While the internet and other modern technological advancements put more information at our fingertips faster than ever before, it can be both confusing and frustrating to navigate through. Searching for a guitar is no different and in fact might offer some unique issues to deal with. A guitar can be a very personal and tactile purchase and choosing based on pictures and write ups can’t always give you the whole story. Feel is an integral part and as I always say at the end of my blogs, stop by your local Best Buy and give it a go for yourself. Same applies here as I will simply give you my impressions of the new Yamaha FG800 series acoustic guitar.
The FG800 acoustic guitar is a new offering from Yamaha that features a traditional western body style and in perhaps its greatest feature, has a solid spruce top. So why does that matter? As a general rule, a solid top will vibrate significantly better that a laminated guitar top which gives more volume and a smoother tone. As a wood, Spruce is a common choice for guitar tops since it is lightweight but also quite strong. The combination of these factors results in the FG800 having great tonal quality and a strong aural presence.
Inside the body, the bracing system has been slightly reworked as well. Yamaha has “scalloped” the interior braces which doesn’t sacrifice any of the structural integrity of the guitar but reduces interior wood which theoretically captures some of the sound. Scalloped simply means that the wood bracing system has been shaved in parts which allows more air for the sound to move through. Yamaha also touts that rather than guessing or relying on tradition, Yamaha engineers have scientifically analysed this process to ensure that they have achieved optimal sound production. Listening to it, it’s certainly hard to disagree.
My particular model features a black finish, a rosewood fingerboard, and nato/okume back and sides. Nato is related to mahogany in sound reproduction but at a significantly less expensive price point. Both the nut and saddle are made of Urea, a plastic, and while bone may be a preferred material, Urea is almost always what you find on guitars at this price point due to its low cost. Guitarists can spend hours debating whether these make any tonal difference (likely not for the nut but potentially for the saddle as bone allows the string to vibrate better) but Urea will likely wear out quicker depending on hours played. Again, this is one of the concessions to allow this guitar to be available as inexpensively as it is.
I found the FG800 very easy to play as the neck wasn’t too thick and foreboding and the action (essentially the distance of the strings away from the fretboard) was fairly low so there wasn’t any real forcing the strings down whether playing single notes or chords. This is particularly important for new players as high action makes the guitar harder to play and can be discouraging when you first start playing. I imagine that a lot of potential guitar players gave up early because they tried to play an instrument that wasn’t finger friendly. For a lot of purely acoustic guitars (meaning they contain no electronics at all) at this price point, the guitars tend to sound a bit bright. The FG800 has no such issues. Between the materials used, especially the nato sides and back, and the scalloping on the internal bracing, this guitar is rich and warm with some solid mid range to even out the tone quite nicely.
Cosmetically an attractive guitar, if not traditionally styled, with some nice looking inlays and not cheap feeling at all. The tuning pegs are easy to turn and adjust and the string tension and notes respond to tuning as they should and I had no issues with the FG800 staying in tune. The Yamaha website appears to market this particular model to the “beginning guitarist” but I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest that most guitarists would enjoy the feel and sound of the FG800 and it makes a nice, inexpensive addition to any guitar collection. So drop into your local Best Buy and give it a go, and when you consider what you are receiving value wise, I think you will be glad you did.
I also received the FG820 acoustic guitar from Yamaha and am including a comparison demo video so you can hear some of the subtle differences in these two guitars.