Hands-On Review:Yamaha APX Acoustic-Electrics

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New models—all made to be played onstage

By Kent Chamberlain


Yamaha APX Acoustic Guitars

Yamaha’s APX Series of thinline acoustic-electrics have proven popular since their  introduction more than a decade ago. They’re neat guitars—intended for  performance and designed to be comfortable for electric players who want  an easy transition into playing acoustic. Now Yamaha has upgraded and  extended the series with five new models. I just had the chance to play  three of them—the APX500, APX700, and APX900—and here’s what I found.


Performance oriented


The APX guitars are designed for performance. They are thinlines, but not the skinny  kind of thinline that tries to emulate an electric. Such guitars only  sound decent when plugged-in and often not even then. The APX models are  only thinned a little—enough to be comfortable, but not so much that it  wipes out any tone.  They sound surprisingly good unplugged—a bright,  crisp sound that amplifies well.


The APX body shape is compact in width and height and has a cutaway  for free upper fret access. It’s a very comfortable design, and the neck  is especially fast—very much like the neck on an electric. If you  mainly play electric guitar, you’ll feel quite at home on an APX when you switch.


For stage use you need electronics, and the APX guitars are well equipped in this regard. All models feature active preamps  with 3-band EQ, midsweep, an easy-to-use tuner, and a battery status  LED. The pickup in the APX500 is an under-saddle piezo. The APX700 and  APX900 use a new design contact pickup that sounds really smooth. Yamaha  calls it Acoustic Resonance Transducer technology or A.R.T. for short.  The controls are mounted on the upper side where you can see them and  make adjustments easily. Even the battery can be changed without  unstrapping the guitar.


Showtime looks


The smaller body size, the electric-style neck, and sophisticated electronics are all practical features that make APX guitars stage-friendly, but part of the show is the show. You want to look  good, and a guitar with a little style and flash helps. The APX guitars  are lookers, especially the 700 and 900. Abalone and mother-of-pearl  inlays, generous multi-ply bindings, and great finishes give all the APX  models eye appeal, while gorgeous flamed maple and gold tuners on the  APX900 make it a knockout. One notable detail on all three models is an  oval sound hole—a distinctive touch.


Yamaha APX Acoustic Guitars
Yamaha APX Acoustic Guitars

The APX500


The APX500 is low man on the APX totem pole, but for its modest price it’s pretty  sweet. It replaces the popular APX5A; and the story here is better  guitar, lower price.


The improvements are extensive. A digital tuner has been added to the  preamp. Mother-of-pearl inlays, neck binding, and a gloss finish on the  neck are new. A compensatedsaddle, thinner heel, combo strap button  and end pin jack, and upgraded machine heads make it more playable and  the modern design mother-of-pearl rosette inlay gives it visual  distinction.


For a guitar of its price, the APX500 is well done up. It’s bound on the top and bottom, and the fingerboard  has enough shell inlay to catch the stage lights. On top of that, the  APX500 has a nice headstock florette and logo in real pearl. The dot  markers are pearl and also the rosette inlay. The finish looks great  too.


One of the best features of the APX500 is the quality of its neck and  fretboard. The frets are beautifully dressed. The fretboard is smooth,  high-quality rosewood. I was especially impressed by the action.  Affordable acoustics usually need some adjustment of the action and  intonation when you get them, but the APX500 was perfect right out of the box.


The APX700


As you would expect, everything is nicer on this model: more binding  plies, abalone as well as mother-of-pearl inlays, a step-up preamp, etc.


The biggest step-up features are a solid Sitka spruce top for more  resonance and better tone, and improved electronics. Instead of a piezo  pickup it uses the new one-way A.R.T. contact pickup system—much  mellower than a piezo—and it reduces feedback significantly. Combined  with the solid top, it gives the APX700 seriously good sound.


The APX900


The APX900 amps up everything again. It has the same preamp as the 700 and the  same contact pickup, but in a three-way system rather than a one-way.  This three-way system includes a main pickup plus two additional  pickups, one on the bass side and another on the treble. With separate  control of each pickup’s level, you can tweak them for perfect balance  and natural sound, even when playing high on the neck. The fretboard and  bridge are ebony. It has gold tuners, more elaborate inlay, and  headstock binding. The most significant upgrade is, again, in the woods.  It has a solid spruce top and flamed maple back and sides with the  flames visible through a gorgeous transparent finish.


Yamaha has done a great job with the new APX models. The three give  you a great selection of prices and features, and there is a left-handed  version of the APX700 plus an APX700 12-String. For what they are and  what they do, they are fantastic guitars: great necks, small bodies,  high-quality electronics, and showtime visuals. For a performance-worthy  acoustic-electric that’s modestly priced, you’ll have a hard time doing  better than a Yamaha APX.


APX500 features:

  • Spruce top
  • Nato neck (on all models),  back, and sides
  • Rosewood fretboard and bridge
  • Mother-of-pearl inlay on rosette, fretboard, & headstock
  • Piezo pickup
  • Active preamp with 3-band EQ and tuner
  • Body and neck binding
  • Dark red burst, black, natural or oriental blue burst finish

APX700 features:

  • Solid spruce top
  • Mahogany back and sides
  • Rosewood fretboard and bridge
  • Abalone inlay on rosette
  • Mother-of-pearl inlay on fretboard and headstock
  • New design A.R.T. contact pickup system (one-way)
  • Active preamp with 3-band EQ and tuner
  • Body, neck, and headstock binding
  • Sand burst, natural, dusk sun red, cobalt or black finish

APX900 features:

  • Solid spruce top
  • Flamed maple back and sides
  • Ebony fretboard and bridge
  • Abalone inlay on rosette
  • Mother-of-pearl fretboard and headstock inlay
  • New design A.R.T. contact pickup system (3-way)
  • Active preamp with 3-band EQ and tuner
  • Body, neck, and headstock binding
  • Gold tuners
  • Ultramarine, black, natural or crimson burst finish