AES820 review by Yamaha

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  • Features: 8
  • Sound: 9
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 10
  • Reliability & Durability: 10
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 9.4 Superb
  • Users' score: 7.3 (42 votes)
Yamaha: AES820

Price paid: $ 260

Purchased from: Private Seller

Features — 8
26.25" scale length. It was made around 2001. gloss black with chrome. Contoured flat top single cut body style. Sperzel locking tuners with straight-pull. The bridge is a tune-o-matic with string through, and some weird reversible Yamaha string through ferrules to adjust the string angle over the bridge. Two custom OEM Dimarzio humbuckers. Controls are Volume, Volume, 3-way rotary tone switch. The input is a recessed, strat-like input on the back of the guitar.

Even though it's got a lot of borderline-complicated stuff, it plays like a much simpler guitar.

Sound — 9
I got this because I usually play in C-Standard tuning, and I wanted a tighter, punchier sound than the usual low-tuned guitar. It works great for that. The pickups have a lot of output, but aren't super middy or crunchy, and they clean up nicely. They're not the ultimate clean pickups, but they'll do. For distorted sounds, they have a lot of focus without sounding unreasonably bright, middy or chunky. They are supposed to be based on the DiMarzio Steve's Special bridge and EVO neck. The settings on the three-way rotary are 1) straight, 2) fake single-coil (not coil-split, but Yamaha's own circuit), 3) Pre-set tone cut. The settings are all useful. I don't really see how they're any better than standard vol/vole/tone with a push-pull coil split, but I haven't felt compelled to change them.

This guitar sounds amazing tuned to C standard, B, or Drop B flat although tuned below C, it doesn't have the string tension you'd expect from a Baritone guitar. Because its scale length is short for a Baritone, it's not so great for super-low tunings in my applications.

It has a powerful, direct, slightly dark sound that I've become used to.

Action, Fit & Finish — 10
I bought this guitar used, but it's very well put-together. Great action. It's a smooth player. I love how the rounded saddles on the tune-o-matic don't cut into your hand. The frets extend ever so slightly longer than their supposed to, but I got this guitar used, so there's nothing to suggest that it was like this when it was originally sold. Even now, this is much less severe than the fret ends of an average music store Ibanez.

It says in tune great, and its an easy player, especially if you compare it to other extended-length guitars. The longer than Strat, but shorter than Baritone scale length is right where I want it, and like most Yamahas, this plays smooth.

Reliability & Durability — 10
This guitar is very, very solid. The input on the back is a cool design innovation, but sometimes I wonder if it isn't subject to more pushing and pulling than the standard setup. I'm not deducting a point for it, because inputs are universally a PITA. The bridge saddles are fairly smooth, and I've only broken one string on it since I've owned it. The strap buttons are too small, but I put some little rubber strap-retainers (like Grolsch beer grommets) over them, and it's not going anywhere.

I am concerned that if something happens to the tuners, they will be difficult to replace, because each one is a different length, and they sit in an unusual configuration, but for now they seem rock solid.

Overall Impression — 10
I've been playing for over 30 years. I play a mixture of indy, doom & stoner styles. I'm usually playing with fuzz or distortion, although songs have clean parts too. It's black and chrome look is slightly generic and late 90s/early 2000s. But with its big knobs, unique tuner and input placement and weird tone control, it has a bit of Japanese-designed oddball under the hood, which I like. I've always been a fan of 60-80s Japanese guitars, and this guitar, despite its rather generic look, combines a little of the old-school eccentricity with great playability.

If it were lost or stolen, I'd try to find another one. If I couldn't find one, I'd try to get a Reverend Descent, which is one of the few other guitars with a similar scale length. They look great, but they cost much, much more than I paid for this one.

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