As noted in our article on Best Acoustic Guitar Brands, Yamaha is known for consistent quality and best value for money. Its guitars range from professional quality instruments to all laminate beginner ones. In this article, we will deep dive into the world of Yamaha Acoustic guitars and look at the key features of various guitar series and electronic technologies used in their acoustic guitars.
Brief History Of Yamaha
Majority of Japanese guitar makers started by making copies of established Western models and exporting them through trading companies. Yamaha, however decided otherwise and focused on making quality guitars, worth the price from the beginning and in the process earned an excellent reputation among the players.
It was started by Torakusu Yamaha in 1887, with the invention of pedal driven reed instrument, So, the company has a tradition of building musical instruments for over a century. He later formed Nippon Gakki Co. Ltd that manufactured Pianos. Yamaha started building guitars in 1946 at his Hamamatsu, factory in Japan. Today it is a big conglomerate that manufactures motor bikes, tennis rackets, industrial robots and consumer electronics.
In 1960’s, They opened a subsidiary in US called Yamaha International Corporation and began to market Pianos. They started promoting their guitars with Sitka Spruce top, laminated bodies and a patented bracing system in 1964. In 1966, FG180, the first ever made in Japan, Folk Acoustic Guitar was introduced followed by Electric Guitars (SG-2/3, SG/7), Bass Guitars (SB-2), and Guitar Amps in the same year.
This was followed by introduction of first Classical Guitar series in 1967 and first Flamenco Guitar series in 1968. By mid 1970’s Yamaha had become first Oriental brand to recognized as the prominent force. In early 1980’s they created their own facility to reduce cost but maintain quality.
The instruments are currently produced in US, Japan, Taiwan, Korea and Indonesia. Yamaha Guitar Development Center in California, designs, develops prototypes and customizes old and new models.
Yamaha manufactures wide range of instruments from Piano, stringed instruments, band instruments, amplifiers, sound recording and reinforcement equipment
Various Acoustic Guitar Series of Yamaha
Called by Yamaha as the Next Level Series, designed for ideal performance and having the perfect guitars to take your playing to the next level. In our opinion, it is the best and higher end series from Yamaha, made from solid wood and comes with cutting edge SRT (studio Response Technology) Electronics / Piezo pickup system. These guitars have stunning looks, expressive tone and road ready build quality.
Key Features Of A-Series
- Sub-series: This series is further subdivided into #1, #3 and #5 as the core sub-series. However, Yamaha had introduced #4 series as limited edition acoustic guitars. #5 has all the premium and high-end features. It is entirely made in Japan.
- Body Shapes: It has 2 body-shapes – Traditional Western Body Cutaway or A-shape and Concert Body or the AC-shape. A-type body-shape has full body resonance with clear highs and powerful lows, while AC has articulate mid-range and highs with clearly defined lows.
- Choice of Tonewoods: Tops for all the sub-series are made from Solid Sitka Spruce. For back and sides, there is choice between Rosewood and Mahogany. Limited edition #4 series had back and sides made from Koa.
- Proprietary SRT system has separate element to pick up signals from each string resulting in very clear sound across wide frequency band, having greater tonal accuracy and better dynamic response. For models A3 and above, SRT2 is used, which is optimized for stage performance.
- In SRT2 system, two onboard mics are provided in addition to the Piezo pickup. With the help of Blend control switch, the sound of the selected mic and the piezo pickup can be mixed to get the exact desired balance. On-board Automatic Feedback reduction feature can be used used to get rid of feedback issues, if any.
- New scalloped bracing system was developed for the top boards of A-Series Acoustic-electric Guitars. In addition the bracing for the back board was made shorter. This led to more pronounced and louder low mid ranges.
- A3 and A5 series have tops treated with Acoustic Resonance Enhancement (A.R.E) process, which gives it a rich and quality tone.
Read: Yamaha AC1M Details
L Series with L standing for “Luxury” is another high-end line of their acoustic guitars. Even within the series, there is a huge price difference with guitars in the “6” sub-series ranging from about $700 to “56” sub-series guitars costing above $7000.
Brief History of L-Series
L31, the first L-Series guitar was launched in 1974. Second generation of L-series was released in 1985 along with the release of LL and LS sub-series. Third generation guitars came out in 2004 with the introduction of LJ and addition of many instruments to LL and LS series. Yamaha started using A.R.E treated wood in L-series from 2008.
The L series was revamped in 2014 and is sometimes referred to as the new L-series in Yamaha’s literature. It retains the traditional looks of Yamaha and has a warm and balanced tone suitable for solo and stage performances. These guitars are handcrafted by master craftsmen.
Key Features of L-Series
Common Features of all Guitars in the Series
- All the new models have solid Engelmann Spruce tops with A.R.E treatment. A.R.E stands for acoustic resonance enhancement which is wood treatment or reforming technology developed by Yamaha. In this they manipulate the molecular structure of wood through precise control of temperature, atmospheric pressure and humidity. This change in molecular structure results in enhancement of acoustic properties similar to those found in instruments that improve over time.
- It has modified non-scalloped bracing. The modifications from the previous series were done with the view to enhance the low end tone while retaining the characteristic bright tone of the series.
- Neck profile was improved by changing string spacing and height, neck taper and fingerboard binding to have better playability over the entire neck.
- All the models have 5 ply Mahogany and Rosewood necks with double action adjustable rods. Grade 26 to 56 have a volute at the headstock.
- SRT Zero Impact Pickups: The system provides a separate piezo electric element for each string to correctly reproduce its dynamic behavior. During development of the new pickup system, its impact on tone and appearance of the guitar has been minimized while improving its presence of the instrument. Grade 36 and 56 do not have these pickups.
Segregation of the Series
- The L Series is divided into LL, LJ and LS sub-series. LL has original jumbo size instruments while LJ and LS are medium jumbo and small sized. LL, LJ and LS features 10, 2 and 7 guitars respectively that are currently being manufactured.
- These sub-series can be divided into Grade 6, 16, 26, 36 and 56, with increasing number indicating higher quality and features. Not all grades are available for all the sub-series.
- Suffix “-12” is used for 12 string guitars, “L” for Lest hand guitars, “M” indicates Mahogany back and sides, “D” indicates D’Addario EXP36 strings, while all other models have Elixir Nanoweb steel strings.
- Other than M models, Grade 56 and 36 have back and sides made from solid Indian Rosewood, while Grade 26 and 16 have Solid Rosewood and Grade 6 have laminated Rosewood back and sides. Nuts and saddles for Grade 26 to 56 are made from bone while for others, they are made from Urea. Grade 56 and 36 have Nitrocellulose Gloss finish.
- LL Sub-series: It has models in all the grades with only Grade 16 having left handed, 12 string, D’Addario string models and Grade 6 and 16 having models with Mahogany back and sides.
- LJ Sub-series: It comes in Grade 6 and 16 only with Solid rosewood back and sides.
- LS Sub-series: It comes in all the grades.
Read: Yamaha LS16 Details
FG / FGX – Series
As noted above, FG-180 was introduced as the first acoustic guitar in US by Yamaha. FG-180 was part of Yamaha FG series (Folk Guitar Models). FG-140, FG-300, FG-230 (12 String), Spanish FG-75, FG-110 and FG-150 were soon to follow. All these earlier guitars had wide heads and a red label. So they were also called as the Red Label Acoustic Guitars. FG350E, the first folk acoustic-electric guitar was introduced in 1972
The series with its focus on playability, great tone and build quality established the fact that a great acoustic guitar does not necessarily have to be very expensive. From then on, the series has been a staple among the Yamaha guitars. Many of the new series guitars (such as L-series) were earlier part of high end FG series collection. In fact, there have been more than 200 FG-series acoustic and acoustic-electric guitar models, belonging to different generations, released till date.
Key Features of FG / FGX – Series
- Latest 800 series guitars features new scalloped bracing system. This bracing results in durability of the top board and produces very loud sound in low and middle frequencies.
- X in FGX indicates presence of the electric pickup systems. So, FGX830 means Grade 830 acoustic-electric guitar from FG-Series of acoustic guitars. The electronics for these guitars consist of System 66 and SRT piezo pickups.
- FS sub-series comprising of concert body shape guitars was later added to this series.
- There are 5 grades in the series featuring different tonewood options. These grades are 800, 820, 830, 840 and 850.
- The tonewoods for top, back, sides, neck and fingerboard for all the five grades are indicated in the table below.
- FG sub-series comes in all the five grades while FS sub-series does not come in Grade 840.
- Acoustic-electric guitar sub-series FGX / FSX are only made in Grade 800, 820 and 830.
- Suffix “-12” is used for 12 string guitars, “L” for Lest hand guitars while “M” indicates Matt finish for the body.
Read: Yamaha FG720S Details
Read: Yamaha FG800 Details
Read: Yamaha FG800 Vs FG830
APX Series was launched by Yamaha in 1987. It featured number of Cutaway Acoustic-Electric guitars with a very comfortable thin line bodies and thin neck profile. Cutaway made top fret access easy and thinner neck profile improved the playability and allowed smoother transition from electric guitar. This makes it ideal for live performance.
While essence of design is same, newer models have more natural look and deeper body. This improves the bass response of the guitar and gives louder volume.
Special Features Of APX Guitar’s Acoustic Technologies
- The series provides warm tone without the dreaded “Twang” and harshness seen on some other acoustic-electric guitars.
- Latest models have under-saddle piezo pickups from Yamaha’s proprietary SRT (Studio Response Technology) transducer. SRT system makes use of advanced digital signal processing methods to closely recreate the sound recorded in a high quality studio. Data applied for SRT processing for each guitar model is recorded in some of the best studios. These pickups allow the guitars to be played at desired volumes with out any feedback effect by use of AFR (Automatic Feedback Reduction) technology.
- Three different high-end mics are provided with provisions to alter their positioning. 3 band equalizer allows adjustment of Low, Mid and High Frequency levels. Player can make microphone selection, positioning, Equalizer and other selections as per his preferences and playing style.
- Adjustable body resonance knob allows you to add body resonance tone to the sound of the instrument.
- Gotoh open – Some high-end models of the series like APX700II have ART (Acoustic Resonance Transducer) technology where ART pickups are placed in the underside of the guitar top. They capture sound from air inside the body as well as the top of the guitar. These pickups are used to minimize reproduction of attack transients and dynamics that are not transmitted through air, but which any piezo electric transducers pick. Gear tuners, ebony fingerboard, and a Tusq nut & saddle keeps you sounding incredible
Key Features and Various Guitar Models.
- It has non scalloped X-bracing to maximize body resonance.
- APX series has an oval sound-hole. This improves the response for lower mid-range frequencies.
- APX series has 5 grades – 1200, 1000, 700, 600 and 500.
- Tonewoods for Top: Grade 700 to 1200 have solid spruce tops, grade 500 & 600 have spruce tops while “FM” models have Flamed Maple tops.
- Tonewoods for Back & Sides: Solid Rosewood for grade 1200, Flamed Maple for grade 1000, Nato or Okume for grade 700 and 500, locally sourced for grade 600.
- Electronics: Other than tonewood differences, major difference between grades lies in the electronics. Grade 1200 and 1000 has SRT System 63 with Piezo Pickup, grade 700 have SRT System 64 with ART- 1 way pickups while grade 600 and 500 have System 65 and System 66 respectively, both with piezo pickups.