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This article was originally published in issue #21
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Yamaha's FG series acoustics have probably launched more careers than any other. Launched in the mid-1960s, they still sell in music shops the world over. But in an era where the market is flooded with excellent entry-level contenders, can Yamaha's old warhorse still compete? Lewis Turner checks out one of the current models.
It feels as though the FG700 dreadnought has been around since the beginning of time. You see them being played all over the place: by students starting out, by singer songwriters in clubs, even through to some big names on TV (the much vaunted Jake Bugg is a devotee, apparently - Ed). This MS version is the latest offering from this well known series and at first glance looks just the same as the other FGs out there, so what's new? And does it still compete with the dozens of excellent entry-level acoustics on today's market?
Starting at the headstock we have a standard three a side tuner configuration. These are die cast tuners that are adjustable should they start to come loose over time. The tuning pegs felt smooth and solid with no hint of play. The neck is nato mahogany, attached to the body via a dovetail joint and topped with a rosewood 20 fret fingerboard featuring small neat pearloid dots.
The body has a solid Sitka spruce top (good to see on a low priced guitar) and a deep hourglass shape, made from laminated mahogany. An unobtrusive rosette adorns the soundhole, and the sultry chocolate pickguard adds to the classic look, aided by a rosewood bridge with the traditional six peg configuration. The “M” in this model stands for matte finish, although to my eyes I would say it's a little closer to satin.
Straight out of the box this guitar was easy to tune and stayed in tune all over the fretboard, it handled hard strumming and string bends with no issues. The guitar felt easy to play with a well set-up action and no sharp fret edges. Not having a cut-out makes frets above the 12th more for show than function, but that’s always the case with guitars like this. Still too often we see entry level priced guitars that are almost impossible to play past the 3rd fret, making barre chords a nightmare, I'm pleased to say that’s not the case with the FG700.
If you can get past the FG's plain looks, where it counts is where the money has been spent. You have a solid top that should help the tone improve with age, while internally it boasts the kind of build we have come to expect from Yamaha. This manufacturer has always paid close attention to the little things, with a great finish quality all over: no stray bits of glue seeping out from any of the joints etc. It's a great spec sheet for the price, and even includes ideas from some of Yamaha's more expensive ranges, like the unique L-block inside, which is said to create a tighter neck/body joint and improve tone as a consequence. Tonally, the traditional mahogany/spruce combination strikes a balance between warmth and bite, and rosewood is the most common material used for fingerboards and shouldn’t trouble anyone’s fingertips.
In use this is a fine guitar and gives the impression of being a far more expensive model. One of life’s simple pleasures is sitting down and strumming some simple open chords on a good dreadnought guitar, and this fulfills that ideal. It's a big guitar and therefore may not suit the smaller person, but the neck is very thin, making it easier for smaller hands. Whether it’s open chord strumming, finger picking, jazz comping or single note lines you wish to play, this guitar makes it all effortless and a pleasure.
Overall then this is a fine guitar at a great price. Easy and rewarding to play with plenty of tones available. Not much has changed in this latest model and that’s a good thing, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.