The Yamaha SG range of instruments have been with us for some time now but the SG200 is a recent addition. The bright, crisp and powerful sounds of the SG guitars made them ideally suited to the music that New Wave bands began to produce in the late Seventies and many artists such as Magazine, Bill Nelson, The Skids and Stiff Little Fingers adopted the guitars for just those reasons. That is not to say that the SG is exclusively suited to New Wave music for such rock luminaries as Carlos Santana and Bernie Marsden rely heavily on them also.
At £199 the SG200 is some £600 cheaper than the top of the range SG3000S model and has been primarily designed to broaden the market appeal of the SG series by offering the Yamaha SG sound and quality at an affordable price.
It won't come as too great a shock, then, to find that much of this cost reduction has been achieved at the expense of cosmetic frills. Gone is the Mexican abalone binding, gold-plated hardware, coil taps and mahogany body. What you are left with is a functional, twin pickup solid bodied guitar. However, you can take comfort in the knowledge that the characteristic sound has remained unchanged.
The elegantly styled SG200 has a 24¾ inch scale and the neck and body are carved from a wood known as Nato then set and glued. The result is a firmly joined neck with little susceptibility to bending. Three lacquer finishes are available: brown sunburst, black, and the one we had, pearly blue, which is a pleasant white with a blue sparkle when caught by the light.
The rosewood fingerboard has small dot inlays, 22 medium width frets that are well finished at the edges and is unbound with an ABS plastic nut. The slightly cambered fingerboard combines with the narrow, slim neck to make this a comfortable guitar to play on and the ease of fretting bar chords high up the neck means your hand doesn't get tired quickly; an important fact that can be overlooked when choosing a guitar for a beginner to learn on.
The action supplied on this Yamaha was fairly low and intonation was almost perfect. The best way to check intonation, by the way, is to play an open E chord at the first fret, then play the same chord at the twelfth fret. Ideally it should sound exactly one octave higher than the first chord you played, if it doesn't then you need to have the bridge saddle positions adjusted for each out-of-tune string.
No dead spots were incurred on the neck and the lightgauge strings supplied could be bent quite easily without 'choking'. A truss rod adjustment can easily be made to the neck if it ever becomes warped.
String bending was simplified by the wide double cutaway on the body and the fact that the heel (where the neck joins the body) occurs around the 17th fret position.
The headstock on the SG200 is the standard rectangular shape finished in a black polyester lacquer. It is fitted with six of Yamaha's own sealed machine heads. These resemble Grovers and are chrome-plated rather than gold-plated and work very well. They have a high 15:1 gear ratio for increased fine tuning; the 15 refers to the number of rotations required for the machine head barrel to completely revolve once.
The heads in question appeared to suffer a slight amount of slippage when strings were bent too enthusiastically resulting in detuning, but this problem was eventually put down to the extra-elasticity of the new strings fitted to the guitar as the tuning remained stable after a few hours playing.
The SG200 body is differentiated from the other models in the range by its chamfered edges around the middle of the guitar which actually improve the playing comfort of the instrument. Overall the guitar is well balanced and fairly lightweight in comparison with the old SG2000 for example, due no doubt to the change of wood. Unfortunately, the pickguard has been omitted which is a little irritating. If one came supplied as standard then people could always remove it themselves if they preferred the guitar without it.
The Tune-O-Matic style of bridge has a solid chromed tailpiece, which rests on two pillars fixed to the body. The strings pass through this, where they are anchored by the string's ball end, then pass over the bridge which has an individual slotted saddle for each string. These saddles are adjustable front to back for correcting intonation errors, using the slotted screw provided.
The whole bridge can be adjusted for height using the thumbwheels at each side. These are only finger tight and let you raise or lower the bridge and thus the overall string action.
The Yamaha SG200 comes fitted with two high output humbuckers which are of the 'open' type. They are mounted in cream coloured plastic surrounds and can be adjusted for height or tilt. They produce a very warm sound, slightly more sharper at the bass end than a Les Paul, say, with a nice cutting edge that results from the fast attack response of the body.
Individual polepieces can be raised or lowered on both pickups also, using a cross-head screwdriver for equalisation of output levels. Remember though, that if the pole-piece is too close to the string it may prevent it from sustaining as well.
Finally, a 3-position toggle switch below the bridge lets you select between bass, mid (both) and treble pickups and passive 'cut' volume and tone controls are provided for basic tonal variation.
Although undoubtedly a 'basic' guitar as far as cosmetic details and hardware are concerned, the SG200 still represents very good value for money. The nature of the sound it produces makes it a rock instrument without question but you should not let the low price tag put you off. The SG200 is only a compromise in terms of its appearance, not in terms of its sound.
Recommended retail price for the SG200 is £199 inclusive of VAT. Details are available from local dealers or from Yamaha, (Contact Details).
Review by Ian Gilby
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