Yamaha Acoustic Guitar Review (2017): FG800 and 800 Series – Domo Arigato

yamaha acoustic guitar

Yamaha Acoustic Guitar Review (2017): FG800 and 800 Series – Domo Arigato

Yamaha Acoustic Guitar Overview – Yamaha FG800 Review (+ Full 800 Series)

yamaha fg800 reviewIf you’re looking for a Yamaha acoustic guitar, the Yamaha FG800 should be on your radar.

You’ll learn why it’s such a great value in this Yamaha FG800 review, offering excellent sound, tone and build quality. I’ll also provide detailed information about the full 800 Series, and the recent changes made to the Yamaha acoustic guitar sound.

Their acoustic guitars have been a popular choice by beginner and intermediate guitarists for many years.

The Yamaha 800 Series was released in early 2016 to replace their 700 Series of acoustic guitars.

And the FG800 is the direct replacement for the top-selling Yamaha FG700s, with a similar look, feel, sound and build.

However, some interesting upgrades were made.

Yamaha revamped the way they design their acoustic guitar tops, adding scalloped bracing to increase vibration for enhanced sound quality and volume, particularly in the low (bass) and mid-range. This type of bracing is a feature usually found on more expensive guitars.

The end result is a group of high-quality acoustic (and acoustic-electric) guitars with better sound at a similar price.

If you’ve got some time to read, you’ll find a lot of detailed information about the Yamaha FG800 below, along with full details about the 800 Series.

In a rush? Click Here to check the Bundle Price of a Yamaha FG800 Right Now (at Amazon).

If you looking for an acoustic guitar with great sound and price, check out my article on the 5 Best Acoustic Guitars Under $500.

And if you’re just starting out and wondering how to choose the right guitar for you, check out my detailed Best Beginner Guitar Guide.

Feel free to use the Contents Box below to click to a particular section, or just keep on reading.

Introduction

Odds are you’ve probably heard of Yamaha. It’s a huge company that manufactures a lot of different products, but one thing they’re well known for is making quality acoustic guitars. Many people don’t know that Yamaha actually started out making pianos and reed organs in the late 1800s. So they certainly have a long history of crafting musical instruments.

Yamaha created their FG line of acoustic guitars in the 1960s, and have manufactured over 200 different FG models over the years. This new line commemorates the 50th anniversary since the first affordable Yamaha acoustic guitar was introduced in 1966, the FG 180.

yamaha acoustic guitar

Photo by Pam loves pie under CC BY 2.0

For anyone seeking a quality acoustic guitar with a solid wood top at a low price, the Yamaha fg700s was a great fit for a long time, and was one of the best-selling acoustic guitars in the world for years. The reason is simple: it provided really good sound and build quality at a reasonable price, making it an excellent choice as a starter guitar that could be played through the intermediate level as well.

Many an aspiring guitarist first learned how to play on a Yamaha acoustic guitar.

The 800 Series guitars are made in China, but the factory is owned and operated by Yamaha, enabling them to control the production and keep quality standards high.

To get high-quality sound from an acoustic guitar, the most important factor by far is a solid wood top.

Most cheap guitars use laminated wood throughout the guitar’s design, including the top. This enables manufacturers to make and sell guitars at a cheaper price, using lower quality wood and requiring less attention to detail in the manufacturing process.

The problem is that laminated wood is quite stiff, resulting in less vibration of the guitar top. This leads to less resonance and volume, and a lower quality tone.

There are many cheap guitars out there, and some are even decent values that produce reasonably good sound like the Jasmine s35. Still, it’s just not the same without a solid top. A beginner may not notice a huge difference early on, but after playing for a while and developing an ear for guitar tone, it does become noticeable.

Ideally you would want an all solid wood guitar. However, these cost a lot more money, and if a compromise is needed to keep the costs down, using a partially laminated back and sides along with a solid wood top is the best way to do it.

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Yamaha 800 Series Overview

In early 2016, the 800 Series of Yamaha acoustic guitars was unveiled. It includes a group of full-size acoustic dreadnoughts available in a variety of tonewoods and colors (Yamaha FG Series), as well as a group of smaller “concert size” guitars with a thinner orchestra-style shape (Yamaha FS Series).

These are acoustic guitars, although several models also have an acoustic-electric version. I’ll break down the different options available below.

yamaha fg800 acoustic

Photo by Scott Ritchie under CC BY 2.0

Yamaha sent their Research and Development engineering team back to the drawing board in order to design this new guitar line.

They created software to analyze how a guitar’s bracing affects the sound created by the top, and used the results to maximize sound and tone quality.

These 800 Series guitars are certainly quite similar to the 700 Series (note that this line has now been discontinued).

The major difference of the new Yamaha acoustic guitar design is the use of a scalloped bracing pattern, a technique usually reserved for higher-end guitars.

The bracing is specifically contoured, resulting in a lighter guitar top with extra vibration. This gives you additional resonance, volume and sustain.

As a result of these modifications, the FG and FS 800 Series guitars have better overall tone, especially noticeable in the low and mid-ranges.

Due to the solid wood top, the tonal quality will continue to increase as the wood matures, helping these guitars retain their value, and sound even better over time.

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FG Series (Folk Guitar)

Yamaha FG800

The FG800 Yamaha acoustic guitar is the flagship model of the 800 Series (and the direct replacement for the popular Yamaha FG700s).

It’s a great acoustic guitar.

It’s a full-size dreadnought with a solid Sitka spruce wood top, and nato/okume laminate back and sides. Its nato wood neck is about average thickness, with a slightly smaller nut width for an easier grip than the neck found on a competitor like the Seagull S6.

All guitars in the 800 Series include a rosewood fingerboard and bridge.

yamaha fg800 review

Yamaha FG800: Click the Pic to Check Price on Amazon

Sound and Tone

The Yamaha FG800 is a fun guitar to play with excellent volume and projection. It stays in tune quite well, and is good for both finger playing and strumming chords.

The scalloped bracing helps give these guitars a unique character, and they now have a more balanced overall sound than their predecessors, which tended to be a little weak in the mid-range. The bass response is improved as well, now louder and punchier.

The FG800 can sound a little bright at times, but has a clear, rich, mellow tone overall.

It has more of a live, open feel to the sound than that of the Yamaha FG700s.

The enhanced sound and projection make this guitar a serious contender in this price range.

This video will give you a quick listen to the Yamaha FG800’s quality sound:

Build and Design

The Yamaha FG800 acoustic guitar has a traditional look: nothing fancy, just simple and pretty. Of course, there are quite a few different finish options available, so you should be able to find the right look for you.

It’s a full-size dreadnought with a scale length of 25.5” and a nut width of 1.69”. It has 20 frets and die-cast chrome tuners. The nut and saddle are made with urea (a type of plastic). While they sound good as is, you can upgrade them for a slight uptick in overall sound quality if desired.

The body finish is gloss, while the neck has a matte finish, making your hands less likely to “stick”. It also includes an attractive black binding.

The action is set a little high for some people. These guitars are playable right out of the box, although having the guitar “set up” may make it sound even better and easier to play, depending on your personal preferences. It’s a great guitar as is, but a few tweaks can make it sound even better. Just something to keep in mind for down the road.

A minor complaint from some guitarists is that there is no dot on the 3rd fret.

The main finish style used for the FG800 is called Natural, and it’s a simple traditional look. The FG800 is also available in the following finish options:

  • Black
  • Sand Burst
  • Vintage Tint

 Yamaha FG800 vs FG700s

yamaha fg800 vs fg700s

Photo from Pixabay

The FG800 replaced the FG700s in early 2016. They are very similar in terms of size, design, and overall sound.

As discussed previously, due to the addition of scalloped bracing, the FG800 has improved bass and mid-range response, plus increased volume and projection. There is also more of an openness to the sound than heard in the FG700s. The neck design has been tweaked a little bit as well.

If you have a Yamaha FG700s in good shape, you don’t need to go rushing out to replace it. They are still quality guitars that sound good and are well-built.

But if you’re comparing the two, the Yamaha FG800 is a better sounding guitar.

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Yamaha FG800m

The regular FG800 has a gloss body finish, and matte neck. Yamaha also makes an all-matte version of this guitar as well, the Yamaha FG800m. It’s got a thin natural satin matte finish. Same guitar, just a slightly different look and feel.

Yamaha FG820

yamaha acoustic guitar

Yamaha FG820 Sunset Blue – Click Pic to Check Price

The FG820 is a direct replacement for the FG720. These additional models discussed below are all quite similar to the FG800 (except for the 850), using the same solid Sitka spruce top and rosewood fingerboard and bridge, with equal size and the same components. The main difference is the type of wood used to construct the guitar’s back and sides.

For example, the FG820 has laminate mahogany back and sides (rather than nato/okume found on the FG800). It’s also got cream plastic binding along the body and fingerboard.

The use of mahogany gives the guitar a slightly warmer sound.

The FG820 is available in the following finish styles:

  • Natural
  • Black
  • Autumn Burst
  • Brown Sunburst
  • Sunset Blue

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Yamaha FG830

yamaha fg830

Yamaha FG830 Autumn Burst – Click Pic to Check Price

Like the 800 and 820, the Yamaha FG830 (which replaces the fg730) is a full-size dreadnought with the solid Sitka spruce top and the same features and size.

It’s main selling point is the laminate rosewood back and sides, providing rich, lush overtones and better sustain.

Rosewood is a little more “spongy” than other types of wood, and generally doesn’t have much internal dampening, leading to richer overtones and a more complex bottom end.

Strumming sounds just a little richer overall. It’s got more fullness and depth to the sound for both chords and single note playing, and a slightly darker tone.

The FG830 just sounds great.

It has cream binding around the body, neck and headstock as well, giving it a nice classy look.

It’s available in the following styles:

  • Natural
  • Autumn Burst
  • Tobacco Brown Sunburst

Yamaha FG840

The FG840 (which replaces the FG740) is similar to the other guitars we have already discussed, with the same, size, shape, features and solid spruce top.

The key difference here is the use of flamed maple laminate for the back and sides. This provides a more transparent balanced sound, where each note is clear and concise for picking or strumming. It also has a little less sustain than most of these other models.

The 840 also has cream binding on the body, neck and headstock, and is available in just one finish: Natural.

Yamaha FG850

Yamaha FG850 Mahogany – Click Pic to Check Price

Last but not least is the Yamaha FG850.

This one is new to the Yamaha acoustic guitar FG Series, and does not replace anything in the 700 Series.

Same size and shape as the others, but this guitar has a solid mahogany wood top in addition to its laminate mahogany back and sides.

The binding is mahogany and cream, giving the 850 a pretty contrast and awesome look.

This guitar has a more woody sound than the Yamaha FG800, with oodles of warmth. The tone is particularly rich in the mid-range.

The only finish option here is Natural Mahogany.

Yamaha FG820-12 (12-String)

The FG820 guitar (with a solid spruce top and mahogany back and sides) also has a 12-string (right handed) version available, with a bright, rich tone and excellent clarity.

Natural is the only finish option available.

Yamaha FG820L (Lefthanded)

There is also a Lefthanded version of the regular Yamaha FG820 available. Only available in Natural finish.

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FS Series (Folk Smallbody)

yamaha fs800 review

Yamaha FS800 Sand Burst – Click Pic to Check Price on Amazon

The dreadnought is the most popular acoustic guitar size on the market, and has been for many years. However, some people prefer smaller guitars that are easier to hold and play, and that also have a slightly less boomy overall sound (typical of most dreadnoughts).

If that interests you, you may be interested in an FS concert-size Yamaha acoustic guitar instead. There are currently 4 choices available. These FS guitars are smaller in width and depth than the FG guitars, with an orchestra -style body shape (instead of the dreadnought).

These uniquely designed guitars actually have a shallower depth in the upper bout than the lower bout, making them even easier to wrap your arms around. And the fit and finish is outstanding.

The sounds are similar between the FG and FS guitars, but with some subtle differences. The larger dreadnoughts are by default louder, brighter and boomier. The FS800 is a smaller guitar, but still noticeably louder than the FS700 thanks to the new scalloped bracing design. Just like the FG guitars, these smaller FS models feature improved bass and mid-range sound, and a little extra volume.

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Yamaha FS800

The FS guitars are extremely similar to the FG models in their construction, other than the reduced size. The scale length is only slightly smaller at 25” (compared to 25.5” for the FG’s), and the nut width is the same at 1.69”. The FS800 body is 10mm thinner than the old FS700.

The Yamaha FS800 is made with a Sitka spruce solid top, nato/okume back & sides, and rosewood bridge and fingerboard. It has a nato wood neck with matte finish, and gloss finish on the guitar body itself. It also features die-cast chrome tuners, black binding, and urea nut and saddle.

The FS800 is a great choice for beginners, and people with small frames, or anyone who just prefers a smaller guitar body. They are also a great fit for intermediate to upper-level guitarists who enjoy finger-picking in the upper level frets of the guitar.

It has a smooth, balanced sound and focused tone, with a rich mid-range. It can be used for anything from practicing to live performances to recording.

The FS800 is available with these finish options:

  • Natural
  • Sand Burst
  • Vintage Tint

Yamaha FS820

The FS820 is quite similar to the FS800, with the same features and design elements. The main difference here is the laminate mahogany back and sides (instead of nato/okume back and sides), providing a little added warmth to the sound.

The 820 is available with these finish options:

  • Natural
  • Black
  • Autumn Burst
  • Ruby Red
  • Turquoise

Yamaha FS830

yamaha acoustic guitar

Yamaha FS830 Dusk Sun Red – Click Pic to Check Price

The FS830 is the only 800 Series guitar available in a cool Dusk Sun Red color. The main difference here is the use of rosewood laminate back and sides. Like the FG830, this guitar has a full deep sound with a great rich tone, and lots of sustain. Just a really cool vibe.

Finish choices are:

  • Natural
  • Tobacco Brown Sunburst
  • Dusk Sun Red

*** Note that there is no FS version of the FG840 flamed maple guitar.

Yamaha FS850

Like the FG850, the FS850 has a solid mahogany wood top (rather than a solid spruce top found on the other models), and mahogany laminate back and sides.

Great look, warm woody sound.

Shines for fingerpicking.

Available only in Natural finish.

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Yamaha FGX / FSX (Acoustic-Electric)

Yamaha FSX800C – Click Pic to Check Price

Yamaha also created acoustic-electric versions of all of their 800, 820 and 830 FG and FS guitar models. They all have a cutaway to provide easier access to the upper frets.

These guitars are exactly the same as the acoustic versions, but with added electronics (and the cutaway).

The decision basically comes down to the type of wood you prefer for the guitar’s back and sides: nato for the 800’s, mahogany for the 820s, or rosewood for the 830s.

Like everything else about this guitar line, the electronics used here are good quality and provide excellent value for this price, incorporating a System66 + SRT (Under-Saddle) piezo pickup. The system includes a 3-band EQ and chromatic tuner, and is powered by AA-batteries.

If you’re looking to amplify your dreadnought sound, you can purchase a Yamaha FGX800C (available in Natural, Black, Sand Burst), FGX820C (Natural or Black) or FGX830C (Natural, Black).

If you prefer the smaller concert-size guitar instead, choose either a Yamaha FSX800C (Natural, Sand Burst, Ruby Red), FSX820C (Natural, Brown Sunburst) or FSX830C (Natural, Brown Sunburst).

Pros (FG800)

  • amazing price
  • full rich sound
  • solid wood top
  • good projection
  • articulate
  • consistent
  • fun to play
  • good feel
  • stays in tune

Cons (FG800)

  • action is a little high
  • no dot on 3rd fret

Verdict

With the 800 Series, Yamaha has successfully created a group of guitars that significantly out-perform the price.

The Yamaha FG800 is not an expensive guitar, but it kinda looks and sounds like one.

You could decide down the road to check out more premium options, but you won’t need to upgrade for quite a while.

yamaha acoustic guitar

Photo by Jeremy Jenum under CC BY 2.0

A Yamaha acoustic guitar has been a great beginner guitar for years. And the Yamaha FG800 checks off all the boxes; it’s got great sound, quality build, and a reasonable price. It’s also got that solid wood top that will enhance the sound and continue to improve over time (just like your guitar skills).

Advanced players will notice subtle differences between the 800 Series guitars and more expensive ones, but they are still quality guitars in all aspects and a solid investment as a second option or travel guitar.

There are cheaper guitars out there that are decent values. And there are more expensive guitars out there that provide better overall quality.

But when you take everything into consideration, including the smart design, enhanced sound, quality build, solid wood top, and price, the Yamaha FG800 is one of the best guitar values out there.

Like Godzilla rampaging through Tokyo, Yamaha’s new 800 Series guitars may prove to be unstoppable in this price range.

This is a guitar you’ll want to keep around for a very long time.

Final Word: Amazing Value.

Note: There is currently a bundle deal available where you get the guitar plus a gig bag, instructional DVD, and a bunch of accessories (strings, picks, tuner, etc.) for a similar price as the guitar itself.

With apologies to James Bond … You only live once!

Click Here to check out the Yamaha FG800 on Amazon for the latest price and any available discounts.

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