Price paid: £ 185
Purchased from: www.djmmusic.com
Features: This great Folk size acoustic is by no means a Taylor, but it is great for the money. Costing me 185 with free hard case worth 50, the first thing you notice about the guitar is the beautiful transparent red finish wrapped in a maple binding. The mahogany back and sides, and spruce top produce a fantastic sound, as well as feeling extremely sturdy.
As far as tuners go, they are fantastic. No slipping, and a very sturdy mechanism which looks to last for a long time, and keeps it in tune for days as long as you don't go Hendrix on it.
I believe it was made in China, but that in no way diminished the fact that it is well above other guitars in its own or even a higher price range, especially those of the 600 Ovation variety. I actually sent the first one I got back because of a bit of fret buzz but the second one I got was mostly fine. A few niggles here and there but nothing that a little tweaking wouldn't fix. For example the D'addario EXPs break more often than a Skoda. Bought some standard D'addario steels and they work fine. Great bright sound and long lasting. One thing I need to correct is the bone nut. The corners are slightly sharp, but sanding should do the trick.
The first I got came with a B-Band eq/pickup system and free scratchplate. The second had a superior Fishman ION-t, but no scrathplate. The ION-t does not have as many controls, but has a built in tuner (which mutes the signal) and a much more acoustic sound. The piezo pickup is about average, although you would be wise to have an eq on your amp or in a pedal as it has quite a lot of low end and not as much high. This then makes it sound more like a dreadnought than a Folk guitar. Apply some overdrive and it sounds more like a les paul than my strat. I believe that's down to having a relatively high output. // 7
Sound: With fresh strings this guitar is great. Not as deep or punchy as my 70s Lorenzo dreadnought but a good plucky sound with a fair amount of bass and quite good projection and volume.
I play acoustic music mostly e.g. Bob Dylan, Badly Drawn Boy, Bon Iver, Get Cape Wear Cape Fly etc. but I am partial to all sorts, Hendrix, Clapton, Rise Against, Weezer, Wu Tang Clan, whatever takes my fancy. The guitar is great for fingerstyle music as well as your gold old simple chords. Harmonics during fingerstyle sound amazing as does acoustic soloing. The sound isn't as full or bright as some of it's big brothers but it is considerably cheaper than something like the FLR B. It is fairly bright and fairly bassy, but has most emphasis on everything in between. A good natural balanced sound overall.
On the pickup side of things, don't try to use a solid state designed for electrics straight into your line in on you computer for recording. Bad idea on my part but I was on a budget. the problem is that the output is so high that it massively distorts if you don't have the volume and eq at just the right levels. Proper equipment would sort this I expect. On the whole though the pickup system is pretty good. A little bassy but quite satisfactory. I doesn't however faithfully reproduce the actual sound of the guitar, but is pretty good for a piezo system nonetheless. If you need some sound samples I have a few recordings on my profile, all using the piezo system. // 8
Action, Fit & Finish: Action is brilliant. I'd say not quite as good as the Yamaha APX 500 but it is pretty close. All 20 frets are usable but 17-20 could be better. It is very gentle on the hand when trying painful unfamiliar chords. For the price it is brilliant, like most Tanglewood acoustics.
No dents or scratches when I bought it but some finish flaws. Not many though, the odd fleck of red paint on the binding but nothing too noticeable. As previously stated one thing I need to correct is the bone nut. The corners are slightly sharp, but sanding should do the trick. // 8
Reliability & Durability: Tanglewood are well known for good quality guitars at fantastic prices. The Evolution series TSF CE R is no different. It could stand gigging, hammering, dropping and whacking (which I do a lot) and the tuners will definitely last a long time. The one thing that got on my nerves was that the strap button/jack came loose. This was a little difficult to put right but its fine now.The finish has no bubbles or harsh imperfections and seems like it stand the test of time.
I don't think I'd ever gig with no backup for string breakages sake, but this guitar could definitely hold its own against more expensive brands. // 8
Overall Impression: In my humble 4 years of experience opinion, it is fantastic. This guitar is great for my acoustic and fingerstyle playing. I cannot stress enough how good it is for the money, hence the 9/10. After playing as many acoustics as I could find to choose one I liked it is more comfortable to play and better sounding than a lot of the more expensive and bigger branded guitars such as Ibanez, Ovation, Fender, Epiphone etc.
Managing to get it 50 cheaper than most other places and with a free hard case, was a steal. I does have its flaws though, such as the odd minor finish flaw, loose jack/strap button, poor strings as standard and unimpressive piezo system, but most of these are an easy fix or easy to live with for the price. If it were stolen and I had the same money for a new guitar, I'd buy it again but in the natural matte finish as that is my personal preference. Or else I'd try my hardest to find something to match it but with a better pickup system. But honestly I now have a hankering for a 12 string.
The Tanglewood TSF-CE-R looks great, feels great, and most importantly sounds great. What more could you ask for from your budget guitar? // 9