For 50 years, Yamaha has been producing the FG series of acoustic guitar and to celebrate this anniversary, introduce the new FG820. The Yamaha FG820 has the playability that Yamaha acoustics are known for and thanks to new production technologies, produces an even warmer and friendlier tone than their predecessors.
Yamaha began production of their now famous FG acoustic guitar line in 1966 and to celebrate an incredible 50th birthday, have unleashed the next in line FGs set to take over the affordable end of the acoustic spectrum. As the series was originally envisioned as a less expensive response to the costlier models that proliferated at the time, the original FG engineers set out to make a playable well built guitar that wouldn’t break your bank. They were successful then and with the new FG models have upped the ante even further. Yamaha claims that the new models have the “best-ever” FG tone and after playing a couple of different models, I certainly couldn’t dispute that claim.
Thanks for this can definitely go to the company’s engineers as they have stepped it up with their clever blending of materials and science to create a guitar that is extremely affordable but plays and sounds well above its cost. Not the least of these engineering feats has occurred inside the body of the guitar. Acoustic guitars have a bracing system inside the body that supports the front, back, and sides while creating an overall stability to the guitars structure. If you can imagine however, the bracing protrudes in a way that interferes with the sound waves as they travel through the body and out the soundhole. To combat this, Yamaha has “scalloped”, or shaved, the interior braces in a way that does not affect the guitar structurally but does allow sound to flow better and the end result is a richer and fuller tone with some significant low and lower mid range than before. The scalloped bracing also means that the guitar is louder than before and when combined with the warmth, truly produces a pleasing and enjoyable tone.
I received a few different Yamaha guitars from Best Buy including the FG800 which I also wrote a blog for. I mentioned that the FG800 also had a significant boost in volume and tone thanks to the scalloped braces as well as the use of nato and okume woods for the back and sides. Now, while nato and okume are certainly cheaper than other traditional woods like mahogany or maple and can do a stellar job standing in for their pricier kin, mahogany is always a better choice for tone than nato and mahogany is what you will find on the FG820. The use of nato is what makes the FG800 so incredibly affordable and make no mistake, it sounds very good as well, but the warmth is kicked up another notch on the FG820 through the use of mahogany on the back and sides. Of course, if money is no object then you might go with Madagascar rosewood or moabi but without winning the lottery, mahogany does its job in a beautiful sounding way.
The FG820 features a traditional western body style and has a solid spruce top. It has a nato neck and a rosewood fingerboard as well as a rosewood bridge. Both the nut and saddle are made from urea plastic, again one of the concessions to cost but something that doesn’t make a significantly discernable difference for the average guitar player. The tuning pegs are die-cast chrome and in conjunction with the gorgeous looking inlays on the headstock, give off the vibe of a class acoustic guitar. Aesthetically the FG820 hits a home run as it adds cream binding to the body and fingerboard. It is also available in a myriad of colour options. You can pick up a Yamaha FG820 in natural, black, autumn burst, sunset blue, or in the colour I was sent, brown sunburst.
As far as playability and tone, I found it very similar in its ease of use to the FG800 I recently reviewed if not even better sounding than the very surprising cheaper sibling. The FG820 guitar came to me directly with a decent setup including strings gauged from 12-52 (12 being the high E string and 52 being the low E string. High referring to the pitch rather than its relative position when the guitar is placed on your lap to play). Were this my guitar, the first thing I would do is change the string gauge as I prefer a lighter gauge for my baby soft fingers, generally 10-47, but this is of course a personal preference and even with the thicker gauge I had no issues with playing this guitar. The action of the strings (essentially the distance between the strings and the fretboard and thus how far you have to press the strings down with your fretting hand) was very good as was the distance between strings. There are no electronics in this guitar whatsoever as it is a pure acoustic and as mentioned previously, the lower mid range and bottom end really shine through. I always find that most entry level and similarly affordable guitars can be a bit “bright” sounding as they tend to play in the higher end of the audio spectrum but the FG820 doesn’t suffer from that at all. If I had to sum up the sound of the Yamaha FG820 in a word I would say warm. One potential downfall is that there is no case or gig bag offered with the guitar so that would be an additional purchase but to be honest, when you do get a gig bag with guitars in this price range, they are effectively useless anyway so a proper hardshell case is a must anyway.
Aesthetically pleasing, easy to play, and very rich sounding, the Yamaha FG820 certainly feels and sounds like a quality acoustic guitar and one that you might expect to pay more for. If this sounds like something you might be interested in, by all means drop into your local Best Buy store and give it a go because when it comes to quality, tone, and value, the 50th anniversary FG series, and the FG820 in particular, are sure to impress.