Review: Tokai TTE-55

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Tokai TTE-55 – beauty shot

Tokai’s TTE-55 is the company’s newest made-in-Japan Tele-type guitar. The TTE-55 isn’t meant to be a dead-on copy of a Tele from a certain period, but rather something like a Tokai ”best-of-vintage-T” model.

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Tokai TTE-55 – full front

You can get the Tokai TTE-55 (current price in Finland: 848 €) with either a one-piece maple neck – as on our White Blonde review sample – or equipped with a rosewood ’board.

The finish of the hardware is dependent on the body’s colour – in our case here the Tokai sports gold coloured hardware, which embues this Tele with a good dose of Mary Kaye -style panache.

Tokai TTE-55 – full back

The 1950s-type neck is screwed to a Sixties-type, bound alder body.

Tokai TTE-55 – headstock

The fine Kluson-copies have one major advantage over more recent designs: The nifty safety posts prevent any sharp string ends from sticking out.

The neck’s silky-smooth satin finish is a much more modern feature, as are the 21 jumbo-sized frets. Top marks to Tokai for the quality of their fretwork!

Tokai TTE-55 – tuners

Timeless beauty – this is a sight I never tire of…

Tokai TTE-55 – bridge

Not all vintage Tele-bridges are the same – the originals went through several different incarnations between the Fifties and now, especially when it comes to the material chosen for the bridge saddles. Tokai’s TTE-55 sports brass saddles, which is the favourite choice for juicy tone among vintage-anoraks.

Tokai TTE-55 – pickups

You can’t get more classic than a Tele-type guitar’s pickup combination: The neck pickup is a narrow unit with its own shielding metal cover, while the chunkier bridge pickup hangs suspended from the bridge plate.

Tokai TTE-55 – controls

In 1967 the Tele’s switching was changed to the now-classic format of a three-way blade switch for neck/both/bridge-selection, coupled with a master volume and a master tone control.

Tokai TTE-55 – switch and pots

There’s plenty of quality on offer on the inside, too, with a VLX-switch and two GF-potentiometers keeping everything ship-shaped.

Vintage-freaks will dig the cloth-covered pickup leads.

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Tokai TTE-55 – beauty shot 2

Our test sample is of medium weight – not the lightest Tele ever, but still really comfortable.

The Tokai TTE-55’s neck profile is right down my alley, being a well rounded and full ”D”. There’s enough girth to support your left hand nicely, but not so much as to make the neck feel too fat or hard to play .

The neck’s contemporary finish and the modern fret size result in a very bend-friendly guitar with a great action (E: 1,9 mm/e: 1,7 mm).

There’s always a bit of compromise to deal with, when it comes to a Tele-type guitar’s intonation, due to the shared bridge saddles. But this hasn’t prevented this guitar type to become a true classic – the compromises one can deal with easily.

It’s build like a Tele, it looks like a Tele, and, yes, the Tokai TTE-55 also sounds like a Tele. The neck pickup’s tone is well rounded, with a charming amount of wood to its voice. Put the switch in the middle position, and you’ll be funking with Prince. And the bridge pickup on its own is bang on the money for all your Country-, Rockabilly- and Blues-needs.

Tokai’s TTE-55 is a great choice for virtually any musical genre, with the exception of Hard Rock and Metal.

In light of this review, I can only conclude that the Tokai TTE-55 is a top quality instrument, which offers a whole lot of Tele-goodness at a very moderate price.

Tokai TTE-55 – back beauty

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Tokai TTE-55

848 €

Finnish distributor: Musamaailma

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Pros: 

+ value-for-money

+ workmanship

+ component quality

+ neck profile

+ sound

Cons:

– the traditional Tele-compromise when it comes to exact intonation

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