynyt!

Suuri sopraanoukulelekatsaus on ilmestynyt Rockwayn blogissa.

Katso TÄSTÄ ja TÄSTÄ.

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07/11/2017

Now on SoundCloud: Mustang GT40

Fender Mustang GT40

• Digital practice and recording amp
• 40 W power (2x 20 W)
• Speakers: 2x 6.5″
• 21 Amp models
• 47 Effects
• Controls for Gain, Volume, Treble, Bass & Master
• Three layer buttons
• Tap button
• USB recording output
• Aux input
• Headphone output
• Digital chromatic tuner
• Bluetooth audio streaming
• Easy WIFI firmware and feature updates
• Editing and sharing via Fender Tone app (iOS & Android)

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Demo tracks recorded with a pair of Shure SM57s.
Guitars used – Fender (Japan) ’62 Telecaster Custom reissue & Hamer USA Studio Custom

01/11/2017

Ukulele Strings – Nylgut or Fluorocarbon?

Where there’s a forum, there’s a fight – or at least that’s what it looks like.

Electric guitarists like to argue for ages about valve amplifiers and digital amp modellers, and which one is ”better”.

Uke players, for their part, get all hot under the collar when it comes to ukulele strings. There are two main camps – Nylgut-fans and fluorocarbon-connoisseurs. Although the uke is classified as an nylon-string instrument, very few instruments are strung with straight nylon anymore.

Nylgut and Supernylgut strings have been developed in Italy. A string company named Aquila came up with a patented way of manufacturing plastic strings, whose sound and feel is as close as possible to traditional gut strings. Gut strings have always been somewhat problematic, because it is hard to produce a string of uniform quality, when the basic material is of animal origin. Additionally, gut strings react far stronger to changes in humidity and temperature (resulting in pitch fluctuations), compared to plastics like nylon.

Aquila Nylguts have become a de facto industry standard, especially for affordable and mid-price ukuleles.

Nylguts are easy to spot thanks to their milky look and silky surface. First-generation Nylgut strings tended to have a coarser surface, which made them susceptible to a bit of handling noise (faint squeaks), but current versions have managed to do away with this problem (almost) completely.

Aquila Nylguts tend to produce a crisp, bright and open sound, which is why they can be a good choice for darker sounding ukuleles (like many plywood-bodied instruments). Some players, though, dislike the soft bendiness of Nylgut strings.

Fluorocarbon strings are a quite recent addition, too, despite the fact that the material has already been in use for fishing lines for quite some time. Fluorocarbon is a sturdy and dense material that makes it possible to make slightly smaller gauge strings than Nylgut. Fluorocarbons also tend to feel a bit stiffer.

C.F. Martin’s ukuleles come strung with fluorocarbons as standard, and many high-end makers have started to follow Martin’s lead. Fluorocarbon strings are also quite popular with progressive players and many vintage ukulele owners.

Most fluorocarbon strings are clear, even though you can also buy coloured versions of this string type, too. In Finland Martin-strings are the most widely available, but many other manufacturers, like D’Addario, GHS or Worth, make their own quality fluorocarbons.

A seldomly mentioned advantage of fluorocarbon strings is that – because of their slightly smaller diameter – they can sometimes solve intonation problems, if a uke pitches slightly sharp with a set of Nylguts.

Fluorocarbon strings tend to sound meatier and punchier compared to Nylgut strings.

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The audio clips have been played on a pair of Martin Style 2-type sopranos – a Sigma SUM-2S (Supernylgut) and an Ohana SK-38 (fluorocarbon).

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Read Kitarablogi’s Ukulele Round-up 2017 HERE.Save

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