Choosing an Acoustic Guitar can be a difficult thing. It’s difficult because it’s so personal. All of us guitar players know what we like, but also know what other guitarists like and sometimes we can make purchases by putting public opinion over our own preferences. So, you start by asking yourself some questions; “Why do I want a guitar?” Or perhaps it’s, “Why do I want a NEW Guitar?”, “What will I use it for?”, and of course the all important question; “How much do I have to spend?” Well, with Yamaha’s release of the FGX730SCA Acoustic/Electric, the whole choosing process just got a whole lot easier.
I have to admit that I knew the selling price of the guitar before I received it for this review and, being the typical “cynical musician”, I had already come to some conclusions before it even arrived. This being the case I wasn’t prepared to be impressed when I opened the box. That’s when this instrument fairly quickly began to change my mind.
To begin with, Yamaha has a reputation for building good quality instruments at an affordable price so I knew that I would be seeing a decent guitar. What I wasn’t prepared for was how decent it actually was. As I took it out of the box and pealed back the wrapping my first impression was; “Wow, what a pretty instrument!” This is not my normal response, but it really caught my eye.
After looking it over, I immediately began to play it, which led to impression number two. The thing was in tune out of the box and it sounded great too. The overall tone of the guitar is very, very clean. The lows are very warm and the highs are bright and crisp. The more I played it, the more I really liked what I heard. Sound-wise, I would put this instrument up against other, much more expensive, models. OK, more on this in a bit. Before I go any further, let’s look at the features of the FGX730SCA.
Yamaha’s newest offering is a single cutaway guitar with a Solid Sitka Spruce top and a Rosewood fingerboard. The back and sides of the guitar are rosewood as well. Good looking and good sounding instrument, right off the bat. As I initially picked it up, the first thing that was obvious was how well it was constructed. This is a solid guitar. All the hardware is die-cast chrome and looks real sharp. Also, the pearl inlay work on the rosette is very nice too.
Cosmetically this instrument has features that you wouldn’t expect on a guitar in its price range. To finish out the specs, the bridge is rosewood, giving the guitar a nice consistent quality in the way it looks. The string scale of 25-9/16 inches is about what you would expect for a dreadnaught body style as is the depth and overall feel of the guitar.
It also features some pretty decent electronics. The FGX730SCA features an onboard System 55 preamp with a 3-band EQ and piezo style pickups. Cool! It’s great to have the adjustable midrange frequency (AMF) control. We’ll talk about the sound later. We also have a built in tuner that’s quite accurate. No more fumbling around with a tuner on stage or on your stand, not to mention the fact that you won’t have to wonder where you left it! Another great thing about the tuner is that it has an auto shut off feature which shuts the tuner down after 60 seconds. Not only a great add on, but well thought out, since it saves battery life.
The general construction of the guitar features a unique, non-scalloped X-bracing inside. An inverted L-block creates a tighter connection between the body and the neck, and also provides a full, deep low end which is obvious as soon as you begin to play. I would not hesitate to travel with this one and again, the sound is real nice.
Pickin’ & Grinnin’
OK, sorry about the corny section title, because this is really the important part. How does it play and how does it sound? Well, you should know that I had the guitar in my possession for about a month. I played it casually, also in rehearsals and out for one performance. Most of my playing was in my living room with a small group. My overall comments are all positive. Before I even plugged it in, I was impressed with several things. First it stays in tune and it plays in tune. I’m referring to overall intonation here and not just the tuning. When I looked at the instrument tuning I used my DTR-1000 Korg Tuner. Doing this allowed me to not only see that the guitar played in tune, but also that the onboard tuner was really accurate. All the way up the neck the notation is very consistent. This is part of why the guitar just sounds so darn good. I really didn’t have to do a lot of tweaking with it, even after hours of playing. The neck was straight as an arrow out of the box and the action was quite good with very minimal string buzz when playing up the neck. I am continually impressed with the tone. I know that this is fairly subjective, but there is a good balance between the highs and lows. As far as guitars go, this one sounds great; however, I hadn’t plugged it in yet.
As I plugged it in there was only one main consideration. How well is the sound reproduced? Although I care that it sounds “good”, what I am looking for here is that the reproduction in the tone of this guitar is accurate to what the guitar sounds like un-amplified. With the EQ flat and the preamp set at the midpoint, my question was answered and I was happy as there really is an amazing reproduction of sound. OK, this is what Yamaha is good at, but still, I wasn’t expecting it to be this true to the guitar itself. From here I began to play with the EQ and was satisfied with its operation. The Midrange Freq adjustment is really super. Originally I didn’t think I’d use it much on the guitar itself, but when I led worship in a small room with a substandard system, I was able to get a great quality sound from the guitar. I was surprised with its response and the fact that I really will find this useful. That might sound odd to those of you who are techies, but remember that this adjustment is usually done at the mixer. Having the additional control on the instrument itself is stellar. I’m ready to just sit here and play for a while.
One great thing about this guitar is that it’s really playable. Nice action, good feel and great sound. I would not hesitate to lead worship on a regular basis with this guitar, nor would I balk about taking it to the beach for the afternoon. I lead worship fairly regularly in both a small group and in a larger setting. In both places I would not feel out of place. This is a good, solid instrument and a tremendous value.
When choosing a guitar for myself I ask three specific questions; How does it sound? How does it play? How does it look? In every area I would have to say that the FGX730SCA Acoustic/Electric passes all of my tests brilliantly. With an MSRP of $799.99 (and you can find it online for less than that), this guitar is a steal. The price puts it on the cusp of the high end for low range acoustics and the low end of midrange guitars. I would put this up against most any of the midrange acoustics out there. By the way, you can also order a Left-Handed version and a 12-String version of this same guitar. And don’t forget that it’s a Yamaha so it also carries a Limited Lifetime Warranty.
OK, there is one glaring question that I have for Yamaha. What’s with the name? It’s like I’m playing the “Secret Agent Guitar”. You’ve given it a number and taken away its name. I know, you have so many to choose from and I get that, but it just seems silly to me since it’s such a nice instrument. For the price and for what it is, this one won’t be a secret for very long. Find one and play it. I think you’ll agree.