Review: Tokai TST-50 + Seymour Duncan Little ’59

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Finnish importer and retailer Musamaailma offer an in-house customising service, which is still a rather rare thing over here. For a fair price you can order your guitar with your choice of EMG- or Seymour Duncan -pickups. Musamaailma employ their own luthiers, so all this work is done professionally and in-house.

Kitarablogi got to try out the brand-new Tokai TST-50 -model (current price in Finland: 699 €), which is an addition to the brand’s high-quality Japanese line-up.

In our case the Tokai TST-50’s stock, singlecoil bridge pickup has been swapped for a humbucking Seymour Duncan Little ’59 (current price in Finland: 84,60 €), which promises authentic PAF-type tones from a Strat-sized unit.

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Tokai’s TST-50 gives more than a passing nod to traditional S-style guitars in an early Sixties vein:

The alder body has all the characteristic flowing curves and deep body chamfers, and it has been finished in beautiful three-colour sunburst. The bolt-on maple neck with a small headstock, the rosewood fretboard and the three-ply white scratchplate complete the picture.

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Gorgeous Canadian hard rock maple has been used for the test sample’s neck – there are even some bird’s eyes sprinkled across the neck. In keeping with the vintage-look the Tokai sports a set of high-end Gotoh Kluson-copies.

For the TST-50 Tokai have nonetheless made the sensible decision to stray from the vintage path by employing a thin satin finish on the neck. The result feels extremely comfortable and ”fast”.

The medium-sized frets are another welcome upgrade, giving you more purchase for precise string-bending action.

This model’s stock pickups come from Gotoh’s Japan Vintage series – pro-quality singlecoils. The TST-50 also sports a vintage-correct, Japanese Gotoh-vibrato.

Seymour Duncan’s Little ’59 has become a classic itself by now. When this model was introduced over two decades ago, it was one of the first Strat-sized humbuckers with side-by-side coils.

The rest of our test sample’s electronics has been left untouched – the controls work in the traditional way, with one tone control for the neck pickup and one for the middle pickup. The bridge pickup is left without a tone control, its signal going only through the master volume.

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A Strat-style guitar’s great ergonomics are well documented by now, so there’s really no need to reiterate common knowledge. No wonder the Fender Stratocaster (and all its copies) is the best-selling electric guitar of all times – this model sits comfortably in you lap, regardless of the player’s size and physique.

Tokai’s TST-50 is an outstanding variation on this theme, delivered with crisp and clean workmanship.

We find a comfortable, oval C-shaped neck profile, resulting in a quite authentic early Sixties feel.

Acoustically this Tokai displays all of the classic traits of a guitar of this type – a well-defined, clucking attack in fine balance with the warmth and character an alder body and rosewood fingerboard bring, seasoned with a sprinkle of vibrato-induced sparkle.

Many guitarists find the cutting tone of a bridge singlecoil too much to bear with this type of guitar, especially in an overdriven or distorted musical context. This is just where Duncan’s Little ’59 comes to the rescue. This humbucker with its moderate, PAF-type output level lends proceedings a healthy kick up the proverbial. There’s more beef and mid-range in the tone, as well as the dynamics and fat-ness you’d associate with a full-sized humbucker. Staying in clean territory the resulting jump in the guitar’s output might be a bit too much for some purists, but for overdriven Blues, Rock and high-gain tones the Little ’59 is a great way to fly.

The soundbites all feature the stock neck/middle-combination for starters, moving on to the Duncan Little ’59 about halfway through:

Soundbite 1

Soundbite 2

Soundbite 3

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Tokai-instruments and Seymour Duncan -products

Finnish distributor: Musamaailma

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Tokai TST-50

Current price in Finland: 699 €

Pros:

+ outstanding value-for-money

+ sound

+ workmanship

+ quality vibrato

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Seymour Duncan Little ’59 for Strat

Current price in Finland: 84,60 €

Pros:

+ fits most Strat-type guitars directly

+ tone

+ PAF-type output

+ four conductors for different wiring options

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