We have seen quite a few surprises in music over the years. Not the least of which has been the apparent sudden rise of Japanese manufacturers. We are going to look at one such manufacturer and of their guitars for this Ibanez Talman Series TCM50NT review. But before we do, where did the Japanese suddenly appear from with their guitars?
Initially, the Japanese guitar manufacturers made only for their home market. But companies that we know today as carrying the flag for Japanese craftsmanship and excellence didn’t just appear. They had been there for many years. In 1966 however, Yamaha and Ibanez acoustics arrived in the UK and the US.
Easily summed up in one word, the… Beatles. Their emergence shook the music world, and suddenly there were not enough guitars for all the kids who wanted to be the next John Lennon. The US couldn’t cope, Japan could and over they came.
In the early 70s, electric guitars from both Yamaha and Ibanez arrived on our shores. They continue to expand and have had a major influence on the guitar and still do.
Ibanez was one of the first Japanese brands to break through. Many people thought them Spanish or Mexican, which may have had something to do with why they were so well received. Now there are many companies from Asia producing guitars in a range of qualities. Some excellent, some good, some not so good. A bit like every other country, really.
Yamaha and Ibanez, though, are the talisman for Japan. Yamaha has expanded in all musical directions. They have become the largest and most influential instrument manufacturing organization in the world.
Ibanez has concentrated on their guitars. And are the favored choice above Fender and Gibson for many rock and heavy metal guitar gods.
Let’s find out as we take a look at the Ibanez Talman Series TCM50NT…
We have seen it all before. A designer at a guitar manufacturer has a sudden rush of blood to the head and comes up with a new and often strange design. When they do, it doesn’t always work. But it has with this guitar. It isn’t that radical, but visually it is different.
Some companies try to create a guitar with the sound of an acoustic, but that feels like an electric with easy playability. Most fail. Even Fender, with their now in doubt status, can’t do it as we have seen with their California Player series.
No contest. The Fender is blown away. And we might add the Fender is much more expensive.
The Talman has a bright acoustic feel but with a great electric sounding resonance. And nowhere have Ibanez cut corners. It is all good from one end to the other. Are you an electric player that needs an acoustic sound in their set at times? Who wants that woody resonance acoustic guitars give, but still needs easy electric-like playability?
Then read on. This could be your lucky day…
When you first see this guitar, and you know you are in for something different. It is a double-cutaway shape, but with a difference, it is what you might call a ‘Thinline’ but ALSO with a difference. It is thinner than the usual acoustic, and that makes it so easy to hold and play.
The double-cutaway shape is slightly offset, a little like a Jaguar or Jazzmaster. Likewise, the soundhole is pear-shaped and also offset. It learns towards the top cutaway giving it an aesthetic balance to the overall shape. It is a pleasing design to look at.
The top wood is Ash, which is an interesting choice. It is a wood that produces less in the mid-range but emphasizes the top and the lower frequencies. It adds some bite. That becomes apparent as soon as you hear it.
The back and sides are mahogany. Using mahogany is one of the most common wood combinations there is. There is a good reason for this. Quite often, though, it is paired with Spruce on the top. Not with the Talman. It is evident by the use of Ash with Mahogany, Ibanez was looking for a different sound.
If what they were looking for was a warm but powerful projected sound, they got it.
One of the real assets of this guitar apart from its appealing design shape is the contrast and the beauty in the woods. They look good without being brash. It is a classy design.
There is a tasteful edging applied, and the surface has no flaws.
One thing you will immediately also notice is the pickup. Placed in the neck position on the top surface is not common for an Acoustic-electric. They are normally in the soundhole or under the bridge. This gives the Talman the feel that it wants to be a little bit electric. We shall see if it manages that later on.
The controls are easily located on the top of the body. The battery compartment is also located on the top, but further round the body and is also easy to get to. There are chrome buttons for attaching a guitar strap.
A nice style, great design, good materials, what more can you ask for? It has started well!
The neck is made from mahogany, and it has a rosewood fingerboard with 20 frets. The cutaway without being extreme gives full access to all 20 frets. The neck is joined as an acoustic would be, not bolted like most electric guitars.
The defining feature with the neck though, is not the materials used but its slimline shape. It has a distinctively easy feel and feels like an electric guitar might.
Clearly, this neck has been designed with two purposes in mind. Firstly, of course, it has to act as an acoustic guitar neck. It accomplishes that without problems. But the ethos of the guitar says it wants to feel and be played like an electric guitar.
The slimline shape also achieves that. It is smooth and well set and just feels good in the hand. It has an adjustable truss rod.
We may have started well with the body. But the quality of the design and build of the neck has certainly pushed us along quite a bit.
Up at the headstock, we have six sealed chrome die-cast machine heads. These also have an offset pattern that seems to fit the design concept of the guitar as a whole. Nothing fancy with the tuners but adequate enough to hold it in tune.
The nut is made from Ivorex 2. This is a similar material to Tusq and what can be described as a very hard plastic. It is a common feature on a lot of Ibanez guitars as their belief is it lasts longer than bone. The same material is not surprisingly used for the saddle.
It has a Rosewood conventional shaped bridge with advantage bridge pins. Nothing spectacular then, in either design or materials. The hardware is the functional aspect of the guitar. It doesn’t have to look glamorous; it just has to work and be efficient. Another set of boxes ticked.
Several times we have said that the Ibanez Talman Series TCM50NT wants to be played like an electric guitar at times. It might have a nice slimline neck and a slimmer body. It has its pickup outside by the neck.
It has an AP2 magnetic pickup on the neck position with a preamp. The preamp powers the sound and offers both bass and treble tone controls, allowing you to fine-tune the sound a little. The pickup is good and quite powerful and very responsive. It comes with a 9-volt battery.
But here we are going to find something we don’t like. There is not a tuner included in this electric package. Even with the most ordinary guitars these days, you tend to get a tuner. Not sure why it has been omitted, but it certainly comes as a negative.
How Does It Play & Sound?
It has to be said it plays very nicely. It is nicely balanced, and at six and a half pounds, it is quite lightweight. Being slimline, it is easy to control and will work as a great guitar for a starter or young player. But don’t think that is what it is. This is a guitar a Pro is going to use as well.
We mention starters and young players because this guitar is set at a price point that is cheaper than some guitars considered in that bracket. But it is the neck that really carries it off for ease of playing. Its styling gives it that easy feel we have already mentioned.
All of these things we have discussed and highlighted so far though, don’t come alongside the real issue with this guitar. The sound is very good, indeed.
Acoustically the mahogany back and sides gives it a warm tone and a surprising depth. We say surprisingly because you can often lose a bit of low-frequency resonance with thin body guitars.
And whilst you do not get a big dreadnought sound, it is very warm and rich sounding with good depth. But on top of the rich mahogany sound is a little bit of bite that the Ash provides as the top wood. When played as an acoustic, it cuts through, and there is a refreshing combination of the woods that not only look good but sound great together.
This is because, inside, there is an electric guitar waiting to get out. Unplugged, it has a very nice sound, but plug it in, and you have a different animal completely. It gives you a very electric sound, unlike most other acoustic-electrics.
And just as importantly, it feels like one. Notes can bend, harmonics are great, and the pick up is surprisingly powerful. Ibanez often uses Fishman pickups, but the APT2 does not let it down at all.
Ibanez Talman Series TCM50NT Pros & Cons
- Interesting, unusual shape.
- Good choice of colors.
- Sounds good both acoustically and especially when plugged in.
- Excellent onboard electronics.
- The best of both an acoustic and electric guitar.
- Double cutaway allows for easy access.
More Superb Guitar Options
So many guitars, so little time… So, check out our reviews of the Best Blues Guitars, the Best Electric Guitar for Beginners, the Best Hollow Semi Hollow Guitars, the Best Electric Guitar for Kids, and the Best Travel Electric Guitars currently available.
What We Think?
For a guitar in this price range, this is one of the best you will find. The build quality is excellent, and the look and design exceptional. Materials used are top quality, and there is just nothing to complain about.
The acoustic sound, given it is a Thinline, is nice and warm, and despite the small body is quite loud. It also has a real edge to it. The electric sound is just surprisingly good. Produced in China at an Ibanez factory, it is well made and without flaws.
The lack of an onboard tuner is a disappointment, as is the lack of any type of case, but these are in no way a deal-breaker. However, Ibanez supplies you with two Allen keys for adjusting the truss rod and the pickup.
A great guitar at a very good price point and one of the best we have looked at recently. Ibanez has done it again. We suggest that the Fender powers that be, in Scottsdale, Arizona, take a look to see how modern twists on guitar design should be created. They might learn something.
This is definitely one to look out for and consider if you are in the market for a quality acoustic-electric.