2017 Yamaha FG700S Review: How Good Is It Really?
Man oh man. The FG700S. It’s constantly referred to as one of the most popular guitars in the world.
Is being popular even a good thing?
It certainly depends in what you want from a guitar. So rather than sticking with the buzz and not being entirely sure of what you’re getting, we’ll do a proper dissection of its many qualities here.
But even if you are already set to purchase the FG700S because of its fantastic reputation and super-affordable price, you may be confused when learning about its many variations. As of 2016, there’s a FG800s. It’s supposed to be the same guitar with a minor upgrade. There are also FG720S’s, FG730S’s, the FS700S from the rather similar FS line. Not to mention the similarly priced acoustic guitars from other brands other than Yamaha.
So where to go? We’ve compiled a rather extensive list of suitable comparisons in this review. This will help you understand if the FG700S or one of its many variations is the guitar for you. Even if you’ve already pulled the trigger on one of the guitar models we will discuss here, you’ll also find a comprehensible explanation of what sets each of these guitars apart from the other.
Let’s look into it…
Table of Contents
- Click here for a great deal on the FG700S
- FG700S: Guitar Dimensions and Size
- Sound and Playability
- The Price
- Yamaha FG700S vs. FG800S
- Yamaha FG700S vs FG700MS
- Yamaha FG700S vs FG720S
- Yamaha FG700S vs FG730S
- Yamaha FG700S vs FS700S and FS720S
- FG700S vs Fender CD-60
- Yamaha FG700S vs. Takamine G340
Let’s start with a little reminder of the ideas behind the super popular FG and FS series of Yamaha acoustic guitars. Both series were introduced in 1966 with the hopes of creating great acoustic guitars that didn’t cost a fortune. It wasn’t necessarily devised as a guitar for beginners, simply a good guitar that could also be inexpensive.
Hence its popularity with beginners. Guitars from this series have been in production for more than 40 years, taking different shapes and forms in the process.
The Yamaha FG700S is probably the least-expensive acoustic guitar that you can get with a solid top. While the back and sides are laminated Nato, the top is solid Sitka Spruce. The neck is Nato as well and the fingerboard is Rosewood.
It usually comes in natural wood with a high gloss finish, dark red tortoise shell pick guard and the body binding is nicely accentuated in black and white. The headstock features an elegant pearl-style inlay over black varnish and die-cast tuners.
It is a chinese-made dreadnought that is the entry level guitar for Yamaha’s iconic FG/FS series. These guitars were envisioned as great-sounding acoustics that wouldn’t be so expensive. Thus, the FG700S is probably the most popular acoustic guitar due to its great sound and low price.
FG700S: Guitar Dimensions and Size
Find out how large the Yamaha FG700S really is and what’s it made of.
The body is 412 mm on the widest part and it has a total length of 1039 mm. That’s normal for a dreadnought guitar, but still a bit large for smaller people or younger players.
Here a comprehensible diagram of its dimensions taken directly from the manufacturer’s website:
FRETBOARD- 43mm to 55mm
STRING LENGTH- 650mm
As to the materials that make up the FG700S, its top is solid Sitka Spruce and its sides and back are laminated Nato. On the contrary from most “entry-level” guitars, it doesn’t incorporate the laminated wood on the top like cheaper guitars. The fingerboard and bridge are classic old Rosewood and it has a very nice-looking tortoiseshell pickguard. Also Diecast Chrome tuners and a Gloss finish. The FG700S is only available in its natural finish, so unfortunately it does look like most acoustic guitars out there, despite its very special nature.
Sound and Playability
The FG700S is very comfortable to play and has a sweet versatile sound that you can vary to your liking.
Just by looking at the materials, you can tell that it probably sounds much better than other “beginner” guitars like the F series from which we reviewed the popular Yamaha F335. And it does! The FG700S delivers a very precise, smooth and playful sound that is suitable to many styles and genres. Sustain is quite good and it holds itself together when strummed, fingerpicked and even with percussive playing.
Another good thing about the FG700S is its slim neck. There is a common discomfort when trying to bring something you wrote on an electric guitar to the realm of acoustic. But with this guitar it isn’t as harsh. With a well-adjusted and low action model of this guitar, barre chords are comfortable to play and even solitary notes have a clear resonance on this instrument. Thanks to its large body, you can play a lot with overall loudness and even with frequencies. Using a pick or your fingernails will allow you to deliver quite a trebly tone, and plucking with your thumb and near the fretboard can have quite a solid bass response.
Overall, this is a very versatile guitar that you won’t get tired of playing. Those are precisely the reasons why this is such a popular guitar. It’s one of the best sounding instruments that you can get on that price range. Also, as a beginner you can have the certainty that you won’t necessarily outgrow it as you improve. A lot of players that bought the FG700S as their first guitar tend to keep for the rest of their musical journey. Even after getting other pricier guitars.
Of course, it’s important to add that this is not an electro-acoustic guitar, so the actual sound when played for larger audiences may vary depending on the type of amplification used. Here’s a video example so you can listen for yourself:
On to business. The Yamaha FG700S usually starts at $325 USD.
At an average of $300 USD and guaranteed to sound and play good for a lifetime, the Yamaha FG700S is quite honestly a bargain. But what about its many variations? Is it worth scraping up a bit more money to go for the other versions? Let’s take a look at each of these.
Yamaha FG700S vs. FG800S
The latter is the newer version of the same guitar, featuring and subtle but important upgrade on its inside.
Let’s start with the recently-introduced FG800S. At a glance, these guitars are exactly the same but the difference is on the inside, and therefore on the sound. The FG800S is the scalloped version of the FG700S. But what does scalloped even mean?
All acoustic guitars have something you call braces on the inside of the top. They’re a system of wooden struts that reinforce the soundboard of the guitar. These braces can either be scalloped or straight. Scalloped means that the braces have some of its material shaved away. In turn, this makes the top lighter and thus more responsive to sound waves. In other words, you can get more sound out of it without as much effort.
So now that you know what scalloped means, you know what the difference is between these two guitars. The FG800S has a scalloped top, so it’s actually a bit more responsive to the sound. Although the difference in sound can be quite subtle, I’d recommend demoing both guitars if possible to find out which one is more comfortable and pleasurable for you. More responsive isn’t necessarily better. It’s just a matter of which one suits your style of playing best.
However, there are other considerations when comparing these two guitars that you may want to take into account. The FG800S was recently released and therefore it is widely available on most online retail stores.
Yamaha FG700S vs Other FG700’s
The complete FG series features several variations from the basic model. We’ll take a look at each one of them.
Oh boy. The guys at Yamaha really got creative with this one. After so much success, once a guitar is produced and sold so widely, it becomes less expensive to add minor variations at the assembly line to cater to the needs of even a wider variety of players. Hence the very similar models that we’ll compare here. I know you’re probably anxious to take your pick among these guitars and move on, so I’ll go through the differences briefly.
Yamaha FG700S vs FG700MS
The only difference here is the finish. While the standard FG700S has a gloss finish, the latter has a matte. However, it does have a slight shine that makes it closer to a satin finish. Believe it or not, this actually alters the sound. Not heavily, but people describe it as a more expanded sound, since the different finish allows the instrument to breathe more.
But that’s it! Other than that it’s pretty much the same guitar. Very similar to the next ones.
Yamaha FG700S vs FG720S
Instead of having laminated Nato for the sides and back, the FG720S incorporates laminated Mahogany. These two woods are quite similar in tone though. A bit more constrained and not so charged on the low end. The next one though…
Yamaha FG700S vs FG730S
The FG730S uses laminated rosewood for the sides and back. Rosewood is actually a bit more resonant than Nato and Mahogany, especially on the low end. These variations in material account for the price variations, so it’s just a matter of how specific you want to get with your guitar.
Now before moving on to the next comparison, it’s worth clarifying that the FG700S, as well as its variations, are all made in China.
Yamaha FG700S vs FS700S and FS720S
Here we’ll basically explain what’s the difference between the FG and FS series of Yamaha guitars.
If your remember from the beginning of this review, the FS series was introduced at the same time as the FG. The FS is simply a very similar line of dreadnought “entry-level” acoustic guitars but with smaller bodies than those of the FG series. The bodies on the FS’s are what you call “Concert” type bodies.
This means that the sound is a bit stronger on the mid-range and not so much on the bass as with the FG’s. Other than that though, the FS700S, which is the basic model of the FS series, has the same materials as the FG700S. Solid Sitka Spruce for the top, laminated Nato for the back/sides and Rosewood for the fretboard. It is however available on a beautiful Tobacco Sunburst finish that you won’t find on the FG’s.
Same as with the variations on the FG series, the FS720S has laminated Mahogany sides and back. There’s also a FS730S with Rosewood back and sides. There’s also the newer FS800S, which features scalloped bracing on the inside but same details as the rest. Overall, they are priced very similar to the FG’s. The basic model starts at $325 USD.
So you get the idea. That’s enough with Yamaha for now, let’s go into other similar guitars from major brands.
FG700S vs Fender CD-60
One of the most popular entry-level guitars from Fender has a major flaw compared to the famous Yamaha.
At an average of $230 USD, the Fender CD-60 is very similarly priced to the good old FG700. It’s also a dreadnought and one of the most famous among Fender’s entry level guitars, but one a bit more developed than the FA100, which quite frankly doesn’t really compare on sound and playability to any Yamaha in the FG or FS series.
The Fender CD-60 has one major downfall from the Yamaha FG series though. Its back and sides are also laminated Nato but the top is Laminated Spruce. One of the primary distinctions of the FG700’s is that it’s really hard to find a guitar on that price range that has a solid top, instead of a laminated one. The cheaper wood on the top does make for a remarkable difference in sound.
The Fender CD-60 is available in a much wider variety of colors though. There’s the natural look, an all-black version, a sunburst and an All-Mahogany (er…laminated Mahogany) that’s a nice dark brown. All of the CD-60’s feature scalloped X-Bracing inside. You’d think this would make up for the non-solid top, but in reality the sound of the CD-60 falls short from Yamaha’s FG’s and FS’s.
It sounds ok when strummed, but it has the lack of clarity, frequency richness and specially sustain that is something very common on cheaper guitars with laminated tops. The upside though is that Fender did make much more variations of this guitar, including cutaway versions, to reach those higher frets, and even acoustic-electric versions at $299. You just don’t get that with Yamaha’s F series.
Yamaha FG700S vs. Takamine G340
The other entry-level acoustic guitar from Japan is not nearly as acclaimed and alive as Yamaha’s version.
And lastly, let’s take a look at the entry-level guitar from another major Japanese manufacturer. Although it has now been discontinued, the Takamine G340 stood for long as a competitor for the basic FG700. Mainly because it’s also a popular dreadnought guitar priced at around $200 USD. It’s top is Spruce and the sides are Mahogany, so it’s a very similar wood combination to the famous guitar from Yamaha.
So at a glance they are two similar guitars. But a close look will reveal that the Takamine has sort of a cheaper feel to it. Almost as if a manufacturer that is used to much more expensive guitars simply didn’t find a way to produce a nice guitar at very lower costs. You can imagine then why it’s been discontinued and there is no clear successor to the idea behind this guitar. Unless you can try this one and see if it suits you, it’s really not a very safe bet over an internet deal.
So, after taking a detailed look the not only the FG700S but its many variations, it’s new versions and some similar guitars, you hopefully have a very clear idea on which of these guitars may suit you best.
Although I always stress playing the guitar before deciding if it’s for you, there are rarely guitars that have so much of a good reputation to justify taking a chance buying it online before playing. The FG700S is almost that good.
With its many variations and astonishingly low prices, there is very little chance that you’ll go wrong with this guitar.