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This article was originally published in issue #15
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Yamaha's A Series acoustics have won considerable acclaim since their introduction - they can even stand up to the terrifying demands of our very own Don Alder! We thought it was time to look at one. EnterTim Slater, who promised to be a little more gentle than Don!
The last decade or so has seen a monumental shift in modern acoustic guitar techniques and as such, manufacturers have had to fine-tune their designs to meet the ever evolving demands of the modern acoustic player. In an effort to meet these requirements, Yamaha has recently developed a new line of instruments that herald a new direction for the company - the 'A-series'. The guitars in the A-series all offer a different, more modern, approach to playability, combined with the tone and quality of construction that Yamaha is well known for. We borrowed an AC3R to see if it can live up to the Yamaha reputation.
One of the first things you'll notice about the AC3R is its body size. It is actually a concert body shape and although it's on the small side, Yamaha has been sure to add a touch more body depth than you would expect, to compensate for this. The review model guitar had a very striking looking Vintage Sunburst finish, which, I understand, is a brand new finish option available for all guitars in the A-series. Another new feature for this model is the addition of a solid maple/mahogany wood body binding, the kind of which you'd expect to find on higher priced models.
Moving on to the actual construction, the AC3R features all solid woods with sitka spruce being the choice for the top and rosewood for the back and sides. For those of you who prefer your acoustic tone to be on the warmer, darker side, this model is also available with the option of a mahogany back and sides. Mahogany is the wood of choice for the neck, in either case, upon which you'll find a fingerboard made of ebony, which is the same wood used for the bridge. The Yamaha LJ-style headstock design is another new feature for the AC3R and the tuners are die-cast chrome.
Importantly, the AC3R features Yamaha's on-board SRT pre-amp system, or to give it its full name: the Studio Response Technology System. This features a variety of useful functions, including a three band EQ and on-board tuner, but one of the most useful and unique functions of the pre-amp is the mic modelling system, which gives you access to the sounds of three classic microphone types. Position 1 models a Neumann U67 large diaphragm mic, position 2 models a Neumann KM56 small diaphragm mic and position 3 models a Royer 122 ribbon mic. Additionally, there is a switchable focus/wide function which allows you to emulate two different mic positions for each of the three microphones, and a resonance control, which allows you to add how much of the guitar's natural resonance goes through the pickup. If that weren't enough, you'll also find a blend control to further enhance your tone options.
In action, the AC3R produces a great acoustic tone with lots of volume on tap. The slim neck profile allows for a comfortable experience playability wise, although I did find the action on this guitar to be a touch higher than I was expecting, though that can easily be adjusted to suit. The new neck profile makes it much easier to use more modern techniques such as the 'thumb over the neck' style and will be an addition welcomed my many - particularly predominantly electric players who are looking for an electro-acoustic they can feel comfortable with.
The SRT pre-amp proved itself to be of great quality and the microphone modelling offers a subtle but very useful variety of tonal options which most modern players would be glad to have at their disposal.
The AC3R has a lot to offer, not only in terms of build quality and tone, but also in playability. What Yamaha has done here is design and build a guitar for the moment. It's a serious guitar well suited to a hard life as a gigging instrument - not so esoteric, delicate and expensive that you'd never want to take it out of the studio or away from home, yet still a delivering a professional level of tone and playability. It's also well suited to modern playing styles and will immediately feel comfortable to players more used to electrics. Get out there and try one, you may very well just love it!