Yamaha FG800 vs FG830 – Which one is better to choose?

Started in 1966, Yamaha's FG series is the best-selling acoustic guitar series of all time. It's for good reason, too--these guitars are affordable and well made, making them a great choice for beginners or for players on a budget. In this review, we'll be doing a head-to-head comparison of the Yamaha FG800 vs FG830. While the FG830 has a nicer, more balanced sound and is a step up from the FG800, both of these are quality guitars. We'll take a look at which is best for you.

Product Introductions

Yamaha FG800

This is the base model in Yamaha's best-selling FG Series, and it's ideal for beginners looking to start on a quality instrument.

Specifications:

  • Body Style: Dreadnought
  • Top: Solid Spruce
  • Back/sides: Nato/Okume
  • Neck: Nato
  • Tuners: Die-cast chrome
  • Fingerboard: Walnut
  • Nut/saddle: Urea
  • Bridge: Walnut
  • Binding: Black
  • Bracing: Scalloped
  • Finish: Gloss

Pros & Cons of FG800

Pros

  • Affordable entry-level guitar
  • Has a solid top, which you don't always see in guitars for beginners
  • Remarkably good playability
  • Redesigned scalloped bracing gives it a tonal edge over others in its price range

Cons

  • Tone doesn't have the richer overtones of the FG830
  • Nato back and sides don't do much for sound quality

Yamaha FG830

This is a similar guitar to the FG800, but it has rosewood back and sides, which add some depth and nuance to the tone. It also features an abalone rosette for an aesthetic upgrade.

Specifications:

  • Body Style: Dreadnought
  • Top: Solid Spruce
  • Back/sides: Rosewood Laminate
  • Neck: Nato
  • Tuners: Die-cast chrome
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Nut/saddle: Urea
  • Binding: Cream
  • Bracing: scalloped
  • Finish: Gloss

Pros & Cons of FG830

Pros

  • Rosewood back and sides create a richer, more natural-sounding tone
  • Solid spruce top isn't always found at this price point
  • Abalone rosette improves aesthetics a bit
  • Is still affordable given its quality

Cons

  • Urea nut and saddle don't do much for tone
  • Given the price increase, it's very similar to the FG800

Features Face to Face

In this section, we'll evaluate some of the key features of the Yamaha FG800 vs FG830 and see which is the winner in each category.

Sound Quality and Tonewoods

Admittedly, sound quality is something that's subjective, and a less-expensive guitar won't always sound better than a more expensive one. That said, the FG800 has a sound that isn't as balanced as the FG830. This is likely due to the nato back and sides. Nato is primarily chosen for durability rather than tone. It's a beautiful wood, but it doesn't really add much in terms of sound quality. You can see and watch a sound demo of the FG800 here.

On the other hand, the rosewood back and sides of the FG830 create a noticeable tonal upgrade. While the rosewood is laminated, it still creates a sound that is richer and more nuanced. Rosewood is known for creating complex overtones, and this guitar has a better low end compared to the FG800, which leans more heavily toward brightness. You can hear the FG830 being played here.

It's important to note that both guitars have tops (or soundboards) made of solid spruce. Many (if not most) beginner guitars are made of all laminated wood. This is a cost-saving measure that keeps them affordable, but laminated tops usually sound noticeably poor compared to solid tops. A solid top is probably the most important feature when it comes to tone, and it also will tend to "open up" and sound better over time.

Both guitars also feature Yamaha's redesigned scalloped X bracing. This design usually creates more defined highs and improved bass response. It isn't often found in guitars priced as reasonably as these two.

The winner: Because of its rosewood back and sides and generally more impressive tone, the FG830 wins this round.

Playability

Yamaha is known for creating quality, playable guitars. In these two models, part of that playability comes from the neck design. While both have a gloss finish, they both also have satin-finished necks. Most less-expensive guitars have a gloss finish everywhere. If you've ever played a guitar with a glossed neck, you know that glossed finishes usually have a "sticky" quality to them that makes it harder to move your hand quickly up and down the neck.

Both instruments also have smooth, rounded fret edges--another feature not usually found on entry-level instruments. This makes them easier and more comfortable to play, especially for beginners who are just learning to play.

The winner: Because both of these guitars have outstanding playability, this round is a tie.

Other Appointments

Both the FG800 and the FG830 have die-cast chrome tuners. While these are house-made by Yamaha, most players have reported that they have excellent tuning stability. This is especially important--many beginner guitars have cheap tuners that make it hard to stay in tune as you play.

Both instruments also have a nut and saddle made of urea. This is a plastic that Yamaha uses on most of its more affordable instruments. It doesn't do that much for sound quality, so if you're interested in upgrading the sound of either model, you may want to switch these out with bone, Tusq, or another material to increase sustain and tonal quality.

However, there is an important difference between the two when it comes to appointments. The FG830 has a bridge and fingerboard made of rosewood. A rosewood fingerboard can impart some warmth to your sound, and the rosewood bridge is hard enough to resist damage if the guitar is knocked around.

The FG800 has a fingerboard and bridge made of walnut. Walnut is often a beautiful wood to use, but it's softer than rosewood. This can lead to the fingerboard looking more worn over time, and the bridge may also be more susceptible to damage.

The winner: This one is close, but because of the rosewood fingerboard and bridge, the FG830 wins this round.

Standout Features

In this section, we'll look at some of the features that are exclusive to one instrument or the other. These guitars are remarkably similar, so there aren't too many standout features here:

  • Abalone rosette -- This isn't something that really impacts tone. But in most cases, a beautiful instrument ends up inspiring its owner to play more often. For those who want a guitar that looks a bit more distinctive, the FG830's abalone rosette is a point in its favor.
  • Rosewood back, sides, and fingerboard -- As mentioned above, rosewood is generally considered to be a better-sounding wood. This feature of the FG830 makes it stand out sonically.
  • Cream binding -- This is a relatively minor feature. However, many higher-end guitars (like Gibson's J45) have cream-colored binding, which creates a pleasant contrast. You can find this feature on the FG830.

In Conclusion

Both of these guitars are quality investments that still remain affordable. However, depending on your needs and situations, one may be more suitable.

Choose the FG800 If...

  • You're a beginner looking for an entry-level instrument that still has decent sound
  • You need a guitar with a solid top but are short on cash
  • You need an inexpensive but durable travel guitar or backup guitar
  • You want an entry-level guitar whose design is time-tested

If you want a beginner guitar that's a cut above the rest, make sure you check this one out.

Choose the FG830 If...

  • You need a playable guitar to start on and can spend a little more money
  • You prefer the richer, more nuanced tone of rosewood
  • You like the look of an abalone rosette and cream binding

If you have a little more to spend for upgraded looks and tone, make sure you give this one a look.

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