Yamaha has recently upgraded its very successful L-Series of steel-string guitars.
The most important update, at least in terms of sound quality, is the use of A.R.E.-treated spruce tops across the whole range of models. Yamaha’s proprietary Acoustic Resonance Enhancement is a wood treatment that uses heat, changes in humidity and pressure, to artificially age tonewoods. The aim is to produce brand-new acoustic instruments, which sound played-in from the get-go.
L-Series guitars come in three body sizes – LJ (Medium Jumbo), LS (Small Body = Folk-sized) and LL (Original Jumbo = Dreadnought-sized).
Kitarablogi had the pleasure to take a Yamaha LL6 ARE (current price in Finland: 534,90 €) for a spin.
Yamaha’s Original Jumbo body style is the company’s own design, set apart from a traditional Dreadnought by its slimmer shoulders and its more rounded lower bout. The result looks nicely balanced.
Yamaha uses solid Engelmann spruce for all of their L-Series tops. Engelmann spruce has a reputation for sounding warmer and less constricted, when compared to Sitka spruce.
The LL6 is available in four different finishes – natural, brown sunburst, black and Dark Tinted (a deep reddish-brown hue).
The Yamaha LL6’s sides and back are made from beautifully grained laminated rosewood. There’s a mahogany backed version available, too, the Yamaha LL6M ARE.
The guitar’s body has received a gloss finish, while the back of the neck sports a thin satin finish.
The bound headstock is home to a set of TM-29G tuning machines.
All new L-Series instruments come with five-piece necks. In the LL6’s case this means three pieces of mahogany with two strips of rosewood sandwiched between them. The idea behind this type of construction is to add stiffness to the neck, and thus sustain.
The LL6’s headstock and neck heel are crafted from separate pieces of mahogany, which are then glued to the main part.
The quality of the fretwork on this Yamaha is very good.
Another new feature across all L-Series models are rolled-in fingerboard edges for an even more comfortable playing experience.
Yamaha uses a modified type of non-scalloped X-bracing on all L-Series tops, which is meant to add a healthy dose of punch and warmth into the mix.
The centre ring of this beautiful soundhole rosette has been crafted from genuine abalone shell.
There’s multiple binding on the Yamaha’s top, as well as single ply cream binding around the back.
The LL6 comes with a Yamaha SRT Zero Impact piezo pickup hidden beneath its compensated bridge saddle.
As the main focus of the LL6 lies on its acoustic performance, Yamaha wanted an unobtrusive pickup system without the need for an on-board preamp or a battery compartment. This is why the LL6 comes equipped with a passive pickup that is wired directly to the output jack.
Yamaha’s LL6 ARE is sold in its own soft case, which is a nice hybrid of a gig bag and a hard case.
It speaks volumes about Yamaha’s high standards of craftsmanship, as well as the company’s stringent quality control, when the importer’s product specialist takes you to the warehouse, and simply hands you an untouched shipping carton, without even opening it. His only question was: ”Which colour would you prefer?”
And, judging from the review guitar, this trust in Yamaha’s quality control seems totally justified. When I opened the soft case I found a great instrument in fine fettle.
The neck’s new-and-improved oval C-profile feels fantastic, and the nut width of 44 mm offers enough room for complex fingerings. Yamaha have gone for a good working compromise at the bridge, too, with an E-to-e-string spacing of 55 mm, that most strummers and fingerpickers will get to grips with nicely.
The playability was first rate (remember this is a sub-600 € guitar):
The action with the factory-installed 012-gauge set was really comfortable (string height at the 12th fret: low E – 2.1 mm/high e – 1.6 mm), and the guitar played beautifully, without any rattles or buzzes whatsoever.
It’s virtually impossible to verify any claims that Yamaha’s A.R.E.-treatment makes the LL6 ARE sound like well played-in ”old ’un”, because no two vintage guitars are the same, and also because I didn’t have a ”non-A.R.E.” Yamaha to hand.
What I can say, though, is that the Yamaha LL6 ARE sounds very open, dynamic and mature, right out of the shipping carton. Many brand-new steel-string acoustics require a playing-in period to lose a certain restricted sense of dynamics and a spiky top end. The LL6 ARE sounds warm, well-balanced and open right from the start.
Fingerstyle playing comes across well-articulated. The LL6 has a clear top end and a rich bass register; it’s a warm tone, but the bottom end never gets overbearing.
The first example has been close-miked with an AKG C3000 microphone:
For a no-frills, passive piezo system the LL6’s SRT-pickup sounds rather nice:
Combining both signals works well, too:
Strumming the LL6 gives you great punch, a sparkling top end, and plenty of mid-range character (AKG C3000):
The piezo-powered version is a bit drier, but still work well in my view:
Using both signals together sounds like this:
The rhythm guitar tracks in this short Beatles-cover have been recorded with a Shure SM57, while the lead guitar parts have been recorded direct off the built-in pickup:
The Yamaha LL6 ARE might be the most-affordable member of the L-Series, but it most certainly is a thoroughbred example of its species. The improved neck profile is a real treat, and the A.R.E.-treatment seems to make a clear difference. This is a beautiful instrument with a voice to match. I also like the straightforward pickup system, which offers a decent sound with no fuss. I’d really recommend you try out one of these guitars, as the LL6 ARE punches well above its weight.
Yamaha LL6 ARE
Finnish distributor: F-Musiikki
+ A.R.E.-treated solid top
+ neck profile
+ acoustic sound
+ unobtrusive pickup system
+ soft case included