As promised, here is a review of LAG Guitars’ T88D, which I repaired last week.
At the outset, let me clarify that I am not linked to LAG Guitars in any way, and by doing this review, I am not benefiting in any way.
However, I will go on record to say that I (personally speaking) have not played a prettier sounding guitar. The balance (between the treble and the bass response) of the instrument, its resonance, sustain, construction, looks…it just blew me away.
As I played it, I was reminded of my childhood and how my father had bought me a parchment bat. I was thrilled with it until, a few years later, he bought me an English willow bat. I can still recall the awe and sheer pleasure I felt the first time I played with it and saw the ball race to boundary. Effortless ease!
The difference in performance between a Rs-3,000 guitar and the LAG T88D is exactly the same as what it was between my parchment bat and the English willow! Everyone will wish to own the LAG T88D but only a few will be able to, for priced at (around Rs 30,000), it is certainly not your run-of-the-mill Rs-3,000 guitar.
And thus, the headline to this post, and my advice to all.
But let’s start from the start, shall we?
LAG Guitars started off 39 years ago in the picturesque Southern France region, producing ONLY electric guitars. At the turn of the century, in what seems a magical transformation, the factory switched to making acoustic instruments, COMPLETELY! Some four years ago, master craftsman and luthier Maurice Dupont joined them, and after that there has been no looking back for them, literally!
So, what’s so great about the T88D? I would like to break it up under a few heads. But first the name. The ‘T’ stands for the model name Tradition (under the Tramontane series), 88 is the model number, while the ‘D’ stands for Dreadnought (the style and shape of the guitar).
- Material used
The LAG T88D sports a solid Englemann Spruce top and Khaya (African Mahogany – ) back, sides and neck. Englemann Spruce, a soft wood, has traditionally been the choice of luthiers because of its acoustic qualities, while Khaya displays all the qualities of genuine Mahogany.
The fretboard and bridge is of Brownwood, a revolutionary wood which is a worthy substitute for rosewood. Brownwood has also been used in the detailing in the rosette around the soundhole and in the faceplate of the headstock. At 5% moisture content, your worries about warping in a totally dry or exceedingly wet climate are set at rest – not so with rosewood.
Also featuring on the guitar is maple – in the rosette and on the faceplate, spelling out ‘LAG’. And here I would like to attract your attention to the shape of the rosette – an oval one – recognisable among hundreds of guitars.
Brownwood and Blackwood
The addition of mahogany and rosewood to the list of species protected by CITES (Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species) has seriously complicated the work of luthiers.
Two decades of research has been necessary for Blackwood Tek company to achieve a revolutionary process that began with the planting of short-cycle pine forests in New Zealand (radiata pine).
First, the wood is dried to contain only 10% moisture and is then impregnated with catalyst and pigmentation agents in pressure vessels. Then, the wood is dried again to reduce its moisture by 2 or 3% before undergoing a second impregnation stage, this time with resin, in a pressure vessel. Then it is compressed in a hot press, which reduces by 40% its thickness, thus increasing its density. Last step: a fine sanding which gives the pieces of wood a perfect look and feel.
The result is a dense, hard, stable wood (5% moisture constant) which not only resists perfectly to humidity and temperature changes but also to UV radiation, termites and fire. Another important advantage is that it can be used immediately in the music instrument industry without requiring any prior drying. An adequate colouring achieves an ideal substitution for ebony (blackwood) and rosewood (brownwood) while offering the same acoustic characteristics.
Accentuating the woods is a graphite nut (43mm) and saddle (72mm). Now graphite, if you remember, is basically carbon and is known for its denseness and lubrication properties. So, what you get with graphite nuts and saddles is excellent sustain, and with its lubricant properties, there is no fear of strings catching in nut slots or on the saddle.
Going hand-in-hand with the choice of materials used is the quality of construction of the T88D. Scalloped braces in a forward-shifted pattern gives the guitar its characteristic tone. When we say ‘forward-shifted’, we are basically referring to the position of the X-brace under the guitar’s top, vis-a-vis the soundhole. Forward-shifted thus brings the main X-brace towards the soundhole. This increases the area of the top behind the bracing, freeing that area to move, resulting in a louder, responsive and more bass-accentuated instrument.
In contrast, an instrument with a backward-shifted bracing pattern would accentuate the treble response.
The Khaya neck is fashioned in a comfortable ‘C’ shape and with a satin finish, fitting in your palm easily, it makes movement up and down the neck a breeze. The neck also has a two-way truss rod, accessible through the soundhole.
The fretboard sports 20 silver-nickle, very even frets, while the very handsome tuning machines on the headstock are die cast satin black, matching the black of the graphte nut and saddle. And don’t just go by the looks. These tuning machines have a gear ratio of 1:18, helping you tune your guitar that much more accurately.
To explain this a little, tuning machines have little gears installed inside them.
The more the number of teeth, higher is the ratio (1:12; 1:14; 1:18; 1:21) and thus, higher is the tuning ability and stability, for the gear moves a smaller distance from one tooth to another.
Also in the same brushed satin finish are provided the shoulder strap button and end block strap button.
What’s not right (according to me)
Strap button placement on the neck heel cap: It may appear as just something cosmetic, but it isn’t. Let me explain. Placing the strap button on the neck heel cap gives the instrument – any instrument – a tendency to fall forward. Nothing wrong there too, until it starts straining at the strap, which then slips off, and your guitar comes crashing down to the ground. OUCH!!!!!!!!!
When the strap buttoned is positioned on the farther side of the heel itself, the strap tends to ‘lock’ the guitar into place, not allowing it to fall forward.
And if you would like to listen to how the instrument sounds:
If you’ve liked the T88D and would like to purchase it, in Lucknow, you will only get it at Seven Notes Musical Instrument Shop in Gomti Nagar.
LAG guitars are exclusively marketed in India by RV Distribution, Delhi ( www.rvdistribution.in)
T88D specs at a glance
– Top: Solid Engelmann Spruce
– Strings: Metal
– Fingerboard & Bridge: Brownwood
– Nut & saddle: graphite
– Finish: glossy
– Body type: Dreadnought
– Tuning pegs: Satin black Die Cast
– Neck: khaya
– Back & Sides: Khaya
– Letfty : No
– Cutaway : No
– Radius: 350 mm
– Nut Width: 43 mm
– Number of frets: 20
– Scale length: 650 mm (25.5″)