Before we get to our Yamaha 6 String Series A1M review, we normally we like to give a brief introduction about the company itself when undertaking a review. We feel it important that people know a little about the manufacturer they might be purchasing from. In this case, there is no need.
Yamaha is the largest manufacturer of instruments worldwide. Not only the biggest, but they have the widest ranges and all at cost-effective prices considering the level and quality. Some of their instruments are used by the best musicians on their respective instruments. They know what they are doing.
If you don’t know about the company, you must have just arrived on earth?
In that case, welcome to Yamaha
They started making pianos and keyboards in 1897, and guitars in 1942. Band and orchestra instruments in 1965 and drums in 1967. And so it has rolled on. They make their starter, cost-effective instruments, but anyone who has owned one of their near top of the range instruments will know. There is real quality in them.
Their guitars especially cover the whole spectrum but at the top end, they are excellent. So, let’s take a look at an example of an acoustic-electric. Not the top of the range Yamaha, but a quality instrument all the same in our Yamaha 6 String Series A1M review…
The Yamaha ‘A’ series of guitars are designed to be performance level instruments. We are going to look at the A1M. There are five levels of this ‘A’ series guitar designed and manufactured by Yamaha. The A1 is the more cost-effective version whilst the A5 is very high-end. The suffix ‘M’ simply means it has a mahogany back and sides. Rosewood models are suffixed ‘R’.
It has a familiar Dreadnought design with a single-cutaway which gives it a vintage look and increases playability. Its design shape also means it is going to generate a big Dreadnought sound.
Quality all the way…
In the construction, they have used great tonewoods. And have also included Yamaha’s SRT pickup for both stage performance and recording. The preamp offers plenty of frequency ranges and other added extras.
This is one of those instruments that as soon as you play it you feel its quality. And remember that this is the cost-effective version. Yamaha’s quality of build is well-known. They are also known to improve with age as the top wood matures. We can vouch for this first hand as we have a vintage ‘68 Yamaha and that is exactly what happens.
So, let’s have a closer look at the Yamaha 6 String Series A1M and find out if it’s the perfect electro-acoustic for you…
If you want to create a great sounding guitar there are many things to consider. But right at the top of the list will be what tonewoods do you use. There are a few choices but one pairing is always going to give you an exceptional sound. When you put Spruce with Mahogany you know it is going to sing.
And so the choice for this A1 Yamaha is a Sitka Spruce top and a Mahogany body.
The spruce top is not laminated on this guitar, it is a solid piece. Undoubtedly a solid spruce top is going to enhance the sound. They sound better and they are louder than a laminated top. However, they are more susceptible to climatic conditions especially quick changes in temperature or humidity. You, therefore, need to take good care of it.
The back and sides are Mahogany and this is using laminated wood. The A3 version through to A5 uses solid wood. Having a laminated back and sides and a Solid Spruce top is fine and provides you with a good sound base. The creation of the sound is also enhanced with the style of bracing used internally.
In this case, a scalloped bracing system secures the top wood. This helps to generate the vibrations consistent with a richer and great sounding guitar. It is the quality of the bracing that helps give the guitar its true voice. The combinations of good tonewoods, a solid spruce top, and scalloped bracing leave nothing to chance. Yamaha is serious about this range of guitars.
Looks the part…
As usual, Yamaha ensures their guitars not only sound good, but they also look good. It has a gloss finish that highlights the grains and patterns of the Spruce and the Mahogany. It looks the part whilst also having a slightly vintage feel to it. This instrument has a beautiful edging on the top and lower body edge which extends into the cutaway.
There is a tasteful and rather understated rosette design around the soundhole. It has also been given a tortoiseshell pickguard.
It is a traditional western Dreadnought shaped body but with a cutaway. Some Dreadnoughts have no cutaway and some prefer this as it is thought the cutaway alters the tone. There is an element of truth that it might affect the resonance and depth a little. But not really what might be called drastically.
On the plus side, the cutaway gives you full access to the fingerboard. It might be a full-size guitar but it only weighs just under seven pounds. A nice weight for stage performance.
It is a full-size 25.6-inch scale neck with twenty frets. All the frets are available for use courtesy of the cutaway. The neck is made from 3-ply Mahogany and it has a Rosewood fingerboard. The fingerboard is hand-rolled to give it a nice comfortable feel. It has a satin finish.
What makes this guitar feel so good is the profile of the slim tapered neck. If you are playing live then you want the neck of your guitar to feel as comfortable as possible. This gives you that feeling. You have not got to work too hard with the grip and its slimline design makes chord making easy. There are traditional dot inlays on the neck and the top edge.
This is often an area where some manufacturer cutbacks might be made just to save a little bit of money. We wouldn’t say that there is an excess of quality in the hardware. But it certainly isn’t cheap.
Yamaha has used very good materials but if you want the really excellent hardware that will be found a little higher up the ‘A’ range scale. Nevertheless, everything employed on the Series A1M is all functional.
Up at the top…
We have six die-cast chrome machine heads with sealed backs. They have a decent winding ratio and hold the strings in tune. They are also nicely made and not too stiff in the wind as some cheaper models can be.
It has a Urea, or to give it its full-name, Urea-formaldehyde, which is a strong polymer plastic, for the nut. This is 1.69 inches in width emphasizing the slim neck design. The headstock is just a Mahogany extension of the neck and given a satin finish with just a simple logo. No flamboyant designs here. They are not necessary.
Getting a little picky…
There is a hardtail bridge made from Rosewood with a Urea saddle and black plastic string pins with white dots. Ok, for the sake of balance let’s be picky and try to find fault. We want to find something we don’t like. Maybe the quality of materials for the nut and the saddle could have been better.
Bone would not be realistic at this price point, but there are some other very good alternatives. But does it affect the overall sound of the guitar. Hard to judge whether another material might be better. But it certainly hasn’t stopped it sounding very good indeed.
This is an area that is so difficult for manufacturers. When you have a great sounding acoustic guitar how can you attach a pickup and make it sound the same amplified? The straight answer to that is that you probably can’t.
Mic’d up with a good studio mic for a recording session you probably can. On stage mic’ing it up is difficult, if not impossible. Attaching a pickup even harder. With lesser-quality acoustics, you might get close. With quality acoustics, it is very hard indeed.
Good but not as good as it is unplugged…
We are not saying that the electrics are not good on this guitar. They do a very good job. Our point is that if you are expecting it to sound amplified as it does acoustically you may be disappointed. Yamaha has attached their well known and respected SRT piezo pickup which gives you a good live performance.
We were quite surprised at the sound when we heard it. But only because we have in the past heard some disasters. It sounded good and for a live performance amidst everything else going on it is going to be fine.
More on the sound later…
It has been given a side-mounted preamp that has three-band EQ and also a tuner. There is no feedback filter on this model. The Controls are situated conveniently on the top edge of the body. They are easy to operate with their slider design.
Given the difficulties we have already discussed, the electrics do a good job.
How does it play and sound?
There is no doubt that Yamaha has gone out of its way to make this guitar as easy to play as possible. The Dreadnought design is often not easy for some people due to its size, but with its slimline neck and weighing under seven pounds it feels great seated or standing.
The cutaway gives full access to all the fingerboard which gives you so many variations you can try. Not least is the soloing aspect which becomes possible on the higher notes whereas on a non-cutaway it is near impossible.
Not a wallflower…
Yamaha talks about a new sound they created for their ’A’ series guitars. This is based on a redesigned scalloped bracing system for both the top spruce board and using shorter bracing for the backboard. It is certainly a great sound but noticeably quiet loud even for a Dreadnought.
As we remarked earlier we have had the experience of having a vintage Yamaha Dreadnought and we are well aware of how the sound matures with age. With the new design, Yamaha have increased the ‘sound age’ of the ‘A’ series making the sound older from the first play.
Superb for the studio, very good for live…
We have already discussed the sound when amplified. We didn’t want to give the impression it was not good – it is fine. It just isn’t the same as when it is played acoustically. That is more a measure of how good it is acoustically rather than that it is bad amplified. As we said, in a live show it is going to be fine.
But in the studio mic’d up or in a smaller venue played acoustically it is just excellent. And when you think that this is the most cost-effective of the ‘A; series it makes you realize what a great instrument this is for the price.
Adjust to perfection…
The preamp will give you some tonal adjustments for the live performance. The AMF frequency adjustment that is placed on the control panel gives you some good mid-frequency range options.
Yamaha 6 String Series A1M Review Pros and Cons
- Excellent construction from quality materials.
- Fantastic, and possibly unbeatable value for the money.
- Very easy and great fun to play.
- Fantastic sounding guitar – it just sings!
- Well, we could be picky and mention the nut and saddle materials again, but these are easily replaced and upgraded if needed.
- It’s also not the best sounding acoustic when played through an amp or a PA, but it’s still completely usable, and quite amazing for on-stage use, considering the cost.
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Yamaha 6 String Series A1M Review Conclusion
What we think?
By now you will know that we think this is a very good guitar. Great materials and well-made it punches well above its weight in the way it looks and in its build quality. But it is in the sound that it really excels. Warm rich tones from the mahogany body and crisp highs from the newly braced spruce top, it sings.
In a world that was once dominated by three makers of acoustic guitars, another manufacturer is on the block now. And they are doing it very well. This is an example of a guitar that has everything. For the price, you will not find better, no matter what name is on the headstock.