Yamaha L Series Acoustic Guitars Overview

Published Categorized as Brand Spotlight, Yamaha
Yamaha L Series

Hello and welcome to my overview of the Yamaha L Series Acoustic Guitars.

Yamaha’s L Series guitars are Yamaha’s top line of acoustic guitars.

There’s a huge range in price between the guitars in this series – with the LS6M ARE coming in at $710 USD MSRP (Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price) and the LL56 Custom ARE priced at more than 10 times that at $7,299 USD MSRP.

But there’s also a big divide in quality – not that the lower end of this range aren’t quality guitars because they certainly are. Yamaha are great at producing decent guitars at a low price – especially the really well priced FG series.

Table of Contents

The Guitars in the Yamaha L Series

O.k. let’s take a look at all the guitars in the series and then we’ll take a look at each one individually. There are a total of 17 different guitars in the L Series. Though they all have similarities, of course.

  • LL6M ARE
  • LL6 ARE
  • LL16M ARE
  • LL16ARE
  • LL16D ARE
  • LL16L ARE
  • LL16-12 ARE
  • LL26 ARE
  • LL36 ARE
  • LL56 Custom ARE
  • LS6M ARE
  • LS6 ARE
  • LS16M ARE
  • LS16 ARE
  • LS26 ARE
  • LS36 ARE
  • LS56 Custom ARE

Before we continue let’s take a look at what these names mean to make it a bit clearer.

  1. L = L Series
  2. The second letter is the size. An “L” signifies a full sized Jumbo model and the “S” signifies the smaller bodied model
  3. The numbers after the first two letters signify the model. The higher the number the more high spec the model. So there’s 6, 16, 26, 36 and 56.
  4. The letter after the number (if any) means various things (see the individual guitar below)
  5. Finally the ARE stands for Acoustic Resonance Enhancement. This is a process that Yamaha put their tonewoods through that is supposed to improve the tone of the wood and make the woods sound like guitars that have been played for years (and improved over the years) but right off the shelf. All of the L series are now ARE models.

O.k. with that out of the way let’s take a look at an overview of each guitar individually.

All models have an Solid Engelmann Spruce top – learn more about Engelmann as compared with Sitka.

All prices are in USD.

LL6M ARE – MSRP $710

  • L: L Series
  • L: Full Jumbo Size/Shape
  • 6: First level model in L series
  • M: Laminate Mahogany Back/Sides
  • ARE: Acoustic Resonance Enhancement

The LL6M ARE, along with its smaller bodied counterpart (LS6M ARE), is the lowest priced model.

The LL6M ARE features:

  • Body Shape/Size: Jumbo
  • Solid Engelmann Spruce Top
  • Laminate Mahogany Back and Sides
  • Non-Scalloped X Bracing
  • Mahogany and Rosewood 5 ply Neck
  • Rosewood Fingerboard
  • 650 mm (25 9/16″) scale length
  • 44m (1 3/4″) nut width
  • Plastic Nut
  • Rosewood Bridge with plastic saddle
  • Plastic Bridge Pins
  • Cutaway: No Cutaway
  • Electronics: SRT Zero Impact Pickup

The biggest disappointment for me with Yamaha guitars is the plastic nut and saddle and bridge pins. I’d definitely change the saddle and bridge pins on this guitar as the first thing I’d do. The nut isn’t as important for tone so I might not change this straight away (and it’s harder to change).

These are already great sounding guitars but they should improve even more with a Bone, TUSQ, NuBone, Micarta etc saddle in place of the plastic ones that come with the guitar.

LL6 ARE – MSRP $820

The LL6 ARE is virtually the same as the LL6M ARE except that it has laminate rosewood back/sides.

(Full Review of the LL6 ARE)

  • L: L Series
  • L: Full Jumbo Size/Shape
  • 6: First level model in L series
  • ARE: Acoustic Resonance Enhancement

The main choice between the LL6 ARE and the LL6M ARE comes down to sound and looks preferences. Because the back/sides are laminate they won’t make as much difference as if they were solid woods but will still make a difference.

A lot of people prefer the sound and look of rosewood. But you pay extra for it. And some definitely prefer the Mahogany sound. But, again, this difference will be relatively subtle but noticeable.

The LL6 ARE also comes in a few different finish options – Natural, Black, Brown Sunburst and Dark Tinted (see image), whereas the LL6M ARE only comes in natural. So if you prefer a different finish to natural, then the LL6 ARE can accommodate that.

LL16M ARE – MSRP $1,099

The most significant difference between the LL16M and the LL6M is that that the LL16M has Solid Mahogany back and sides in place of the Laminate back and sides. This is a significant difference though.

  • L: L Series
  • L: Full Jumbo Size/Shape
  • 16: Second level model in L series
  • M: Solid Mahogany Back/Sides
  • ARE: Acoustic Resonance Enhancement

The other differences are that the LL16M:

  • Has an ebony fingerboard in place of the Rosewood fingerboard on the LL6M
  • Has an ebony bridge in place of the Rosewood bridge on the LL6M

LL16 ARE – MSRP $1,310

The major difference between the LL16 ARE and the LL16M ARE is that the LL16 has Solid Rosewood back and sides (compared to the LL16M which has solid mahogany and the LL6 which has laminate rosewood).

  • L: L Series
  • L: Full Jumbo Size/Shape
  • 16: Second level model in L series (solid Rosewood Back and Sides)
  • ARE: Acoustic Resonance Enhancement

The only other difference between this and the LL16M is that the LL16 has an option of the following finishes:

  • Natural
  • Brown Sunburst (see image)
  • Dark Tinted

Whereas the LL16M is only available in natural.

Because the back and sides of the 16 models are solid wood, they do make a larger difference to the tone. So the major decision between the LL16M and the LL16 is which one you like the sound of better.

The LL16M will produce a warmer earthier, stronger mid-range tone, due to the Mahogany, whereas the LL16 will produce a brighter tone with more overtones and more pronounced bass and brighter treble.

LL16D ARE – MSRP $1,575

The LL16D ARE is essentially the same as the LL16 ARE. The only real difference being the Abolone inlay work around the guitar. This inlay is around the soundhole and the body of the guitar.

  • L: L Series
  • L: Full Jumbo Size/Shape
  • 16: Second level model in L series (solid Rosewood Back and Sides)
  • D: Abolone inlay
  • ARE: Acoustic Resonance Enhancement

The LL16D ARE is available in natural and black (see image).

The main decision between this and the LL16 ARE is whether you are willing to pay an extra $265 (though this is MSRP and you’ll likely pay less in real life) for the inlay. Or if you really want the LL16 ARE but in black.

LL16L ARE – MSRP $1,420

This is the left-handed version of the LL16. Everything about the guitar is the same as the LL16 except that it’s left-handed.

  • L: L Series
  • L: Full Jumbo Size/Shape
  • 16: Second level model in L series (solid Rosewood Back and Sides)
  • L: Left handed model
  • ARE: Acoustic Resonance Enhancement

LL16-12 ARE – MSRP $1,420

As you can probably guess from the name, the LL16-12 is the 12 string version of the LL16.

It otherwise uses the same materials. The only other difference is the wider neck – 46 mm (1 13/16″) – which is necessary to house 12 strings. It also has a shorter scale length – 634 mm (25″).

  • L: L Series
  • L: Full Jumbo Size/Shape
  • 16: Second level model in L series (solid Rosewood Back and Sides)
  • 12: 12 String Model
  • ARE: Acoustic Resonance Enhancement

LL26 ARE – MSRP $4,025

Now we move onto the more exclusive models, and more expensive, starting with the LL26 ARE.

  • L: L Series
  • L: Full Jumbo Size/Shape
  • 26: Third level model in L series (solid Rosewood Back and Sides)
  • ARE: Acoustic Resonance Enhancement

As far as I can tell, the only real differences between this and the LL16 are:

  • The Looks – Vintage look
  • Better tuners

So your decision hinges on whether or not you are willing to pay the extra $2,715 for that, I admit that the LL26 looks nicer but I wouldn’t pay that much for better looks personally, but each to their own.

Without having played the 2 guitars side by side I can’t say if there’s any difference in sound for sure, but based on the specs there wouldn’t be.

LL36 ARE – MSRP $4,850

The LL36 ARE is even better looking than the LL26 ARE – but it also has something extra in the construction and the materials used to enhance the sound.

  • L: L Series
  • L: Full Jumbo Size/Shape
  • 36: Fourth level model in L series (solid Indian Rosewood Back and Sides)
  • ARE: Acoustic Resonance Enhancement

The LL36 uses Solid Indian Rosewood back and sides as opposed to the “Rosewood” used on the other models. What this means is unclear because the type of rosewood is not specified for the other models. There are several types of Rosewood so it’s unclear when they just say “Rosewood” But at least we know that the LL36 has Indian Rosewood.

The assumption is that the quality of the Rosewood on the LL36 is higher. They also mention that the guitar is crafted using the craftman’s skill only previously reserved for the custom shop – whatever that means. But at least it sounds like you are getting a bit more for your money with the LL36 ARE than you are with the LL26 ARE (IMHO).

The other differences between the LL36 and LL26 are:

  • Different tuners (not the vintage ones on the LL26 but a higher quality than on the LL16)
  • Nitrocellulose Lacquer finish
  • Inlay design

LL56 Custom ARE – MSRP $7,299

If you want the ultimate in the L series line-up and you have the cash to splash, then we finally come to the LL56 Custom ARE.

  • L: L Series
  • L: Full Jumbo Size/Shape
  • 56: Fifth (highest) level model in L series (solid Indian Rosewood Back and Sides)
  • ARE: Acoustic Resonance Enhancement

it’s not obvious really how this model differs from the LL36, except in looks. However, what stands this apart, apparently, is that it’s made by a master luthier who hand selects the materials. Which I can only assume means that the woods selected are the best that the luthier can find.

If so, then this could make a reasonable difference to the sound quality of the guitar – one piece of Engelmann Spruce can differ quite a bit from another and the same goes for the selection of the Rosewood.

But Yamaha don’t necessarily do a good job, in my opinion, of selling what you pay such a large extra cost for.

I think the only way to be really sure would be to try this against the LL36, the LL26 and the LL16 to see if the difference in sound and looks and feel is worth paying the extra for. Of course, I don’t know too many that would order a $7,000 guitar before trying it in person!

The LS models

Each of the above guitars, except for the 12 string model, the “D” model and the Left-handed model, are also available in Yamaha’s “Small Body” type.

The smaller body versions will produce a different tone and have a different feel – but are made using the same materials as their Jumbo counterparts.

Thanks for Reading

So there you have an overview of Yamaha’s L Series acoustic guitars.

If you are interested in these guitars your decision on which one to go with will mostly depend on Budget and whether you prefer the sound of Mahogany or Rosewood back and sides.

By Nate Pallesen

Nate is just your average (above average) guitar player. He's no Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page - wait this site is about acoustic guitars (sorry) He's no Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, or Michael Hedges, wait? who!? He's no Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton or Ben Harper - more familiar? Anyway you get the point :-)

4 comments

  1. Hi,

    Thanks for your explaning all the differences helped a lot,
    unfortunate prices in Europe are higher then the US,
    my preference goes for the LL16 ARE, think I will bye that one, I like strumming
    the most and I think this is a good choice, again nice site !

  2. thanks for all the info.I have the ll16are and am quite pleased with it,but like you stated the plastic saddle has to go.Will replace with bone soon,also the action is way too high anyway, for my liking.

  3. Also the LL26 is made by a single luthier and in Japan so the quality of this guitar is second to none the LL16 is made in China.

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