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

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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.

See more details about Yamaha Acoustic guitars at zZounds and get free shipping. I like these folks!

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.

Ibanez AW-40 Artwood 40 Acoustic Solid-Top Guitar Review – from an owner’s point of view

TheGuitarReview.com is completely free for personal use, and it would help a LOT if you could help a little bit (you can change the suggested amount in the next screen) to assist me to run the site and the occasional set of strings!

I originally posted this on February 16, 2006. I still love these. I’ve since found another one (used)… Shipped from store to my home. I’m loving it. Doing some recording, looking to see if the intonation is any better on this one… I’ll write another review and take some live pics when I can.


Ibanez AW40 Vine Detail Jim Pearson

Update, October 2009 Sigh… the AW40 is no longer in production (still not in production as I re-post this… You can find used ones out there, and the occasional “claimed” “New Old Stock” (NOS) ones…) I’ve since found a used one that had been dropped and have rehabilitated it into my mountain-trips guitar. Lovely, wonderful, plays well, sounds awesome, even after it was dropped (hard) by its previous owner. I then donated that guitar to an instruments for kids fund… I’ll look for another some day…

I was looking for an affordable solid-spruce-top 6-string acoustic for nearly a year. I was looking for medium-bright sound that also had crisp, clean basses, but with good resonance, easy playability, and good intonation. Finding a guitar that meets these expectations, and is under $400, is a real challenge.

I started my quest by playing countless acoustics at both my local guitar stores. I probably played more than 200 different low-cost acoustics – specifically looking for my target attributes.

Ibanez Artwood AW40 Rosette Detail Jim Pearson

Ibanez Artwood AW40 Rosette Detail Jim Pearson

I eventually discovered the Ibanez AW 40. This delightful acoustic guitar is from Ibanez’s ™ ArtWood™ series acoustics. The street price for the AW 40, both locally and on the street was $200US. This new AW 40 turned out to be the guitar I purchased – and I’m very glad I did. I bought the AW 40 (mine was named “Rosie”) from one of my local GAS-Guitar Stores – it has been used on many songs across three different acoustic albums of mine.

Quick Opinion: I chose to play the AW 40 on and off for a few weeks before I actually purchased it. I wanted to play several other contenders in comparison just to be sure: The AW 40 is a bargain, and is an excellent purchase! It has excellent craftsmanship, good features, and sounds like guitars that cost $200-$300 more. Purchasers of the AW 40 are VERY unlikely to be disappointed! This is the second-most-played-acoustic I own.
Even though the AW-40 is no longer available as new, you can get free shipping and more information about Ibanez acoustics here at zZounds.com

IbanezArtwoodAW40NTNeckHeadstockBackShotJimPearsonPlayability: The neck is a delightful satin-finish soft “c”-ish shape (the rosewood color is unique, too). This guitar plays nicer than the gloss-finish necks of many other guitars in this price range.
The frets are finished nicely, and are just the right balance of height and thickness. The scale is just right – medium. There are no buzzy frets on the example I purchased. The string height was a little too low when I brought it home, so I had to change the truss rod just a tad to stop general string buzz. Once I raised the strings a bit, the string sound was flawless.
The weight and depth of the AW 40 body is excellent, and the fretboard feels smooth and quick. The 1 5/8” width nut is just about right for this particular neck.
The AW 40 ships with D’Addario EXP bronze strings, starting with .11 width on the 1st string. These particular strings are really quite nice (especially if you like coated strings), and are appropriate if you like a little darker high sound. After a week or so with the stock strings, I switched to D’Addario EXP phosphor-bronze .11s to give me the crisper bass sounds I was seeking. Once the new strings were installed, this guitar has been giving the low-end Martin guitars – a strong run for the money.

Sound: Crisp, crisp, crisp, resonant, and more crisp! The solid spruce top lives up to its job very well. The bass sounds are clean and clear. The 1st and 2nd strings above the 13th fret are a little thin for my tastes. The midranges are clean and rarely muddy for finger-picked notes. The body resonates nicely against your chest and hands when the guitar is played. Very nice!

IbanezArtwoodAW40NTHeelShotJimPearsonValue: This is a $450 guitar in value (not ‘retail’, ‘street’). The sound, quality of make, and appointments are top-notch, excellent. To get a better instrument, you’d have to spend at least $499. This guitar is made in China, but you would have difficulty telling its origin from the excellent build quality.

Features: This is an excellently-designed instrument. It has the bits needed for daily use and for recording alike. The body is fully bound in a nice white-with-black stripes motif. The rosette is a beautiful abalone-ringed decoration. The headstock has inlaid pearl Ibanez logo and AW logo. The back of the guitar has a nice black-white center stripe and nicely matched halves. The red-ish shell pickguard does seem a bit bright for the cream-colored spruce top, but is pleasant enough.

An unexpected and BEAUTIFUL feature of the AW 40 is the abalone “vine of life” fretboard inlay. This is truly a nice-looking addition, and is really nice and unique. I always get good comments on this feature every time folks see Rosie.
The stock tuners are mechanically sound, but felt a bit uncomfortable. In addition, the gold plating on the tuners was not well done at all. It looked as though the gold had barely been applied (this was true on all the examples I played).

More about the tuners: I ended up replacing the stock machine heads/tuners with Grover™ Rotomatic™-style 14:1 tuners. The screw holes did not match the factory screw placements exactly, but I felt it was worth it to drill new screw holes and putty the old ones – and gain excellent tuners. I bought chrome Grovers, and they look very nice with the rest of the guitar’s appointments. The Grovers function flawlessly and are, well, they’re Grovers (’nuff said!).


Ibanez Artwood AW40NT Headstock Jim Pearson

Wishes: The tuners really should have been better-made and better executed. Even the Yamaha™ basic guitar tuners work better and look better than those on the AW line.

My only other wish: After playing mine for quite a while, I found that it was difficult to intonate at all. If I recorded music with my old AW-40 and tried to overlay tracks with a different guitar, I found myself to be constantly fighting intonation issues. If you’re playing guitar for pleasure, or are recording the guitar as the only instrument, the AW-40 is fine. If you’re recording multiple instruments or playing live with more than one guitar, you’ll have to have the guitar adjusted at the nut to come close to being in-tune all the way up the neck…