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Tokai J-200

Review: Tokai J-200 (Korean)

Date:February 3, 2003
Manufacturer:Tokai Gakki
Author:Chris Myers

General Description

This is a 'made in Korea' Tokai copy of Gibson's J-200 jumbo body acoustic. It has a solid spruce top, flamed maple back and sides, maple neck, rosewood fingerboard, and a bound body and neck. The headstock has the opened book configuration of the original Gibson. The headstock is not bound. The finish is natural.

It was purchased new, on eBay, from Mike's Music in Canada for $358 US shipped. Case was not included. No serial number was located on the instrument.

Fit & Finish

The build quality on this guitar is extremely good. The body joint of the set neck is clean and tight. The nut installation is clean. It overhangs the neck just slightly on the bass side. Tuners are installed tightly and turn precisely. A few of the tuner grommets were not seated on the headstock, requiring a couple of taps to remedy. The bindings are very attractive and are installed precisely. The same holds for the center strip on the back and the bottom of the guitar at the endpin. Tokai J-200

The rosewood bridge is quite heavy with odd shaped, blocky inlays that stand in contrast to the very attractive inlays in the fingerboard. All inlays show some small indication of filler around them, though not enough to be a distraction. The guitar comes with medium frets that are well installed. The fret ends are beveled and smooth. The setup is comfortable, requiring no adjustment. The intonation is good, and there is no buzzing or note-out anywhere on the neck.

This guitar came in a natural finish that is quite striking in appearance. The high gloss finish has an amber tone that gives the instrument an antiqued look. As attractive as the guitar is, however, it is the finish (more specifically the finish preparation) that betrays this guitar's price point. It appears that Tokai applied an orange/brown toner to the wood as a grain enhancer prior to applying the finish. This is an effective way of 'pushing' the figure in the grain, but also highlights any area where the finish sanding is lacking. On this instrument there are two small spots on the back, near the edges, where rough areas held this toner and subsequently stand out. There is also one spot where glue squeeze-out was not entirely sanded out, leaving a small area that is lighter than the surrounding finish. However, that being said, these are small imperfections that do little to degrade the overall attractiveness of the finish. Tokai J-200

About materials

The solid spruce top has tight grain lines and the two sides are matched to each other. There is some color variation in the spruce, but it is not unattractive. The flamed maple back and sides are nicely figured. I am told the maple back is laminated, but I cannot confirm this. The flame on the back and sides moves as your view changes, so it is the real thing - not photo flame. The one piece maple neck has a small amount of flame and shows some very slight discoloration from mineral staining. These are simply small indicators of the guitar's price point. They degrade the overall beauty of the guitar only slightly. Tokai J-200

Sound/Playability

Very high marks here. The guitar plays very easily with smooth action. The neck profile is comfortable in the hand. The sound is very full and well-balanced, favoring the treble strings slightly. The guitar projects well when you step on the gas, but enunciates cleanly when played with the fingers.

Summary

With excellent build quality, a very attractive finish, decent woods, and terrific sound and playability, the Korean built Tokai J-200 may be one of the great 'sleepers' on today's acoustic guitar market. Although it can be purchased for beginner guitar prices, it is anything but. This offering from Tokai Korea delivers tremendous bang for the buck.

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