Both guitars feature laminated bodies with solid spruce tops, but they differ significantly in body thickness (the APX900 being the thinner of the two, with a depth that ranges from 3.75" to 4.53"). The APX900 also uses three Yamaha-designed multilayer contact pickups, while the CPX700 utilizes one of these transducers. A casual look at these instruments might indicate that the CPX700 is aimed at the folk/ fingerstyle player who may not always want to be amplified, and the APX900 is more for the electric player who needs a fast-playing acoustic that’s resistant to feedback. We tested both guitars through a Genz Benz Shenandoah Acoustic Pro and a Phil Jones Cub amplifier.
This upscale-looking axe features a lovely transparent-blue finish that really highlights the flamed maple sides and back. The bindings around the body, neck, and headstock are perfectly rendered, as are the polished bone nut, the rosewood headstock facing, and the raised oval-shaped rosette with its stylish abalone inlay. The interior construction is very tidy, and the only unsightly element is the battery holder, which is clearly visible on the front bout of the guitar. The dark blue gloss-finished neck has a comfortable “C” shape, and the gleaming frets are rounded on the ends for a smooth feel. The low, buzz-free action enhances the APX900’s playability in spite of its heavy phosphor bronze strings, and the guitar sounds pretty well in tune as you move around the neck. The controls are logically arranged and easy to work, but the onboard tuner display is small, and the digital note readouts look more like numerals than notes. Also, the flat/sharp arrows appearing above the displayed note are tiny, and require a lot of concentration on the tuning machines to get them to stop fluttering back and forth.
The APX900 has a clear, punchy acoustic voice, and it delivers a very natural sound when amplified. The separate level controls for the bass and treble transducers (which are mounted near each end of the bridge) allow you to adjust the low and high frequency ranges in a very non-EQ way—as if you’re tuning the body instead of merely cutting or boosting frequencies—while the under-saddle pickup maintains the definition and snap. With a little patience you can really tailor the response for your particular rig, and if body howl is a problem in higher volume situations, the Bass Mix knob provides a means of controlling it at the source (i.e., the vibrating top), which is something the EQ can’t do. The APX900 doesn’t sound quacky when you pick hard, which is a very cool aspect of this pickup system.
For a player in a jazz or world music band, the APX900 is an attractive choice, as it works more like a hollowbody electric while still offering the resonant sounds you expect from a flat-top acoustic. A change to lighter strings would make it even more finger friendly—enough so to possibly make it the only instrument you need to cover your lead and rhythm parts.
Priced a little less than the APX900, the CPX700 is built with essentially the same level of pride, sporting crisp finish work and bindings, a polished nut, and a rosewood head plate. Its inlays are rendered with obvious care, and the interior workmanship is also on par with the 900’s, as all of the braces are sanded smooth and the joints are free of glue drips. Though fitted with a different electronics package, the tuner is the same one found on the APX900.
The deeper-bodied CPX feels nimble, and it doesn’t weigh a great deal more than the APX. And while the CPX’s neck is satin finished, the low-action setup and polished frets makes it as inviting to the fingers as the APX. The intonation and string balance are both very good, and while the CPX700 isn’t super gushing in the acoustic department, it is satisfyingly loud and punchy, with a sweet, clear top and decent low-end girth. You could do an unplugged gig with this guitar, which would be a little more difficult with the APX900.
Plugged in, the CPX700 delivers a full-bodied sound that is easy to dial in using the EQ sliders. Though the CPX700 doesn’t have a three-pickup system, it is equipped with a variable frequency (AMF) slider that allows you to put the notch (or boost) exactly where it is needed. It works great for feedback suppression, and I found it easy to kill a body howl by simply pulling down the Mid slider, and then using the AMF control to sweep the frequency range until the unwanted sound disappeared. This method takes away some tone, of course, but the increase in volume can be worth the tradeoff. Unfortunately, the single pickup system on this guitar tends to sound quacky when you strum hard—which is a major reason why the APX900 is the cooler choice if you mainly play with amplification. In fact, at about $150 more, the AXP900 with its upscale woods and better electronics is clearly the superior deal.