Yamaha takes a little from the past and a little from the present to create the guitar of the future. Words by Peter Hodgson.
Note: This piece first appeared in Australian Guitar #132. Subscribe to our print edition here!
Yamaha has never made a bad guitar. The Pacifica is legendary (in its incarnation as a beginner’s guitar as well as more deluxe offerings). Ditto the RGZ, whose ad copy famously proclaimed, “Naked girls and flaming skulls don’t make a guitar work better. Unfortunately.” Or the Weddington, which foreshadowed the ‘Superpauls’ of ESP and Schecter by about a decade.
But Yamaha’s most iconic guitar is the SG – a pointy-horned-but-not-like-Angus’s guitar which debuted in 1974. The Revstar feels like it belongs in the family with all of them, but it brings its own unique spirit to the table.
GIVE IT A REV
The Revstar line is made up of models for the beginner up 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 to the needs of particular players.
The RS720B is one of the most distinctive, but it’s no more representative of the line than any other model is; you really have to check them all out and see which is right for you. This is a great place to start though, in terms of describing how Yamaha has endeavoured to do something cool with each model.
The overall vibe is one of a modern guitar that’s not afraid to hint at the vintage, or perhaps a vintage guitar that lets itself get modern without getting all tricked out with lights and self-tuning gizmos. The mahogany body is carved to an asymmetrical shape that recalls the SG without copying it.
The scale length is 24.75‑inch, and the rosewood fingerboard has a 13.75-inch radius –
flatter than vintage, not as flat as modern shredders. The flame maple top has a matte finish which doesn’t let the wood shimmer but still looks very striking. The back of the neck is
a nice midway point between chunky and slim, and the fretwork is great.
The hardware includes a pair of VT5+ humbucking pickups with satin Nickel covers, custom knobs with a push-pull Dry switch (more on that in a second), three-position pickup selector, Tune-o-matic bridge and a Bigsby B50 tailpiece. The tuners are locking die-cast units.
Workmanship is very neat except for the aforementioned waxy pickups and a loose tone pot when tended to pop off on the review model during testing. This is a super easy fix by prying the halves of the pot shaft apart a little, but not necessarily something we feel comfortable doing to a borrowed guitar.
YOU’RE GONNA BE A STAR
The pickups are voiced in a very open, low‑output way which enhances their dynamics and their rendering of the fine details of your playing, whether it’s the range of soft to loud notes, your vibrato or picking method. It’s a very reactive instrument, so if you like your sound to be all compressed and even you’ll probably prefer one of the hotter-sounding models.
The bridge pickup is bright and clear but not too edgy, and the neck pickup sounds quite bassy and dark. So much so that it tends to overwhelm the bridge pickup when you use the two together to the point where there isn’t much sonic difference between the neck and neck/middle settings.
The Dry switch takes the place of a coil split and it’s a really unique feature. Designed specifically for the Revstar range, it kicks in a passive circuit to filter out low frequencies to give you a single coil-like sound without the hum and with more output. There’s still a bit of a volume drop between modes but not as drastic as with a conventional coil split.
It’s more like going from a humbucker to a P90. It opens up the voice of the RS720B even further, giving you everything from rock to jazz to indie to country tones. The Bigsby maintains its tuning quite nicely too, so you needn’t be worried about wiggling yourself into discordance while enjoying those jangly tones.
Yamaha has also changed the look of these pickups from the instrument’s initial release: they’re the same actual design but on this version they have chrome covers rather than the Filter’Tron-style covers the guitars were originally released with.
It doesn’t make a sonic difference, but it gives the guitar just a little more of a rock edge on the visual side of things. Obviously, it’s not a make‑or‑break feature.
THE BOTTOM LINE
With some truly rockstar‑ready specs under the hood, this is a really exceptional guitar with its own voice as distinctive as, “That’s a Strat,” or, “That’s a Les Paul!”
It’s great that Yamaha is expanding its Bigsby-loaded offerings and giving the Revstar the reverence it deserves as a really serious and important part of the Yamaha guitar story. Let’s just hope it continues!
• 24 3/4-inch scale length
• Set mahogany neck
• Mahogany body with flame maple top
• Bigsby B50 tailpiece
• Covered Yamaha VH5+ pickups
• Beautifully clear pickups
• Great playability
• Handy Dry switch
• Bigsbys aren’t for everyone
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