Been very busy so this took so long.
I collected the AC5R last month with really high hopes about it because it’s supposedly handcrafted in Japan.
If you look at the guitar it probably doesn’t stand out from the China made A1 and A3 models. And you are right. Apart from the Gotoh made open gear tuners, this guitar shares almost identical specs are the A3 series that are made in China.
I inspected closely and found it to be really well-made. Joints are clean and tidy as expected at this price range. The A5 series retail are $2099 here in SG so I’m definitely expecting much better workmanship than say the FG series. The neck is still visibly made from multi-pieces of wood and I guess this is the norm in order to prevent wastage and cut down on man-hours.
Having said that, the mahogany binding is really nice all around. Here’s a look at it with the new preamp controls that have a smaller footprint.
One thing I’d like to point out, the bracing definitely needs more attention. Here you can see some rough edges/splinters on the bracing under the label.
It’s not a problem if the guitar was a budget model, but if you place this model as the top-end handcrafted guitar from Japan, I’d expect better attention to details. Sure it doesn’t affect tone or playability, but us guitar freaks are like that.
The rosette looks neat here with mahogany plus rosewood. I ran my fingers around the inside of the soundhole and I think it’s quite decent – generally smooth, so thumbs-up.
In all, the AC5R is very well-made with beautiful bindings. Finish is also very good. The top has a vintage tint to it and the back of the neck has a nice satin sheen. While the Gotoh tuners are supposedly an upgrade, I actually dislike them. Tuning doesn’t seem any better than the usual closed back ones found on lesser Yamaha models and there is just too much freeplay on the shafts when the strings were off.
Setup & Playability
Stock action was already decent. It came in at about 7/64 inch at 12 fret capo on 1st. Relief was minimal. Many players wouldn’t mind such action but Guitarbear can’t play for nuts so sandpaper was needed to bring the action to slightly under 3/32 inch with a tad more relief for heavy strumming. Yes, I know the AC shape isn’t a strummer, but I can only strum those four chords. 🙂
Shaved off the base to get a lower action. Just a note here, this one uses a 76mm saddle. Very unusual as most other Yamahas I have worked with use 75mm.
The guitar seems less forgiving and requires more finesse to avoid making mistakes. Perhaps it needs more time to run-in. We shall see.
I have to say this part may be quite inaccurate due to my playing ability. Nevertheless, I will present my own observations.
The stock strings had to go because Elixir 80/20 made the guitar sounded too “metallic”, if that’s an appropriate word to use. I slapped on my favourite Elixir PB 12-53 and could immediately hear improvements (to me). Sound was less shrill and had more piano-like clarity on each note.
I would ideally prefer a taller saddle on my guitar but the thickness of the bridge meant that this was the best I could do. Still, there is no tone or volume loss at all. The guitar remains very responsive, but like I mentioned before, it requires more accuracy than my own guitars that have been seasoned with sweat and grime. 🙂
By now, the guitar lost its pickguard. I can’t stand pickguards on them.
Here’s a look at the chocolaty rosewood grains.
Rainbow and Brownie were happy to pose.
The AC5R is rather lightly built and I would say that it’s definitely more suited to fingerstyle. It’s still a decent strummer, but the dreadnought shape is probably what I should get for my style of heavy handed strumming (especially after 2 beers). 🙂
It is interesting to note that the AC shape is under 15 inch and smaller than an OM. However, it has more depth at 120mm. That’s actually slightly deeper than Yamaha’s dreadnought shape. The AC is very comfortable to play, and would fit into the “cough guitar” category unless you’re a very small person.
The SRT2 electronics got a test run from me and I think it is probably the loudest pickup I’ve heard. The mic selection is a cool feature here and it was very easy to blend in a usable sound.
The new SRT2 electronics also get a much neater battery compartment this time. Again, it is similar to the Taylor ES whereby you install the batteries from the base of the guitar.
Does it justify its price? It is about $600-$700 more than the A3 series so I guess that money goes into the labour cost and bragging rights.
Will the guitar continue to open up and sound better with time? That’s a question that no one can answer.