Introduced in 1994, the original Ibanez Talman remained in production just a few years before it was discontinued. It arrived on a wave of interest in offbeat ’60s models. And along with guitars like the Charvel Surfcaster, it attracted shoegazers, indie-, and noise-rock artists looking for a synthesis of modern stability and vintage aesthetics. In the short time it was produced, and in the years since, the Talman gained a quietly devoted cult following.
While the Talman name lived on in a line of acoustic hybrids, the TM1730M reviewed here marks the first return to the original solidbody configuration since 1998. And while the 1730 and its Telecaster-inspired cousins the TM1702 and TM1803M are distinctly vintage-Fender inspired, electronics and hardware including Seymour Duncan Five-Two pickups and Gotoh locking machine heads makes them wonderfully playable and practical instruments that convey classic—and classy—style with a visual vibe that’s very much their own.
Throwback Body, Fresh Hardware
Crafted in Japan, the new Talman Prestige series is very well made. The bolt-on 25.5″ maple neck has a familiar-feeling “C” profile, 22 medium-sized frets, and black dot-inlays. The ITL-PRO tremolo bridge and block assembly is situated in a body cavity so you can adjust the spring tension by removing the back plate. Each bridge saddle is individually adjustable for height and string length, and with the easy-to-access bullet truss-rod, intonation chores are a snap. The tremolo arm screws into place and will remain in a fixed position with a complete clockwise rotation. The five-way pickup selection switch is configured like a Stratocaster’s, but there is only one tone knob to adjust the output. This knob rests, in a unique configuration, on the input jack plate, with the remaining controls mounted atop a two-ply black and white pickguard. The official finish label is “Vintage White,” although it’s closer to cream than an authentically yellowed white. Nevertheless, it looks great and is a beautiful compliment to the maple neck.
A Tone Before Its Time
If you’re like me and play mostly classic Fender models, the Talman will feel immediately familiar. I’m a big Stratocaster guy, so it’s difficult to avoid making comparisons between the two models. But before I ever plugged in, it was hard not to miss how uniquely comfortable this guitar is: the length of neck in relation to the body, the balance, the light-but-substantial alder body—they all conspire to make this guitar feel uncommonly natural whether you have it slung around your shoulder or you’re sitting on the couch.
My only very minor (and highly personal) complaint about the design is that the vibrato arm sits a little high for my taste. I’d rather not stray so far from the strings just to add a quick vibrato flourish. It does, however, provide the leverage to generate deeper pitch warble, which is great for My Bloody Valentine chord glides. If you want to drop the arm closer to the body, adjusting the spring tension or swapping the arm out entirely are possibilities. Tuning stability was also excellent when I put the tremolo arm to work. The Gotoh machine heads held fast under the strain of aggressive vibrato work, in slack tunings, and in combinations of the two.
With a ’65 Twin Reverb reissue dialed up clean, the Seymour Duncan Five-Two pickups were clear and bell-like. The alnico 2 and 5 magnets conspired to deliver snappy bass response, with a slightly tame and tethered but clear treble from the high strings. Paired with the Twin Reverb, the Talman dished up a punchy flavor fit for the Stones heartier blues entrees. The overtones in moveable open chords sounded out and resonated clearly—a total delight with a healthy heap of amp reverb. And though pickups are a tad darker compared to my Stratocaster’s Fender Custom Shop ’69 pickups, the Duncan single-coils are balanced and colorful.
Moving from the Twin Reverb to other amps highlighted the Talman’s agreeable, more flexible nature. Through a crunchy Orange OR50 and even various solid-state practice amps, the Talman never sounded brittle. The guitar is also very well suited to pedals. Paired with an Analogman Sun Face, the Talman sawed through early David Gilmour leads—sounding rich and slicing, and generating impressive sustain in the process. This environment also revealed the high quality of controls like the volume pot, which has a nice, even taper and the sensitivity to wrangle the Sun Face from banshee scream to overdriven growl.
A lot of folks might be disappointed that Ibanez took such a Fender-inspired—some might say conservative—approach to resurrecting the Talman. And who knows? Maybe a revival of the sparkle-painted, lipstick-tubed ’90s models is just around the corner (hint, hint, Ibanez). But whatever the Talman Prestige lacks in flash it makes up in rock solid playability, comfort, quality, and great sounds. And while the nearly $1,200 bucks you’ll part with to make it your own isn’t small change, this is a guitar that leaves you yearning for little once you’ve plugged it in.