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This article was originally published in issue #10
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Tom Quayle was so impressed by the two Yamaha Pacificas he reviewed in iGuitar 9 that he went back for another - the fascinating stripped-down, single pickup PAC510V. Does less mean more? We think it just might.
In issue nine I had the great pleasure of checking out Yamaha's Pacifica series PAC611 and PAC311 models and was extremely impressed with the quality, playability and tones on offer. For this issue I wanted to look at the other high-end model in the range, the PAC510V, which, although it shares many features of its two siblings, is really quite a different beast in some important ways.
The general premise of the guitar is the same as the flagship 611 model in that we have an alder body, maple neck and 22 nickel fret rosewood fretboard with bolt-on construction. The scale length (25 ½") and radius (13 ¾") are also the same, allowing for identical levels of playability and a traditional Strat-like feel. The main differences occur in the choice of hardware that Yamaha has gone for in the 510V. As opposed to the fixed bridge of the 311 and 611 we have a floating Wilkinson VS50-6 bridge, featuring stainless saddles and a vintage six-screw attachment to the body. The single pickup is a Seymour Duncan Trembucker P-Rails in the bridge position, matched with a three-way switch, allowing for true humbucker, p-90 and single coil tones from one pickup. Grover locking tuners and chrome volume and tone knobs complete the picture and add up to a high quality, professional-level hardware package that impresses from the outset.
The construction of the 510V certainly lives-up to my experiences of the previous two Pacificas. The body, neck and hardware all feel very well put together with no signs of cracks, gaps or creaking. The opaque finish, available in a choice of five colours, is flawless and the neck finish isn't sticky and feels fast in the hands. With a 13 ¾" radius, the neck is comfortable for chordal playing and created no issues for bends in the higher register. Lead work is fast and precise (depending on your technique!) without providing you with an anorexic neck profile and I'd imagine even those with smaller hands will find this guitar very approachable.
The alder body isn't overly heavy and, thanks to that classic shape, is very well balanced both in a seated and standing position. The floating bridge works well for both gentle vibrato and more aggressive, modern techniques, remaining in tune thanks to the locking tuners and high quality saddles.
OK, so that's the basics dealt with - now things start to get really interesting!
An uneducated look at the 510V might lead you to believe that it is a one-trick pony in the 'San-Dimas' shred style - but you'd be wrong. The Seymour Duncan Trembucker P-Rails (TBPR-1b model) is a more versatile beast, only limited by the fact that there are no neck or middle position pickups for more tonal variations, so you are limited to bridge position tones only. The three-way switch will wire the pickup coils for humbucker, p-90 or single coil tones with no digital fakery going on - these are real, authentic sounds and give the 510V a versatility that belies its simplicity.
Unplugged, the 510V is resonant throughout the body and neck and exhibits a warm tone without any of the plastic tonal qualities of cheaper guitars - and bear in mind that this is not an expensive instrument, particularly considering the pro-quality hardware on offer.
Plugged in, we began with clean tones that sounded great for a bridge pickup in all three modes but are not really what a guitar like this is all about. This is obviously an evolution of '80s style single pickup Rock and Metal guitars so we began to pile-on the gain and checked out what was on offer.
The p-rails pickups are pretty high output and with the gain cranked, the pickup screams for lead work and is supremely chunky on riffs and chordal material. For a high output unit, things cleaned up very well using the volume control too, allowing for authentic Blues tones with very little loss of top-end and clarity. My favourite setting was the p-90, having a throaty mid-range that would cut through in a band really well. Tonally you're firmly in Rock territory but more vintage tones can be coaxed out of the instrument with some considered tweaking of the volume and tone controls, especially in the p-90 and single coil modes.
The PAC510V is definitely a superb instrument, especially considering its price point. There's no denying the tonal limitations of a single pickup design, even with the ability to switch between humbucker, p-90 and single coil sounds, but Yamaha has that covered with the 611 and 311 models. If you're after a great, straight-ahead Rock guitar that really screams but you also need a bit more versatility in your bridge pickup tones, then the 510V is a superb choice with pro-level hardware at a price that won't give you a heart attack - but which might seriously disturb some of Yamaha's competitors.