Review: Tokai TST-50 Relic

This time had the pleasure to receive a special run model of Tokai’s Japanese TST-50 Strat-style guitar for testing. The special model in question is called the TST-50 Relic (1,699 €; includes gig bag), and the guitar is available with two different Seymour Duncan pickup sets – either loaded with SSL-1s or a set of SSL-3s.


For many guitar fans the model designation TST-50 is synonymous with ”one of the finest Strat-copies in the world”, and there is a considerable market for vintage Tokais.

The Tokai TST-50 Relic takes things even further by offering instruments with lightly aged hardware, slightly scratched pickguard and pickup covers, as well as a genuine nitro lacquer finish.

The basic idea is not to offer a beaten up, abused electric guitar; Tokai is going for the look that wet dream of many guitar collectors – the vintage Strat, bought new in 1961, played for a little while, and then forgotten beneath the bed or in a closet.

Currently the TST-50 Relic is only available in Sonic Blue (just like John’s and George’s Strats).

The basic ingredients of the TST-50 Relic are an alder body and a maple neck with a rosewood fingerboard.

The ’board has a vintage radius (7.25″) and comes with 21 medium-jumbo frets (Dunlop 6130). Truss rod adjustment is at the neck’s body end.

The excellent Gotoh machine heads are deliberately, but lightly tarnished, but devoid of any over-the-top filth or rust.

The same goes for the custom-made Gotoh vintage vibrato bridge.

Tokai Guitars Nordic offers the Tokai TST-50 Relic in two versions:

The SSL-1 version comes loaded with a set of Seymour Duncan SSL-1 pickups, which is the company’s recreation of a late-50s/early-60s set of Fender Stratocaster single-coils. This means we find staggered height Alnico V magnets with bevelled top edges, a reverse-wound/reverse-polarity middle unit for hum-cancelling in the in-between settings, and a slightly overwound bridge pickup.

The SSL-3 set is Seymour Duncan’s ”Hot Strat” set that offers taller-than-vintage Alnico V magnets with level tops, a RW/RP middle pickup and a slightly hotter bridge unit.

For some strange reason the SSL-3 equipped Tokai comes with shiny, modern-type height adjustment screws, while the SSL-1 TST-50 Relic sports slightly rusty vintage-style screws.

The control setup is what you’d expect in an instrument like this, offering a master volume knob, two tone controls, and a five-way pickup switch.

Tokai’s TST-50 Relic comes with its own well-padded gig bag and a protective inner shroud.


A good friend of mine owns a genuine 1964 Fender Stratocaster – which, funnily enough, is finished in Sonic Blue – which I’ve had the pleasure to play on a number of occasions, and I must say that Tokai are hitting all the right marks with their ”family heirloom” style Relic-version.

Many of these features are subtle, yet make all the difference in the world. Take the lacquer finish, for example:

On the neck the finish has an immaculate played-in feel, halfway between a gloss and a matte finish. The body is glossy, but it has that sunken in look of an old guitar, instead of the completely flat finish you’d normally expect on a brand-new instrument. The Tokai TST-50 Relic’s thin finish invites you to play the guitar and add some genuine battle scars of your own, instead of fake relicing out of the box.

The neck profile is a dead ringer for an early-60s Strat – a charming, slightly oval C. Both TST-50 Relics are comfortably lightweight.

The workmanship, setup, and playability of both versions proved top notch.

The SSL-1 version gives you a faithful recreation of a vintage Strat’s sound. The guitar sounds very dynamic and dry, while offering ample cluck and bite:

The SSL-3 version isn’t that much louder than its SSL-1 counterpart. Its Hot Strat-tag comes from the forceful mid-range it provides. This is a fatter and bigger take on the familiar Strat-theme:

The demo song features both versions of the TST-50 Relic. The clip is based on the classic Beatles track ”And Your Bird Can Sing” and it was recorded with a Bluetone Shadows Jr. combo and a Shure SM57:


The Tokai TST-50 Relic gives you plenty of that vintage-style Strat-vibe, without resorting to any embarrassing fake dings and scratches. The TST-50 Relic feels and sounds very much like a 60-years old instrument, but comes with a far friendlier price tag. And you won’t have to worry that you might have spent all your money on a fake or a bitser.


Tokai Japan TST-50 Relic SSL-1 & SSL-3

1,699 € (including gig bag)

Finnish distributor: Musamaailma



+ workmanship

+ genuine lacquer finish

+ playability

+ two pickup options

+ sound


– only available in Sonic BlueSave










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