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This article was originally published in issue #15
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Tanglewood, the highly respected British acoustic guitar company, has joined forces with Spain's renowned classical builder Manuel Rodriguez to produce two classical models using the same formula - European design with cost-effective Asian manufacturing But can the newcomers meet Giorgio Serci's professional standards?
Tanglewood is well known throughout Europe for having raised the game of Far Eastern acoustic guitar manufacturing to a high level. Taking European designs and having them made in Asia isn't a new idea, but Tanglewood was one of the first to really get it right. As a consequence the brand has become one of the biggest selling in Europe and is now increasingly available in North America and elsewhere.
Tanglewood made its name with steel strung acoustics and where it has looked beyond its roots, it has forged highly successful partnerships with experts in other areas to help it - for example, it recruited the Scandinavian luthier Michael Sanden to help design its top end acoustics and the internationally respected British bass maker, Chris May, of Overwater, to design its range of electric basses. Now it has turned its attention to classical guitars and this time it has sought the assistance of Manuel Rodriguez, the world-renowned guitar manufacturer from Madrid. Manuel Rodriguez Junior has been actively involved in the design of the two models we have for review here, the TCMR 1 and the TCMR 2.
Having already established two successful partnerships, how well does this latest one work? In theory it should be a great team - allying the Rodriguez expertise in traditional design and manufacture with Tanglewood's ability to source and quality control instruments at very fair prices. Let's find out!
Tanglewood TCMR1 (see image)
Straight from the box, this full size (4/4) classical guitar has a beautiful natural look, with contrasting wood colours, from the spruce top, the Indian rosewood fretboard and bridge, to the bubinga sides and back.
Its mahogany headstock and neck meet the upper bout in a fluid and ergonomic manner. The simple but elegant binding is tortoiseshell in colour. Both the 52mm nut and the saddle are made of cow bone for an improved sustain.
Its classical neck is really comfortable, with a nut width of 52mm and a scale length of 650mm this is an easy guitar to play. While particularly indicated for the classical repertoire, this instrument would be perfect to play Brazilian music such as Bossa Nova, Samba etc and fingerstyle in general.
This is not a concert classical guitar, but considering that it costs at least 20 times less than one, I think it's worth every penny! It took me no time to tune it and to feel at ease with the action as it came with a very good set-up straight from the factory. Tuning was made easier also, thanks to its accurate classical style (silver plated) machine heads.
Like all the Tanglewood classical range, the TCMR 1 features the Torres' style bracing, which enhances the lower end frequency for a warmer response and a versatile tonal palette.
The first two strings are not are sweet and warm as they are the TCMR 2 (but that is 50 per cent pricier) and the edge of the frets may be a little sharp for some tastes. For this reason I think this would be a great classical guitar for beginner to intermediate level players, or perhaps for an electric guitarists looking for a nylon string guitar for the odd recording session.
Like most classical guitars, the TCMR 1 doesn't come with a built-in preamp. This is not necessarily a disadvantage! On the contrary, built-in pickups can compromise the acoustic tone and sustain of the instrument. The best means to record a classical guitar such as this one is by using one or, even better, two condenser microphones for a pure, acoustic outcome. For those looking for a gigging guitar, adding a decent pickup of your choice would not be an expensive job. This way this could became a versatile instrument, quite good for traveling, as it doesn't cost an arm and a leg.
Tanglewood TCMR 2
Straight from the box, this full size (4/4) classical guitar shares the good looks of its less expensive sibling, with contrasting wood colours, from the spruce top, the Indian rosewood fretboard and bridge, to the mahogany sides and back, which replace the bubinga used on the TCMR 1 and are the key to why this is the more expensive model.
In most respects this is visually very similar to the cheaper Tanglewood and it shares much of the same construction but, that said, it is definitely better than its sister model, with a sweeter tone quality on the treble strings, with a warm and defined mid and low-mid. It is roughly 50 per cent pricier, due to the more expensive tone wood used, but this is still in the low-mid price range, which means this guitar is worth every extra penny.
There are other differences too, for example, the finish on the frets is also better than on the sample TCMR 1 we had, with no sharp edges.
In conclusion, these are two fine guitars for the money and both would gig quite happily. If you can afford the more expensive TCMR2, you are going to get a better guitar but that doesn't detract from the quality of the cheaper model. In both cases you are getting a bargain from these well made, well priced instruments. Just marginally, we felt the TCMR 2 was worth an extra half a star on account of its superior tone and finishing, but no one need feel disappointed if all they can afford is the TCMR 1.