Hello and welcome to my Yamaha A1M guitar review, the latest in a series of acoustics costing less than 1,000.
In this review I will cover the A1M’s:
- Sound qualities;
- Playability; and
- Value for money
The review will also include videos so that you can hear the guitar for yourself and links to user reviews from others that have played the guitar. My opinion is only one opinion so it’s a good idea to get a wide range of reviews to get a more accurate picture of what the guitar is like.
I will conclude by giving my opinion as to what type of guitarist this guitar is best suited to and how it compares to other guitars that I have reviewed in the same price range.
Right, let’s get straight into it!
The A1M’s Tone
Firstly I will discuss the materials of this guitar and how they will affect the tone of the instrument and also give my opinion as to what I thought of its tone.
Body Type: The A1M is a dreadnought acoustic. This is the most common type of acoustic guitar shape and is known for a boomy sound with good volume and a bass driven sound.
Unfortunately this guitar really didn’t really have that drive I would normally expect out of a dreadnought. It just felt there was something lacking or missing.
Top (soundboard): The A1M has a Solid Sitka Spruce top. This is the most popular choice for a top of an acoustic guitar – and for good reason, because it produces a great all round tone that picks up the tonal qualities across a broad tonal spectrum and expresses dynamics well.
Back & Sides: The back and sides are Mahogany laminate – though not solid wood, solid wood is not expected in this price range and if you are going to use laminate anywhere to save costs, the back and sides are the best place to do it (the top is more important tonally).
In some ways I feel more comfortable seeing laminate back and sides in this price range. Solid back and sides on a $600 guitar makes me a bit nervous – where have they had to save costs in the production process to allow for solid back and sides!
Neck wood: The neck is made from Mahogany – no complaints there. This is the standard for acoustic guitar necks and for good reason. More on the neck in the playability section below.
Bridge wood: The bridge is a more important part of the guitar for sound than you might think. The vibrations from the strings need to be transferred through the bridge to reach the soundboard which then amplifies that sound. If the bridge wood is not suitable then a lot of energy can be lost in that transfer, affecting the quality and volume of tone.
The A1M’s bridge is made from Ebony – this is a great material for bridges so this is a big tick.
Nut, saddle & Bridge Pins: I couldn’t for the life of me find out the materials used for the nut, saddle & bridge pins. I can never really tell from the naked eye. So if anyone knows the answer to this I’d love to know! (just leave a comment in the comments section below).
Unfortunately I suspect that it may be plastic as the Yamaha LL6 that I also tried in the same session uses plastic and it’s in the same price range. Though this is something that can be upgraded it adds to the cost and the effort you need to put in.
Check out these Videos to get an Idea of the Tone for Yourself
I found the tone of the A1M to be a tad too bright for my tastes but that’s a personal preference thing and may also be the way I play. This first video certainly highlights the brightness. Of course you never quite get the full appreciation of the sound from video but it’ll give you some idea.
This first video starts with the guy playing the guitar plugged in and it sounds even brighter than what it really does in real life. Make sure to listen to him play when he plays it unplugged (around 2:40 into the video) to get a better idea of the sound.
This second video seems to make the guitar sound better than it did for me in real life (which is usually the opposite) – it could be that I had some bad or old strings that day or something!
My biggest complaint was that bending and vibrato wasn’t the easiest on this guitar – though that probably has more to do with the how the action was setup than the guitar itself.
Action: The action was set up a little high for my taste. Of course this is something that can be adjusted (by yourself if you know what you’re doing or by a trained professional) so this definitely shouldn’t be a deal breaker.
Neck: The neck width at the nut is 1 11/16 inches (1.69 inches, 43mm). This is really the standard on acoustic guitars these days – at least certainly on dreadnought shaped acoustics.
In my opinion this is a really comfortable width but everyone has their own preference with this. Probably more suited to strumming than fingerpicking but still no problems finger picking with it.
The curve on the neck is also relatively shallow which is something that has certainly grown on me and can make for a nice playing experience – but again everyone has their own preference on this.
Fretboard (fingerboard): The fretboard is made from Rosewood. Certainly no complaints with rosewood.
Check out some user reviews at the links below. This will give you a better idea of a wider range of opinions on the instrument.
Other Features and Info
The A1M is part of Yamaha’s A series which also features a number of other models.
The M in the name stands for the Mahogany Laminate back and sides. If there is an R in the title it means the guitar has Rosewood back and sides and if it has a C in the title it means it’s in the concert size.
Namely the series includes:
- A1M (this review)
Most suitable for
The A1M is a pretty good all rounder for most players playing Rock, Pop, Blues, Country etc. It is of suitable quality to gig with and for recordings assuming it has the type of sound you are after.
If you have smaller hands this would also be a great guitar with that 43mm neck size and a fairly shallow curve in the neck.
It’s a dreadnought so it’s too big to be ideal for kids.
You get a solid sitka spruce top, ebony bridge and rosewood fretboard plus it is an electric acoustic so it’s all set up with SRT saddle pick up so it’s got some decent features for the price. I would say it is not a super bargain but it is definitely worth what you pay for it.
If you have no need for the pick-up then I would instead go for the Yamaha LL6 – it’s the same price – you don’t get the electronics but, in my opinion you get a better sound.
Compared to other Guitars in the Price Range
In the same session I also tried the Yamaha LL6 (as mentioned above) and the Martin GPCPA5K – the LL6 also with a $600 price-tag ($950 list price) and the Martin GPC with a $700 price-tag ($1100 list price).
If you need electronics then the LL6 won’t have that but if you don’t then I just preferred the tone that came out of it over the A1M – the playability is probably a bit nicer on the A1M though, but not by much.
Sound and playability-wise I preferred the Martin over both of the Yamaha’s – this does come down to personal preference but for me the Martin was a pleasure to play and sounded awesome – particularly for the price.
If you are interested in learning more about the A1M or if you want to research prices and availability check out the links below.
>>Yamaha A1M at Amazon.ca (Canada)
If you want to check out some other options in a similar price range check out Six String Acoustic’s top 5 guitars under 1,000 at the link below.
Over to You….
I hope this review has given you a better understanding of the tonality and playability as well as value for money and player suitability for the A1M and I hope it has helped in your research for a new guitar.
If you have played or own this guitar it’d be awesome to hear your thoughts on it and as always any other questions or comments also very welcome.