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This article was originally published in issue #9
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Budget to mid-priced acoustics made using real tonewoods and solid hardware have never been better - or cheaper. As the market gets more competitive, Tanglewood's Sundance Open Pore series is designed to stand out thanks to plain, classical looks. But can Tanglewood stay ahead of the pack? Tom Quayle finds out.
It's a great time for acoustic players at the moment due to the vast array of quality instruments available at some amazing prices. The market can appear to be a little saturated though and it can be quite hard to know where to look amongst the array of acoustics out there. Tanglewood's 'Open Pore' series are designed to attract you thanks to their high quality construction and super-thin satin finish, said to allow the guitar to 'breath' and resonate in the most natural way whilst retaining the protection required for those lovely tone woods. Tanglewood sent us a TW45 W OP E, part of the company's Sundance range, to review.
The TW45 W OP E features an A-grade solid cedar top, American black walnut back and sides and a two-piece mahogany neck with an Indonesian rosewood fretboard. The body shape is Tanglewood's 'Super Folk' shape and whilst it is on the larger side, it remains supremely comfortable for both short and extended playing periods. The design is complemented by maple binding, a lovely rosewood rosette, chrome Grover tuners and finished with a Fishman Presys preamp. The PPS nut and saddle offer more comfortable playability and the discreet 2mm inlays look great without getting in the way of the design. The body and headstock are nicely in proportion and a deep cutaway allows easy access to the upper frets without spoiling the look of the body. Finally, a neck volute increases stability and is a staple feature of the Sundance series.
The minimal 'Open Pore' satin finish is pretty much undetectable and gives the woods a very natural, almost unfinished look that is very attractive and feels great in the hands. Of course the finish is there to protect the woods but it is thin enough to allow them to breath and resonate in a natural way and seems to work very well in this sense offering a great balance between protection and resonance. You can imagine a finish such as this matched with the quality tone woods on offer can only improve with age, too.
Played acoustically, the TW45 has a very open voice with a well balanced low and high end. It's not quite as loud as the body shape might lead you to believe but sustain is superb. Playability straight out of the box was very good with a comfortable action and string tension suitable for all manner of playing styles from light strumming to modern percussive styles and the guitar reacts well dynamically to everything you ask of it. The guitar is fun to play and at no point makes you work harder than you need to in order to get the best from it.
Plugged in, the Fishman Presys preamp offers a realistic acoustic tone without any harsh 'quacking' or brittleness and provides a very easy learning curve thanks to the simple controls and onboard tuner. Bass, Middle, Treble and Volume are present, with a phase switch to improve bass response at lower volume, or help notch out feedback at higher volumes. Given its simplicity, the preamp works well, offering a good degree of control over the tone and the phase switch does its job admirably without requiring a 'masters in sound engineering' to operate. The tuner is accurate and very easy to operate giving a very succinct preamp package that compliments the TW45 very well.
The main selling point of this guitar is of course its finish and Tanglewood offer the Sundance series in both Open Pore minimal satin finishes and more traditional natural satin finishes, so you can compare directly for yourself should you wish. I must admit I was very much drawn to the Open Pore finish and am a big fan of really 'feeling' the wood grain in my hands whilst I play. The added warmth and resonance is very attractive but ultimately these are very personal decisions that individuals must make for themselves. What I can tell you is that the TW45 W OP E is a very good guitar at a very competitive price with very few downsides to speak of. One thing to bear in mind is the lack of a hard case but if you shop around a padded gig bag can be had with the deal. I urge you to check the Open Pore range out if you're after a budget to mid-price acoustic - I think you'll enjoy what's on offer.