Posts Tagged ‘apx900’

Yamaha APX900 Thinline Acoustic/Electric GuitarIt’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.

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The SRT System Is Here!

Yamaha APX900 Thinline Acoustic/Electric Guitar

Click to enlarge

Shown to the left is my trusty Yamaha APX900. When I bought it a couple of years ago, what sold me was the Acoustic Response Technology pre-amp which, at the time, I felt was unmatched for playing live and plugged into an acoustic amp. Before I finally chose the APX900, I had evaluated several acoustic guitars from high-end Martins, Taylors and Collings to the low-end. The cheapos just wouldn’t do even though some sounded pretty good, they were set up pretty poorly. I almost sprung for a Martin dreadnaught, but would’ve had to install a pickup system in it. I didn’t want to go through the hassle. So I narrowed my search to purely acoustic-electric guitars.

The first time I played an APX900, I knew my search was over. My primary criteria for choosing an acoustic was not for its acoustic sound, but how good it would sound plugged in as I would use the guitar as my on stage acoustic. Nothing, and I mean nothing sounded better than the APX900 plugged in; everything else sounded flat and mid-rangy. It was the Acoustic Response Technology (ART) pre-amp on the APX900 that completely sold me on the guitar. The only drawback of the guitar was that acoustically – without sound reinforcement – the guitar being a thinline concert jumbo didn’t have much oomph, and I knew that if I was going to use in the studio, I’d have to do a lot of tricks to make it sound bigger (like close-micing). But studio work was going to be a secondary use for the guitar, so it didn’t really bother me too much that its acoustic performance was okay at best. The guitar by no means sounds bad acoustically, but it has a higher voicing as compared to a dreadnaught or even a full bodied concert jumbo. Besides, it got me thinking that where the guitar was lacking could be made up with the purchase of a higher-end guitar where I didn’t really care much about the electronics. Just more gear… 🙂

In any case, a couple of months after I got my APX900, I started looking for a higher-end guitar. One of the first places I sought out was the Yamaha site, and what should I discover but a line of higher-end Yamaha guitars that included a new pre-amp system called the Studio Response Technology (SRT). This pre-amp system was even better than the ART, upon which I didn’t think could be improved. With SRT, Yamaha introduced microphone modeling as well as multiple pickups, and the recordings they provided got me salivating to try out a guitar that had this system. On top of that, the SRT system included a knob to adjust the amount of body resonance the system picks up. OMG! To me, it was absolutely ground-breaking! Unfortunately at the time, you could only get the the model that I wanted to try out – the LJX26C – via special order. Even the LJX16C, which is their “Professional” model wasn’t available in the States except via special order, or from small, online dealer of whom I had never hear. The end result is that I’ve just had to drool at a distance all this time. But no longer.

When I first started writing this article, it was going to be an article about the APX900, but more of a discussion of how I use the guitar on stage and in the studio. In the process of writing, I wanted to see the current price of the guitar, and it is now incredibly priced at $549! I paid $799 for it two years ago, and was happy as a clam that I got the guitar at that price. Figuring that Yamaha had come up with an upgrade, I perused Musicians Friend and discovered the new APX1000 which sports the SRT system!!!!! Folks, this is big, Big, BIG news, and as the APX series guitars are Yamaha’s mid-range commercial guitars, there’s a high probability that I can try one out at my favorite local music store! It’s hard to describe the excitement I’m feeling. The ART system totally blew me away when I first played it, and I thank the stars every time I gig with my APX900 that I have a pre-amp system like the ART. But the SRT system promises even better plugged-in performance, and I just can’t wait to try it out!

But on that note, I’M TOTALLY PISSED AT YAMAHA because they do such a crappy job of marketing their incredible products technologies. Those of us “in the know” understand just how good Yamaha instruments are, but Yamaha has always been rather modest about its products. You have to actively search out what they’re doing. Had I known about the APX1000, I would’ve written a review a long time ago! Perhaps “annoyed” is more accurate, but if Yamaha was more active in marketing, I think a lot more people would be using their equipment!

All that said, here is a GREAT demo of the SRT. Read the comments on YouTube, they’re hilarious!

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Yamaha APX900 Thinline Acoustic/Electric Guitar

Click to enlarge

As I mentioned in my review of the Yamaha APX900, I’ve had this thing for Yamaha acoustics for many years. Maybe it’s nostalgia or sentimentalism, as my first guitar was a Yamaha, but I’ve always liked their tone. In any case, I’ve full circle with the Yamaha APX900, and I just couldn’t be happier. This is one killer guitar! With its Mocha Black finish, mother-of-pearl “bookend” inlays, and gorgeous binding, it has stunning looks!

But of course, looks don’t tell the whole story. It plain sounds fantastic! Whether plugged in or unplugged, the APX900 has a magical, creamy tone that I’d easily put up against guitars three or four times its price which, at a mere $699 street, makes this an incredible value!

Unplugged, the tone is smooth and well-defined, and even as a thinline guitar, it’s not so thin that sustain is sacrificed. The body resonates and provides lots of sustain. In fact, it’s smaller size belies the big voice that the APX900 possesses. Here’s a clip:

There’s nothing subdued about that tone. For that recording, I used a Senheiser e609 pointed at the front edge of the sound hole about 4″ away from the guitar. The APX900 has an phenomenally even EQ response. When I played back the recording, I had to do a double-take! Make no mistake, that is the raw recording with no EQ or filtering! It’s amazing!

Plugged in, the APX900 shows even more magic. The first thing I noticed when I first played it – direct into a PA – was that it sounded natural; that is, it didn’t sound like an acoustic plugged into a board, where the tone is completely flattened out, and what you end up with is high, mid-rangy, and lifeless. It’s due to the APX900’s ART or Acoustic Resonance Transducer pickup system, which is a system of three pickups; strategically-placed to emphasize or de-emphasize certain EQ ranges. This lets you dial in all sorts of tones! I’m still discovering the possibilities!

Here’s the same progression I recorded unplugged, but with a solo played on top of it. For the “rhythm” part, I have the Low, Mid, and High faders, plus the under-the-saddle pickup’s EQ set to dead-center. With the solo, I added a touch of the mid, plus more highs to cut through. The result is spectacular!

Again, with this clip, I didn’t adjust any EQ on either track, though I did add some reverb for some ambience and to simulate what I’d do on a PA board anyway. The tone is different from the unplugged sound, but with a little playing around with the faders, I can get very close. But no matter, the tone is still killer, and most importantly, the dynamics are fully retained, and on stage, that’s absolutely critical!

So yeah, I really do dig this guitar. I’m looking forward to gigging with it!

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