Archive for huhtikuu 20th, 2012

20/04/2012

Review: Yamaha A1R and A3R

This review could have carried the title ”Elegant Twins”, as both models from Yamaha’s brand-new A-series look very much alike.

The A-series looks like Yamaha’s answer to Taylor Guitars – it encompasses eight guitars in all, half of them Dreadnoughts and the other half in Grand Concert -size. All models feature a cutaway and a pickup system, as well as a new, organic-feeling type of matte finish rather reminiscent of some Taylors.

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The Yamaha A1R (current recommended price in Finland: 639 €) is the less expensive guitar of the two on review here. The model’s nicely grained sitka spruce top is solid wood, with the rosewood sides and back being made of veneer.

The A1R’s headstock has received a rosewood facing.

Yamaha uses the same type of sealed tuners on the bulk of their steelstring acoustics. The lower A-series models sport necks made from three long and narrow pieces of mahogany. The separate headstock has also been put together from several pieces, and it has been glued on next to the E-tuners.

Our test sample displayed some nice fret work, as well as stylishly understated tiny dots in its rosewood fingerboard.

The heel of the neck has been built up using smaller pieces of mahogany. This saves cost, as well as natural resources, as the company are able to use smaller neck blanks and wood cut-offs.

The quick access battery compartment can be found next to the heel. Yamaha uses two AA-batteries in all of their A-series preamps.

The A1R’s body is of typical Dreadnought size.

The rosette consists of black and white rings around the soundhole. The faux-tortie scratchplate is similar to plates used on the Gibson Country & Western -model and on many Taylor guitars.

The binding looks very nice with its outer ply of mahogany.

The rosewood bridge is one of Yamaha’s own designs, and feels smooth to the touch. The piezo pickup is situated beneath the compensated saddle.

All A1- ja AC1-guitars come equipped with Yamaha’s analogue System 66 -preamp, which sports a three-band EQ with adjustable midrange frequency, as well as an on-board tuner.

The A-series range features stylish end pins with an integrated output jack.

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The A1R’s bigger sister, called Yamaha A3R (current recommended price in Finland: 849 €), is somewhat better endowed, as it is an all-solid-wood acoustic guitar. The top is – again – sitka spruce, with solid Indian rosewood used for the rims and the back.

From the front both headstocks look virtually identical…

…but a look at the back reveals a neck made from one piece of mahogany (plus a separate one-piece headstock) on the A3R.

Again, we found fine fretwork on the A3R – this time on a light-coloured ebony board.

Our test sample displayed a heel, which was more carefully matched in colour and grain to the rest of the neck’s mahogany.

Look at that beautiful top with rich cross-silking…

An inner ring put together using mahogany and ebony gives the A3R an touch of added class.

The binding follows the same pattern as on the less expensive model.

The bridge features the same design, but in the A3R’s case it has been crafted from ebony.

The Yamaha A3R is equipped with a System 63 SRT -preamp offering both the analogue pickup signal, as well as three digitally modelled virtual microphones to pick from. SRT-modelling takes the piezo’s signal and digitally morphs it to sound like this particular guitar model being miked up (either close-up or from a little bit further away). You can choose between a virtual large-diaphragm condenser microphone (Type 1), a small-diaphragm condenser (Type 2) or a ribbon microphone (Type 3). You can also adjust the amount of virtual body resonance picked up.

Adding to all this the System 63 SRT features a three-band EQ, an on-board tuner, as well as automatic feedback reduction (A.F.R.).

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Both Yamahas feel virtually the same, with identical medium-sized D-shape neck profiles and a comfortable medium-low action. The best bit is the new open-grained matte finish that really let’s you feel the neck wood.

Played acoustically both models display a dense, piano-like ring, with plenty of attack and sparkle.

The all-solid construction of the A3R results in a warmer low end and a little more volume. The A1R sounds a tad drier and more upfront.

The A1R’s System 66 gives you a nice, middle-of-the-road piezo tone, with the typical quacking attack and direct dryness of a piezo.

Yamaha A1R – acoustic tone

Yamaha A1R – System 66

The A3R’s System 63 SRT -preamp offers more scope for adjustment.

The SRT-modelling sounds quite realistic, and goes a very long way in removing all piezo-ness in the guitar’s amplified tone – regardless of the chosen virtual mic. The sound is realistic enough for many live and studio applications, even though I’m quite sure a solo guitar-virtuoso will still insist on having his (or her) guitar miked up in the real world.

Yamaha A3R – acoustic tone

Yamaha A3R – SRT Type 1

Yamaha A3R – SRT Type 3

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Yamaha A-series

Finnish distributor: F-Musiikki

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Yamaha A1R

639 €

Pros:

+ value for money

+ neck profile

+ neck finish

+ workmanship

+ acoustic tone

+ good piezo sound

Cons:

– typical piezo artifacts

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Yamaha A3R

849 €

Pros:

+ value for money

+ neck profile

+ neck finish

+ workmanship

+ acoustic tone

+ SRT-modelling

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