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Tokai Bass & Guitar

Article from Music UK, May 1983

TOKAI Bass & Guitar in Deja vu trial — where have we met before?


FV 70

Japanese guitar makers Tokai launched to fame and fortune over here with, er, 'replicas' of vintage guitars; details accurate to the last nut and screw placement (in most cases) and a quality of manufacture which had previously been the exclusive province of makers like Yamaha and, sometimes, a few of the other big names.

Whatever else Tokai have achieved, they certainly stood the 'copy guitar' market on its ear — producing instruments with a quality of the 'originals', selling at a price which (whilst being far less than one would have paid for a genuine 1950's model) was significantly higher than one would ever previously have considered paying for what was, after all, a Jap copy.

Much of that initial reputation was on some stunningly good Fender-like models but Tokai's Gibson-type axes were, initially, somewhat less impressive which isn't something to be too surprised at because Gibsons are, generally speaking, far more complicated instruments to make than Fenders.

So it was that the promise of a loan of one of Tokai's more recent models (a V-shaped 'vintage') from importers Blue Suede Music looked to be particularly interesting.

Due to a sudden rush of deadlines to the head, the Tokai had to be sent via British Rail's Red Star service for us to collect at Euston. Speedy and reliable Red Star may well be, but the sort of handling that a musical instrument gets on a train isn't something which one would particularly recommend.

It speaks volumes for the quality of the Tokai 'V' that, not only did it arrive unscathed — it also arrived playing perfectly in tune straight out of its box!

The FV 70 is a stunningly close replica of a genuine Gibson Flying V from the original introduction date of 1958. Our sample came finished in an excellent mahogany/natural shade, and the artificially yellowed plastic of the machine head buttons and the pickup selector switch really did make it look uncannily realistic.


Other features faithfully rendered include the fitment of a ribbed rubber plate on the bottom lower horn, to stop the guitar slipping from the lap, a large (rather garish) plastic logo on the headstock reading 'Tokai' instead of 'Gibson', black laminated scratch-plate and rather lightweight machines (just as per the original!)

Playing the Tokai was just like holding a real vintage 'V' - there's no getting away from it, this model is as close to the original it apes as those early Tokai Strat-shapes and it gets frighteningly close to what one would be looking for if a real 'V' was your dream and you'd just won the pools.

Soundwise it has to be said that the difficulty facing this highly capable maker is that no two 1958 V's left in captivity will, by 1983, sound the same. Part of the appeal of old guitars lies in the effects of wear and tear on the original pick-up windings, the de-magnetisation of the pickups and the ageing of the body and neck woods. You might make a guitar look like the real thing but what sound you should be aiming for it to make is a matter of some guesswork. Tokai have opted here for a very toppy sounding bridge pickup with a superlative woody sound from the neck model. This is certainly convincing and is backed by sustain which is truly excellent. We'd have to admit that even some genuine V's we've tried haven't sounded as good as our sample did! Whether a side by side comparison with the real thing would reveal differences, however, would largely depend on which 1958 'V' you happened to have got hold of.

From a player's point of view the Tokai is a real peach of an instrument. The neck is 100% right for a Gibson-type; unbound but with beautifully finished and profiled frets and a really nice rosewood fingerboard with superlative access to the top. This is a speed-player's machine, this one; a factor accentuated by the great sound of that bridge pickup which really sears and sustains when you couple it with a good amp. Flick the switch the other way and that warm, woody tone gives you all you need for some gloriously crunchy chord sounds.

Whether you'd want this guitar would depend almost entirely on how you rate the original as an instrument. If V's are your thing then this has to be an instrument to go for — a good head and shoulders above most Japanese models bearing this shape and worth the asking price for those who lust after a guitar like this. As we've said, it seems better to us than some of the real old ones we've played, so at the asking price it has to be value for money, even if £466 seems a fair whack to pay for a Japanese 'copy' — some copy!



TJB 45 Bass

As the Tokai FV70 is to a nice old 'V', so the JB45 is to a vintage Jazz bass! Just like the 'V' is a superlative replica, so is this one and thus a lot of the reasons that you will either love or loathe it will depend very much on your views of the original.

Our sample came finished in a glowing red which really did look superb. The body wood was unidentified but the neck was certainly maple, and a very nice piece of maple at that! Added to that the rosewood of the fingerboard was first rate and the fretting remarkable for this price of instrument. We wouldn't like to put an exact year on this design, except to say that it isn't a new one. The features of the bass exactly what you would expect to find if you walked into a specialist dealer of old guitars and basses so, especially at this almost absurd asking price, the bass looks to be very fine value indeed.

The usual Jazz bass features include a rather thin bridge plate with the typically Fender-like arrangement which offers full adjustment for individual string height and intonation (un-tracked, of course) plus controls for two pickup volumes and a single tone. The machines on our sample were of the first order, as was the whole feel of the instrument and the overall look of it.

Apart from the twin pickup system of a Jazz, one of the major reasons why players opt for them is that they have much slimmer necks down at the nut end than Precisions. In this case the neck on the Tokai is one of the finest we've played, regardless of price, and would do more than justice to the construction, feel and dimensioning of an original. The point about this neck shape is that it allows you to play riffs across or up and down the neck on the lowest notes with far more ease than you can ever experience on a Precision but doesn't cramp your fingers too close together once you get up towards the top of the neck. Good? This neck is about the best of its breed that we've come across.

On the sound front, the Tokai, once again, replicates both the virtues and the failings of its proxy ancestor. The two pickups offer a far wider tonal range than you can get from a Precision with a woody deep sound from the neck pickup and sharper twang from the top one. But neither of them has the output power of many modern bass pickups. That's something you'd have to live with, of course, if you happened to have an original, so it's very much up to you. What matters more, perhaps, is that the bass's sound in terms of its tone is superb, really rewarding and very, very realistic.

As with the 'V' guitars, we'd rate this superb buy for anyone who fancied an original vintage model and either couldn't afford or couldn't find one. This bass is one of the best bargains we've yet come across on the mag. How good? Well, the Editor's sworn that he's going to get one, so what more can we say than that?

TOKAI FV 70 (RRP £466-72 inc.VAT & Case)
TOKAI TJB 45 Bass (RRP £207-91 inc.VAT)

Previous Article in this issue

Copyrighting your songs

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Max Kay Meets Bo Diddley

Publisher: Music UK - Folly Publications

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Music UK - May 1983

Gear in this article:

Guitar > Tokai > FV 70

Bass > Tokai > TJB 45

Gear Tags:

Electric Guitar


Previous article in this issue:

> Copyrighting your songs

Next article in this issue:

> Max Kay Meets Bo Diddley

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