Price paid: C$ 700
Sound — 10
I like the sound of this guitar. I found the JB in the bridge a little bright to start with so I lowered it a little and adjusted the screws in the middle/bass. I mostly play with both neck and bridge together as they compliment each other well. Sound is a personal thing and I should point out that I find most guitars too bright anyway. The pickups were probably adjusted correctly at the factory (whatever that means) and it was just my preference to bring more mid/bass out of them. I split the pickups through push/pull pots so I've got the choice of "single" or dual coil sounds. This guitar was very versatile to begin with but it is even more so when you can get the single coil sound and all the dual/single variations through the push/pull pots and the toggle switch. When you are not playing this guitar (I.e. strumming/picking) then it is extremely quiet. You can leave it on a high gain setting and there is not a peep from the pickups until you want to make noise. It does not feedback or rattle etc. I know the Seymore Duncan - JB (sp? ) in the bridge is a well respected pickup but I'm not sure where the neck pickup came from. I view both pickups as being very good and they compliment each other well. and this guitar can handle it alI play all kinds of music l. It is at as comfortable with Crazy Train as it is with Frosty the Snowman at Christmas. I've got several smaller amplifiers around (kids got them as gifts but gave up) but my main one is a 1973 Garnet Session Man head (these are from Winnipeg) into a home made cabinet. Mostly though I play through a DigiTech RP-250 into headphones.
Overall Impression — 9
I like this guitar. I tried out a lot of other guitars and this one just "fit" me. It was a choice between this and a Godin Freeway Classic and I decided on this one (let the debate begin). The main factor in choosing was the way the AES felt rather than anything else. I liked both guitars and had to leave the shop and come back the next day to finally decide. The Freeway Classic felt like everything was too far towards the neck when I was playing it. Felt like I was strumming/picking on the 13th fret. I felt like I was just too far to the left if that makes sense. The Yamaha settled in a little more comfortable. just personal preference I guess. My only problem with this guitar was the volume and tone pots. I don't know why they would put the obvious effort into this thing and then cheap out so badly on the pots. I called The Music store about it and they said it was Yamaha's issue. I called and emailed Yamaha several times and never once got a reply so I guess you're on your own with that one. I did notice it when I was trying the guitar out but since I very rarely touch them once they are set and I was planning on the push/pull pots eventually anyway I decided I could Live with it. What I didn't realize at the time was just how bad they were and how soon they would give out. I must admit though the guitar would be a lot more appealing out of the box with the push/pull pots and the coils "split". Both pickups sound great in the "single coil" position (especially the JB in the bridge) and they make no "single coil" noise at all. I don't have a lot of money and, even though it is not the most expensive guitar in the world, I have to work hard and save for a long time to make a purchase like this. I feel I made a good choice. If it were stolen; I'd hunt them down and do something bad. Would I buy another one? Depends, I'd go to the music store and try out what they have. I'm not too fussy about brand names (I.e. I won't only buy a certain brand or avoid a guitar because of the name on the headstock - that's just paint). You can see and feel quality (which would, by default, leave me putting certain brands back on the rack) so I'd have to see what was available at the store before making that choice.
Reliability & Durability — 8
This guitar would surely survive live playing. I would say that it is very sturdy. I'm gentle with it so I'm not sure what kind of harsh treatment it could withstand. I will say that, after about 4 years it looks as good as new (better actually because I replaced the cream colored PU surrounds with chrome ones). I have only had trouble with the volume/tone pots on it. I ended up changing those with push/pull pots and splitting the pickups (they both come with 4 wires so it's easy to do). The strap buttons are solid and I'm sure that the overall guitar would be fine Live. I would not trust the volume/tone pots Live though - they crackled and popped and eventually I had the choice of full volume or nothing. Would I use it without a backup? Nope. But I would have a backup for everything (even the drummer) if I ever played Live. Through my work I do a lot of public presentations (without my guitar) and I can't count how many times something has gone wrong. I wouldn't expect this guitar to fail but I've seen Stranger things happen. I'd rate this at 8 because of the pots.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
The finish was flawless. Honestly I couldn't find anything wrong with it (I spent about 10 minutes going over it before putting out $700). The action was not bad from the factory. A little high, had to lower it a little. I was able to do so without getting any buzz so that was ok. I did notice that it took some time to get used to the frets. Someone in a previous review mentioned jumbo frets. I was not used to them so when I pushed too hard on the strings I would end up bending them over the fret and onto the fretboard. This would cause the note to sound a little sharp. Took some getting used to in terms of "lightening up" my touch. The effect that I got was what I would imagine a scalloped fretboard would give (that is only an example - this guitar does not have, or pretend to have a scalloped neck). The problem was that this does not happen everywhere along the neck, only in certain places. I would imagine that this is a flaw in the action/fit but it isn't too bad and I also found that my speed increased by not putting as much pressure on the strings. Guess there is a silver lining to almost everything. An 8 because of the pots and what I would assume would be some slightly flawed (stress the slightly in this case) fretwork.
Features — 10
Features have been mentioned by others so I won't repeat them. I have no idea when it was made. I've had it for around 4 years so it is no younger than that. The wood has not yet petrified so it's not several million years old. Nothing special in this area. Music store threw in a gig bag and a strap (probably put them out $5 too).