Setup for Yamaha LS-TA

Did a setup for this new model over the weekend.

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The TransAcoustic series was released late last year and they have getting rave reviews online. So now you can play with some reverb and chorus added without having to hook up pedals, effects or amps.

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The build is fantastic on this guitar which is essentially an LS-16 ARE with the actuator installed. Also, the TA series get a clear pickguard instead of the tortoise variant. Another feature on the LS-TA is the vintage tinted Engelmann top.

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Guitar was sent for a bone saddle installation elsewhere and owner still prefers a slightly lower action. Sometimes player’s preference still matters so the aim here was to go from about 7/64 to about 5/64 inch. Easy job.

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I must say that the bone saddle is very well-crafted. It’s nicely shaped with the correct radius and finished to a high gloss. Good job by the previous guitar guy! Now let’s shave a lil off the bottom.

Bearclaw Special

TLC for all guitars from Guitarbear.

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Let’s start with the nut slots. Pencil lead will do the job. No need for fancy stuffs here.

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Fretboard and bridge were moisturised to a nice sheen. Can you see which part just got pampered? Koala fell asleep while checking the guitar.

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So Miffy was ready to pose after her shower. She says this one sounds good!

Closing thoughts

The LS-TA sounds wonderful even without the the effects. In my opinion, the L series are really great guitars for the money. The 5-piece neck just looks beautiful and usually belong to guitars at higher price brackets.

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The room reverb is pleasing and sounds natural, but it may sound quite harsh if you go beyond 3 o’clock on the dial. Same for the chorus dial that is best left under 12 o’clock.

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Another thing to consider is the weight of the guitar. The LS-TA is significantly heavier than a stock LS16. No prizes for guessing that this is due the actuator for the effects. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

 

 

 

 

 

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Yamaha AC5R in-depth review

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.

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Build Quality

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 🙂

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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.

Tone

I have to say this part may be quite inaccurate due to my playing ability. Nevertheless, I will present my own observations.

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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.

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Here’s a look at the chocolaty rosewood grains.

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Rainbow and Brownie were happy to pose.

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Closing notes:

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.

 

 

Yamaha AC5R first impressions

Been waiting for this to come along. Made in Japan goodness for not so much money. Wow.

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The new AC5R was first announced at Winter NAMM and took forever to reach SG. It follows the A6 limited series and is made in Japan unlike its stablemates the A1 and A3 series.

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Also new for 2017 is the use of ARE treated Sitka tops on the A Series. This comes after the L series received the cooked tops.

The guitar sounds a tad too bright and I’m contemplating removing the stock Elixir 80/20s. These days, Phosphor Bronze sounds better to Guitarbear’s ears. Oh yes, Elixirs strings are yet another new feature for the new A Series. It’s definitely a step up from the mediocre strings on previous range.

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Here’s a look at the rosewood back. Those are reflections NOT scratches. Sorry for the lousy photos.

Some nice-looking grains on display along with the nice mahogany bindings. The new SRT2 preamp has only 4 knobs as opposed to older model’s ugly control panel. It looks more like Taylor’s ES system, less in-your-face, and I like it this way.

A quick play on this (I had to go out with the two women) and I find that it’s pretty responsive. Definitely a light build unlike a certain M-brand that’s usually heavily built. The AC shape is probably more suited to fingerstyle. Stock setup is actually very playable but I may lower the saddle a tad more.

More to come.

 

Yamaha LS16BC Billy Corgan

The new model LJ16BC announced at NAMM features special headstock inlays, inner label, brass pins and Gotoh tuners.

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The LJ shape has been the “quietest” in terms of popularity among the 3 body shapes in the L Series. Let’s hope this one can revive some interest, especially for players who feel the LL shape too big and unwieldy.

Guitarbear had the pleasure of playing all 3 L Series shapes extensively and it’s my guess that most players will either take the LS for fingerstyle and the LL for strumming and volume. The LJ sits between the two and is usually overlooked.

Although curvier than the LL, the LJ is still a big guitar as it has about the same body thickness. It is also slightly longer in its overall length since it has really round lower bout.

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Comes in vintage natural or burst finishes.

 

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*photos from Yamaha

Yamaha LL16M Rescue & Upgrade

Worked on this LL16M a couple of weeks back.

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The guitar came to me badly in need of help. The owner had brought it to a shop situated in our local guitar hub for a bone saddle & nut upgrade but it turned out to be a total nightmare.

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Here’s a look at the solid mahogany body. It’s less striking than the rosewood sibling, but I can tell you the mahogany is definitely a great tone wood.

According to the owner, the shop had installed saddle and nut that were off-specs. Saddle was too short (generic 72mm vs  Yamaha spec 75mm) and moved in the slot, nut was too narrow (generic 43mm vs Yamaha L Series spec 44mm) screwing up string spacing.

Here you can see that the nut has an allowance of about 1mm on ether side. This threw off all specs and feel of the LL16M neck.

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Guitarbear was appalled by the incident. Upon seeing the guitar, I feel very upset that someone would actually do that to nice guitar. If you don’t have the parts or the know-how/skills, please DON’T ruin other people’s guitar. 

Removing the blotched job and putting in the correct part. 

First step to this rescue operation was to remove this horrendous nut. Plenty of staged photos here, but how else could I show you? 🙂

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I used a hairdryer to heat up the glued area so that it’d be easier to remove the “cancerous object”.

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I used a small square chip board to gently tap out the nut. Again, this is a staged photo. 

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Plenty of glue residue. There must have been a huge wad of superglue used. Whoever he/she is, the person who worked on the guitar is a loser. I wouldn’t let this loser come near my guitars even if you pay me.

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Next I used 600 grit sandpaper to smooth out the nut slot for installation of new nut. You need to remove the glue residue to ensure a flat surface for the new nut.

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The owner had to go all the way to Yamaha service centre to buy a new nut. Although it’s a plastic part, it is far better than one that was off-specs.

See the comparison photo. The differences in string spread and size are obvious.

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Fast forward to show how much better the stock Yamaha nut looks and feel.

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This is the right way to do things.

Dropping in a bone saddle

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Time to shape a new bone saddle. Careful sanding and adjustments are done to get the best height and radius.

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Final sanding using 2000 grit to get that smooth finish.

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OK, we got a nice bone saddle installed. Owner also brought a set of bone pins for this.

Tip: Yamaha guitars use 75mm saddles, not 72mm.

Again, the same photo to show how important it is to have correct parts (dimensions) if you cannot craft them out from blanks.

Tip: Yamaha plastic nut for L series. 44mm, string spread is about 36-37mm.

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Final clean up with Bearclaw Special. Guitar was shiny and happy. Action set up just slightly under 5/64 inch at 12th fret capo on 1.

Super playability and great sounds. Roger is smiling.

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