The war to capture the hearts and minds of the budget guitar buyer seems to have shifted. Makers aren't now so concerned about hitting a mind-bogglingly low price - these days, they're all trying to offer the best guitar possible at the various price levels.
A few years ago this battle was all about finish and build quality, and cheap guitars really started to look, feel and play better. However, not all of them sounded great. Often this could be fixed with a pickup and pots upgrade, but spending that extra cash was a bit of a pain. Now, in 2009, delivering the best sound for the pound is the new territory to claim - and these two new Tanglewoods sound dangerously good. Here's our take on the TSB Signature '62...TSB-62 Signature '62
Materially the TSB-62 is pretty much the same as the TSB-57, even down to the skunk stripe down
the back of the neck, which is unnecessary as you could front-load the truss rod before the fingerboard goes on. The '60s ‘C' profile - fatter than the '57's - has been fairly well executed, but while the quality of the rosewood is fine it does feel a little dry and scratchy. More significantly the fret tangs have lifted at the 10th, 11th and 12th frets to such an extent that the top E can get trapped. Shipping through different climates could be the cause, but the message here is check a few examples and request a set up as part of the deal.Sounds
These pickups are non-staggered Entwistle XS62s. The output is a little higher and the tone more rounded than the TSB-57's. The clean bridge tone is refreshingly hi-fi but the mids are perhaps a little more pronounced. It sounds real and authoritative.
There's a twist which accounts for this model's £30 upcharge: the middle tone control is a bit of Entwistle wizardry called the Vintage Reality Circuit. This gives a frequency shift that emulates the sound of old scatterwound pickups, with an aim to sound ‘more Fender than Fender' (Entwistle recommends adding top and dipping mids at the amp, and says switch positions 2 and 4 can sound very acoustic-like). The variations are progressively smoother and less toppy and don't lose focus. It's almost like having two tone controls with different characters, and as both work all over their entire travel from 0-10 and on every pickup setting, you have great tone-shaping capacity at your fingertips.
All this circuit magic works when you move on to hairy amp sounds, too. It's much more rock than the '57, and the VRC means you can get some really wailing highs. Sustain is excellent, and your ears are getting a treat beyond what you'd expect at this price.
Build and finish-wise these Tanglewoods are well enough made to hold their heads up with the competition, and they sound like proper guitars. If you're looking for a fine starter guitar, an upgrade off the bottom rung or even a spare as a stage backup, it's hard to see where you could go wrong. Look a few over before you buy and request a set-up if necessary, but these are loads of fun, and the sounds are definitely there.