Price paid: $ 1500
Sound — 10
This is where it gets good! I play mainly Jazz, R&B, Blues and Hendrix type rock. I mainly use a JC120 and set my many sounds on a DigiTech multi-effects unit as well other stomp boxes, wah-wah etc...Also, I use a Fender Twin for straight-into-the amp stuff. The first time I played the SA2200 was when I was picking up my Ibanez AS103NT from repair. I had just checked the repaired Ibanez out through an amp and had seen the SA2200 on the wall so I asked to try it out just for fun and was totally blown away! The unplugged sound actually did not impress me as much as the AS103, but plugged in... WOW! The AS103 is a great axe mind you but the SA2200 is totally on another level! Although the strings were .09s, the sound was fat, clear and soulful. The whole guitar felt alive in my hands! I tried the single coil on the neck PU and it sounded like a cross between a Tele and a Strat. Each note rang like a bell on both PUs and in the middle position with the hummers was the twangiest, funkiest best I had ever heard on a semi-hollow type guitar! I use mostly the neck PU but these PUs are so nice I am using the bridge PU more! The single coils are surprisingly sweet, nicer than the split coils on my Yamaha AES1500, fatter, sweeter and more nuanced. Compared to the AS103, the SA2200 is brighter, punchier and more nuanced. The AS103 seems flat in comparison...the SA2200 totally sings! I actually got the AS103 because I was unsatisfied with a 335 Dot-semi that I had, and when I got the AS103 I loved it so much I sold the 335 the following week. However, this Yamaha blows away even the AS103! I went home and tried to forget about it but I couldn't stop thinking about this guitar so I bought it a few weeks later after going back to play it a few more times at the store!...Anyway, since I now had 2 semis I decided to install a Bigsby on the SA2200. I was a little nervous about drilling screws into this beauty and had considered installing onto the AS103 instead but it was the best decision I have ever made on an axe! With the Bigsby, the SA2200 now has a longer sustain, a unique shimmer and a transparancy that may not have existed before. The actual effect of using the tremolo adds a certain surreal quality to even my jazz sounds..... spirit of Hendrix...Anyways, I could go on forever so I'll stop. In a nutshell, without exaggeration, this may be the best sounding guitar I have ever played...and I've played many...
Overall Impression — 10
I have been playing professionally for 25 years. Besides the AS103 and AES1500 I have 3 Fender Strats, 3 Fender Teles, a Les Paul and have previously owned an ES-335 as well as a variety of steel/nylon stringed acoustics. If this was stolen or lost I would cry, then hunt down another one! There is nothing to hate and almost everything to love about it I guess.. but the versatility is probably my favorite feature! I had been using an ES-335... sold it for an Ibanez AS103...then got the SA2200, and it has truly been progress. The SA outshines the AS, and the AS (I personally think) outshines the ES-335 in many respects, but that's another story! (I think my 335 may have been a lemon...) I chose the SA2200 because I simply fell in love with it the moment I played it at the dealership, and that's the plain truth... If you are looking for a semi-Acoustic, this is simply the best.
Reliability & Durability — 9
This guitar is royalty. It is not meant to be tossed around. My AS103 is more of a workhorse. However there has not been any indication that it is weak or not durable yet! The gold parts will probably wear and scratches will appear but that is the nature of a luxurious instrument! I have been using the AS103 AND the Yamaha AES1500 together to get the sounds I want....but have recently started using only the SA2200 and am getting rave reviews for the sound, looks, and versatility, so hopefully I will not be needing a back-up! I give it a 9 only because it has not been truely tested yet!
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
This is the best looking semi I have ever seen and looks even greater with the Bigsby! I got this beauty at a licensed Yamaha dealer and was set up perfectly albeit with 09s. I tried a variety of strings including 10s 11s but strangely enough settled on D'addario 095s! I usually go for 10s and 11s...but for some reason the 095s work best for me on this axe! The PUs are great! Unless you want a specific kind of sound, these are the best PUs for this particular guitar, and the coil-splitters definitely help in the versatility department. The top is not bookmatched but every single detail on this guitar is flawless....really! Even the wood on the inside of the f-holes are flamed!! The mahogany neck with ebony fingerboard and mother-of-pearl fret markers are simply beautiful and feel like home! Really unbelievably comfortable neck... Can't keep my hands off of it! My only complaint might be the configuration of the body. The body seems shorter than the AS103 and a tad less comfortable when playing on my lap. I actually prefer the neck angle of the AS103 but am getting used to it. Overall this is probably the best-looking, highest quality guitar I own! (Although the Yamaha AES1500 comes close in terms of quality and the AS103 come pretty close in terms of looks, they both LAG far behind in terms of sound!)
Features — 9
This is a 2008 Japan made SA2200. I will not go over all the stock features for they have already been stated numerous times and can also be seen on the Yamaha website. My SA2200 is the brown sunburst model. Mine did not come with a case. Also, mine has been fitted with an aluminum Bigsby tremolo arm as a modification. I did this to contrast it to my Ibanez AS103NT with which I will be comparing this SA2200 to as a variation to the usual comparisons to the Gibson ES-335. I will say that for a semi-hollow the features are more than adequate and I like the coil-splitters very much. All the parts seem solid and of high quality. I give it a 9 only because it is a semi and isn't supposed to be stacked with features.