Price paid: $ 180
Purchased from: eBay reseller of returns
Features — 9
2016 Yamaha FSX800C (see the FG800 series review) as a 'return' and resold by an eBay dealer of returned and similar items. 40% less for a brand new guitar complete with Yamaha box, batteries unused and truss rod Allen wrench. Spotless all over with plastic on the pickguard and strung up right with nut slots dead-on. These are made in China and it's a Nato back/sides with spruce solid top. Tuners are Schaller style and adequate, but need light lubrication (a bit gritty, but OK). Electronics mounted on the upper side include tuner and standard V, Lo,Mid,Hi tone adjusters and 'AMF' slider you can look up. Yellowish numerals with black background and the dots to indicate as you get closer to exactly in tune.
Sound — 9
VERSATILE I would call it. Not tinny, but it is a smaller bodied design and slightly shallower with scalloped bracing (new this year). So it is not a dreadnaught sound, but is strong and clear. Very nice for a fingernail player as it is very responsive and balanced. I have yet to go into a board at open mic, but it is well reviewed and wildly popular for Yamaha. As an accompaniment line for singers or as a picked lead guitar (country or rock) it will work. It is not a 'one trick pony'. They did a very good job on this one.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
I rated this 9, but if you consider lack of any defects or marks, most would call it a '10'. A used guitar in the $300 retail range cannot rate a '10' that I ever saw. But this 'return' guitar has no marks at all on it. Pickguard plastic peel-cover was undisturbed. No defects in anything and the top grain is just enough to look good. Totally uniform grain is boring; this one has just a hint of pattern near the middle joint. The body is very well-shot gloss poly and the neck is that satin poly with a very slight grain feel to the neck. Fretboard is dark, but not rosewood. Frets needed only the slightest touchup of the corners with a correct 3-corner file. String anchors are plastic and look nice, but can be replaced in the future as needed. They come out and fit in easily and smoothly. .012-.054 gauge strings are discarded for .011-.052, which I think are the best tradeoff of life, tone, ease of play. The Nato back and sides looks surprisingly good and better than the examples at my local SamAsh ($300 new and no discount). These guitars are revamped 700 series and improved this year and a big hit at NAMM just passed. I found 2 display ones from NAMM dealers at $252 and $262. So do not expect to get a bargain. Consider a used one; I took a chance on a returned one and got a perfect one.
Reliability & Durability — 10
Yamaha guitars are top notch build and finish. They are not Taylors or Martins or Guilds. It's a different slant and a different market segment. But Yamahas that approach the swanky guitars can be had for a LOT less, especially used. I find Yamaha neck width tends barely narrower and are comfortable. You need to play Martin, Yamaha, Taylor, Guild, and maybe Gibson then determine if you are willing to pay... Having owned Yamahas (LL6, etc.) in the past and seeing how many old ones from the 1970s are still sold (including some nice classicals), Yamah has become known as a solid design and build company of guitars. You can assume a Yamaha will be solid for a very long time.
Overall Impression — 9
At $300 retail new and my 'return' at $180 in like new condition, I think this is tough to beat. I owned guitars the past 30 years and can play. Not pro level, but plenty well-enough to entertain an audience on acoustic, electric, or classical. My only amp is a '74 Silverface Princeton Reverb with good Celestion speaker. The acoustics are to write songs and play at open-mic.
This smaller body style with a barely shallow body and innovative bracing gives a fairly loud and clear guitar. It is not that 'sweet' and 'pretty' Guild tone of dreads nor the Taylor balanced and precise tone. Yamahas have a certain sound and are very affordable and can be adjusted easily to play well. They are a good 'utility' guitar and at $300 brand new.... this is an ideal starter guitar for a teenager (slightly small, narrowed neck width, good electronics, looks very sharp, and sounds good if you can half-way play guitar).
If stolen, I probably would get another since it is the best of acoustic unplugged, very nice A/E plugged in, and feels right in the hands and is light, solid, well made and finished impressively.
At $200 new, look at the Oscar Schmidt (China build from Washburn) OG2CESM, which is a killer cutaway dread that plays great and sounds damn near as good as a Guild or Taylor for stupid cheap brand new. Times are changing and China, cheap, and barely 'cheezy' spalted top in the OG2CESM gives a remarkable guitar for $200 and nearly the equal of $700-900 guitars. Find a used one at $140 and grab it.... you can always get your $ back locally on a resale !