Yamaha FG800 Review: Is This The Best Guitar of 2017?
The Yamaha FG800 is one of the most popular guitars of all time and the best we could find at this price point.
One of its major strength points is it has a solid top, as opposed to laminated, which is normally what you’d get for $200. It also has a very manageable and solid tone that makes it a great instruments for beginners and seasoned musicians alike.
There’s a lot to cover when discussing this guitar, so let’s get straight into why it is so popular and how it compares to other similar models:
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Yamaha FG800 Action and Sound
The FG800 leaves no disappointments when it comes to its most important features, it sounds great and is a joy to play.
Dreadnoughts always have a robust feel and strength in sound to them. It’s the benefit of having a big body. But the FG800 really stands apart from any other dreadnoughts you’ll find in this price range. While it doesn’t sound quite as powerful as more expensive guitars, any beginner guitarist or those on a budget should be thankful to have access to this sort of sound without spending more than a couple hundred bucks.
The overall sound is warm, mellow and very well-balanced on the frequencies, so it’s a pleasure to play.
The FG800 features a satin-finished slim neck that makes it very comfortable to use and easy on a beginner’s hand. To make it even more friendly, it has rounded rosewood frets that make the action even more easy on your hands.
Most of these features are the same for all guitars on the FG series, so let us now dive into some comparisons.
The FG800 Compared to Other Models
By dissecting the basic model of the new FG series, we’ll cover all of the upgrades that set it apart from the old FG700.
I’ll say it once more. The FG series from Yamaha is the best-selling acoustic guitar series of all time.
Compared to previous models, the biggest improvement the FG800 has brought about is on the inside. While the FG700 and all its variations featured straight bracing patterns, all new versions feature scalloped bracing patterns inside. This means that the solid tops on all of them are lighter and thus more responsive to sound. The result is a louder guitar with more projection.
In case this is your first time here and you are wondering what a bracing pattern is, take a look at this explanation:
Also, ‘projection’ is a word you probably see a lot on guitar reviews and forums. It doesn’t refer only to the volume, but to the direction and length of the sound. If played on a large hall, a guitar with better projection will appear to be louder because it has a more focused sound that is…er, projected, without dispersing. A sound that can make it to the other side of the room without problem.
This is what the change on the bracing pattern of the FG800 is for. So overall, it leads to a more focused and clear sound with better sustain. That’s important if you want to play for people or record in a room.
The scalloped bracing pattern also helps with the low end. The FG800 has a dreadnought body that won’t disappoint when it comes to lows, but thanks to that upgrade it really makes this guitar sound big and booming like a dreadnought should.
As with the previous version, the top is Solid Spruce and the back and sides are laminated Nato (eastern Mahogany, similar in tone) and Okume.
It’s got a Gloss finish that looks very thin and easy on the eye. The basic FG800 only comes in natural finish has 20 frets and nut and saddle made of Urea. This last thing is a resin material that is present in mostly all of Yamaha’s acoustics except for the most expensive models, where the nut and saddle are usually made of bone. It doesn’t alter the tone dramatically though, and if this is your first guitar, at $200, you shouldn’t worry about that.
Yamaha FG800 vs FS800
The FG is a full-sized dreadnought with a very robust sound and feel to it. For some reason the guys at Yamaha thought this might be a little too much for some people and wanted to make a guitar that would feature all the positive aspects of the FG series but on a smaller body.
So as it’s always been with the FG and FS series, all new FS guitars are smaller and thinner than the FG’s. Mainly to cater to female and young guitarists alike. The new FS series are even a bit smaller than the FS700’s when it comes to depth now.
Other than that, you get the same specs depending on the model. Let’s take a look at those now.
Yamaha FG800 vs FG820
The main two differences between these two guitars lie in materials used and finished. The backs and sides on the FG820 are actual mahogany as opposed to nato and okume like in the basic FG800.
Also, the FG820 features cream-colored binding as opposed to black. This was intended largely to stand out more on its various finishes. Out of all the models on the FG and FS series, the FG820 and FS820 feature the most available finishes. Some of them are Autumn Burst, Natural, Black, Sunset Blue (yeh-hah!), and Brown Sunburst.
Yamaha FG800 vs FG830
Did you know that the first Dreadnought guitar to become widely adopted was the all rosewood-bodied D-2? I tell you this little piece of trivia because the FG830 features Rosewood back and sides along with the Solid Spruce Top.
It makes sense if you think that for many years, full-Rosewoods were the most popular style of dreadnought, steel-stringed acoustic guitars. I guess that’s why Yamaha wanted one of the guitars on the FG/FS line to feature this wood on the body.
Other than that though, the difference from the basic FG800 is only on the finishes. You can get the FG830 on Dusk Sun Red and Tobacco Brown Sunburst and Natural.
Yamaha FG800 vs FG850
If you thought that a Rosewood-bodied guitar sounded a bit odd, the next is not exactly that, but an all-Mahogany dreadnought. The FG850 features a solid-Mahogany top along laminated Mahogany backs and sides. Even the body binding is Mahogany on this one, as opposed to colored plastic. The use of this single wood throughout the whole body means that it is extra defined and distinct on the mid-frequencies.
For a sonic comparison of the FG850 and the FG830, check out this live demo from Yamaha’s stand at NAMM.
So, the FG850 is the last model of the new FG/FS series. There is also a reissue of the classic FG180-50TH, which was one of the first models that was first introduced with this now-legendary series back in 1966. That reissue is $1,000 USD though, so we won’t compare it to the others here.
On to our last comparison…
Yamaha FG700S vs FG800S
Did the guys at Yamaha nail it with the new upgrades or should they have left a long-standing classic untainted?
One of the main considerations that you may want to take into account when shopping for an FG/FS series guitar is availability. The FG800 was of course recently released and therefore it is widely available on most online retail stores. There are bundle versions that include a hard-case, some picks and a strap for just $250 USD.
The FG700S, on the other hand, may be a bit harder to find nowadays. Other than that, the main difference is on the sound and playability. Honestly, while the FG700S is one of my favorite budget guitars, I do feel like the upgrades were rightly called for. The FG800 does have a more solid bass response and a wider volume, thanks for the scalloped bracing on the inside.
If looks are important to you too, it is worth considering that the new finishes weren’t as widely available on the old FG/FS series so going with a new one might be easier in that department.
Other than that, I truly recommend checking them both out if possible. There is very little chance that you’ll go wrong with either of this guitars or any of their iterations, so just play whichever is available to you and see which one is the guitar for you.
As it usually happens with musical equipment that is renovated, perhaps there will be a fair share of purists that will praise the FG700S now that it has some of that “they don’t make em’ anymore” appeal. That may happen, but I honestly don’t think it is the case with this particular guitar.
The fine peoples at Yamaha simply nailed it by upgrading what was an already great-for-the-price instrument and managing to keep it on the exact same price. That speaks lengths of them, and it also says a lot about the FG800.
It’s the new version of a modern classic on acoustic guitars, but as time moves on it will stand as a classic of its own. The FG800 is simply the latest, modernized version of what has always been a great idea behind an acoustic instrument.