Review: Tokai ATE-33N Thinline


Tokai ATE-33N Thinline – beauty shot 2

Tokai Guitars are known for their well-made copies of classic guitar and bass models.

The brand-new Tokai ATE-33N Thinline is part of Tokai’s more affordable Chinese-made range, and represents their version of a Thinline Tele-type guitar.


Tokai ATE-33N Thinline – full front

The Tokai ATE-33N Thinline (current price in Finland 437 €) is a real looker and will delight fans of the natural look, despite its moderate price tag.

Tokai ATE-33N Thinline – f-hole

Roger Rossmeisl – known for his classic Rickenbacker designs – hit upon the concept of the Thinline Telecaster in the late 1960s when working for Fender. The original version was made with a body which featured three large pockets routed out from the back. A separate, glued-on solid piece of wood served as the body’s back.

Tokai approaches the construction of the ATE-33N Thinline the other way around: the pockets are routed into the front of the alder body, which then receives a beautiful, five millimetre thick swamp ash top. This solid ash top was made from three side-by-side pieces on our test sample, with the nicely matched grain efficiently disguising the glue lines.

Tokai ATE-33N Thinline – full back

The body of Tokai’s ATE-33N Thinline sports a gloss finish, while the neck has received a thin satin finish.

Tokai ATE-33N Thinline – headstock

This Tokai is no slave to vintage fashion – truss rod adjustment is at the headstock end of the neck, which is a far more practical solution.

Tokai ATE-33N Thinline – tuners

These nice Kluson-copies work fine.

Tokai ATE-33N Thinline – fretboard

The maple fingerboard has a larger radius (meaning it’s flatter) and fatter frets than its Sixties counterpart, making the ATE-33N easier to play. Especially string bending is far more comfortable with this type of neck.

Tokai ATE-33N Thinline – neck joint

The neck joint is a traditional four screw affair.

Tokai ATE-33N Thinline – body beauty 1

Tokai ATE-33N Thinline – bridge

From a sonic standpoint, the traditional three-saddle, bent sheet-metal bridge that doubles as a pickup frame is probably a Tele-style guitar’s most important ingredient.

With these bridges octave compensation is always a matter of compromise, but most guitarists learn to live with the design’s limitations.

Tokai ATE-33N Thinline – pickups

The ATE-33N Thinline is equipped with two singlecoil pickups that use soft steel slugs as polepieces and bar magnets stuck to the bottom of the bobbin.

Tokai ATE-33N Thinline – controls

Here’s a look at Tokai’s three-position switch and the guitar’s master volume and tone controls.


Tokai ATE-33N Thinline – beauty shot 1

Now seems to be the perfect time to buy an electric guitar, judging by the sheer quality displayed by the very favourably priced Tokai ATE-33N Thinline.

The ATE-33N Thinline seems to tick all the right boxes with ease:

The satin-finished maple neck feels great. It’s rounded D-profile provides a sturdy fundament for tone and sustain, and it is comfortable to play, too. This model’s well-dressed frets and the fretboard’s flatter radius make a slinky set-up possible. Our test sample measured 1.4 mm for the low E and 1.2 mm for the high e (at the 12th fret), and it played well and without string rattles all across the neck.

Played acoustically you can clearly hear the open character of the hollowed out thinline body. Naturally, a T-style thinline won’t win a shouting match over a ES-335, but the hollowed out pockets do still make a discernible difference in this Tokai.

There’s lots of talk on guitar forums about the nastiness of many budget Tele-pickups, but I can only state that Tokai’s set of Mk3-pickups perform rather well. The neck pickup is war and round, but never muddy or one-dimensional. The bridge unit dishes out the Country twang with the right amount of bite and conviction. And the Tokai also nails my favourite Tele tone – the chimey middle setting with both pickups on. This means that changing the Tokai pickups for some aftermarket brand wouldn’t be my first priority, at least…

Here’s a taste of the ATE-33N Thinline’s clean tones, starting with the neck pickup and moving on from there:

And here’s a bit of Rock riffing:


Tokai ATE-33N Thinline – body beauty 2

In my opinion the Tokai ATE-33N Thinline scores high in the value-for-money stakes. It is a beautiful-looking instrument that plays very well indeed.

I have to admit having some reservations about the pickups before plugging in, but the sound of the Mk3-units has really won me over. This Tokai dishes out all the T-style tones we’ve come to expect from a traditionally styled and built example.

And should you decide to upgrade the pickups, regardless, the ATE-33N Thinline will prove to be a great starting point for any such ventures.


Tokai ATE-33N Thinline

437 €

Finnish distributor: Musamaailma



+ outstanding value for money

+ workmanship and finishing

+ playability 

+ sound


Tokai ATE-33N Thinline – logo

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