SA503TVL review by Yamaha

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  • Sound: 10
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reliability & Durability: 9
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 9
  • Features: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 9.6 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.3 (11 votes)
Yamaha: SA503TVL

Sound — 10
Being used with a Mesa/Boogie F50. Of course the 60-cycle hum comes into play with the single-coils, but that can be canceled out with the middle pick-up. If variety is what you want, this guitar is what you need. Every single combination of pick-up is so glorious. With some practice in playing with the volume and tone, one can achieve anything from jazzy thickness to rockabilly brightness. Not up with a Gretch or anything, but you can still give your ears a good ring. Rolling off the volume a bit takes off the edge, it's great for playing blues rhythm - roll back up, and the balls flood in for a hot lead. When you Switch to humbucking, you get the aggressive quack of a Strat (think the John Mayer sig). At high gain, I haven't experienced any howling or uncontrollable feedback. The block does it's job. I play a lot of blues, blues rock, regular rock, jazz, but then into some progressive stuff like Mars Volta, Oceansize... and Queens Of The Stone Age of course. I can't imagine a guitar covering a wider sonic spectrum.

Overall Impression — 10
This guitar is a dream machine. The sound, the feel, the smells - it all comes together so nicely. I read reviews saying that 'it doesn't have the oomph a Gibson does'... well, I think that person was a jerk. I've played multi-thousand dollar Gibsons, this thing has just as much spirit as anything out there. Of course, it's up to the player to make it come alive. I regret nothing about buying this guitar. I compared it to things like the Epiphone Sheraton II, Wildkat, Riviera (Valensi sig), a few Gretsch Electromatics, and I played a few Gibsons that were out of my price range, but anyone can dream. Given the choice now, I'd still take my Yamaha. I would, without a second though, and after crying my eyes dry, repurchase this guitar were it lost/stolen. Locking tuners and/or a rolling bridge would have been a great bonus, just to harness the Bigsby further. Without a doubt though, this guitar brings a LOT to the table - if you've got a big appetite, prepare to get your fill.

Reliability & Durability — 9
I can't speak to this in a time-tested manner. I can only give my impression. The hardware seems solid, the strap buttons aren't going anywhere in a hurry, and the tuners are easy to move with a good ratio. The finish seems great - however, were it to wear, that would only add mojo to this sexy Terminator. I call it a Terminator because I believe it was machine sent from the future engineered to blow your mind. Nobody with two guitars should gig without a back-up, however, short of breaking a string I can't forsee anything serious going wrong with this box.

Action, Fit & Finish — 9
Set-up from the factory was perfect. I've heard/read other reviews in which the owner complains of bad fret dressing, screwy bowed necks, and other things. I suppose I was one of the lucky ones. I have no complaints about action, finish (an ocean-deep Translucent Blood Red), or pick-up height. Going right to zero on the volume pots gives a bit of crackle, sadly. A small price to pay for the innumerable benefits of this machine. Another notable plus about this guitar is the balance. The Bigsby negates the body-light bias towards a neck dive. The result is a guitar that hangs of the strap nearly perfectly parallel with the floor.

Features — 10
Made in Indonesia, 22 frets, 24 3/4" scale length with 14" radius, 3 volume pots, 1 tone pot, non-locking Grover tuners, Bigsby tremolo with T.O.M. style bridge - the saddles are rounded to reduce friction. Maple 335-style body and (set-in) neck, rosewood fingerboard, and from what I understand it is blocked with mahogany. Yamaha used their modern take on the F-holes for this guitar. Set into the body are 3 Yamaha P90s with tone to spare. The pick-up selection is probably the greatest feature of this guitar. Two three-way switches control the pick-ups. One Switch controls the bridge and neck pick-ups, much like a regular toggle Switch. The second Switch brings in the magic: in the first position, the middle pick-up is off; in second, the middle pick-up is on, but out of phase, creating a P90-based humbucker; the third position turns on the middle pick-up exclusively. This guitar came with no extras, cases, etc. Essentially a no-frills guitar, so it would normally get a 7. However, with the pick-ups and the Bigsby, I couldn't ask for more.

3 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Us gays can't handle the sharp edges, we might hurt ourselves. I prefer the comfort of feminine curves on my guitars. It's all preference, apparently even sexual preference.
    I hate this body style it looks so gay like where are all the sharp edges overall im not impressed