Features — 8
This Tanglewood Memphis AS-35 was most likely made in Korea between 1998 and 2000 (according to the info I gathered). It's 22 fret guitar with a 24. 75" scale bound/dot neck with medium sized frets. Even though the catalogue from back then states this guitar is all Maghonie, it's not. It has a birch ply back and front, most like birch sides as well and a Maple neck with a rosewood (Indian) fretboard. A 2 tone "Gibson" alike bust finish on both front and back. Body shape reminds of a '60s ES-335 with the larger horns and is double bound and the "F" holes are also bound. Typical Tune-o-matic style bridge and stop bar with a nice set of tuners that hold their pitch surprisingly well.
Guitar comes with 2 "PAF" style humbuckers with a vintage output that sound pretty good. From what I could determine, they are factory (wax) potted, making them less prone to microphonics. (better then any other low priced humbucker equipped guitars) Each pu has it's own "Vol" and "Tone" knobs combined with a 3-way toggle switch. Guitar came with a non original case.
Sound — 8
The guitar has a really nice sound, warm and yet very distinct. I've played a few other ES-335 copies in the past which sounded less lively then this Tanglewood. I play a lot of styles, from Jazzy things to more rock orientated music and everything inbetween. Guitar sound is very suitable for all the music I play. This guitar is not noisy, my setup is, but that's due the fact I use cheap used amps. I like the fact that the pick ups sound very different from each other. A warm sounding "jazzy" neck a nice sparkly mid (neck + bridge) and a twangy bridge pu that doesn't overpower to much, due to it's vintage style output. Bridge can do a nice "Gretsch" sound a well. This I like!
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
Since I got it used. I'm mostly the 3rd owner of this guitar, I can't comment on the factory set up. But since this guitar is between 14 and 16 years old, it stood the test of time very well. Neck is straight as a candle and I could not find any buzzing frets. Bridge is not the best, but not the worst either. I suspect this guitar wasn't played a lot by it's previous owner(s) as it has almost no wear. Finish is in a remarkably good state. And the binding started yellowing quiet nice. Pots are not too scratchy either, which is a surprise for a guitar this aged, since it's not an expensive instrument.
Reliability & Durability — 8
I'm pretty sure this guitar will withstand live playing as it's a very solid instrument. I also like the fact it's not a heavyweight guitar and very resonant sounding. Hardware stood up for over a decade, so I have no fear in that department. + it's easy to find better replacement parts, should this become necessary. I seldom take backup guitars with me to a gig. In the 100+ gigs I did so far, I think I had guitar related trouble 2 or 3 times (broken string, a bad contact or a bad guitar cable). I even gigged with old dreamed unreliable instruments without trouble so far. So, I guess this guitar will be the same.
Overall Impression — 8
I'm a bit shocked with the overall quality of this Tanglewood, especially since it's one of their older instruments. It had an original retail price of £250-ish (arround $320) back in the day. It was aimed at the beginners market, but it's a much nicer instrument. I've been playing guitars for over 20 years now and owned a lot of guitars in this time. This Tanglewood Memphis is definitely one of the nicer ones.
So far the nicest ES 335 copy I played (yes, even nicer then the Dearmond ES from the late '90s I used to own). Of course, I have not compared it to other Tangelwood Memphis AS-35 guitar or their current (Chinese made) ES-335 copies. So I could have been lucky with my Tanglewood. So, if you are interested in a not too expensive ES-335 copy, you should consider finding an older Memphis AS-35, you might be pleasantly surprised!