TOKAI SURFTONE AST-S38-SFG ELECTRIC GUITAR

Jade Australia | 1800 144 120 | www.jadeaustralia.com.au | RRP: $549

Tokai’s 70s-era repro­duc­tions of clas­sic Amer­i­can gui­tars are leg­endary in their own right. In fact they made the orig­i­nal gui­tar com­pa­nies sweat quite a bit. So you know that when you buy a vintage-inspired Tokai today it has quite a pedi­gree. These ST-Style gui­tars are part of Tokai’s new lim­ited edi­tion Surftone series. They’re based on clas­sic mod­els, but each with cus­tom mod­i­fi­ca­tions to mod­ernise the playa­bil­ity. They’re exclu­sive to Aus­tralia and they’re avail­able in lim­ited numbers.

SURFING SAFARI

The first thing you’ll notice about this gui­tar is that incred­i­ble colour. The review model is sea foam green with a minty green pick­guard, although a cream-bodied ver­sion is also avail­able. Each has a Maple neck with Maple fret­board and 21 frets.  The fret­board radius is a lit­tle flat­ter and more for­giv­ing than if Tokai had gone with a vintage-radius fret­board. The head­stock face is glossy but the back of the neck is satin, allow­ing your hand to glide effort­lessly along the neck rather than get­ting caught up in a sticky gloss fin­ish like a tra­di­tional 50s model. The frets are big­ger than vin­tage too.

The pick­ups are a trio of true sin­gle coils with a reverse wound/reverse polar­ity mid­dle pickup for hum-cancelling sounds in posi­tions two and four. The con­trols are the tra­di­tional volume/tone/tone con­fig­u­ra­tion, and there’s a five-way pickup selec­tor switch. The bridge is a vintage-style six-screw vibrato with bent steel sad­dles. That’s pretty much it, clas­sic styling with mod­ern playa­bil­ity, beau­ti­ful fin­ishes and no-way-could-it-be-that-good-for-the-price work­man­ship. Let’s plug it in and see how it sounds.

IT AIN’T EASY BEING SURF GREEN

The big stand­out here, imme­di­ately, is the neck pickup. It has a bit more of a smokey, bluesy vibe than the oth­ers, more akin to a 60s ST-Style gui­tar than the 50s tones sug­gested by the other two pick­ups. The bridge pickup leans quite far towards the ‘twang’ end of the spec­trum, and it really sings through a clean amp set­ting where it has an almost pedal steel-like qual­ity. The mid­dle pickup has a slightly honky midrange qual­ity by itself, which is nice for fuller-sounding melodies, but it calms down nicely when you com­bine it with either the bridge or neck pickup for the in-between tones. The neck pickup sounds great when you pile on the over­drive, but it quickly becomes appar­ent that these pick­ups are at their best when they’re pump­ing out clean or over­driven tones, as opposed to all-out dis­torted may­hem ones. The work­man­ship is great for the price, with the sole excep­tion being a rough spot on one of the tuner but­tons. Still, for around $550 out the door that’s quite forgivable.

SURFIN’ AUS.

If you’re in the mar­ket for this type of gui­tar, this is a great option and a cool Aus­tralian exclu­sive. The colours are beau­ti­ful, the work­man­ship rocks, the playa­bil­ity is effort­less and the tones are won­der­ful. If you’re into clean and over­driven sounds that are pre­dom­i­nantly 50s-based but with a lit­tle bit of fat­ter 60s tone thrown in, this will suit you down the ground. If you want heav­ier tones, you could change the pick­ups eas­ily enough, but it’s a heck of a gui­tar as is. A lot of peo­ple are going to find their voice in it.

Hits and Misses

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Beau­ti­ful colours

Great neck pickup tones

Nice tun­ing stability

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Sin­gle coils are inher­ently noisy

Rough spot on one tuner

Tones might be too twangy for some

Specs

Maple Fret­board
21 Frets
5 Way Pickup Selector
3 Sin­gle Coil Pickups
Satin Backed Neck

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