SA503TVL review by Yamaha

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  • Sound: 10
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reliability & Durability: 8
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 9
  • Features: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8.6 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.3 (11 votes)
Yamaha: SA503TVL

Price paid: $ 1000

Purchased from: Long and McQuade

Sound — 10
I play everything from jazz to metal. This guitar is very surprising when using high gain. It sounds great. It doesn't guitar the classic metal lead sound because it's a semi-hollow body. Feedback is easy to control. But you also have to keep in mind that it's not a solid body with humbuckers so there's a bit of noise depending on your settings. With a clean tone the guitar has a nice sparkle. You can also change your pickup selection and get a very nice jazz tone.

Overall Impression — 8
I think Troy did a great job designing this guitar. It has a cool Vintage look with modern hardware and electronics. It's very versatile and is great if you play with different bands because it can handle all the different sounds. I would have like to see a version without the bigsby and have locking tuners as a stock feature.

Reliability & Durability — 8
I have used this guitar live and is has been reliable. Only one situation with the toggle Switch in rehearsal. The bridge selector acted up. After opening the guitar and cleaning the contacts a bit it worked fine. I can't really comment on the strap buttons because I always install schaller strap locks. The original buttons are pretty big and I couldn't see the strap falling off easily. The finish is tough. No scratches yet. My only real beef is with the output jack. It's only held on with a nut. Not bolted-in plate. So when the nut comes loose it's hard to tighten because the jack spins around inside.

Action, Fit & Finish — 9
Factory setup was a bit high for my taste but with a t-o-m bridge it wasn't a big deal to lower the strings. Intonation is great. Frets are clean with no sharp edges. The pickups are adjusted nicely. Great if your a shallow picker. If you pick deeply you may hit the middle pickup.

Features — 8
This is the Troy Van Leeuwen signature model and is one of Yamaha's finest guitars. Most guitars made in Indonesia are pretty terribly made, but not this one. My guitar is from the 2007 line. It features 22 frets on a rosewood fretboard.628mm (24-3/4)scale set maple neck with mother of pearl Dot inlays. The neck is very fast. More so than most 335 style guitars that I've played. The body is multi-ply maple with binding on the front and back. I choose the version with the transparent blood red finish. It's very stunning and gets compliments from everyone that sees it. Most 335 guitars look the same but this one has a key difference. Yamaha has their own signature style of doing f-holes. I really like them. The guitar comes with a licensed Bigsby tremolo and Yamaha t-o-m bridge. At first I thought this was a cool feature but after changing strings with the bigsby I switched it to a heavy jazz tailpiece. The bigsby just wouldn't stay in tune for me. At first I upgraded the tuners which are stock grovers which are great, but I installed grover self locking tuners and it has been rock solid since. Now on to the electronics. This guitar features 3 alnico 5 P90 pickups and an all access switching system. There is is a volume pot for each pickup and a master tone. Two toggle switches are used. You can select each pickup individually of a combination of any or all three. The range of tone on this guitar is huge. I'm rating the features at 8 because I wasn't happy with the bigsby and non-locking tuners. But that is subjective and you may like the bigsby.

4 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Played this guitar today, absolutely lovely, covers a huge sonic spectrum. The shop told me that it was a limited run, but seeing as this has a review from 2008, it probably isn't. I want this as my next guitar! Aaargh.
    They weren't really marketed as some Limited Edition or anything but they're definitely not made anymore, sadly.
    I'm a lucky bastard who has 2 of them (Red and Black) they are absolutely my main guitars would kill if they were stolen