Yamaha F345/F 345 Sycamore Top Acoustic Guitar Review – Genuine consistency in quality at a low price

I first wrote this review on February 22, 2007… These are still amazing to play to this day – still for sale on some guitar and gear web sites, still available in the store, still consistent quality

Yamaha F345/F 345 Acoustic Guitar Review

Some recent thinning of my instruments caused me to go searching for a really well-rounded acoustic guitar – I needed an instrument that was extremely affordable, but had attributes of more expensive instruments.

I went shopping for a six-string that had a reasonably loud and clear sound, an instrument that was relatively well-intonated, and that I could afford (my target was less than $250)… I played no less than 50 acoustics to find just the right one. I settled on the Yamaha F345. It fit the bill nicely, and was extremely affordable.

Quick Opinion: The Yamaha F line of acoustic guitars is affordable, seriously consistent in their build quality, and generally a good choice when purchasing a budget all-around acoustic.

The F345, in particular, is exceptionally warm-sounding, and is extremely well-built. The sycamore top offers an interesting sound that is similar to mahogany, but with just a touch more depth. The appointments and features are very good. Overall, the F345 is definitely a keeper.

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For a dreadnaught guitar, smaller players will still find the F345 to be a big guitar. But, as dreadnaughts go, the neck and its attributes help bridge the gap very nicely. The size is just perfect for medium-to-large guitar players, and is still comfortable for those who have big paws.

The neck is really very nice. The finish is smooth and quick, and the shape is excellent. The F345’s neck feels like a graduated soft-V-to-C shape. It has a subtle V near the nut and smoothes down to an excellent C near the body. Of many acoustics I played while looking for the right one, this one had the best neck by far.

The frets are just right for this type of acoustic. They’re not too big, but they’re not the cheap, thin variety placed on many low-cost instruments. The ends are reasonably well-dressed (just a little jaggy here and there), and the string height is quite nice. My only grumbles are that there were a few too many frets that like to buzz. Given the excellent and consistent build quality of this instrument, I thought the frets could have been leveled better.

I generally play phosphor-bronze light strings (11s or 12s or so) with this type of instrument. Although I don’t have a gauge, I think this instrument came with 12s – and were 80/20 bronze. If you’re comfortable with more string effort, or don’t do much bending, the factory strings are very reasonable. For those with some difficulty playing harder strings, a quick change to 11s would do very well.

Features: The Yamaha F345 has elegant but simple binding on the front and back of the body. The finish is very nice, and is reminiscent of classic finishes from the 50s. It’s not the hard, plastic feel of many acoustics, it’s smooth and feels like a finish on an actual piece of wood. I don’t know what the finish is, but it is a nice, comfortable gloss.

The tuners are really quite nice on the F series instruments, and the F345 is no exception. The tuners strongly resemble and feel like Grover Rotomatics (although they are Yamaha tuners, not Grovers). They have a smooth action, and are very good at keeping the strings in tune. The tuners feel like they’re about 14:1 ratio – tuning up or down is easy and fine.

The wood for the F345 is laminate, but is extraordinarily well-done. The look, the feel, and the sound are well above par for a laminate-build instrument.

In general, the nut is reasonably well-cut and shaped, the bridge is strong (but not a compensated bridge). The rosette is nice and the pickguard is a wonderful, vintage-looking tortoise color. The saddle is a nice rosewood saddle, with well-cut peg holes (many guitars in this price range have terrible peg holes).

Sound: Another place the F345 shines is its sound. It is very warm in the lows, and mellow in the highs. It lacks the shrill high notes that many basic guitars have. In general, it is a nice middle-sound instrument for playing and even for some recording duties.

I’ve found the sycamore wood top to sound slightly warmer than mahogany, but not as dark as cedar. It is definitely growlier and brassier than a spruce top. It’s unusual – but unusual in a way that is very pleasant.

The sound in the upper registers of the strings is above average. The intonation is very close, even in the 12th fret through the 15th fret section of the neck. I find that I don’t have to compensate for intonation very often when playing this instrument.

The sound is reasonably loud – although it is not as loud as a spruce-top guitar. It has enough projection for medium to small spaces and applications. I would recommend amplification for bigger sound areas or for playing in a big group/band.

Value: The F345’s value is very good. It is definitely worth $230 as a street price – probably another $25 or so more, in real value. You get good sound, reliability, and consistent quality of build in an instrument that is quite attractive.

This particular bargain instrument is worth a decent hard shell case!

Wishes: I don’t have too many wishes for this instrument. It would look nicer with a split binding on the back and binding on the neck. I found some nice faux-tortoise tuner buttons that I’ve installed to give the guitar some nice additional class – the tuner buttons I purchased were built for Grover full-size Rotomatics, and fit like they were made for the Yamaha tuners.

The one wish that I would love to have in this acoustic (as well as other low-cost acoustics) is an adjustable-height bridge – like those in many Alvarez acoustics. Shimming is fine, but the ease of adjustables is hard to argue against. Some folks talk about “sound sapping”, but sometimes, in an inexpensive laminate, the sound change is negligable.

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