YouTube is full to bursting with countless channels produced by savvy consumers unveiling their latest purchase for eager, millions-strong audiences who, even as remote as they are, come chomping at the bit to covet the shining, virginal newness of any given item. This seems to me a bizarre socio-cultural nuance; are we so poisoned by centuries of consumerism that our addiction feeds off any tiny iota of imagined ownership experience, or is it just that that kind of revelation is one of life’s simplest joys? I must admit that one of the perks of this job is the monthly glut of new toys I get to lay my hands on, and occasionally Lady Chance lands a real humdinger in my lap. This time around she graced me with a trio of six strings ringing with the royal treatment from Yamaha Japan’s master luthiers, the A Series of performance focused acoustic guitars.
The A Series is divided into two main streams, the mahogany family and the rosewood family, and I was at the behest of the former. All three iterations – A1M, A3M and A5M – are comprised of a top quality Sitka spruce top bolstered by the aforementioned darkwood on the back and sides. As I’ve written about previously in relation to the ever-popular F Series, Yamaha have taken standard bracing techniques and applied lashings of science in order to produce a louder and more responsive acoustic guitar. The trusses on the top side are scalloped and pitched towards one side of the lower bout, while those across the back of the body are shallower, allowing their roof-bound co-workers to do more of the heavy lifting. The result is a much more satisfying guitar to listen to. Simply put, the sound you expect to emanate from beneath your fingers is clearer and more forthright, as if you were sat a foot closer to the troubadour wooing you.
All three members of this holy trinity come equipped with Yamaha’s patented SRT pick-up technology. Again, they have taken the industry standard and refined it a touch. Where a standard piezo pickup will harness vibrations behind the bridge of all six strings evenly and to the best of its ability, the SRT variation focuses its attention on each string via a separate receptor with a keen eye on the specifics of each string’s frequency range. The low end is more powerful and present, while the higher strings chime with the bell-like quality of the upper register of a piano. In addition to this, the A3M and A5M allow you to blend in as much or as little of a classic studio mic voicing with your signal as you like, which affords you more of an individual characteristic than just the standard line out. You have a choice of Neumann KM56 small diaphragm condenser or Royer R122 active ribbon mics at the push of a button should you so desire, and the results are warm, sensitive, and rich with harmonic character that you usually lose so much of when relying on stock acoustic preamps.
Too often Yamaha’s guitars, particularly their acoustics, are cruelly overlooked when mounted on the walls of guitar emporiums the world over. Often eschewed in favour of more widely proliferated Western brands, it strikes me as a crime to lump these three in with the knock-off, student guitar set if only because that is simply not the way these instruments have been crafted. In my mind, any member of the trio would be ready, willing, and able to compete for track-space with one of Taylor’s more expensive builds both in voicing and playability. Having wrestled both, my hands favoured the played-in feel of the hand rolled edges of the A Series fingerboard, away from the more modern, offset feel of its American rival. Details like these render the A Series ultimately playable and bound to last a good few decades of affectionate ownership.
One of the nicest guitars I’ve ever laid my hands on is a relatively new LL26, the jewel in Yamaha’s crown, and it is from that same cloth that the A Series is cut. From the open gear Gotoh tuners on the A5M through to the exquisite, rich colouring of the vintage lacquered finish and out to the Elixir Nanoweb 80/20 string sets they come strung up with, everything about these instruments is aimed as much at performance readiness as longevity. Leave your preconceptions at the front counter and spend some time with any of the A Series models; your fingers and ears will thank you.