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It has been many years since I picked up my first acoustic guitar. Back then if you wanted quality it meant paying the big bucks. Unfortunately, my “big bucks” were rather on the modest side so I naturally gravitated to what I could afford, and, much like so many others at the time, that meant a plywood guitar with a boxy sound and an action you could drive a truck under! My fingers hurt and my enthusiasm waned. However, I didn’t give up and that’s a good thing because 45 years later I get to play some great guitars that are well made, sound wonderful, and don’t cost a fortune.
This brings me nicely to the two guitars we are looking at today. Namely the Tanglewood TWBB OE and TWBB SD E. Both part of the new ‘Blackbird’ range which Tanglewood created using the very popular Crossroads series as their inspiration.
Apart from the different body styles of the two guitars they are identical in materials, finish, and electronics.
The first thing to strike you about these guitars is just how nice they look. Finished in what Tanglewood calls “Smokestack Black” and with their vintage ivory look ABS binding they really do stand out from the crowd. Not truly black of course, more of a light charcoal color but great looking just the same. The other noticeable thing is the build quality. At this price point, some makers cut corners and this often shows itself in excess glue around joints and blemishes in the finish. No such problems here. These guitars are very well made indeed.
- Top: Hand-selected mahogany.
- Back & Sides: Layered mahogany.
- Fingerboard: Techwood.
- Bridge: Techwood.
- Neck: Mahogany
- Nut: Composite PPS.
- Saddle: Composite PPS (Compensated)
- Nut width: 43 mm
- Scale length: 650 mm
- String spacing: 7 mm at 1st fret, 8.1 mm at 12th fret.
- Strings: Tanglewood Phosphor Bronze (12’s)
- Electronics: Tanglewood Premium Plus with built-in tuner.
- Tuners: Diecast. Chrome.
- Finish: Satin “Smokestack Black”
- Price: £179.00
As I mentioned, the spec for both guitars is the same, it is just the shape and dimensions that are different.
Playability & Sound
Out of the box, the action was good and if my examples were anything to go by, I think someone new to the guitar would not have any problems at all with note fretting and holding down chords.
The neck was smooth and the frets were nicely finished. This made moving up and down the neck very easy. The fretboard which is made from “techwood” (an engineered, processed wood that is highly durable) was very smooth and definitely added to the playability of these guitars.
I was very surprised by the sound. The smaller body size of the TWBB OE means it does not quite project as much as the slope shoulder dreadnaught TWBB SD E but it was definitely loud enough for me.
In terms of sound, the smaller bodied TWBB OE has a sweet tone that is well controlled and not boxy at all. The larger-bodied TWBB SD E projects well and has more “air” about its sound. Personally, I think it is the more versatile of the lineup but some people may prefer a smaller bodied guitar and the TWBB OE will suit better. There is also another model that we did not have on review, the TWBB SFCE which again has the same spec but in a folk style with a cutaway.
The preamp and pickup fitted to both guitars is Tanglewood’s own ‘Premium Plus with built-in tuner’ and it works very well. I am not really a fan of built-in electronics on acoustic guitars because I feel that they never truly reflect the acoustic sound of the instrument. This one does as good a job as any but I am still not convinced. By the way, the TWBB is also available as the TWBB O without electronics for the bargain price of just £139.00!
Tanglewood has knocked it very cleanly out of the ballpark with this new ‘Blackbird’ range. I have been trying to think of alternatives that combine the great aesthetics with wonderful tone and bargain price but nothing comes to mind.
I must admit that I was not expecting much from an all-laminate guitar but I found myself very quickly warming to these two instruments. They sound as good as they look and for £179.00 (correct at time of writing) I don’t think you can go far wrong.
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