Tramontane T300AE review by Lag

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  • Features: 10
  • Sound: 10
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 8
  • Reliability & Durability: 7
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 8.8 Superb
  • Users' score: 8 (1 vote)
Lag: Tramontane T300AE

Price paid: £ 395

Purchased from: West End Music

Features — 10
This is a Auditorium shape, solid Cedar topped guitar featuring Indonesian Rosewood back and sides (laminated), and a mahogany neck. The body and neck are finished with a French Satin which shows the wood beautifully. The fingerboard is solid Indonesian Rosewood with linseed oil finish. Neck position markers, the makers name on the headstock and trims at the bindings are inlayed with maple and the rosette is maple and rosewood inlay featuring an Occitania Cross (similar to the Maltese Cross).

The electronics system features a bass-treble tone control, Volume control, and a 5 preset analogue EQ with a bypass button. There is an easy to use chromatic tuner with LED display.

The preamp & tuner use a pair of CR2032 batteries.

The pickup is a Shadow NanoFlex pickup which is not a passive pickup with onboard preamp (like many piezo systems) - this is a powered active pickup.

I purchased this in 2014, however the serial number starts "12..." and the bridge uses through the body pins while the manufacturers website shows a different arrangement for 2014 models. I therefore suspect that this is a 2012 model.

The shop supplied a new set of strings (D'Addario Phos-Bronze LIGHT gauge 012-053) which I installed as soon as I got home as the factory fitted strings were well past their best. Plus a free basic strap.

The visual impression is one of elegant refinement. I find this guitar very pleasing to the eye.

  • Headstock: Solid Indonesian Rosewood, linseed oil finish, with Lag Maple Logo inlay
  • Machine Heads: Lubricated High Precision Satin Black, with Satin Black tulip buttons
  • Top Nut: Black Graphite 43mm
  • Truss Rod: 2-way System
  • Neck: Mahogany French Satin finish
  • Fingerboard: Indonesian Rosewood, Radius 400mm
  • Frets: 20, Silver-Nickel, Medium type
  • Top: Solid Red Cedar
  • Back & Sides: Indonesian Rosewood
  • Bindings: Rosewood + Maple
  • Body Thickness: Bottom 110mm - Neck 90mm
  • Rosette: Rosewood with Maple, with Occitania cross
  • Bridge: Indonesian Rosewood with Black Resin compensated saddle
  • Pickup: Nanoflex Piezo Pickup under bridge saddle
  • Electronics: STUDIOLAG PLUS system
  • Finish: French Satin
  • Strings: D'Addario Bronze 80/20 LIGHT gauge 012-053

Sound — 10
I chose this model as I had been looking for a new guitar for several years but had trouble finding a sound I liked within my price range.

I have studied some classical guitar and do lots of folk music and fingerstyle playing. I also use my guitar for liturgical and "praise and worship" uses and have a habit of plucking and strumming quite hard.

The Cedar Topped Lag guitars which I auditioned all share a delightful warm mellow tone (due to the cedar top). I found that the T300 seemed to offer the best tonal ballance by far, with a far more rich mid-range and no spikes or holes in the tonal ballance. I found this very hard to find at this price range.

I have found that this guitar has far more projection than many cedar topped guitars I have auditioned. It's loud despite the smaller body (my wife has asked me to turn off the amplifier when I was playing "quietly" and unplugged).

That said, this auditorium guitar does not like to be played too hard, and the strings will buzz when strummed hard with a flat pick, or plucked very strongly (think slap-bass). However the projection the guitar offers makes such hard playing totally unnecessary, and strumming without a pick shows off the mellow sound far more.

When plugged in the guitar has very little of the "Piezo Quack" associated with most electro acoustic guitars. The "attack" when playing is far more subdued and natural than any other electronic system I have auditioned - even compared to guitars at 3 times the price. The 5 preset EQ shapes are versatile and adjust the sound to various different playing styles very effectively.

These are:

  • Natural Folk Sound (High output, no Distortion) [Mid-cut, slightly boosted trebles]
  • Mellow Mids (bluesy ideal for ballads) [slight mid cut]
  • Studio Mid-cut effect (Gorgeous basses & crystal high tones - Huge rhythm studio sound) [notable: mid cut rising gradually through trebles]
  • Finger Style Picking (Perfect for arpegios - a real stage must) [notch filter cut in the high frequencies rising again to the very top frequencies]
  • Mellow Jazz sound (Deep and mellow basses, Soft and precise high tones) [gradual rise from basses to a peak at mid frequencies with more rapid drop off to high frequencies].
Playing on various amplifiers in the shop, at home and on a P. A. System I have found that selecting the right EQ setting for your playing style can result in almost hitting that "Holy Grail" of the amplifies sound being "Just like the acoustic sound but louder."

I've also used setting 5 for background music behind speech for a non intrusive sound.

I find the sound of this guitar is an ideal match for my playing style and tastes. I've also recieved very positive comments from non guitarists who have noted the quality of the sound including one person who said this was the first time he had realised that a more expensive guitar could sound noticeably better (and he is used to hearing some guitars of similar price range).

Action, Fit & Finish — 8
This guitar has a low action and shallow curve on the neck. The neck is narrower than some acoustics, but wider than many electrics.

I find it sublimely easy to play anywhere on the fretboard.

Using the reccomended strings (12's) the compensation and intonation is flawless - I have checked with the inbuilt and external tuners and the strings are perfectly in tune at all locations on the fretboard when stopped by finger or using a capo.

The heel is very slimline making access to the upper frets easier, however I was unable to obtain a cutaway model (i.e. the 300 DCE) as they were out of stock in most outlets.

As a player of a classical guitar the fit and playability of the auditorium body is one I find very easy as the body is almost identical to my classical, with the neck meeting at the 14th fret instead of the 12th. The body is thinner than a dreadnought, but not as thin as the thinline stage guitars.

The finish is very beautifull. I did notice there is a slight gap in the finish at the join between the body and the fretboard - but you need to look closely to see this.

There is no scratch guard, and this will inevitably result in my guitar finish becoming marred with age.

The inlays and finish are all understated and look fantastic without any hint of showiness.

I did manage to mark the soundboard on my second day but via a hard knock against a metal object - the finish is certainly harder and more robust than some other satin or matte finished guitars I have seen which can be marked with a fingernail.

This guitar had been in the shop for some time, and after a new set of strings it was unblemished (until I dented it myself). If it was indeed on display in a busy shop for over a year then that bodes well for it's long term survivability.

I've seen a number of 2nd hand Lag guitars on sale which all appear in excellent condition.

Reliability & Durability — 7
I may install a clear stratch guard to protect the surface of the soundboard as this guitar does not have one.

The tuning heads and other hardware seem of solid, reliable construction.

The battery in the preamp is 2x CR2032 batteries. These only hold a limited charge, and the first pair lasted less than a week, with the Low Batt light coming on the first time I set up to play in public. The preamp continued to work but the tuner did not.

I will need to ensure to keep a ready supply of spare batteries. I will try to update this review regarding battery life.

Without spare batteries to hand (and these are unlikely to be kept in stock by your typical roadie) This guitar could easily let you down on stage - but that's true of any active pickup system.

The hich street price of a pair of CR2032 batteries is anything up to £5. So if they only last a week that would get very expensive. Online suppliers have main brand ones for £0. 50 each, and unbranded ones for around £0. 10 each so I'll get a stock on cheap ones off eBay.

The mark down score is due to battery life and type. AA or 9V types would last longer and be easier to replace.

Overall Impression — 9
I've been playing guitar for 25 years, with a wide range of styles from classical through folk to pop and rock plus liturgical and praise and worship music. I love fingerpicking and this guitar particularly excells at that.

I tried many guitars from many makes before choosing this Lag. I learned on a K'Yari hand built guitar, which I have never been able to replace. This is the closest sound I've found at a realistic price, and it easily compares to cedar topped guitars at over twice the price including all solid wood models. Occasionally I've seen spruce topped guitars with a nice warmth but very rarely.

I auditioned other Lag's plus guitars from Tanglewood, Takamine, Fender, Guild, Crafter, Luna, Yamaha, Martin, Simon and Patrick, Seagull and many others.

Yes there's better guitars for acoustic sound but only at at least twice the price, and I've not found a better sounding pickup and preamp system.

When compared the the standard Fishman pickups fitted to most Tanglewoods, Fenders and many other guitars the Shadow NanoFlex system in this really stands out to my ears as far superior.

I've never found a guitar whose plugged in sound is so close to it's acoustic sound - even at many times the price. And the EQ selector is as simple to use as you could hope for.

A small downside for me but possibly a bigger downside for some others is this guitar does not like to be strummed very hard - but everyone says I play very hard whether picking or strumming.

If I could add any wish list to this guitar it would be:

1) a bigger battery. AA or 9V batteries would be more reliable and cost less to maintain for the level of current used by the tuner - they simply hold more juice;

2) a balanced XLR low impedance output (DI output) as well as the standard jack;

3) a cutaway.

If this guitar was stolen or destroyed I would certainly want to replace it with an identical one or a dreadnaught cutaway shape in the same range (e.g. the T300DCE).

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