Posts Tagged ‘yamaha’

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. ūüôā 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… ūüôā

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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…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.
Back&Side Solid Rosewood
Neck 5ply (Mahogany + Padauk)
Finger Board/Bridge Ebony
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
Color Natural
Finish Gloss
Preamp System62
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.

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