In this Takamine TC132SC review, I share my impressions and experience from several years of playing this guitar, why I chose it and what I did to fit it into my style. From one side, TC132SC is a pretty much a standard classical nylon-string guitar with 2″-wide neck joining the body on 12th fret. From another side, it has all attributes of the modern guitar, such as cutaway and electronics. But let’s start from the question why I chose TC132SC.
Takamine TC132SC vs. TH-5C vs. TH-90
Here is what I looked for in a classical guitar: deep, warm and mellow sound for playing classical ‘nylon’ jazz and accompanying to the singers, reliable manufacturer and a decent price.I looked for the cedar top, and ‘dark’ back and sides – in general, they produce warmer sound (IMHO). I wanted a convenient classical 2″/51mm-wide neck, good playability, low action, and high end electronics. I looked for a guitar from a manufacturer with good reputation. I even bough a guitar from another Japanese manufacturer but didn’t like it and return it. Takamine’s neck shape, the Palathetic pickup and CoolTube CTP2 preamp made the difference.
I liked reviews of Takamine guitars on YouTube and informal reviews on the forums. Three classical Takamine models TC132SC, TH-5C, and TH-90 looked good for me. TH-90 was out of my price range, so I focused on the first two.
TC-132SC has solid cedar top, solid rosewood back, and laminated rosewood sides. Another very similar but more expensive Takamine classical guitar, TH-5C, has solid rosewood sides. Retail prices on TH-5C were about $400 higher. I talked to a reputable professional flamenco player who owned both models of the guitar about how significant is the difference in sound. He replied that he didn’t hear any difference in sound between them. I didn’t care too much about the exterior, and went with the less expensive model.
Local music shops in my area didn’t have any TC132SC in stock, so I couldn’t try it. I talked to a few Takamine guitar owners at Acoustic Guitar Forum. All of them were very positive about their experience. So, I liked how it sounded, I liked the feature set, the most of the formal and informal reviews were positive. It was a 2010 Christmas sales season, and I pulled the trigger. I bought it new online for $1,100. You can check the current availability and prices on Amazon by clicking here.
Right after unpacking it, my first impressions were … well, they were “mixed”. Guitar’s playability was great, action was almost right, but it didn’t sound as I expected. Not so rich, not warm enough, not deep. Duck will be the right word to describe the sound after I tried this guitar right out of the box. Note that it was winter time, it was cold outside, and TC132SC was shipped to me from another side of the country.
However, I’ve seen cases like that with new guitars before, and I was prepared. I put my favorite high-tension strings, inserted a Planet Waves guitar humidifier to compensate for the winter’s low RH, let it to settle down for one day and postponed all further tests until later. And the next day it sounded acoustically … just as I expected! It sounded much richer, bright and deep enough. I like to hear a balance between the punchy sound of the high strings and solid mellow bass line – and I heard it at that day and thereafter.
Electronics: CTP-1, CTP-2, CTP-3 Cooltube preamps
Different generations of TC132SC used different preamps. I believe initially it was equipped with CT4DX preamp. In the next generation, Takamine switched to preamps using Cooltube technologies – CTP1, CTP2 (it’s my case), and recently – CTP3. You can read more about them on takamine.com/pre-amps. From my experience, Cooltube makes sound a bit warmer than other ‘traditional’ preamps. You can select how much of the ‘tube’ sound to the output from 0 to 100% via Cooltube control knob. Even with that, when you play or strum moderately loud, you’ll hear that “plastic” sound created by undersaddle pickup, but, in my understanding, it’s unavoidable on any guitar unless you switch to or mix it with the signal from internal or external microphones.
All CooolTube preamps have an additional AUX input designed for connecting additional pickup. For steel string guitars, Takamine offers Tri-Ax2 magnetic pickup, but it won’t work with nylon string guitars. Unfortunately, it also won’t work well with internal microphones due to impedance mismatch, but I know that some people were able to overcome this issue.
All models of CTP-x preamps have 3-band semi-parametric equalizer with adjustable midrange. The CTP-3 model also has a notch filter that helps preventing feedback from the guitar. Signal from the AUX input doesn’t go through the internal equalizer and mixes with the output from the undersaddle Takamine Palatetic pickup. On CTP-3 though, it’s possible to cut Mid and High frequencies from the second pickup, but I don’t know any details about that.
All these preamps have onboard chromatic tuner. I used quite a lot of different tuners and was a bit skeptical about Takamine’s one, unless I started playing a Taylor guitar that doesn’t have embedded tuner. That was the moment when I realized all convenience of having a tuner at any moment when you need it right in front of you. Press a “Tuner” button – and it’s ready to work. Press it another time – and it mutes the output signal. Pressing it for the third time returns preamp into normal mode. I miss that convenience a lot on many other guitars!
There are legends that Cooltube preamps “eat” batteries. Frankly speaking, I didn’t notice that. I played the same set of standard AA batteries for many days, from 30-40 minutes to 2-3 hours per day, and only replaced them ‘just to be safe’ when playing concerts. I experimented with external power for Takamine CTP-2 quite a bit, but at the end of the day I didn’t have any problems with the standard battery-operated way of using this guitar and rarely used that external power supply.
My experience with TC-132SC
Rounds #1 and #2
I wanted to tweak the setup a bit, so I brought it to a guitar tech and asked for a few things:
- lower the action (sand down a saddle just a bit)
- add two extra side dots at 15th and 17th frets
- add a strap button
- polish the edges of the nut – they were a bit sharp to me
I played this guitar a lot for the next several months and got many compliments from the listeners. Together with my friends, we played a small house concert as vocal, bass and guitar trio. It went very well, and I played both via pickup/preamp and via an external dynamic microphone. I was fully satisfied with the results but …. wanted to try one more thing to make sure it’s not just a good guitar, but a very good guitar.
Round #3. To PLEK or not to PLEK
Several months later, I’ve got time and money to take the next significant step. I think that the most TC132SC owners won’t need to do that, but my perfectionism didn’t let me to ignore it anymore. I wanted to do two extra things with my Tak:
- Further improve playability
- Add an internal microphone
To address the first thing, I decided to run my guitar through the PLEK service. You can find more information about PLEK on this site.
Shortly speaking, PLEK is a computerized machine that does high precision guitar fretting job. Muke Lull’s guitar shop in Bellevue, WA has a PLEK machine. Actually, I already tested it with my gypsy jazz Saga Gitane D500 guitar a few years before and was very impressed by the results. It improved the guitar’s playability significantly. So, I went there for the second time and asked Mike to PLEK my TC132SC too.
PLEK did a VERY, VERY good job on frets leveling, crowning, and polishing. My fingers literally can fly over the fretboard and I am more than happy with that!
Round 4. Takamine TC132SC Review, one year later
One year later, I am still a very satisfied player of TC132SC. In addition to the improvements described above, I shaved a little bit more off the saddle, got the excellent playability and some light string buzz. What I want to do next is to order a couple more bridges adding 1mm and 2mm to the action. Probably I’ll do this later this year.
Here is my clip on YouTube where I play a Russian Christmas Song. You can hear how my guitar sounds (after a couple of minor tweaks in DAW)
I also tested different strings and settled down on one particular kind – Savarez 540CJ high-tension strings.
I found that my TC132SC has GOTOH 1:14 tuners 35G420. They work well, and I lubricate them from time to time when I change strings to make the process of tuning a bit smoother.
Round 5, two years later.
Two year later, I have nothing to complain about. I play for TC132SC and TF740FS in 50/50 proportion, both plugged in and non-amplified, and am still a very satisfied player. I didn’t do anything else with the guitar, even didn’t touch the action, but still feel that I need to raise it just a little bit. Will see how it goes 🙂
Round 6, 2016, still good.
Six years later, it still sounds and plays very well. As I planned, about a year ago I added about one millimeter to the saddle and it works better with strumming-like accompaniment. For more detailed information, you can check my article about guitar string action.
Here is some action measurements from my TC132SC:
- Height from 1st fret top to bottom of 6th string: 0.02″, or 0.5 mm
- Height from 1st fret top to bottom of 1st string: 0.03″, or 0.76 mm
- Height from 12th fret top to bottom of 6th string: 0.09″, or ~2.3 mm
- Height from 12th fret top to bottom of 1st string: 0.08″, or 2 mm
- Height from 12th fret top to bottom of 6th string, capo on the 1st fret: 0.08″, or 2 mm
- Height from 12th fret top to bottom of 1st string, capo on the 1st fret: 0.07″, or 1.78 mm
Just for comparison purposes, this is what StewartMacDonald.com uses as a general guidance for setting up action on classical guitars:
- Action at the 1st fret: 0.03″ for the 6th string, 0.24″ for the 1st string (0.76mm and 0.61mm)
- Action at the 12th fret: 0.156″ for the 6th string and 0.125″ for the 1st string (3.96mm and 3.18mm)
As you can see, action on my guitar is much lower than recommended by Stewart MacDonald. I am ok with mine, especially taking into account that is was Plek-ed, but probably will add another millimeter when I do the next guitar check/setup in some future.
CoolTube II still works fine with me. Since the last time, I’ve added a small pedal board which now includes Zoom A3, and then either a Boss OC-3 octaver (with hight pass filter until E or G on the 4th string), or TC Electronic Ditto X2 looper. You might see more details about that in my another post.
I should also admit that I am not the most rational guitar buyer in the world. Resale value of a guitar with laminated sides (even with the solid top) is not very good. But I don’t change guitars every year, this one should work for me at least for the next few years, and who knows what happens then. I am glad I bought it, PLEKed it, and I like playing it very much.
I collected several videos from Youtube with Takamine TC132SC reviews and performances by good guitarists and Takamine staff.
TC132SC via to Roland AC40 Acoustic Amp
Here is a very nice classical tune played by Rik Roberts. I don’t hear sound from pickup, so I assume that Rik used an external microphone connected to Roland AC40 acoustic amplifier, and then used DI output from the amp to some sort of digital audio workstation (aka DAW) for recording. The sound is very clean and transparent, I like it a lot!
Fantasia (S. L. Weiss) performed by ThinkingDog
I like clear acoustic sound on this clip. It’s punchy and has a good balance between lows and highs.
Another good demo of TC132SC by Chafinmusicenter
This video is a fast capture ‘on the fly’. The sound in the beginning is thin – probably because of camera is too far from the player and the camera’s microphone is not too sensitive (or gain is low). To my taste, TC132SC with those strings sounds too sharp – almost like a steel string guitar. But, again, it might be caused by bad audio recording.
Singer and guitar player Roman Lankin
Roman Lankin is my favorite singer, guitar player, music arranger and performer from Tomsk, Russia. He’s been playing TC132SC for many years. His Takamine is several years old and has CoolTube CTP1 preamp. Roman also added an internal microphone and mixes it with the pickup. It sounds excellent – I heard it many times. On the video below he plays and sings old russian song ‘The Drummer’.
Below is one more Roman’s video – there he uses his classical Takamine in a very non-classical style:
There are several other videos of Takamine TC132SC guitar on Youtube. Check them if interested.
I would very appreciate if you leave your feedback about this review below. Thanks for reading and happy playing!