…high-end Yamaha acoustic/electric guitars haven’t taken off in the US? It’s not as if Yamaha instruments aren’t known in the States. But what you most commonly find in US shops are the sub-$1000 guitars.
I’m a little embarrassed to say this, but I didn’t know Yamaha had a whole lineup of high-end acoustics until I started doing research for a new acoustic-electric last year, and I happened to go their site to see Yamaha’s handmade line of acoustic and acoustic-electric guitars. These appeared to be on par with any American high-end acoustic with respect to materials and design, and they’ve been building these for years!
When I finally made my decision on a new acoustic-electric and comparing many different brands I ended up buying a Yamaha APX900, which is just about the best stage acoustic I’ve ever played! But a couple of months after I got that wonderful guitar, I saw a press release that Yamaha picked up Steve Lukather and he was playing their LJX26CP model. Curious, I looked through the Yamaha site and saw this beautiful lineup of various handmade guitars.
The LJX26CP is a handmade, medium-jumbo guitar with a natural finish. Here are some specs:
|Top||Solid Engelmann Spruce A.R.E.|
|Neck||5ply (Mahogany + Padauk)|
|Body Depth||100 -125mm (3 15/16″-4 15/16″)|
|Nut Width||44mm (1 3/4″)|
|String Lengh||650mm (25 9/16″)|
|Tuning Machine||Open Gear|
|Standard Accessory||Hard CaseX|
The very cool thing about this guitar (and others in the new lineup) is the new SRT pickup system, which is an improvement over the incredible ART system, which is what I have in my APX900. I chose the APX900 over all comers because of this pickup system. It is by far the best pickup system I’ve ever used in any acoustic, hands-down. But SRT goes even further than this by adding microphone modeling and other tone-shaping features to further enhance the natural sound of a guitar while plugged in. I wish I had that in my APX!!! OMG!
What got me thinking about Yamaha guitars was recording this song:
With this, I mic’d my APX900. It sounds pretty good, but I really had to do a lot of EQ and other adjustments to get a richer sound. As you can tell, the tone is pretty bright, which works pretty good, but I really don’t like applying EQ to guitar tracks as I want to capture the natural sound of the guitar, whether it’s an acoustic or electric. Anyway, I was thinking to myself that it would be great to have a guitar that has a killer tone both plugged in and unplugged. That’s when I thought of the LJX26CP.
What I wanted was to have my cake and eat it too. While my APX900 sounds absolutely fantastic on stage, from what I’ve been able to gather on the LJX26CP is that it also sounds killer unplugged!
So circling back to my original query, it’s amazing that these amazing guitars with amazing electronics haven’t caught on more here in the states or why Yamaha hasn’t invested more in marketing their top line in the States. Maybe they think the market’s too saturated. Who knows? It’s not as if the guitars are completely inaccessible. You can special order them, and if you’re in Europe or Asia, you can get them online. But as someone once told me, “There’s room in this world for people who are good.” That totally applies to gear. And if Yamaha brought these guitars to shops, I have no doubt that they’d do well here. It just takes getting the word out and coming up with messaging that differentiates it from the competition.
Without a doubt, the big differentiator for Yamaha’s guitars is the SRT system. As if ART wasn’t impressive enough in previous models, SRT looks like it will blow ART away! I definitely want an LJX26CP! Luckily for me, the local shop where I get a lot of my gear is a Yamaha dealer, and they can order one for me. I sure wish I could play it before I order it; hopefully, they’ll have a return policy, or allow me to not buy it if I don’t like it. Chances are that I will indeed like it.
In any case, from personal experience with Yamaha guitars over the years – my first acoustic was a cheapo Yamaha FG335 that my dad gave me for my 18th birthday. Those inexpensive, it had a fantastic voice that was comparable to high end acoustics. I performed and recorded with it for years! To me, Yamaha totally gets it with acoustic guitars, and even its budget models sound and play great, plus they’re very well-built.
For more information on the Yamaha guitars that have the SRT pickup system, visit the SRT site! You’ll notice that the site’s in Japan. It took me A LOT of digging to find that site. There are clips and interviews on the site that will provide you with tons of information on the line.