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This article was originally published in issue #6
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Perhaps oddly for a brand that is almost exclusively known for its extensive choice of acoustic guitars and folk instruments Tanglewood hasn't been tempted to produce its own brand of acoustic amplifier. Until now, that is.
Tanglewood reputation as a quality brand notwithstanding, a strong association with the more affordable end of the acoustic market might generate the mistaken assumption that this first foray into the amplifier market would spawn a cheap n' cheerful unit assembled from the parts bin of some mysterious factory in China, re-badged and shipped to our shores. Not so, it seems.
According to Tanglewood UK, the T6 acoustic amplifier is developed from the ground up with Tanglewood completely involved in the entire process from inception to the final signing-off of the finished version. Make no bones about it, Tanglewood is deadly serious about giving their customers maximum bang for buck, so does the T6 acoustic combo make the grade?
Given the highly mobile nature of your typical acoustic troubadour any acoustic combo needs to be fairly self-contained and the T6 duly presents itself not merely as a guitar amplifier but it also functions as a highly portable active PA system. Indeed, a pole-mount socket is built into the bottom of the combo's chassis, not essential perhaps but the T6 will nevertheless benefit from the extra projection afforded by being mounted on a pole or stand. Build-quality wise the T6 feels reassuringly robust, the tough birch-ply enclosure is coated in a tough polymer coating and a posh AER-style black foam speaker cover protects the single 8-inch driver from unwelcome external probing!
There are no corner protectors - probably in the name of shaving off a few grams here and there - but the combo's solid construction and scratch resistant skin should be enough to keep damage at bay; plus £40.00 will also get you a pukka fitted padded bag!
The T6 is mains powered - would be buskers might need to consider packing some kind of external power supply - and its 60 watt output certainly develops a reassuringly clear and strident tone with plenty of projection. With dedicated guitar and vocal channels the T6 presents a very clean and unfussy control surface that feels very intuitive to use.
Despite the lack of flashy built-in anti-feedback countermeasures the T6 still feels very forgiving and simple to set up. Channel One's High/Low pad attenuates the input signal by -/+10db to help compensate for differing signal levels whilst the gain level clip light and passive three-band EQ conspire to provide a fairly effective protection against feedback by helping the user to judge when the amp is starting to peak uncomfortably.
The amp delivers a very pure sound that lets the natural tone of the guitar really shine through, with little noticeable of the brittleness that can sometimes occur with piezo-equipped guitars. However, if a little more top end sparkle is required the Contour switch adds a very strident dollop of extra brightness, maybe at the cost of some warmth. We preferred the more natural sound when the Contour control was off but if you need to cut through a mix, the Contour function will definitely help make your presence felt.
Channel Two's combi-jack input will accept either an XLR microphone or a standard ¼-inch instrument cable, with a switchable Mic/Line level input to set the correct input gain threshold and a clip LED that indicates when the input gain is too high. Again we find a perfectly serviceable three-band passive EQ that, when used with a correctly balanced input level, should be adequate protection against feedback. The global effects section contains four separate effects modes: digital reverb (Hall and Plate variants) plus chorus/room reverb and a delay. The effects are all presets and can't be modified or stored but the effects Level knob sets the effects mix whilst an Effects Pan knob designates whether the effects are sent to the Guitar or Vocal channels or both simultaneously. The effects themselves sound very good with virtually no DSP noise and while it might have been useful to have some degree of control over the delay tempo, the preset echo effect nevertheless graces the T6 with an expansive, spacious atmospheric shimmers that always help to pad out an otherwise dry-sounding tone.
Stereo RCA inputs and anMP3 mini-jack input on the rear panel offer plenty of scope for hooking up a CD player or iPod for backing tracks or other suitable musical accompaniment. The rear panel also includes a tuner out effects loop send and return jacks if connecting external effects are required, plus a choice of balanced DI and standard ¼-inch Line outs and a footswitch to remotely activate the amp's built-in effects. The slightly puzzling inclusion of a headphone socket is the only feature on the T6 that inspired a mild spot of puzzled head scratching. A headphone socket on an amplifier that is principally amplifying acoustic instruments and a vocal seems a bit like giving a bald man a comb for Christmas but thinking about it, the headphone jack could be useful for monitoring a performance during recording.
While there are undoubtedly more powerful and arguably better spec'd acoustic amps out there the T6 still sideswipes a lot of the competition thanks to its practical feel, great sounds and an attractively understated design, and not forgetting the very agreeable price! It doesn't try to squeeze in as many whistles and bells as some guitarists might like but we feel that in this instance Tanglewood has exercised good judgment in its choice of the right specs at the right price point.