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This article was originally published in issue #35
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Looking for a travel size guitar that still sounds decent - and doesn't dip too deeply into your pocket? Bob Thomas checks out the latest from Tanglewood.
A member of Tanglewood’s Java series of affordable guitars, this travel-sized dreadnought features a solid spruce top, laminated amara back and sides, nato (Eastern Mahogany) neck, mahogany binding and sonokeling fingerboard and bridge.
Although nato has been used in Asian guitar manufacturing for decades, amara and sonokeling are less common in guitar manufacturing and represent a move into new woods as the traditional species become scarcer. Amara has a striking appearance that reminds me a bit of some cocobolo guitars that I’ve seen. This species is found in the rainforests and central savannahs of South and Central America and also in the Caribbean. Amara is an evergreen that, unusually, produces a new set of leaves every year. The amara used on the back and sides of the review TWJ LJ is absolutely gorgeous and the spalted maple insert on the back sets the amara off beautifully.
Grown on the island of Java on plantations originally established by the Dutch, sonokeling is the same species as the East Indian rosewood that has been used by major guitar manufacturers for many years. However, due presumably to its plantation origins and the climate in which it grows, sonokeling has a wider colour range and a little less hardness and density than East Indian rosewood.
The TWJ-LJ has a 580mm (22.8”) scale length and features vintage-style, open-back machine heads, a compensated bridge insert and is fitted with D’Addario EXP16 strings as standard.
Soundwise, this little travel guitar has, as you might expect, less projection and depth of tone than a full-size dreadnought but it is more than adequate for practice and fun times on the road, although I would probably fit a pickup if I were going to use it on stage.
Build quality is excellent and little touches like the mahogany fingerboard and body binding and the spalted maple back insert lift the TWJ LJ out of the pack appearance wise. Playability straight out of the box was pretty good overall with well-dressed frets and a reasonably low and comfortable action. If you’re fussy like me, a bit of work on the nut and saddle heights would pay an additional dividend. As always with a new guitar, make sure that you buy from a dealer who will check the guitar over and set it up for you.
The Tanglewood Java Series TWJ-LJ is a well-built and attractive-looking dreadnought-style travel guitar that sits at an attractive price point for the quality that it offers and is well worth considering if you’re looking for a travel guitar.