Tokai produce stellar, albeit very well-priced acoustic guitars. We’ve reviewed some larger siblings in previous issues, but the Tokai Terra Nova S4 Model Mini Acoustic-Electric Guitar is a standout.
Once nestled against you, it really does feel small, but produces a sound larger than it’s solid spruce top and sapele back and sides, a firm tonewood known for richness and warmth and its similarity to mahogany, a wood used almost exclusively for acoustic guitars. With a scale length similar to a Les Paul, as well as the Brad Clark Supernatural preamp featured in some of the other electro-acoustic Tokai guitars. A handy, practical and inconspicuous pickup that does a great job at capturing each guitars nuances, and allows for further tweaking to fit the environment, night after night, once removing it from the included hardcase.
The Tokai Terra Nova S4 Model Mini Acoustic-Electric Guitar is, as its name suggests, a mini acoustic guitar. It features 19 medium frets and a 24.5” sale length, so just below the familiar Les Paul scale. The neck is made from mahogany crafted into a medium soft ‘V’ shape, and an ebony fretboard not only provides a great tone before the preamp, but complements the black gloss finish, as does the ebony bridge. The guitar, at least aesthetically, is sleek and classy, reminiscent of a grand piano or fresh tuxedo. Six Kluson-styled, white button tuners secure the strings to the machine heads, and a bone nut and saddle keep the instrument intonated. The guitar is just shy of 2kg, and the Deluxe Vintage Hard Shell case as standard keeps it safe. The guitars size and aesthetic reminds me of a time before full-bodied acoustic guitars were the norm, and produces Robert Johnson style blues or is perfect for intricately plucked passages and progressions.
This S4 feels quite small tucked under your arm, but produces a punchy sound that admittedly isn’t as resonant as its bigger siblings. But this mini acoustic isn’t trying to imitate, it has its own take on the sound of an acoustic guitar. It’s controlled, impactful and articulate in a way that bigger acoustic guitars just can’t replicate. Chords are steady and sizeable, and picked or arpeggio passages are balanced and articulate. Because of these characteristics, the guita records very well, even without the pickup. This is only further driven home by the Brad Clark Supernatural preamp nestled into the sound how that captures the sound from the guitar with clarity, while offering some tone voicing and shaping options. A three-band EQ offers bass, middle and treble controls, a master volume sits next to them, and finally a voicing button flicks between four different voicings to suit different environments and further dialled by EQ. The guitar plays well, but does feel particularly small, as you’d expect, so it takes some getting used to. Regardless, it produces a sound all of its own.
The Tokai Terra Nova S4 Model Mini Acoustic-Electric Guitar is a great addition to the Terra Nova series of acoustic-electric guitars that Tokai produces. It’s not rehashing what ground has already been covered by Tokai, it’s forging a new path. This mini acoustic guitar looks and feels mostly like a more normal size acoustic, but the sound produced is more controlled than a full-size acoustic is capable of because of the sheer size of the guitar and inevitable sound bouncing around. The Brad Clark Supernatural preamp adapts extremely well to an entirely different guitar, and manages to capture the subtle colour and tonal characteristics of this Terra Nova. A great guitar all tied up in a mini package.
Hits and Misses
Great, balanced and articulate sound
Pickup included as standard
Small size takes some getting used to