Yamaha takes a little from the past and a little from the present to create the guitar of the future. By Peter Hodgson
Yamaha’s Revstar line is made up of models for everyone from the beginner to the serious professional, and everywhere in between. But it’s not just a matter of progressively nicer woods and hardware as you progress through the range: each is designed to really carefully lock in on the needs of particular players. The whole range has a sort of retro-futuristic vibe designed to embody classic guitar design blended with inspiration from motorcycles. There are also plenty of technological enhancements, too. This is a really distinctive project - far more than just Yamaha saying, “Let’s make a slightly tweaked shape and put off-the-shelf hardware on it.”
The RS502 is a double-cutaway instrument with a mahogany body, maple top (under a solid finish, so it’s purely there for its sound and not any kind of flamey or quilty bling) and a mahogany neck with a rosewood fingerboard. The fretboard radius is one you don’t see very often: 13 3/4”. Flatter than a Gibson, not as flat as the average Ibanez shred machine, it’s a modern-feeling neck that’s designed to handle all sorts of advanced techniques. There are 22 jumbo frets, and the scale length is 24 3/4”.
The tuners are die-cast and have a solid, reliable feel. The headstock itself looks a bit like Gumby from the future, and keeps the body from looking too traditional. The controls look simple but they’re actually a little more flexible than they appear: alongside the three-way pickup selector, master volume and master tone controls, there’s a push-pull dry switch on the tone pot; on humbucker models, this takes the place of a coil split, but it’s equally effective on single coils like these. Designed specifically for the Revstar range, it kicks in a passive circuit to filter out low frequencies, giving you a single coil-like sound without the hum and with more output. In the case of the Yamama VP5+ P-90-style pickups of the RS502, the effect is a little different, as we’ll soon see.
GIVE IT A REV
The bridge pickup sounds bright and edgy, but with a surprising amount of body for a P-90 style pickup which can sometimes lack a little bit of low-end oomph. It’s great for clean sounds where it has plenty of character, but when you add gain, it really comes to life - especially for punk, indie, stoner and classic rock styles. The neck pickup is fuller again, with great string detail and attack, while the ‘both pickups on’ setting is nice and jangly. As for that dry switch, in this particular guitar’s case it’s more like going from a Les Paul Junior to a Tele: the rough edges are cleaned up and this goes from a gritty guitar to a punchy one great for country, blues and soul. It’s fun to use the switch almost like a channel selector: have it engaged for edge-of-drive clean parts, then pop it off again for the Big Riff.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Each of the Revstar models has its own distinctive voice, and this one seems the most bratty, edgy and raw, yet in a really musical way. The dry switch really increases this guitars’ flexibility and the range of genres you can use it in, to the point where you can leave it on all the time for a country gig, or keep it off for a rock one, and feel like you’re using two totally different guitars.
TOP 5 FEATURES
• Three-way pickup switch
• Set mahogany neck
• Die cast tuners
• 24 3/4” (628.6mm) scale length
• VP5+ P-90 style pickups
• Beautifully clear pickups
• Great playability
• Handy dry switch
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