wang bar meets SG shape
THE SHAPE will of course be familiar. How long Yamaha have had the SG series going is anyone's guess, must be ten years at least. It does them credit that when other companies are chopping out the wood in different fashions every month, they've stayed true to a shape and developed it. You could say that the double cutaway isn't their's anyway since it was inspired by Gibson's Solid Guitars, but who's counting. So what's the bonus this time?
Essentially a top and bottom locking tremolo unit — the "T" at the end. On this sample it gleamed in gold. In fact there was little that didn't — screws for the two black humbuckers, surrounds for the selector on the upper bout, all liberally decked in Fort Knox' finest.
Top lock systems work on the premise that 90 per cent of the tuning drift that comes from using tremolo arms arises because of stretch or slack in the length of string between machine head and nut. Clamp the string at the nut (between two gold plated bars) and the motion of the tremolo arm can't be transferred to that sensitive section and drift should be reduced dramatically.
The other added enticement is the set of fine-tuning screws situated behind the saddles — again not a startlingly innovative scheme, but Yamaha's have been done in an unusual way — more of which in part two as News At Ten readers say when they're stuck for a way to end part one.
First the guitar, finished in Candytone Red with a slight metallic sparkle beneath. No scratchplate to be found and only two controls on attractive, burnt amber knobs. These are for volume and tone, with the tone acting as a coil tap switch when you press it in. The broad cream binding runs around the outside of the carved mahogany and maple top body and up the ebony neck covering the well set medium height frets on the way. (Squarish tops to these and still a bit new.)
It's a bonded, 22-fret neck and well in with the recent tradition of smooth, slim heelless Yamaha varieties (see this month's Close Enough For Jazz for comments on earlier Yammies).
I found it especially nifty for linear runs up and down the neck, mainly because the depth of the wood in your hand stays constant from nut to 22nd fret. Your grip doesn't have to grow on the way. Some guitarists prefer necks that thicken as you approach the octave claiming that it gives them a 'landmark' for their playing. My mitts always find it easier to judge that from the sense of feeling across the neck.
The slight camber to the fretboard helps good, fast fingering and string bends in the upper reaches aren't as hampered by buzzes or cut outs.
The curly, flowered, Yamaha headstock inlay and triangular abalone position markers are as familiar as the SG silhouette so enough said, onto the trem.
I'd noticed this SG seemed lighter than others so wasn't surprised to find the inclusion of the springs and trem block had required the removal of a lot of wood — a strip about 5in long, 2in wide and 1 to 2½ in deep at various points. The bridge unit is based on a knife edge system. The main support plate narrows to two points that press against gold studs screwed into the Yamaha body. The upward pull of the strings is equalled by the downward tug of the springs concealed in the body so that the plate lies horizontally.
Each string has a saddle that sits in a groove within the bridge plate. For intonation adjustments they can be slid backwards and forwards and locked into place by an Allen-keyed grub screw. The black fine-tune knobs (a bit sticky and a bit close together) pivot the saddles from underneath to increase or reduce the tension on the strings so changing the tuning. Clever this because other fine-tune tailpieces pull the string back or move it forwards so making tiny changes in the intonation. The Yamaha's don't.
Sneakier still, yet another set of grub screws are underneath the bridge plate; pivot the saddles again to give you individual height adjustment. The two studs can be raised or lowered for overall action changes.
The gold plated trem arm screws into an outcrop of metal at the side of the bridge and one more of those fabulous screws tightens a pair of jaws to grip the arm and keep it exactly where you want it.
Have they forgotten anything? Yes, but it's not another screw, nor another pivot... nothing like that. Yamaha have perhaps overlooked that with a body like an SG with its strap button behind the neck, the guitar hangs substantially to your left. With me, certainly, and possibly a lot of other players one immediately rests the back of your right hand on the bridge. Unfortunately, the trem arrangement is so sensitive, as soon as you do that, the bridge dips, and the guitar glides up in pitch by a tiny but disconcerting amount, then drops once you move your hand again. It threw me totally and spoiled my enjoyment of what was a responsive tremolo with a lot of freedom. As far as I can see there's no cure because the problem is a ten year old habit of where I put my fist.
Soundwise there are two surprises. The pickups are mellow, very smooth, to the point where rock players are going to look at their amp and wonder who's turned the treble to 0. Not a screamer.
Shock number two is the strength and sustain of the lower frequencies. I can't remember the last time I heard a guitar with open E and A strings that carried on ringing this long — enough to solo across for a couple of bars. Great, thick, thrumming sound, heavy as a brick, but short on top, even with the coil taps, and that does restrict the 1300's potential. The 1300T works as a guitar with a tremolo, it just doesn't work for me.
YAMAHA SG1300T six string: £569
Review by Paul Colbert
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