Price paid: £ 400
Purchased from: Hooters (Watford)
Sound — 10
The guitar is very versatile. My criteria for purchasing were not all musical! Here's the list... in no particular order. - Budget - Looks - Playability - Reputation of maker - Single cutaway - Onboard eq - Slim-ish body - Lightweight - Good amplified tone combined with good acoustic quality - Durability for live work - Hold tune well and good intonation Having shopped around for quite some time, the Yamaha presented itself as the leading contender. I couldn't quite stretch to the next levels - such as Taylor, Takemine, Freshman, but in truth in 10 years there has never been a situation where I could blame any mistakes etc. On my guitar! I play a mixture of Folk / Indie / some jazz / standards on this guitar. It always delivers. I use it acoustically daily, or straight through my band's PA, my Roland MicroCube and my Marshall AS50D. When used with a PA there are the normal potential feedback issues with acoustics, but the sound is always, always, full, bright, with depth. It keeps tune terrifically well. I only use Elixir strings on it - that's another whole review in itself. It's silent as long as the battery is fresh... Herein lies my only slight issue - there is no discernible warning when you need to change the battery, so if you plump for one of these, keep replacements with you at all times! Again, I guess this is a generic issue, yet one I had not considered enough in advance.
Overall Impression — 10
I've played on and off for 30 years but in the 10 years I've owned this guitar, it's 'made me' play daily, as I can keep it on a stand, it's easy to move around with in the house, it plays quiet enough not to bother others yet loud enough to hear properly. If it were stolen or lost I'd be very upset, but pragmatically speaking I know I would have to search long and hard to beat it especially for the budget and other criteria I have! My favourite quality is its' sheer playability. The use of Elixir strings and the investment of a good setup cannot be overstated, but the instrument itself is fully deserving of these investments. If I had to pick on anything I wish the ends of the frets were finished as impeccably as the rest of the guitar, that the jack socket nut stayed tight, and the battery indicator was better. But these are very minor quibbles and probably generic ones.
Reliability & Durability — 9
I've gigged many times with this guitar - at open mics, small theatre settings, pubs and private functions. It's absolutely made for it. The hardware has all stood the test of time. The guitar is out of the case all the time, on a stand, and played practically every day - 9 days out of 10 on average. And still, the machine heads are positive, the frets have worn well, the pegs are still secure, the strap buttons have never had to be tightened etc. As far as backup, I can't justify a spare so I'm flying solo with this guitar. But frankly if I could afford a second one I'd be extremely happy with another APX-5! The finish looks as good now as the day I bought it. I often play sleeveless, so the guitar has had a lot of perspiration on it (yuk!) or as much as an English summer will allow lol, yet to my eyes it remains boxfresh.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
I like my guitars to be set as low as humanly possible. I know that's not everyone's taste but my reasons, fwiw, are the obvious one of playability - also I presume that the lower a guitar can go the more of an indication of the overall quality that gives. I'm sure that's a generalisation but still... Additionally, I use a capo - a lot - and the lower the action, the less effect on tuning when a capo is deployed and moved. Although one should always re-tune when deploying | moving | removing a capo! As it's aged a little, the guitar has developed a few beautiful sweet spots which I often contrive to use in certain tunes, even it takes some devious use of tunings | capo placement to achieve it. I've had a number of really complimentary remarks about the sound it produces, including from some musicians with far more elaborate and expensive kit! The top is beautifully matched. The finish is bright without being gaudy. The first thing I did was take the instrument to the luthier I've used for many years. He deals in extremely expensive instruments and was impressed with the quality of this guitar, which pleased me no end! I could find no flaws anywhere with the finish, fixtures, or fittings, with the very minor exception that the frets could have been slightly better, but would still score a 9 out of 10. I still use the original tuning pegs and machine heads. In fact nothing has ever been replaced apart from the strings - many times, and of course the battery! The little nut that holds the jack socket to the body loosens itself, which is mildly irritating. The volume and EQ controls are superb - positive, silent, easy to access. Even the battery compartment and holder are really solidly designed and easy to change.
Features — 10
Made c. 2001 in Taiwan, it's a single cutaway 22-fret with an oval soundhole. The body depth varies between 80 90mm. Woods used are Spruce for the top, with Nato back, sides and neck - the fingerboard is in Rosewood, as is the bridge. Mine is in Sandburst (a kind of tobacco sunburst!). The electrics consist of volume, 3 x EQ sliders, and the Yamaha AMF (Adjustable Midrange Frequency) control for added tonal variation. There is also a battery indicator. The battery is a 9V MN1604. The machine heads are in chrome, the body is bound, and the Yamaha lettering and logo are decals. The dot inlays are in some variety of nacre. No accessories were supplied with the guitar.