Tokai White SG Custom or fake? Great guitar either way...

Discussion in 'SG Copies' started by Babaluma, May 16, 2017.

  1. Babaluma

    Babaluma New Member

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    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!

    sg1.jpg SG2.jpg sg3.jpg sg4.jpg sg5.jpg
     
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  2. vonserke

    vonserke Active Member

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    Hi! I think I read somewhere that Korean Tokais didn't have serial numbers, but don't hang on to that! It is very difficult to get a straight answer if it is original or fake, because there are many examples of MIK (and MIC) Tokais, all different to each other and made by different factories under license from Tokai! I like it, it looks great and if it plays great then that's all that matters! Enjoy it! HNGD!
     
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  3. AngelDeVille

    AngelDeVille Well-Known Member

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    I don't know why anyone would fake a Tokai, but I'm not too up on the current production.

    It looks like a beauty, and I'd be proud to play it.


    The local shop had a drool worthy older LP for about $750, maybe more, it was as fine as any Gibson I had seen. It didn't last long.
     
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  4. Babaluma

    Babaluma New Member

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    Yeah I mean I am not too bothered about it's heritage as it looks and plays so well. Just interesting as it has a serial number but I don't know where to find the info to find it's history:)

    I read somewhere the Japanese models have 2 screws on the truss rod cover, Korean have 2 and fakes have 1 screw.

    There is probably a Tokai expert out there on the web who I need to find! In the unlikely event I ever get to afford the Gibson 3 pickup model it would be interesting to compare them.
     
  5. vonserke

    vonserke Active Member

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  6. Babaluma

    Babaluma New Member

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  7. vonserke

    vonserke Active Member

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  8. plankton

    plankton Active Member

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    I recently got a second hand Tokai, a LP Special copy with P90s, and I'm loving it. It's from the Traditional (MIC) line and the quality is great, better than Epiphones.

    The Tokai forum and registry are a place to try and get answers, although when I asked some questions they didn't seem very helpful. I get the feeling they're more into the older MIJ guitars. The info on serial numbers doesn't seem to cover anything made in the last 10-15 years or any MIC guitars.

    I did try asking Tokai Australia directly, but they didn't seem to know anything about the serial numbers and told me they were only for consumers who wanted to insure or identify their guitar in the event of theft.

    At the end of the day if you like it and it plays well it doesn't really matter.
     
  9. PermissionToLand

    PermissionToLand Well-Known Member

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    I know there was a thing about a batch of Korean Tokais that were not authorized by the parent company, but built by a legitimate factory under some kind of misunderstanding or something. They are supposedly fine guitars by most accounts. But unlikely that you got one of those (I think they were sold in Canada). Likewise, very unlikely that yours is a Chinese fake or something.

    The person that said only Japanese ones are "real Tokais" did not mean that all Chinese or Korean ones are fake, because it is well known that they offer cheaper lines made in those countries. They were just being a cork sniffer.

    I agree that the lack of binding on Epiphones and Fadeds is a dealbreaker. At least it makes sense on the Faded as a cost cutting measure, but Epiphone LPs have bound necks, so the SG should too.

    She looks great. Enjoy!
     
  10. vonserke

    vonserke Active Member

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  11. Babaluma

    Babaluma New Member

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    Great! I didn't think there would be a forum dedicated to Tokai, I should have Googled it myself. I will post on there on weekend and update this thread if I get any answers.
     
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  12. Babaluma

    Babaluma New Member

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    Yes I heard about the fake Canadian ones being because an importer couldn't get hold of them so he got a factory in Canada to make them? You really go down the rabbit hole when you start looking into the history of various model lines, suddenly it goes from "that is a cool playing guitar" to "oh I didn't realise I need to get one made in this year, in this factory as it was made from this special wood with these special pickups they only used once and everything else is rubbish..."

    I am glad I didn't jump at a Faded SG, but took a punt on this one!
     
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  13. Babaluma

    Babaluma New Member

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    Sounds like a great guitar! I have not got any cash left now but my antennae are now up for Tokais. There was a really nice Les Paul on UK Gear page on Facebook the other day. Will have to start saving up!
     
  14. PermissionToLand

    PermissionToLand Well-Known Member

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    Well, look at that. As always though, they are not very convincing. Besides the stupidly cheap price, the cartoonishly large serial number font and lousy burst give it away.

    Haha, yeah don't listen to that stuff. People just like to believe that their mass produced guitar was somehow special, so they make up stories like those. I can't tell you how many times I've heard "the early Korean guitars used leftover Japanese parts".
     
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  15. sazista

    sazista Active Member

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    Forget Gibson. You have an equally great SG. I would prefer it over a Gibson.
     
  16. kiko

    kiko Active Member

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  17. vonserke

    vonserke Active Member

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