By Phil O'Keefe |
Updated Premier series Orchestra sized acoustic guitar
Tanglewood is a popular brand in the United Kingdom, but they are less well known in the USA. In fact, they're very popular in the UK; although I was previously unfamiliar with them they're currently the best selling acoustic guitar brand in that country, so when I was offered the chance to check out a couple of their new updated third-generation Premier series models I jumped at the opportunity. After all, what guitarist wouldn't be curious about such a popular brand? Tanglewood guitars are available in several different series, with a variety of models in each. In this review we'll be taking a look at the Tanglewood TW170-SS, an orchestra sized guitar that's manufactured in China and is part of their modestly priced Prestige series.
What You Need To Know
- The Tanglewood TW170-SS is part of their Premier series, which are mid-priced instruments that represent a step up from entry level models, but are more affordable than Tanglewood's higher end models such as the Heritage series. Like all the models in the Premier series it was recently updated.
- The TW170-SS features a AA grade solid sitka spruce top, which means the tone should only get better and better as it ages. The top is nicely complimented by the green abalone soundhole rosette. It's a very nice touch and unexpected at this price point.
- The back and sides of the body on the TW170-SS are made out of laminated mahogany. The uppermost (visible) laminate layer is quite attractive wood, with decent figuring apparent in the mahogany. The body is bound front and back with a combination of maple and rosewood, which adds to the cool visual vibe.
- The TW170-SS features a smooth satin natural finish. Overall the finish is quite even and consistent, and it looks very nice. Satin can be a bit more susceptible to playing noise as your arm and clothes brush against it, but it also can be thinner and allow the wood to resonate and "breathe" better than if a thick gloss finish was used, and it doesn't require as much work at the factory to apply and polish, and for that reason it is not uncommon to find it on guitars in this price range.
- The faux tortoisshell pickguard is glossy, which helps reduce some of that playing noise compared to what you'd get with a satin pickguard. The pickguard design has a decidedly "west coast" influence.
- The TW170-SS has a very comfortable bound mahogany neck, with a rosewood fingerboard with 20 medium / medium-large sized frets. Scale length is 650mm - roughly 25.59". The neck profile has a rounded shape with just the slightest hint of a subtle V to it; the shoulders are not unreasonably thick, and it is quite easy to play, even with my fairly short fingers.
- According to my digital calipers, the neck thickness is 0.850 at the first fret. The neck width is 43mm (1.693") at the nut.
- There is a very classy looking 12th fret mother of pearl crown inlay, along with dot inlays at the 3, 5, 7, 9, 15 and 17th frets. The inlays are flush with the rosewood fingerboard as you'd expect, although there is a bit of what appears to be epoxy filler around the inlays here and there, although this is subtle and visible only upon close inspection.
- The peghead features an inlayed abalone T logo, with a Tanglewood guitar decal on the reverse side. The unmarked tuners are chrome vintage style with a 14:1 gear ratio. The housings look somewhat like vintage Klusons, and they feature rather uncommon yet classy looking tuner buttons.
- The TW170-SS comes equipped with a NuBone nut and compensated saddle on the rosewood bridge. The bridge pins are black ABS plastic with white dots. The guitar was expertly set up, with excellent action and no buzzes. Intonation is also very good, in no small part due to the compensated saddle.
- Another noteworthy feature is the D'Addario EXP strings that come on the guitar from the factory. Tanglewood is to be commended for using treated strings on their guitars; I feel this gives the potential purchaser a better chance at auditioning the guitar in-store with a half-way decent sounding set of strings on it, even if it's been in the shop for a few weeks and has been played by several people. Non-coated / treated strings are much more likely to be rusted out and dead in the same amount of time.
- No case or gig bag is included with the TW170-SS. Tanglewood recommends their TWC-70 hardshell case ($169.00 MSRP) and included one with the review unit for me to check out. It's a solid, green plush lined case that fits the guitar well, and the purchase of the recommended case should be planned and budgeted for in order to protect the instrument when not in use.
- Unfortunately, no left hand option is offered for the TW170-SS, although the Premier series TW145-SS CE Super Folk model is available in both right and left-handed versions.
- The TW170-SS doesn't have any onboard electronics, so if you plan on using it live, you'll either need to mic it up or budget for the installation of an after-market mic or pickup system.
While there are obvious influences from both El Cajon CA and Nazareth PA, the cosmetics of the Tanglewood TW170-SS are quite nice, and it drew more than a few admiring comments from other guitarists I showed it to, and an equal amount of praise for the overall sound quality - especially given the quite reasonable price. Likewise, the build quality is well within what you'd expect at this price point, with only a couple of minor issues in terms of filler on inlays and one very slight rough spot in the binding on the back near the neck heel.
The Tanglewood TW170-SS has a somewhat dry and crisp tonality that is quite appealing. A good strummer and excellent for fingerstyle, the Orchestra sized body is thinner in the waist than a dreadnought, which can make it easier for players of smaller stature to hold. It also has a more balanced and less bass-heavy sound than many dreadnoughts, and it would be a good choice for recording purposes. Note definition is superb for a guitar in this class. I suspect the slight stiffness will continue to loosen up as time goes on; unlike guitars with laminated tops the sound of solid top models will generally only get better as they age.
If you're a beginner who has outgrown your first guitar and are looking for a step up from entry-level instruments, or a budget-minded player who appreciates value, easy playability and good tone, the Tanglewood TW170 SS would be a very good choice, especially if your tastes lean more towards a balanced sound with less bass than a larger sized dreadnought or jumbo-bodied instrument would typically provide.
Tanglewood TW170 SS acoustic guitar ($659.00 MSRP, distributed in the USA by Musiquip Inc. )
Tanglewood's product web page
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