This is the rosewood-backed grand auditorium with a curvaceously elegant medium-jumbo-size body measuring just under 16.25" across the lower bouts, with less-than-jumbo-size rims 109mm deep at the baseblock. The ‘paintbrush stroke’ design of the Sanden-designed ebony bridge is accompanied by matching pins with abalone dots. The tapered, curvy-top headstock, with its black-buttoned gold Grovers, also mimics the Sanden shape and is overlaid with rosewood not just on the face but the underside too. No logo here: Tanglewood modestly confines itself to an abalone-inlaid ‘T’ at the octave position of the bound ebony fingerboard. The fingerboard is otherwise plain, but the side dots are all present and correct.
The third Sanden-esque feature is a zero fret. Now, not many guitar makers these days use this – Fylde and Norfolk’s John Hullah are the only other two who immediately spring to mind – but I have always been a fan. Assuming the fretting is installed and dressed correctly, which it most certainly is here, you’re guaranteed a good low-position action, with minimal risk of finger pressure-induced intonation glitches. It’s also inherently comfortable.
Behind the zero fret sits a narrow ebony nut. By the very nature of the arrangement it looks aesthetically a little ‘busy’, though this is partly because the nut is relatively tall. Were the guitar mine I’d file away a little of this height, so that the strings sit more on the nut grooves than in them and the whole thing looks, well, more integrated.
This minor point shouldn’t detract from the fact that the guitar is very tastefully adorned and, by and large, beautifully turned out, and that includes internal tidiness. The body is bound in mahogany with inner strip purflings; the multi-ringed rosette is abalone inlaid, and the top carries a thin see-through pickguard. The all-over gloss lacquer – polyurethane over a polyester base coat – is immaculately buffed. The edging where the bass-side rim meets the neck heel isn’t 100 per cent perfect and there’s a little over-spray on the rear face of the nut, but in fairness this is an early production sample.
Tanglewood emphasises that all MasterDesigns carry triple-A grade sitka spruce tops. Ours is close-grained and nicely cross-silked but the grain is flecky and the wood bears a pinkish hue vaguely suggestive of cedar. Tanglewood concedes that this sample is visually ambiguous but assures us that the top is indeed as specified.
The neck is a two-way sandwich of mahogany with a thin centre fillet of ebony, which looks great in tandem with the peghead’s rear overlay and rosewood heel capping (with a second strap button). Nut width is 44mm which, along with a 55mm-plus string spacing at the bridge, is excellent for fingerstyle but snug enough for unstressful strummage. The relatively shallow profile has a very comfortable C-cum-D section, helped along for slickness by the slippy gloss finish and an excellent medium-action set-up.
Description: Grand auditorium electro-acoustic. Made in China
Price: £1129 inc. case
Build: Solid sitka spruce top, solid rosewood back and sides. Mahogany neck with 21-fret bound ebony fingerboard and zero fret. Ebony bridge and nut, bone saddle, black-buttoned, gold diecast Grover tuners, two strap buttons.
B-Band undersaddle pickup; B-Band A1.2 active endpin system with soundhole volume wheel and internal velcro battery pouch
Options: Spruce/mahogany TSM-2 (£999). Other MasterDesigns are the TSM-1 (£969) and TSR-1 (£1099) auditoriums, and TSM-3 (£1049) and TSR-3 (£1199) super jumbos. All come complete with B-Band A1 system; prices include case
Finish: Gloss natural
Scale length: 650mm/25.6"
12th fret 54.5mm
Depth of neck:
First fret 21mm
9th fret 22.5mm
Action as supplied:
12th fret treble 2.3mm
12th fret bass 2.5mm
Max rim depth: 109mm
Max body width: 412mm
Fingerboard radius: 14"