Yamaha F335 – Can You Do Better For This Price Range?

The Yamaha F335 costs around $160 USD but is it really the best you can get for that money? That’s what we’ll find out soon enough.

Whether you came in here because you are shopping for your first guitar, or you are looking for an alternative battle-style guitar that you can take to parties or camping vacations while your nicer guitars sit safely at home or the studio; I’m going to give you the works on what’s good and what’s not so good about this guitar. I’m also going to talk about some other options in the same price-range.

Picking a budget or entry-level guitar could be based entirely on price, but it may be a bit harder than it looks if you look at the wide-variety of cheap acoustic guitars out there. Also, as you’ll find out, there is a very fine line between a cheap guitar that you’ll seldom play due to its bad sound and a good guitar that is ridiculously low-priced for its value.

So, let’s take a closer look at the Yamaha F335 and, more importantly, how it compares to other widely-available acoustic guitars with similar prices.

Dimensions and Specs

We’ll start with some general stuff. The Yamaha F335 is what you call a “dreadnought” shaped guitar. This is simply the name for that style of guitar body, which was originally designed by C. F. Martin and Company. It was a way of making an acoustic guitar louder and was thus adopted quickly by bluegrass and folk musicians who often shouted over their guitar playing. So it had to be loud. All of the guitars we’ll compare in this review are shaped like this.

The F335 is 1029 mm long and 412 mm wide. It features a combination of woods that, as well as the dimensions, is a constant throughout Yamaha’s F series (like the discontinued F310). It has a laminated Spruce top, Rosewood fingerboard and the back and sides are Meranti. It also features a Tortoiseshell pickguard that makes it more visually appealing.

The finishes are not very good though, as a lot of users report to it looking blemished all too quickly and feeling relatively cheap. When being played, it does have a plastic-like feel due to the Meranti in the back and sides. It also features 20 frets, gloss finishes and gold tuners. Although it doesn’t feel that great in construction, the closed-back tuners do stay in tune after several uses, for several days. The F335 is only acoustic and thus features no controls and no on-board tuner.

In case you are looking for a certain and more precise spec, here’s the full list:

F335: Guitar Dimensions and Specifications

Body Shape- Traditional Western

Scale Length- 634mm (25”)

Body Length- 505mm (19 7/8″)

Total Length- 1029mm (40 1/2″)

Body Width- 412mm (16 1/4″)

Body Depth- 96-116mm (3 13/16″ – 4 9/16″)

Nut Width- 43mm (1 11/16”)

String Spacing- * 10.0mm

Top Material- Spruce

Back Material- Tropical Tonewood/Meranti **

Side Material- Tropical Tonewood/Meranti **

Neck Material- Nato or Mahogany

Fingerboard Material- Rosewood

Fingerboard Radius- R400mm

Bridge Material- Rosewood

Nut Material- Urea

Saddle Material- Urea

Bridge Pins- Black ABS

Tuners- Die-cast Gold(TM-29G)

Body Binding- Cream + Black

Soundhole Inlay- Decal

Pickguard- Tortoise Pattern (Black for BL color)

Body Finish- Gloss

Neck Finish- Matt

Electronics- None

Controls- None

Connections- None

Strings- .012/.016/.025(or.024)/.033(.032)/.043(.042)/.053(.052)

Accessories- Hex Wrench

* Measured from the center of one bridge pin to the center of the next bridge pin

** To minimize waste and support sustainable procurement, various species of tropical tonewoods are used based on availability, according to the manufacturer.

Colors

As to available colors, Yamaha did appear to go ambitious on this. It’s available in its natural wood finish, tobacco brown sunburst and solid black. In all versions, the fretboard, neck and head materials are unaltered.

Sound

While I believe that a good guitar player can make any guitar sound decent, there are definitely better sounding guitars that you can get for this kind of money. The F335 has a buzzy quality when played harder, which is almost like it had a natural overdriven sound. In other words, it strangely doesn’t sound as clean as an acoustic guitar should sound when strumming chords.

When being finger-picked, there is an evident lack of sustain. This means some notes are lost in the air and there is definitely an imbalance between the loudness of the low notes and the high notes. This is something somewhat present in all instruments, usually solved with a compressor, but an acoustic guitar should definitely aim for a good balance in that department. Unfortunately, this is something that the F335 doesn’t appear to deliver.

So perhaps I’m being a bit harsh, but I would hate for you to be disappointed with your purchase. If you are starting out with the guitar, it is very important to have a decent-sounding instrument even if you are not too serious about it. Maybe you don’t have plans of recording, but a comfortable instrument that is nice to the ear will definitely make each practice session more pleasurable, and thus something that you’ll do more frequently.

But if the Yamaha F335 is not the best option despite its very attractive price, which guitar is? Let’s get into some comparisons then.

Comparisons

The F335 vs. The FG700S

Yamaha’s pricier “entry” level version is not precisely a beginner’s guitar.

Some people refer to this guitar as the most popular instrument for beginners in the US. Strangely, Yamaha didn’t exactly devise it as an instrument for beginners. That’s what the F series is for. On the contrary, the FG and FS series were Yamaha’s very successful attempts of proving that a good-sounding guitar can be also very low in cost.

Naturally, the FG700S has features that are “deluxe” compared to the F335’s. The top is solid Sitka spruce. This is a slightly better sounding wood than the laminated Spruce on the F335 and is also a standard for more pricey guitars like Taylors. The fingerboard is Rosewood and the back and sides are Nato. It also features that nice-looking Tortoiseshell pickguard.

Perhaps the only thing were the this guitar falls short from the F335 is on the color availability, as it’s only made in its natural finish and a beautiful “Sandburst” coloring that looks poetic and dark. There’s no Full Black for this one.

As to the sound, the FG700S definitely delivers a much more precise, smooth and playful sound than the F335. With the latter, it takes a bit of an effort to make it sound good. You have to look harder for the spots where it sounds at least decent, depending on where you pick for example. With the FG700s it pretty much sounds good wherever you play it. That way you can focus on how you want it to sound as opposed to barely getting by. Also, sustain is much more solid on this one. You can hear for yourself in this video review.

The price though. I hate to tell you that although both the F335 and the FG700S are constantly referred to as Yamaha’s “Entry level” or “beginner” guitars, the FG starts at $325. I can tell you that due to the amount of time that you’ll be able to use it (regardless of how advanced you are or how frequently you play it) the double price is certainly worth it. You’ll end up with something that you won’t necessarily outgrow, and at least will be probably easier to sell (as it has a better reputation) in case you decide that this guitar thing isn’t for you after all. If the price thing is still an issue though, you can always try to find a used one in good condition. I’ve heard of people getting lucky and finding them for around $150 USD.

But hey, there are always other guitars that we can look at. Let’s continue.

Yamaha F335 vs. Fender FA100

These two guitars are like mirrored images of the same concept. Here’s a thorough comparison and a mini-review on the FA100.

The FA100 is good old Fender’s direct competitor of the Yamaha F335. It’s Fender’s cheapest acoustic guitar that is also often sold as a package including guitar picks, a strap and other amenities for the beginning player. This guitar, although it can rely heavily on the name that Fender provides, has very similar problems to the F335.

It’s made out of laminated Spruce on the top and laminated Agathis on the sides and back. A laminated whole body. Not a good sign. This one’s also a dreadnought shaped guitar, the fretboard is standard Rosewood and some parts, like the bridge and nut, are synthetic. This is more prone to get worn out fast and thus make it hard to adjust the guitar. That in case you want to alter the action of the strings or other personal improvements.

Due to the similar, even seemingly cheaper construction on the FA100, its sound falls very short as well. When strummed, it is hard to distinguish the individual notes on each chord and it also lacks sustain when being finger-picked. Even one-string riffs sound sort of flat, which makes me think the body is not very resonant. If you take a look at some forums or reviews, a lot of people consider this guitar something of a toy.

But! Here’s the thing, it’s usually less than $150 USD. That’s seriously very little money for a guitar. It won’t make you very happy for long though. If you’re into Fender, I’d recommend looking into the DG series or the CD-60’s.

F335 vs Epiphone DR-100

Epiphone’s version of the “beginner” guitar is a surprisingly good sounding guitar, cheaper and even better-constructed than the F335.

But unto another brand now. Epiphone, as another big player in the instrument market, most certainly has its own acoustic guitar to compete with the F335 and the FA100. The DR100 from Epiphone is also a dreadnought with a laminated Spruce top. The back, sides and neck of the DR100 are full Mahogany and the fretboard is rosewood as well.

So even from the woods on the sides and back you can begin to see a difference in quality from the F335 and the FA100. When holding this guitar and playing it becomes much more evident. The plastic, even toy-like feel of the F335 isn’t present with this guitar. It feels a bit more solid and comfortable to hold, but not as nice and delicate as with more expensive guitars. At a glance, it looks like it can sustain some abuse while still delivering a good sound.

That’s where it does shine apart from the Fender and Yamaha counterparts. It’s not only shaped like a dreadnought but it plays like a dreadnought too. That means it is loud as dreadnought should be. The sound, although not incredible, is warm, inviting and quite manageable. It is overall a fun guitar to play even if it doesn’t feel expensive.

At the beginning of this review, we talked about how these guitars are usually good either for beginners or more experienced players that want a guitar to move around with. This would be a perfect description of the Epiphone DR-100. At $120, even cheaper than the F335 and FA100, it’s a very good sounding guitar for the ridiculously low price.

One last piece of beauty from this guitar is that it’s little components are also much more well-crafted. The bridge is not synthetic, but pure rosewood, it also has nickel hardware like most Epiphones. Thus, some users have reported that it’s much more friendly towards adjustments. This means you can get the action on the strings just the way you want it.

Verdict

While there are many guitars for beginners that aren’t on this list, I believe these are some of the most popular examples that also come from the widely-distributed major companies. Since the main idea was to review the Yamaha F335 and see how it compared to other similar guitars, I chose to focus on those 3. The verdict is very clear though. The F335 is not the best guitar you can get for less than $150, and it is also not the best beginner/entry-level guitar you can get from Yamaha.

Nevertheless, choosing an acoustic guitar is always a very personal thing. If possible, I would recommend playing these guitars and simply seeing which one feels better. If you’re a beginner there’s a chance that a lot of the info you see on reviews on wood types, dimensions and specs doesn’t make much sense. But actually playing the guitar to see if it feels good to you as something you’d like to do frequently, that should be the ultimate test.

My two cents are that if you’re willing to invest a little bit more on your first guitar or your “travel” guitar, then the Yamaha FG700S is clearly the best bet. Out of this list, it’s the only one that is not actually manufactured with the intent of being a “beginner” guitar. From the manufacturer’s perspective, it can certainly stand up against other more pricey or “made for professional use” guitars.

But professional use is always something subjective. You can find lots of pros that use the Epiphone DR-100 despite of its “beginner” status. When something sounds good, it simply sounds good. That’s why, if you are definitely not willing to spend more than $200 USD on your next guitar buy, the DR-100 is the choice for you. It’s just crazy that it’s the cheapest guitar on this list. On a price/quality basis, this is definitely the best guitar on this review.

As always, let me know if you have any questions and thanks for reading!

Roy
 

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