Are you looking for something off the beaten path of Strat- and Les Paul-clones? One interesting guitar might be the Tokai AJG-88 – an homage to the Fender Jazzmaster, factory-modded for the modern player.
The Tokai AJG-88 (current price in Finland: 1,099 €) is a bolt-on-neck instrument with a long scale.
We find a one-piece maple neck fastened to a streamlined alder body, crafted from three side-by-side pieces.
The Tokai comes in an all-gloss finish: The neck has been sprayed with clear lacquer, with the body showing off a sumptuous three-tone sunburst.
One welcome nod to the 21st century is the AJG-88’s truss rod access, which has been moved from the traditional body-facing end of the neck up to the headstock for easy accessibility.
The AJG-88 comes equipped with a nice set of sealed Gotoh tuners.
The chocolate-coloured rosewood fingerboard sports 22 medium-jumbo frets, which have been expertly seated and well polished. That’s full full marks for Tokai’s fretwork!
The classic screw-on neck joint coupled with Japanese workmanship…
Up to this point Tokai’s AJG-88 may have looked like a full-on Jazzmaster-copy, but the pickups, wiring and the choice of bridge make quite clear that this Tokai has its own, more contemporary, thing going.
Original Jazzmasters feature a front-mounted vibrato paired with a rocking bridge, designed to work correctly with the fat string gauges of yore (.012 or bigger). Putting a .009-set on a vintage-type Jazzmaster will lead to all sorts of problems, from rattling bridge saddles to strings not staying in their respective grooves – not good for sustain or tone.
On the Tokai AJG-88 these problems won’t occur, because this model is equipped with a tune-o-matic and stopbar combination (made by Gotoh). As a result the tuning is rock solid regardless of string gauges or tuning preferences. Tuning down for Metal isn’t a problem for the Tokai.
Both the original Jazzmaster, as well as its younger sister the Jaguar, were equipped with singlecoil pickups and rather complicated electronics with a separate rhythm-circuit for their neck pickup.
Instead of a dizzying array of knobs and switches, Tokai offer you two genuine Seymour Duncan humbuckers. The neck pickup is their famous Jazz-model (SH-2N), with the slightly chunkier-than-vintage Jeff Beck-model (SH-4) placed next to the bridge.
A three-way toggle switch and master volume and tone controls – nice and easy does it…
I can only recommed giving the Tokai AJG-88 a spin. If you haven’t tried a Jazzmaster-style guitar before, you’ll be surprised at the well-balanced ergonomics that this large-bodied classic holds in store. The feel is different – in a very good way – and the AJG-88 is easy to hold, both standing up and sitting down.
The neck profile is a nice, medium-thickness vintage-style ”D”. Thanks to the excellent fretwork our test sample came with a really low action (low E: 1.6 mm, high e: 1.0 mm), yet was free from fret buzz.
Acoustically Tokai’s AJG-88 sounds open with a tight bottom end, as well as a charming, slightly hollow mid-range.
Played with a clean amp the Tokai’s neck pickup gives you warm and full tones with a nicely rounded top end. As is the case with most two-humbucker guitars, putting the AJG-88’s toggle in the centre position will result in the most useable clean rhythm tones. The sound is open and airy, with a nice helping of plectrum attack. The bridge pickup on its own displays a chunky mid-range colour – quite useable for clean tones, but, naturally, not as biting and wiry as a Fender-type singlecoil.
This Tokai really loves overdriven sounds, with the excellent-sounding humbuckers dishing out the goods aplenty for all your Blues-, Rock- and Metal-needs. This isn’t your granddad’s Jazzmaster – this Tokai really knows how to rock:
Tokai’s AJG-88 is a classy quality-guitar from Japan. I found it to be a very intriguing and well-executed mix of Fenderish looks and playability, coupled with Gibson-style tones, and offered at a fair price.
Finnish distributor: Musamaailma
+ Made in Japan
+ value for money
+ Seymour Duncan pickups