I have long been after an SG Custom 3 pickup copy. I will never be able to afford the real thing and while I toyed with the idea of customising a cheaper Gibson faded SG in the end I thought I would go for a copy. I was considering an Epiphone, I used to own one of their Les Pauls and it was a fine guitar but it was years ago so I had no idea if I would still like it. However someone on a Facebook group told me to look out for Tokais and that they were good guitars for the money. I have read quite a lot of confusing info about Tokais with people saying there are a lot of fakes and that only Japanese Tokais are "real" Tokais? Anyhow I was on the hunt for one but they proved quite rare at least in the model I was after. In the end I am glad I waited as this Korean one came up on a Facebook gear site. For the money I paid I thought it was worth a punt as it looked so cool and played really well. The guy I bought it from was really nice and it has set up very well by him. It is the Japanese ones that are seen as the real "Gibson Killers" but I have to say this one is pretty amazing. One thing is I have no idea of it's background, I checked the serial number on the Tokai data base and it did not seem to fit with any of the listed number formats. Is it a fake? If it is I must say they did a good job, maybe it is made out of plywood but it is a really nice guitar to play considering what I paid for it. Here are some thoughts: Build quality - seems solid as a rock, surprisingly heavy, compared to a faded SG I played this feels like you are getting more guitar for the money. Nobs are good quality and have a nice smooth action as do the machine heads. I think compared to a Standard you can feel it is a cheaper guitar, it feels like a more budget guitar neck to my Firebird which is amazingly built and feels really luxurious. I do think that if someone handed you a £2000 Gibson Custom and this with a blind fold on you could tell the difference. However for the price it is very well made. It really did make the Faded SG feel like a toy, the Faded so a lot lighter, the finish was horrible and the neck was a bit chunkier and did not have bindings. I am not saying the are not good guitars, this is just compared to the one I tried. Neck - super straight and flat. Frets are medium jumbo feel. Comfortable neck but more for lead work than precise chord work as it is quite chunky at least for me. I was playing the old Don Covay soul tune Mercy Mercy on it and it is tricky to play something so intricate cleanly with the thick neck and middle pickup being in the way of precise pick strokes. However I think as I get used to it I will alter my picking to accommodate the third pickup. I play in several different tunings so I think I will have this as my main standard tuning lead machine! When playing some slower and sloppier blues soloing it played fine as I pick differently. Looks - I think it looks a lot more "authentic" than the Epiphone G-400, in particular the headstock shape. I also like the inlaid Tokai logo. The gold is a bit faded but I actually prefer this to an overdose of bling! Finish - paint is clean and consistent all round the body and neck. Unlike the Faded models this has neck binding which is pretty solidly fitted to the frets. The binding does not quite have the quality feel of the Standard or my Gibson Firebird though but does the job. One thing that put me off the Faded model was the lack of binding to the neck so I am pleased this has it. Pickups - I have fairly limited expereince with SGs. I played my mates Standard a while back and seen him play it live. I also jammed on a faded SG. My immediate thought would be that the pickups are not as "good" as the Standard. However there are so many variables, considering the amp I played it through, pedals I was using, volume I was playing at etc. So far I have just played the Tokai in my flat at moderate volume. I play through a Fender Blues Jnr valve amp and with a bit of reverb it gave me the dirty bluesy sound I like. It is not as screamy as the Standard, more twang and dirt, quite a dark sound on the neck. I prefer the bridge pick up for my style of music. In the middle selector switch position the bridge + middle pickups are combined. This is an interesting sound. The PUs are not out of phase but you can get a bit of edge to it. I have discussed various wiring modes on this forum as keen to make the most of the three PUs. I think when I have more control over each PU I will be able to craft some nice tones. As it stands it is a great guitar for clean toned blues soloing once the valve amp is nicely warmed up. I haven't tried it through any pedals as yet as I don't really use them much. Final thoughts? I think it comes down to looks, I particularly wanted this style of guitar having seen Buddy Guy, Jimi Hendrix and Sister Rosetta Tharpe play them. It just looks so cool! I already have a really nice Gibson in my Firebird so I couldn't justify spending £2K on a real Gibson SG custom. Also the FB is quite a delicate guitar so I wanted something unique but also not too fancy to play live. As I was not looking for top of the range and had specific requirements for the model this is perfect for me. I would say that if you are looking for a Gibson SG as your main guitar and love the classic SG sounds of Jerry Garcia, Robby Krieger, Angus Young then I do think you should save up for a Standard (although I have not played a Japanese Tokai which are meant to be as good quality). I am interested in using the middle PU for some tonal variety as I play several styles of music, but as the classic SG sound is pretty straight forward the middle PU will probably not be much use to you. However if you have a Standard and want a good back up or if you have another nice guitar and want something to gig with I feel a Tokai is a good option. You can of course swap out the pickups for something a bit hotter, I am no tone guru, but with a nice amp you will have a good sounding instrument. Apart from the looks I also think that unless you plan to use the middle PU and wire it for some tonal options be aware it may effect your picking action, even if set quite low. I play a variety of styles and also use the blunt end of the pick when I play, but if you dig deep with your pick in the middle as part of your style it may impede your playing. Anyhow great guitar, I will enjoy playing it. Thanks for reading!