It’s no secret that my stage acoustic of choice is my beloved Yamaha APX900. I’ve been playing that guitar for the last couple of years, and its sound never lets me down. The A.R.T. pre-amp system, which consists of four transducer mics on the top along with a piezo saddle pickup, create a rich and deep tone that contains nothing of that tinny, mid-rangy tone you normally get with other pre-amps. But you’d never know it if you just played it unplugged because its natural tone is rather weak.
I’ve played this guitar side-by-side with guitars that cost 5 times as much, and the APX900 just blows them away! Such was the case last week at my weekly restaurant gig. For that gig, I also brought along an Ovation Collector’s 2006-FKOA guitar that I’ve been borrowing for my latest recording sessions. That guitar, which I recently reviewed and gave high marks, has an incredible natural tone; so much deeper and richer than its brethren that I’ve played. And plugged into a board for studio use… Wow! What a great tone! But I have to say that it just didn’t work very well with my live rig. Through my Fishman SA220 SoloAmp, the bottom end was just not there, whereas my APX900 performed absolutely beautifully.
Now this is a classic case of a rig mismatch. If I were to use the Ovation at a gig, I’d probably run it through my SWR California Blonde, which will give me the low end that I need. But that sucker weighs 75 lbs, so it’s not likely that I’d be lugging that around but to special gigs.
On the other hand, there hasn’t been an amp that my Yamaha APX900 has worked with flawlessly. Again, this is a testament to Yamaha electronics. They’re just superior to everything else out there in my opinion.
Enter the S.R.T.
Beginning with the 1000-series guitars, Yamaha started installing the S.R.T. – Studio Response Technology – pre-amp system. This is a mic modeler as well, and at first blush might seem as if it would behave like the Ovation’s system. But unlike the Ovation system, S.R.T. doesn’t have a mix function. It’s always on. You set it to the mic-type and “distance” and EQ that works for your rig, then go. One feature of the S.R.T system that really turns me on is the Body Resonance knob that lets you dial in resonance from the body.
What’s very exciting about this is that S.R.T. was originally only available on the high-end, handmade guitars. I am so glad that Yamaha has brought it to the APX series. I called Gelb Music yesterday, and they have an APX1000 in stock. I will be going there this weekend to try it out. If it’s as good as I think it will be, I may be walking out the store with it.
Circling back to the stage, it is so important to have good electronics. Even a cheapo guitar like my APX900 can sound fantastic when the electronics are right. For me, searching for a great stage acoustic was literally a months-long exercise in frustration. I just never got comfortable with any guitar’s plugged in sound until I plugged in the APX900. The funny thing is that it took me all of ten minutes to know that it was the right guitar. I’ll be sticking with Yamaha for all my stage work.