Crafter's TE9/MP was unveiled at the recent Frankfurt Musikmesse and makes a welcome change from the ubiquitous spruce top/mahogany back and sides formula we see so often. Rick Graham looked intrigued.
The South Korean company Crafter is still very much a family run and orientated business, despite having achieved considerable international success since its inception back in the early 1970s. Originally starting out from the basement of company owner Hyun Kwon Park's house, producing classical guitars, the company soon began to grow and eventually moved to a factory in Seoul. It was at this point that Crafter began to produce acoustic and electro-acoustic guitars to appeal to a wider market. In the mid 80's, Hyun's son joined the company and quickly proved himself to be an integral part of Crafter, taking the success of the company to even greater heights.
The subject of this review is a brand new electro-acoustic model, the TE9/MP, which was unveiled at the 2013 Musikmesse in Frankfurt and right off the bat we have to say how nice it is to see something just a little bit different! Indeed, the TE9 is a guitar with a very attractive appearance and features an interesting combination of woods. The top is made from Englemann spruce and the wood of choice for the back and sides is maple. Though it isn't a common choice, it's not the first maple back and sides guitar and, of course, it's the material of choice for violins, so it certainly has a precedent!
The Crafter's neck, which is mahogany, has an Indian rosewood fretboard with a scale length of 25.5" (648mm) with the width at the nut being 1-11/16" (43mm) and has 21 frets in total.
The higher register of the fretboard can be accessed without impediment, thanks to the cutaway.
The TE9 features an onboard preamp which comes in the form of an LRT-NX unit in conjunction with an L.R.Baggs element pickup which is housed under the saddle.
The preamp features a three-band EQ with onboard LCD tuner and notch filter. The unique features of the TE9 include a dovetail neck joint, abalone dot fretmarkers and soundhole inlay, new
Crafter collar bridge pins and the Crafter stepped bridge for improved string break angle. The gloss finish puts a very classy finishing touch to a great looking instrument!
In action, the TE9 was certainly impressive! One objection to a spruce/maple combination is that in some cases it can lead to an over-bright, even harsh, tone but not in this case. In fact the TE9 always produced a sound that we found very well balanced between the bass and the treble register and it also proved itself capable of producing lots of volume with a very robust tone. I was warily expecting a somewhat overly bright tone due to the maple but this actually wasn't the case, perhaps due, in part, to the mahogany neck?
The LR Baggs system, meanwhile, captured the natural acoustic sound of the guitar very well indeed and, for me, sounded better than some pre-amps on much higher priced acoustics.
The guitar was also nicely set-up which made for a very comfortable and enjoyable playing experience.
In all honesty it's hard to find fault with the TE9/MP especially when taking into account the low price point. It's a great sounding guitar with a good quality onboard pre-amp. It's also well made and looks fantastic to boot. Even if you have budgeted for a more expensive instrument, I'd suggest you make a point of checking out the TE9 - you might be in for a very pleasant surprise.