Tokai Love Rock Guitar Review (Made in Korea)
Tokai Guitars are a bit of a Global “hidden gem” of the Guitar World. If you live in North America odds are you’ve struggled to find one at your local pawn shop. I frequent the local pawn shops/used good stores here in Melbourne, Australia and I see Tokai guitars pop up from time to time. You might not have even heard of Tokai before but these are the original lawsuit electric guitars. They are so close to a Gibson that some countries have issues importing them.
Tokai is a Japanese guitar company. The Japanese guitars are by far the best Gibson style guitar you’re going to find. They replicate them beautifully with the exception of the headstock name and model numbers. The Tokai label is printed firmly on the headstock with the words “Love Rock” as opposed to “Les Paul”.
When were Korean Tokai Guitars Made?
In the mid-1990’s Tokai started manufacturing guitars in Korea to compete with less expensive guitars like Epiphone. These budget models are hard to find because not long after a Tokai started making guitars in Korea, they moved their production to China. Even with this in mind, Japanese guitars were always being made and considered the best of the best.
In terms of quality, both the Korean and Chinese made Love Rock guitars are as good as any Epiphone Les Paul made in China or Indonesia.
This first video is the day I purchased the Korean made Tokai Love Rock. I did a full clean and set up on the guitar and it sounded great straight away.
Korean Tokai Love Rock Features
While I am unable to dig up exact specifications I can fill you in on a lot of the main attributes of this guitar.
- 60’s Style Neck – This neck was not a fat 50’s style neck. It was very comparable to any regular Epiphone Les Paul
- PAF Style Pickups – PAF pickups have more top end than most modern humbuckers because they have fewer winds. The Korean Tokai pickups had a lot of top end frequencies which was great. They did this while never sounding shrill or empty.
- Tunomatic Bridge – The hardware on the guitar was all Korean made. When I took the Tunomatic bridge off I noticed it said “Made in Korea” underneath.
- Block Inlays – I am pretty certain the inlays were plastic to keep the costs down.
What is the difference between the Korean Guitars and the Chinese Made Ones?
The main difference is the hardware quality. I’ve also owned a number of Chinese made Tokai guitars and they are great value for money. The Korean one had better sounding pickups to my ear and also higher quality hardware in general.
Here’s how the guitar sounds through my VOX AC15C1 amplifier after I did all of the setup work.
Please note these two videos are from 2012 which is long before I had my proper YouTube studio set up.
If you can find a Korean made Tokai guitar for a bargain pick it up. Having now owned Tokai guitars from China, Korea, and now Japan the Japanese ones are by far the best. The Japanese Tokais feel a lot like Gibson VOS guitars in the hand. The Korean ones feel like really nice Epiphone guitars so if you can find one make sure you don’t pay more than $300-$350 AUD for it on the used market unless it is in mint condition.