Yamaha’s APX range of electro acoustics has been hugely popular since they were launched, due in part to the Yamaha name but mainly to the fact that they were designed with playing comfort in mind. The thinline body shape melds beautifully – sitting or standing – into the player, leaving them to concentrate on wringing a top-notch performance out of the guitar rather than having to wrestle with any idiosyncrasies of shape and size. For electric guitarists making the transition to an acoustic instrument, the APX represents just about the perfect choice for a stage instrument.
Yamaha have not stood still with the APX. Every year has seen changes, mostly in the electronics and pick-up configurations. Pick-up systems for acoustic guitars have evolved considerably in the last decade and the latest technology on this review Yamaha APX 1000 is no exception. Yamaha’s new System 63 SRT (Studio Response Technology) pre-amp uses a sound modeling technique that utilizes data obtained by analysing four acoustic elements – string and body resonance, ambience, vintage microphone characteristics and professional micing techniques – delivering, it’s claimed, a natural, studio-quality acoustic guitar tone. The SRT concept is to attempt to replicate the guitar sound that would achieved by a professional recording engineer in a world class studio.
The Yamaha APX 1000 features a solid Spruce top, flamed Maple back and sides and a Nato neck. A bound Rosewood fingerboard is inlayed with a double-triangle motif, while the Rosewood bridge features a compensated saddle for improved intonation. The headstock is also bound and houses die-cast gold tuners while updated cosmetics include wood sound hole inlay, translucent black finish, gold hardware and a new truss rod. Yamaha also say that the ‘specially designed non-scalloped X-type bracing maximizes the resonance of the unique body shape for a full, natural tone’.
Even though you wouldn’t buy an APX solely for its acoustic qualities, the guitar still has to stand up to scrutiny when being used in un-plugged mode and acoustically, the APX1000 proves to be a very responsive instrument – especially when picked – but isn’t the sort of guitar you’d want to record by sticking a microphone in front of it. Luckily, you won’t have to; the SRT system will do all the hard work, and tests prove that Yamaha’s new electronics are capable of producing some seriously impressive tonal options.
On the conveniently mounted recessed control panel are the usual Volume, Low, Mid and High knobs plus the three-way Type switch, which selects the Neumann U67, Neumann KM156 or the Royer R-122 microphones used to record the APX. A Focus/Wide button lets you choose between close and ambient mic distances, while body resonance is controlled by the aptly named Resonance control. Mounted to the left of that is the very neat tuner and AFR (Auto Feedback Reduction) knob, which can be pushed in as soon as any feedback starts to automatically detect and defeat the offending frequencies. The actual pick-up is newly developed by Yamaha and consists of a piezo-electric device embedded inside the bridge saddle and is said to improve string response. Balance between the pick-up only sound and the SRT system can be controlled with the Blend knob.
Plugged-in, the Yamaha APX1000 behaves differently from other electro-acoustics in that you become aware that what you’re hearing coming out of the amp is not the sound of the guitar you are holding – it’s actually better. That stated, the tonal differences between the ‘mic’ settings are subtle, but the Focus/Wide control produces an obvious up-close or ambient characteristic as claimed.
The Yamaha APX1000 is a fine sounding instrument and there’s no doubt that the SRT system adds a definite dollop of class. If you turned up with this guitar at a gig or a studio date, the engineer would probably – and no doubt happily – put his microphones away and get a cable out. Yamaha have started something here with the SRT idea that no-one else has done – and it works brilliantly. Recommended.