The story behind this acoustic guitar is not at all straightforward, but bear with us – all will become clear shortly. The story goes that the PTU441 was originally available only in Japan, but with a different suffix – TBS (Tobacco Sunburst).
Essentially, it’s the same guitar and one of the company’s New Yorker range. During our research, we even tracked down a YouTube video from 2016 that shows it being played in its native country, which bears the story out. When a representative from UK distributor Korg was on a visit to Takamine’s Pro Series facility in Gifu, Japan, in 2019, he suggested that the model might do well as a limited run on these shores.
He also recommended that the finish be changed to satin as opposed to gloss, and a short run of the model duly appeared in the UK warehouse shortly afterwards. At present, they seem to be very popular over here, to the extent that another batch has already been ordered for next year. If you like what you see here, you’d better be quick putting your order in.
We also managed to see a translation of the ‘Japan-only 400 Series Range’ brochure in which it says of this model: “The 400 series is renowned for offering some of the best playability in the Takamine range. It is loved by many artists because it is compact and short scale. The sound is well balanced from low to high frequencies, and is particularly popular with fingerpicker players.
The slotted head is also characteristic and many people will be attracted to this design.” So, what exactly do we have here? It’s a parlour-sized guitar – the baby of the regular body sizes – with a slotted headstock, 14th-fret body join and a short scale. Sound intriguing? Let’s take a closer look.
Feel & Sounds
Strangely enough, our preconceptions of a parlour guitar were shattered almost immediately upon opening the 441’s case. It doesn’t look small at all, you see.
Certainly not as skinny as some of the parlour guitars we’ve seen in the past, anyway – so out comes the tape measure and we move in for some vital statistics. The solid spruce top measures in at 355mm across the widest point on the lower bout, and the body length is a relatively demure 487mm.
Perhaps the 14th-fret neck join is deceiving the eye, but, to us, it doesn’t look as ‘shrunk in the wash’ as is the tendency with many parlours. Incidentally, Takamine’s spec doesn’t tell us what kind of spruce is present in the guitar’s top, but our suspicion is that it’s Sitka, although the wider grain pattern might suggest Adirondack, yet the price point seems to confirm the former rather than the latter.
Back and sides are rosewood – again, it’s not made clear what type, but we expect it to be Indian – and we’re told that the back is solid, but the sides might be a laminate. To be honest, it’s darned difficult to tell as peeking inside seems to confirm that the grain on the sides’ inside matches the outside. It’s an open verdict on that score.
The 441’s neck is mahogany with a rosewood fingerboard and the binding around the body and neck looks to be of the ivoroid variety. Both the tuners and endpin are gold, which is a nice decorative asset, but otherwise the guitar looks relatively cool and understated.
As far as stage-readiness is concerned, the guitar is outfitted with Takamine’s CoolTube pickup/preamp system – the CT-4BII, to be precise – and every time we’ve come across an instrument with this particular kit onboard we’ve been mightily impressed. Confidence is high as far as the 441’s time in the spotlight is concerned.
One little surprise was the nut width. At 42mm, it’s about the same as the average Strat, which is good news or bad news, depending on your point of view: good if your main instrument happens to be electric and you find your fingers floundering with wider nuts; or bad if you’re a fingerstylist and need a minimum of 45mm to strut your funky stuff.
We found things a little cramped in this area, but have to admit that we were issued with large hands and fairly fat fingers at birth and so we’re happy to sit on the fence and say that perhaps the guitar might find favour with those among you with smaller hands. The neck feels quite generous, the smooth satin finish making chord changes a dream, and everything rings nicely when strummed either piano or fortissimo.
There is a tendency for the bass-end to roll off, particularly around the lower E from the 3rd fret down, but we’re expecting that the CoolTube pickup/preamp will sort that out once we’re plugged in.
Where this guitar really shines, from a tonal point of view, is in the upper trebles as single notes sing out sweetly, meaning the guitar could be something of an all-rounder if you’re willing to forgive the slight drop-off in the bass.
Plugged in, we were in for another surprise as we found ourselves rolling off the bass and much of the midrange on the CoolTube’s three-way EQ before we were happy with the sound – and this was keeping the controls on our AER Compact 60 flat. We might choose to invest in something like a Boss GE-7 if we were to take the 441 out on the road, just so we had a little bit more control.
We’ve been saying for ages that smaller-bodied guitars are the new dreadnoughts where current trends are concerned. Improvements in PA systems mean that the happy strummer is never more than a simple tweak away from getting a good sound, thanks to strides forward in technology. So this guitar ticks many boxes in terms of portability, build quality and sound performance.
True to say, the narrow nut isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea and the EQ would have to compensate for a little bit of a drop in the bass, but this little New Yorker is definitely street smart – and we’re happy to start spreading the news.
- PRICE: £1,499 (inc hard case)
- ORIGIN: Japan
- TYPE: Parlour
- TOP: Spruce
- BACK/SIDES: Rosewood
- MAX RIM DEPTH: 105mm
- MAX BODY WIDTH: 355mm
- NECK: Mahogany
- SCALE LENGTH: 629mm
- TUNERS: 3-a-side open gear
- NUT/WIDTH: Synthetic/42mm
- FINGERBOARD: Rosewood
- FRETS: 21
- BRIDGE/SPACING: Rosewood/54mm
- ELECTRICS: Takamine CT-4BII
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 1.95/4.29
- OPTIONS: None
- RANGE OPTIONS: The PTU441-MTB is a limited UK-only run and differs in spec from Takamine’s other New Yorker models of which there are many with varying spec and body woods. See website for details
- LEFTHANDERS: No
- FINISH: Satin Tobacco Sunburst
- CONTACT: Takamine