REVIEWS

Takamine FN15-AR | REVIEW

Published 3 months ago on November 15, 2023

By Jonathan Graham

Takamine FN15-AR | REVIEW

MSRP: (UK) £1495 / (US) $1799

The FN15 AR originates from Takamine's Natural series, combining a solid cedar top and spectacular Amazon rosewood for a powerfully musical combination. It features a new rosette pattern and satin finish recalling the essence of the Natural series guitars. Ease of amplification is achieved with the retro-inspired CTF-2N preamp. FN15 AR is manufactured in limited numbers, capping at 300 pieces worldwide. Here's Nick Jennison to tell us more.

While Takamine's history goes all the way back to 1959 as a family-run guitar shop at the foot of the beautiful Mount Takamine, the legendary Japanese brand would become the defining sound of the late '70s and '80s - particularly live, where their groundbreaking palathetic pickup revolutionised the way acoustic guitars were amplified. Previous attempts at getting the sound of an acoustic guitar to a large and rowdy audience included close mic-ing with the dynamic mics of the day (a feedback disaster, and relied on the player standing perfectly still lest they vanish entirely in the mix) or electric-style magnetic pickups (ugly, terrible-sounding lumps that required a chunk to be cut out of the guitar's top).

Now, the classic Takamine pickups preamps of the era didn't exactly offer the most natural, uncoloured version of the guitar's acoustic tone - they had a "sound", but man alive, what a cool sound. Bright, clear and cutting with excellent string-to-string separation and a hint of aggression thanks to the FET topology. 

New for 2023 and strictly limited to 300 units worldwide, the FN15 AR is one of a handful of classic-inspired dreadnoughts that boast a modern take on the classic "brownie" preamp in a variety of woods and finishes. The "AR" in the FN15's name refers to the Amazon Rosewood that Takamine has chosen for the back and sides - a stunning looking wood finished in a clear satin, and delivering the classic rosewood qualities of deep lows and silky highs. Interestingly, this is paired with a cedar top rather than the usual spruce. Cedar is a favourite of mine on acoustic guitars thanks to its more relaxed high mids and softer transient response as opposed to the bright punch of spruce, and also for its more complex, seasoned tone. It's a fantastic combination that sounds gorgeous played acoustically. There's a ton of dynamic range, and it'll go with you on even the most aggressive strumming and picking passages without getting too compressed and really excels as an accompanying instrument.

Playability is really great straight out of the box, with a comfortable action that's very playable all the way up to the 14th fret neck join. Good thing, too, since lowering the action on a Takamine bridge is no simple task. The mahogany neck is finished in the same satin as the body, with a slim and comfortable profile that's well-balanced for both fleet-fingered runs and impassioned live bashing.

Plugged in, the FN15 AR sounds great - again, it's not the most "natural" sound in the world, but push the highs up slightly, and you're greeted with "that sound": the one you've heard on so many classic performances from one of rock's golden eras. It's Springsteen, The Eagles, Bon Jovi… you get the gist. This classic vibe is paired with a tuner, an easily accessible battery door and a notch filter with two "strengths", -6dB and -12dB, for defeating feedback and cutting any unpleasant midrange frequencies. 

The FN15 AR is a guitar with two distinct identities. Played acoustically, it's a warm, rich and mellow take on the classic dreadnought sound, but plug it in and you have instant stadium rock. It's very handsome, plays great, and is pretty reasonably priced considering the quality you're getting. But, if you want one, there are only 300 being made, so you'd better act fast!

For more information, please visit:

esptakamine.com

For more of our latest reviews, click here


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