AES820 review by Yamaha

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  • Features: 10
  • Sound: 10
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 10
  • Reliability & Durability: 10
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 10 Gem
  • Users' score: 7.3 (40 votes)
Yamaha: AES820
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Purchased from: Music store

Features — 10
I like fat necks. Gibson '50s profile. I also like a reasonably light guitar - or at least lighter than a '70s Les Paul. :) I also find I only use the tone control to drop the sting out of the bridge pickup on occasion. And I can't understand why every guitar doesn't have a straight string pull - i.e. straight line from tuner to bridge. Takes away so many little tuning issues. So I'm out one day and drop into a music store and the guy says what am I looking for? Fat neck. Usually at this point I get told they don't have any or theres a nice Gibson at a price I can't afford. He lifts this one down, gives it to me - and before I even plug it in I'm hooked. There's a 3 way pickup selector, 2 vol. and a rotary tone switch with 3 options - see later. Weight 3.5Kg. Fat neck but sooooo easy to play. Sculpted heel where neck joins body - absolute delight. And a straight string pull! You'll notice I've put 10's for the review. I wanted to put 9.5 as no guitar is ever truly a 10 - but it's better than a 9 and less than a ten. :)

Sound — 10
I play all sorts of stuff - from African Highlife inspired to dirty blues to prog. Through a nice 15watt tube combo. This guitar has two specially designed DiMarzios. The out put is quite hefty - but if you roll back the volume there's no treble loss and you get a nice airy low-powered pickup sound - so this covers vintage humbucker ground as well as high-powered filth. Vol control for each pickup. The third knob has three rotary positions - 1. Selects the pickups as normal - 2. Out of phase for a Peter Green /4th position strat on steroids quack - 3. Preset tone cut (which you can set yourself).

Machine heads are Sperzels and totally awesome. They're a custom set so that the headstock looks normal open book but the string pull is straight - Google some pics. I can cover nearly every type of sound with this guitar. It's stunning. Apparently they were around £750 new and produced only in small quantities. Too expensive to make I guess.

Action, Fit & Finish — 10
This is a top quality guitar made out of solid woods and flawlessly engineered. I have played it and played it and it stays in tune and never lets me down. The fit and finish of the components is perfect and with a medium low action and a set of 10's it really sings. Access to the top end is better than a Les Paul or Stratocaster. That neck body join is shaped and makes it really comfortable when I need to get to the top and bend that last note up a tone. Fretwork is exemplary. Neck is a smooth matt finish that is really smooth to play without being slippy. Only thing its missing is a bigsby!:)

Reliability & Durability — 10
Will last forever! Totally dependable - which is to be expected at it's original list price. I've replaced the original buttons with strap locks but there was no prob with the originals except I don't trust any strap not to slip off eventually unless its locked on. The finish is pearlescent blue - not totally matt but not glossy if that makes sense. The pickups sit very firmly - no moving around and the nut and tune-o-matic bridge seem like they're built to last. I like the way the jack socket is recessed into the back of the guitar. The guy in the store said they'd fitted a new jack socket but I don't know if the original was knackered through usage or by accident.

Overall Impression — 10
Its natural inclination is classic rock. It will do heavy rock, prog, indie and metal with ease. It also cleans up remarkably well for more nuanced playing and the tone preset can be set to suit players taste. Will do a warm jazz sound if thats your bag. The out of phase position is lovely with a decent "cluck" for those funk rock moments - or reggae - or Peter Green. I can't believe I never ran across one of these before. I've been playing on and off for 45 years. I have a Gibson Melody Maker reissue (fat '50s neck), Bitsa Stratocaster... with a replacement neck (fat) and a bunch of Harmony's (fat necks) :)

I want another one just to set up in open tunings but they're pretty rare and the ones I've found have been either at the other end of the country and they won't ship. It's also really hard to find one with the original pickups and electrics and sperzels as people lift them for custom jobs. I found someone selling a body and neck for £250 but kitting it out close to original spec would be another £300 to £350.

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