SA503TVL Review

manufacturer: Yamaha date: 05/21/2010 category: Electric Guitars
Yamaha: SA503TVL
Constructed of maple, the SA503 TVL is a semi-hollow body guitar with a set-in maple neck, bound rosewood fingerboard, three soapbar-style single-coil pickups, and custom "all access" multi-function switching systems with dual 3-way selectors.
 Sound: 10
 Overall Impression: 9
 Reliability & Durability: 8.5
 Action, Fit & Finish: 9
 Features: 9
 Overall rating:
 Reviewer rating:
 Users rating:
reviews (2) pictures (2) 8 comments vote for this gear:
overall: 9.6
SA503TVL Reviewed by: TimboSlice, on december 10, 2008
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Features: 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. // 10

Sound: 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. // 10

Action, Fit & Finish: 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. // 9

Reliability & Durability: 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. // 9

Overall Impression: 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. // 10

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overall: 8.6
SA503TVL Reviewed by: koneesh, on may 21, 2010
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Price paid: $ 1000

Purchased from: Long and McQuade

Features: 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. // 8

Sound: 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. // 10

Action, Fit & Finish: 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. // 9

Reliability & Durability: 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. // 8

Overall Impression: 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. // 8

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