Price paid: £ 220
Purchased from: eBay
Features — 8
The APX500II is the current Yamahaa APX500 model. This is a budget range that is made with relatively cheap components (no solid woods here, laminates and rich-lite) but to a constantly high quality - when you order a APX500 you know its going to arrive well set-up and is going to play nicely. The APX range is a narrow body design making it more comfortable to play than the traditional full width designs particularly for any player who is smaller than a large man. Being of laminate construction it is much more stable to extremes of temperature and humidity. Its a great beach guitar or holiday guitar etc. It differs from previous models by its pre-amp tuner. The tuner is very well designed, clean and easy to see whilst the use of AA batteries rather than PP3 type makes for easy and cheap battery replacement. In the UK the APX is not sold with a Gig Bag. Being smaller than average this means that one has to either buy the Yamaha Hard case which seems rather expensive compared to the guitar or the Gator equivalent which is still about £79.
Sound — 6
I like the bright tone of an acoustic and not too fond of the drum tone of a dreadnaught. With that context the weak point for me is the sound. Its perfectly acceptable but a bit muddy compared to say a GS Mini (which I also own). When plugged in it sounds pretty good maye better than when not but not as nice as the GS Mini. That said the GS Mini is twice the price and needed a setup before it was even playable. For a first acoustic or an acoustic to play a few songs at an open mic I think it is fine.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
The guitar is made from cheap materials but to a very high quality. Mine is the plain black finish and it looks very nice. If I look at it I can see that their is cost saving on the cosmetics e.g. the design of the sound hole surround and the simple colour but I don't care. It looks good and well finished. Setup is almost perfect. Straight out of the box it did smell plasticcy but I left it out for a while and it has lost that. It's very important when buying a cheap guitar to get one that will be well setup. With the cost of a good setup including strings being typically over £60 it would be a huge extra purchase if required.
Reliability & Durability — 8
These are very solid acoustic guitars since they are not solid wood they are not so reactive to humidity etc. I am also not precious about mine. Its always out at the house and the kids just grab it and hit the strings when their bored. No issues so far and none expected. It's the sort of grab and go guitar. Not valuable enough to be worried about but good enough and well equipped (with tuner) so you can can just go. They are perfect for a few numbers at an open mic etc and for that I would not need another guitar. If I was good enough to do a long extended set I might consider buying a better guitar (as well).
Overall Impression — 9
I have a quiet respect for the Yamaha. It is a very good value for money guitar which I won't be selling soon. It's perfect for noodling on the settee and would be good for open mic nights etc. It's likely to be my holiday guitar too. It's not too precious but it is good. For the smaller player, new player or the electric player wanting a comfortable guitar there are a couple of options. I looked at the Taylor GS Mini, the Taylor Big Baby and the Yamaha. I have also owned a Crafter SA-TMVS and an Epiphone 339 Ultra but neither of these were convincing in tone as an acoustic to me and don't have much unplugged volume. When I played a Big Baby in isolation I quite liked it but when compared directly to the APX or the GS Mini it felt ponderous and big. The yamaha plays better than the GS Mini because it has a full size fretboard and the built in tuner is so convenient. Its also close to half the price. However the GS Mini sings much more beautifully and when setup right plays ok. Overall I would recommend this guitar to all new acoustic players and most guitarists as a second or third "almost disposable" guitar. It really is better than the sum of its parts.