Yamaha RGX-A2

February 14, 2006

The recipe seems to work, as the A2’s resonant qualities are immediately apparent when you strum it acoustically. There’s a real sense of aliveness and energy with this guitar—you can bang out an open G or A chord and count ten seconds before the notes fade—and, owing to good overall intonation, its sounds are focused and together.

The A2’s white-on-gray finish looks cool, and, at first glance, you may not even notice the painted-on silver “binding” around the top. Two engraved lines—one bisecting the controls and another pointing straight at the bridge pickup—give the A2’s face a bit of modernist flair. Ditto for the LEDs that light up around the pickup knob to indicate bridge (blue), neck (green), and both (green/blue) selections. A 9-volt battery provides power for the lights only, and nothing else is affected if the battery dies or is removed. Slightly visually bothersome is how the routs for the pickups don’t quite match the corner shapes of each pickup. Someone needs to dial in the CNC machine a little better!

The slimness of the A2’s neck, coupled with very low action and light strings, make for an effortless playing experience. The frets are well attended and polished, and the offset heel and generous cutaway provide easy access to the high notes. The nut is properly slotted and the two-tone headstock offers an enticing blend of elements with its raised white section—which is glued on to give the appearance of the tuners being set into individual routs. The grooved barrels of the tuners look neat and are easy to grip, but confounding is how each tuner can be easy moved rearward by yanking on its barrel. I could pull every string nearly a half step sharp by doing this. Tightening the nuts might help keep the tuners in place, though I was leery of cinching them down too hard for fear of cracking the finish. A better solution would be to use tuners that incorporate a securing pin. Also concerning is the way the housings of the D and G tuners press against each other. It might not be a performance issue, but it doesn’t look right.

A2 Tones

Tested through a Fender Super Reverb, a Peavey Penta, and a THD Flexi-50, the A2 acquitted itself well. The soapbar-sized humbuckers are a great choice for this guitar, as they provide plenty of punch and mass needed for heavy bridge-pickup chunk. They aren’t shy of top-end, either, but likely due to the use of alnico magnets, the highs tend to be more sweet than piercing. The A2 stays crisp when you turn it down, and it was never a struggle to get good definition from the neck pickup—even when using darker amp settings for bottlenecking or delving into jazzier textures. The control scheme doesn’t let you individually adjust the pickup levels, but the sounds were well balanced in the dual-pickup mode, and not much amp twiddling was required to get big, bright rhythms and Powerglide-smooth lead tones. I could see some players wishing for an onboard tone control—it’s nice to be able to quell the highs from the guitar—but the absence of one isn’t a deal breaker. I found the rotary pickup selector a bigger drag because it seriously inhibits your ability to do fast pickup switching.

Considering how well the A2 plays and sounds, it’s a real shame that it slips in the hardware department. It has a lot going for it in terms of pricing, visual vibe, and tones, and with some attention paid to a few areas, the A2 would fulfill its mission of bringing some fresh moves to the RGX line. g

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