Yamaha APX7 Guitar
The APX-7 is one of nine 'thin cutaway' electro-acoustics debuted by Yamaha at the Frankfurt Fair. Although by no means newcomers to piezo powering, this is the first time Yamaha have concentrated their efforts into one extensive and identifiable range, each sharing a common body shape. Other models offer stereo output, 12-string and nylon strung options.
The 3in-deep body appears, at first glance, to use a one-piece synthetic, moulded back. In fact, a gander inside the soundhole reveals a traditional construction of agathis for the internal back and sides; the black plastic coating fulfilling, I suspect, more a cosmetic role than as a particularly significant contributor to the guitar's tonal identity.
Certainly, when played acoustically, the APX-7's response is nicely woody and, considering its less than jumbo-capacity sound chamber, not overly lacking in volume.
The two-way, 9V battery powered piezo system actually comprises three pickups. The first consists of bar sensors directly beneath the one-piece bridge saddle, an arrangement similar to Yamaha's original FG-365SE and later derivatives. The other two are transducer units - visually comparable to the old Barcus Berrys - located underneath the spruce top, either side of the bridge.
The guitar's Mix and Volume/Tone controls are located, respectively, by the heel and just above the waist. Each pot has multi click-stop positions and a disappear-into-the-body feature.
Soundwise, the APX-7 is impressive - and expressive. Having set preferred portions of treble and bass with, say, Mix in a mid position, you may never need touch the tone controls again. Because not only does Mix take us, by degrees, from the convincing acoustic response of the saddle-based pickup, to the more electric feel of the body transducers, but also the journey from one to t'other progressively reduces the bass and ups the treble.
The only caveat against using just the body piezos is that the whole guitar tends to become microphonic and extraneous noises like string-winding squeaks will be more noticeable.
Yamaha obviously aimed for a neck design to appeal equally to acoustic and electric players. They succeeded. Its satin finished section is comfortably shallow without being insubstantial and, en route to the body, widens out (by the 15th fret) about ⅛in more than their normal acoustic spec.
A flattish radius, 22 (full-width) fret fingerboard with polished, wide-oval frets should certainly evoke praise from the more electric brethren. And the straight neck's already commendably low action looked a likely candidate for even closer dialogue with the fingerboard given some modest working on the nut and bridge saddle.
Two minor aggravations. The bound fingerboard is finished over the soundhole in a geometric flourish with two largely redundant part-width frets. Looks sweet. But if you're a picker whose right hand position falls naturally thereabouts, you'll find your thumbnail sometimes catching on the inside edges of those itsy bitsy frets. Bevelling the ends would help.
Second, 'though Yamaha's brochure specifies the strings as 'Custom Light' they felt decidedly Medium, making even plainstring bending less than a doddle. In a shop, first impressions of playing comfort are crucial and a lighter gauge might well pay dividends.
Set against these easily remedied niggles, the APX-7 is a fine, carefully crafted guitar at a realistic price. Physically attractive with sounds to match, it's a worthy inheritor of Yamaha's success to date with electro-acoustics.
Review by Jerry Uwins
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