Tokai AST33 Review
The AST33 is a Korean made version of Tokai's Goldstar Sound. There is much debate
about the Korean vs. Japanese Tokai's and I am the first to admit that the
Japanese made guitars are better instruments overall. Why, the electronics, tuners
and bridge are just plain better quality parts. However, the finish and neck on
this guitar are absolutely top notch and since I can't leave the electronics or
tuners alone anyway why pay the extra dollars for parts that will get replaced.
This guitar is Lake Placid Blue with a pearloid pick guard which adds a bit of flair
to the guitar. Other features include a 4 bolt neck and from the '85/'86 catalog
the AST40 claims a 'C' contour neck with 21 frets I'm guessing the AST33 also has
a 'C' contour. The guitar has 3 springs on the tremolo and included a bag with
the trem arm, extra trem spring, allen wrenches and a guitar cord. There is also
an AST28 available with standard colors and plain pick guard.
|Fingerboard:|| Rosewood or Maple, 21 frets|
|Bridge:|| ST-VT1K Tremolo|
|Controls:|| 1V, 2T, 5way-selector|
Construction and Feel
The fit and finish of the Tokai AST3 are excellent. From the well setup action which is
set really low and produced a small amount of buzz when playing open strings, to
the smooth paint coat on the body and clear satin finish on the neck, it is clear
that this AST has been crafted to exacting standards. The frets were also well
installed, buffed, and even.
For those familiar with the feel of a Stratocaster, the AST plays as any
well-made Stratocaster should. While many may prefer the heavy lacquers used on
the necks on the vintage and vintage reissue instruments, I found that the neckís
clear satin finish felt very nice in that it was neutral. It was not too heavily
lacquered and "sticky" like the finishes on the other guitars, and not rough as
an unfinished neck would be. The satin finish gives a nice "slippery" feel
overall. Bending strings and playing chords were both comfortable, especially
against the smooth frets and satin finished neck. Again, this is excellent
craftsmanship for a Korean made instrument.
The tremolo system is a basic die-cast unit used on older Strats. Unlike the
Wilkinson unit on my American Std. Strat you cannot rest your palm on this tremolo
as the allen screws tend to stick in your palm. However, it is easier to adjust
the intonation than on the Wilkinson unit. My personal favorite tremolo system
is the one used in the mid-90ís era Strat pluses that incorporated a roller nut,
no string guides, locking tuners, and a Hipshot Tremsetter system. One could
fairly easily add those features to the AST and I highly recommend that for those
who are concerned over tremolo and tuning stability. I have personally added a
Hipshot and locking Sperzel tuners to my American Std. Strat and plan to do the
same to my Tokai.
So how does the Tokai feel compares to my '96 American Std Strat? Different.
The neck is much flatter and thinner than my Strat but it is also more comfortable.
This is were the Tokai really falls short. I prefer my strats to have a bell like
tone when played on the neck pick up with a Fender amp. The AST33's sound is very
muddy when played with the Super Reverb patch on my POD. However... there is
huge potential for this guitar as when I play unplugged the guitar can be heard
almost across the entire house, excellant acoustic qualities on this axe. Future plans
include a set of Rio Grande pickups which should really spice the electric sound
of this guitar right up.
The tone controls are your basic Strat type with the volume control easily accessible
with your pick hand so you can easily roll back the volume to smooth out your sound.
The one inconsistancy with the vintage vibe is the 5way selector switch. The Strats
that these Tokai's are copying all came with 3way switches but Tokai must have seen
the inclusion of a 5way switch as a improvement much as Fender did in later years.
I know when recording near the computer, and when your computer is your recorder it's
hard to get away from it, the 5way switch is a savior as it eliminates the hum introduced
by the PC's monitor.
If your a Strat player who needs another axe and must modify your guitars I highly
recommend the AST33. If your the kind of person who doesn't need to fiddle with
your guitar I would opt for the AST50 series from Tokai for the better parts. I
plan on changing the tuners and definately the pickups then set the guitar up with
a drop tuning (Eb) so I can jam along with SRV, Kiss, Van Halen and other drop
tuning bands. On a scale of 1 to 10 I would rate this guitar a 7 due to the fact
that I know you can't find a better guitar for under $300.00 as this guitar blows
away the Korean and Mexican Fenders.