A classic design with a few French flourishes along the way – David Mead prepares to play the parlour game…
You’ll probably recall that we’ve looked at the LAG range a few times in the past in Acoustic and that the company’s Tramontane series has received a general thumbs up from us on each occasion. But, in case the name is still unfamiliar to you, luthier Michael Lag’s company is based in southern France, turning out a catalogue of acoustic guitars that encompasses high-end models that are hand-built on site, through to a comprehensive list of mid-range instruments built in the Far East. This little electro parlour guitar comes from the second category and looks to have all the benefits of chic French design with a more than reasonable price tag into the bargain…
In case you’re wondering – and don’t have any Googling facilities anywhere nearby – Tramontane, the name that Michael Lag has given to the range of acoustics to which this parlour model belongs, is the classical name given to the northern wind, but has come to mean anything that comes from the other side of the mountains, drawn as it is from the original Latin “trans-montanus. This all fits in nicely with the location of the LAG facility in Bedarieux, southern France, which I think we can safely assume is located on the other side of a mountainous region.
In any case, what we have here is a Chinese-built parlour guitar that exudes a considerable amount of Gallic charm fresh from its gig bag. Despite its parlour designation in terms of size, it looks somehow bigger than usual, which is probably down to the fact that it’s a 14 fret as opposed to a 12 fret body joint. Whatever the reason, it looks to be a sturdily built little thing from the outset.
The top is Indonesian mahogany and it doesn’t look like there has been any attempt at book matching here, to me – one side is distinctly darker in hue than the other, for instance. But you know what? I like it; it adds to the overall rustic charm on offer and dials in a sort of vintage vibe to the proceedings at the same time. Back and sides are from mahogany, too, although I think it’s safe to assume that we’re dealing with a laminate. Having said that, though, the wood patterning on the back of this particular model is very attractive as it has a sort of dark herringbone or chevron figure throughout. The bindings are described by LAG as “black and ivory” and they certainly add to the guitar’s overall small, dark and handsome appearance.
The neck is, once again, mahogany with a smooth satin finish and has a separate heel and grafted headstock – both familiar cost-cutting design features and not at all unusual at this price point. The open headstock has the LAG logo at its top with three black open gear tuners either side plus the company’s signature contoured design running down the center.
The fingerboard is Indonesian rosewood, with 20 nickel silver frets and no fret markers on the front face, adding again to the dark charm of the instrument. It’s Indonesian rosewood for the bridge, too, with a black graphite nut and saddle at either end of the string length.
The only thing that breaks the otherwise austere look of the T77 is LAG’s oval rosette around the soundhole that bears the Occitania cross – a feature that sticks a pin in the map as far as the instrument’s origin is concerned as that is the region in Southern France where the guitar was designed.
As I said earlier, a great many parlour guitars tend to join the body at the 12th fret, meaning that the bridge can be set back onto a wider area of the body to add volume and resonance. In the case of the T77, the bridge is roughly where you’d expect to find it on any 14 fretter and this might have reduced the overall output a tad. It’s a small body size we’re dealing with here, remember, and so this would be understandable, but I have to say that it’s barely noticeable. You might have to put a little bit more into the instrument to get a satisfying level of dynamics coming out, but what is immediately evident is its balanced tonal nature, with sweet mellow trebles and enough of a bass response to keep everything on an even keel.
The T77 comes with a factory fitted Piezo NanoFlex under saddle pickup with LAG’s own DirectLag Plus preamp, meaning that this is a parlour guitar that is ready to rock n’ roll straight from the box! The preamp includes a tuner with separate controls for bass, treble and mids plus a phase button and so the range of command on offer over the guitar’s electric personality is really more than adequate. The whole thing is fired up from two CR2032 coin batteries, as opposed to the bulkier PP3 variety and so this area is nicely compact, too.
Once plugged in, the T77 displays a good set of very useful tones whilst retaining much of its sweet acoustic character. There’s an earthiness here which is possibly down to the presence of the mahogany; it’s dark and warm and the range of control via the preamp means that it’s not at all hard to find any number of sweet spots to suit various music or playing styles. In fact, for this kind of price, the range of tone here really is quite remarkable!
I’ve been really impressed with the build quality and tonal capabilities of guitars coming out of China at present and this guitar sits up there with some of the best I’ve tried in recent months. With Michael Lag’s flair for design added to the equation, I think that the T77 is a real winner on many counts.
It might be tempting to dismiss parlour-sized instruments for stage guitars, believing them incapable of covering enough scope in the tonal stakes to be fully comprehensive. But from what I’m seeing more and more frequently these days, I think it’s safe to say that any apprehension thereabouts can be quashed. In fact, if you consider the build quality, tonal awareness and price point of instruments like this one, we might very soon have something of a mini revolution on our hands!
Pros: Good acoustic tone and very capable stage-ready electronics
Cons: Perhaps a slight lack of responsiveness
Overall: A nice little parlour with some dashing good looks and a very good range of sounds – at an excellent price!
SOUND QUALITY 4 stars
BUILD QUALITY 4.5 stars
VALUE FOR MONEY 5 stars
Retail Price: £325
Body Size: Parlour
Made In: China
Back and Sides: Mahogany
Tuners: Black/die cast
Nut Width: 43mm
Scale Length: 650mm
Onboard Electronics: Piezo NanoFlex/Direct LAG Plus
Strings Fitted: D’Addario EXP
Left Handers: Yes
Gig Bag/Case Included: No
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