Review: Yamaha RGXTT
Ty Tabor, guitarist for the legendary heavy-progressive band King's X, has always been a technical guru. And whether or not the band ever got their due recognition, Ty's tone is the stuff of legend. For years he was secretive about what kind of amps he was using, and obscured his long-out-of-production Gibson Lab amps by pulling the logos off. He's also set standards for the creative use of equipment, and has been known to produce beautiful, violin-like sustained notes in his solos with a coyly palmed E-Bow. His ability to incorporate particular pieces of gear into his style and sound and make them a part of his signature is astounding. Now, Ty has teamed up with the folks at Yamaha to create a signature guitar that incorporates many of the features he requires in an instrument. The result: The Yamaha RGXTT (Ty Tabor) signature model guitar.
The first thing you notice about the RGXTT is the attention to detail that has been lavished on its design and construction. It is clear that a lot of thought has gone into the guitar's aesthetics and functionality. The RGXTT is essentially a bolt-on neck, solidbody, asymmetrical double cutaway guitar. As such, it takes its lineage from the original Stratocaster. The technological improvements and feedback from players in the years since the original Fender days, however, have apparently not been wasted on either Ty Tabor or the good folks at Yamaha musical instruments.
The basic specs are as follows: The body is Basswood with a highly figured Maple center platform. The RGX has a 25 ½" scale length maple neck sporting a 22 fret, rosewood fretboard with position markers in view only on the upper edge of the neck. The all-black hardware includes Sperzel locking tuners and a Wilkinson VS 1000 tremolo. Pickups are by Seymour Duncan: a full sized Jeff Beck humbucker in the bridge position and two Vintage Rails (single-coil sized double coils) in the middle and neck positions. The pickups are controlled with a 5-position pickup selector, coupled with a pushbutton coil-split switch for the bridge pickup, and one master volume and one master tone control. The available finishes are available in Green, Red or Purple see-through sunburst. This way you get a cool hue but don't miss out on that pretty maple.
The body is a nicely contoured and comfortable design. The center of the top of the body has a raised platform of quilted maple that is just slightly wider than the pickups and bridge and runs the length of the body from the neck joint to the tail (reminiscent of the Gibson Firebird). The rest of the basswood body has been contoured to get thinner as it goes from the center line of the body outward toward the edges, (reminscent of the countour on Ibanez's Sabre guitars). This makes for a guitar that is both very comfortable to play and very light. The raised center platform motif is continued to the headstock, where a portion of the headstock is also raised in a line that continues that of the body. In a nice touch, the tuners that reside in the raised portion of the headstock have their posts recessed into the face, thus ensuring a uniform string angle away from the nut. Another nice design detail is the input jack, which is angled into a carved recess at the back of the body's heel. This keeps the jack out of the way and facilitates the use of your strap as a strain relief for the cable. One more nice detail: the truss rod adjustment is accessed from the side of the heel of the neck. This novel approach ensures that there is no need to remove the neck or a cover plate to make adjustments.
As you might expect, all of these elegant and wonderfully thought-out touches indicate that the instrument itself is crafted with comfort and ease of playing in mind. In addition to the light body and contoured top, the neck is relatively wide and thin with a nice shallow profile. The very popular medium-jumbo sized frets are perfectly applied and make for easy action and playability. From the moment you pick the RGX up, it's apparent that it is a serious, high-end instrument. The tester I received was expertly set up, felt wonderful to play and stayed in tune even through a series of whammy attacks.
The sound of this guitar is quite bright. When I first plugged the RGXTT into my system and switched to the bridge pickup on my distorted channel, the sound was almost piercing. I reached immediately for the high tone knob on my preamp and rolled it back a few notches. If you are looking for a guitar that will be responsive in the high end and allows you to cut through your band during leads, this is it.
Of course, pushing the coil-split switch provided a smoother, single coil tone. While one coil of the Duncan JB doesn't exactly sound like the bridge pickup in a vintage Strat, the ability to get a more subtle single-coil tone is always a welcome touch. I am already a big fan of the Seymour Duncan Jeff Beck pickup (and have installed that exact pickup in several of my own guitars), so its round, mid-range tone and excellent distorted sound were familiar and welcome. I was additionally impressed with the Vintage Rails pickups in the middle and neck positions. These pickups managed to pack a lot of punch and still provide an appreciable "in between" sound when the selector switch was set at the fourth position (between the neck and bridge pickups). Overall, the selection of pickups and setup yields a very useable instrument that will not only allow you to blast through a hard rock trio setting like Ty does in King's X, but also dial in some more restrained tones, while always being responsive.
Clearly, not much was lost on the design team at Yamaha when they set out to design and build this guitar. Accordingly, there are precious few things that I would change. But while we're being picky,. The volume knob is very close to the arm for the Wilkinson tremolo. It is so close that the arm interferes with simple volume knob swells. The knob could've been moved a tad so that access to it is completely unrestricted. Also, as stated above, this is a very light guitar that has been enhanced with bright hardwoods. These qualities give the guitar a distinct high-end emphasis - a little too much, for my taste. Of course, this is the guitar that Ty Tabor, a master of tone and technique far beyond my mere mortal skills, plays and helped design. So, if it works for him, who am I to argue?
Overall, anybody looking for serious solidbody guitar should consider the RGXTT, the brainchild of one of today's most gifted and technically demanding artists coupled with a team of dedicated engineers and craftsmen. The sum of these efforts result in an artfully designed instrument that is the best combination of tried-and-true principles and new technology.