Pacifica 120S review by Yamaha

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  • Sound: 8
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reliability & Durability: 9
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 8
  • Features: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 8.4 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.2 (32 votes)
Yamaha: Pacifica 120S

Price paid: $ 400

Purchased from: Divertas/ Yamaha, Bucharest

Sound — 8
My music style is floating around Progressive, Hard Rock and Blues, and this guitar suits me just fine. Being quite experienced, I deliberately chose it because it suits my style. I used it through a Vox Pathfinder 15 and I also own a cheap Korg AX-1 G sound processor, but I played it throught many other amps, including gig and studio amps. This guitar is very versatile and I fully agree with MusicDorian: it can be used by beginners, due to its smooth neck and comfortable body, but it's definitely not an entry-level. It can withstand professional performances and it can easily deliver a large variety of sounds, ranging from jazz to heavy metal. The two humbuckers are calibrated to work together or separately in the best possible way for a guitar in this price range. And, once again, MusicDorian was right: a friend of mine, who happens to be a great guitar player and the proud owner of a '78 Gibson Les Paul Artisan, while doing some finesse adjustments to my guitar, was blown up by its sound. He said it delivers 95% of his 10 times more expensive and prestigious Les Paul. My only complaint, and that's why I decided to upgrade it by replacing the pickups (by a pair of Seymour Duncans, a SH-2n ans a SH-4 JB, a combination I warmly recommend for upgrading the PAC 120S), is that the sound of the two humbuckers isn't 100% clear when distorted. It also lacks some punch in the bass tones, no matter if you play it clean or distorted, being more impressing in the bright range of sounds. But the quality of its original pickups is truly awesome given the price: there's no hum, no noises, no screams in the high solos.

Overall Impression — 8
As I've already said, I'm fond on the rock'n'roll of the 70's, mostly Progressive and Hard Rock. When I compose my own songs, some influences of the 80's, the period when I got involved in music, tend to appear too. I've been playing for almost 30 years now, but I'm not a professional and I've quitted playing in bands some 20 years ago, so I'm only the hero of my bedroom. Sometimes of my living-room, when I perform for friends... I don't own much equipment, but my buddies who are professionals do, hence I had the chance to play on most of the top-level amps and pedals. I attended studio sessions as well. There's nothing I wished to have asked before buying this guitar, there was nothing to complain about when arrived. I could have left it as it came from the factory, but I thought, after 8 years of service and having more means at my disposal, it's about time to upgrade it. If stolen, I'd first kill the bastard, then I'd buy another guitar, since the PAC 120S has been discontinued by Yamaha. I love the feeling of confidence it has always provided while playing, its versatility, its low-profile looks and the overall building quality. I've only hated this strange policy of being cheap on details and not paying much attention to the last touch of a product, which seems to characterize Yamaha, at least in the sub-1000 euro range. My favorite feature are ("were" is more a accurate tense) the tones in the middle position, played clean: their Precision is second to none. Despite looking like a Tele, I would compare it to the Les Paul - the original one, of course. It is a much better guitar than all sub-1500 euros Les Pauls from Epiphone. Too bad it was discontinued with no serious reasons, Yamaha having only one Tele-style guitar in its current range: the expensive Mike Stern Signature Pacifica 1511.

Reliability & Durability — 9
When I read many of the reviews here at the UG, I keep on wondering myself: is there something wrong with me, or do I really have two excellent guitars? I never dropped a guitar in my life and I never had problems with the strap buttons, for instance. Those on my Pacifica 120S are solid rock and in pristine condition. The guitar surely withstands live playing without a backup, but any serious player would have one, however. The hardware is in its original condition, only the tuning pegs seem to get a little loose, but still they stay in tune resonably enough (a whole gig). I decided to replace them because I wanted to get some locking keys (which I did, thanks to!). The finish was - and still is - flawless, but, once again, maybe it's something wrong with me, maybe I take care of my guitars, living in a country where a budget guitar worths 1/3 of a monthly wage...

Action, Fit & Finish — 8
The factory setup was not very satisfying. The guitar needed to be re-intonated and action has remained until now a little higher. It's good for dynamics, but it requested a more reffined pickup adjustment than the factory presets. After a long and ennoying setup, it finally reached to a perfect accoustic sound, with no fret buzzs, and to an optimal pickup outturn. It didn't have any flow at all, which was another pleasant surprise in this price range. The connection between the neck and the body, for example, is just perfect, which once again made me ask myself: why cheating about the one-piece body, when you are able to do such a fine job in carving and polishing it? It seems to me that the guys at Yamaha aren't very reliant on their capacity of making true guitars. My old Pacifica 120S tended to make me feel it could be better, it could be 100% perfect, but the guys in that remote Taiwan plant just didn't wish to touch the skies...

Features — 9
By the time you are readng this review, my Yamaha Pacifica 120S is about to become memories, as I've decided to upgrade it by replacing the keys and the pickups. Right now, it's in the workshop, so, this review is the review of the original Pacifica 120S, as I knew it after 8 years of faithful service. My guitar was made in 2002, in Taiwan, and it was delivered at my specific order, as the shop didn't have it in its current stock. It costed, as I've mentioned, 400 $, quite expensive for that time, in my country. It has 22 frets on a Standard Fender scale of 648 mm. Although it was advertised to be made in solid wood, the body is actually made from 3 pieces of beautiful Alder, while bolt-on neck is in Maple, with a Rosewood fingerboard. Finish is Satin: it helps you admire the grain, but also discover Yamaha's being cheap on wood. Guitar's body is Tele style, but it's more comfortable than most Teles due to an intelligent carve on its back. It has a fixed bridge with diecast chrome saddles (of an excellent quality, btw) and two passive humbuckers (ceramic, I suppose, given the price). There are only two controls: Tone and Volume, a solution Yamaha tends to favor on most of its "below 1000 euro" line, and also a 3-way pickup selector. Non-locking tuning pegs are of unknown origin, perhaps an in-house supply.

3 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Dang sweet instrument - I agree. I've had mine about 14 years now and I'm still amazed how well it plays/sounds and how often I reach for it when I own so many guitars. A true,dependable workhorse!
    Its superb for the price. Its been my go to guitar since I bought it four years ago. The action is good and low, fast neck and shockingly good pickups ( considering) The only thing I don't praise about is the finish. I got the natural finish and it didn't look great by any means. Looks like Yamaha didn't care much for the look of the grain. The basswood or alder body (?) easily gets damaged If dropped ect. To me its not how good the guitar looks, hell I like a bit of marks for personality, just thought I would give my opinion If some people cared. All and all I would give it a 8.5. Since they no longer make this model and you could get one used for $100. I would give close to a 10, just because its a just excellent deal.
    "GuitarGuruGurl" "it has a tendancy to go out of tune relatively quickly and if not tuned for even a few weeks " I would call the tuners on this guitar quite decent tbh. If not tuned for a few weeks? Hell. I owned guitars in the same price range that couldn't keep tune for more than 5 songs. For most cheap guitars I tune every chance I get, but I feel more at ease with the 120. Every week of light playing I tune though.