Yamaha FG800 Solid Top Acoustic Guitar Review
- Body: nato laminate
- Top: solid sitka spruce
- Neck: nato
- Fretboard: rosewood
- Scalloped bracing
- Bright, with a loud bottom-end
- Great for entry-level hobbyists
Purchasing a guitar can be a big decision. Conversely, it can be pretty inconsequential, nothing more than a purchase of whimsy.
It all depends on your intentions as a musician.
Do you want to become, or are you already a professional, playing shows and writing songs?
Or, are you just looking to learn how to play a few chords and riffs, be a little cooler, but all in all are not looking to invest much time and money in becoming a guitarist?
If you are the latter, the casual hobbyist, the FG800 from Yamaha is the perfect acoustic for you to learn the basics with a good sounding instrument.
- Very inexpensive
- Choice of two finishes
- Trusted brand and model
- Well-defined notes and loud bottom-range
- Needs set up upon purchase
- High action
- Lacking sustain in higher registers
The Yamaha FG800 acoustic guitar is Yamaha’s basic model; utilitarian, low priced, no frills. This is not a bad thing. Many sad sounding and poor playing guitars catch the unsuspecting beginner’s eye with fancy finishes, faux pearl inlays, and exotic body and headstock designs. Without knowing better, you might pay three times what you would pay for the FG800 for a guitar that sounds just the same.
The sides and back of the Yamaha FG800 guitar are made of a dark brown laminate wood called nato, sometimes referred to as eastern mahogany for their similarities in look, feel, and functionality. It sports a solid top of Sitka spruce available in two gloss finishes, natural and sunburst, upon which sits the tortoise shell pattern pick guard, the rosewood bridge, and the plastic saddle. The sound hole is bordered by a very simple set of black and white rings.
The neck of the Yamaha FG800 is the same dark nato wood as the back and sides, but with a matte finish. As a player with sweaty hands, this my personal preference for acoustic necks, but we’ll talk more about that in the Playability section. Like so many other entry-level acoustics, the FG800 has a rosewood fretboard and basic plastic inlays. Rosewood is common for a reason– it’s good enough; nothing to get excited about, but nothing to fret about either. Topped off with a headstock overlaid with rosewood and set with cheap, but functional, chrome coated tuning machines, the Yamaha FG800 acoustic guitar is overall your standard acoustic.
Here is where we will encounter our first flaw with the FG800, though not an issue which can’t be fixed with a bit of know-how or a little extra cash. A common issue with most inexpensive acoustics, the action of the Yamaha FG800 is set up so high as to be unplayable past the 12th fret. To fix this, one must adjust the saddle height and the tension of the truss rod.
This is the point at which those who dream of a long and flourishing musical career will start to see less value in the FG800. Once you buy it, it’s either going to take work or more money to be right, and you might start to think you’d be better off making a different choice.
Getting past the obvious problem of too-high action, we can start to appreciate the things that make the Yamaha FG800 a good guitar for a true novice.
I like my guitar to have a bit of weight, but a beginner will find the FG800 easy to sit with and adjust to while finding their comfortable playing position.
Importantly, the frets are properly aligned and shaved so that they don’t extend past the width of the neck. Some cheap acoustics (like the ones in my high school guitar class) have razor sharp frets that are honestly dangerous. If you didn’t know that already, make sure you check your inexpensive prospective guitars for razor frets, and rest assured that you won’t slice your finger playing the Yamaha FG800.
So aside from not cutting your fingers off, how does the FG800 play? That depends on whether or not you fix the action. Let’s assume you do, and just say if the action isn’t fixed on this guitar, I wouldn’t play it.
High gloss on an acoustic’s neck can start to grip sweaty hands, and whether you’re a shaky beginner or a nervous pro, if you’re playing like you should be, your hands are gonna sweat.
This is where I have to break the news to you: the Yamaha FG800 guitar doesn’t sound bad, but that’s about it. Personally, I find the tone to be boring, largely a factor of the solid spruce top. Spruce is a good tonewood– it’s versatile, dependable, crisp, loud, and light, but it lacks in harmonic overtone and resonance. In the FG800, you’ll get a guitar with a good, but never great, tone across the top, middle, and bottom ranges, and a decent amount of sustain in the lower end thanks to the scalloped bracing. However, high notes have short sustain and leave the player wishing for amplification.
So, should you buy the FG800? If your plan is to become familiar with the guitar, but not to become an expert– if you never plan to make money playing music– if you’re doing this just for fun– or if you just have $200 to put toward a new instrument, you’ll have a hard time finding a better entry-level guitar than the FG800. Yamaha aimed to make a guitar that was Not Bad, and they succeeded in making a guitar that is just that: good enough to not be bad.
If, however, you are a new guitarist with the plan to become really good at your instrument– to write songs, play shows, jam with other people often– to not just play the guitar, but to know it, the FG800 will soon lose the appeal of it’s affordability and have you wishing you had saved for the next tier. When I started learning guitar as a kid, I practiced on the same kid-sized bottom-rung acoustic for years, because I knew I wanted my first guitar to be one that I would never grow tired of playing. If you want your first guitar to stand the test of time and perform reliably throughout your musical career, save your money for a better instrument.
FG800 Vs FG830
If you have an extra hundred dollars to put toward your guitar purchase, Yamaha offers a step above the FG800 with the FG830 acoustic guitar (read our full review here).
Like the FG800, the Yamaha FG830 requires a proper set up upon purchase, which I consider to be the fatal flaw of these guitars. If you prefer high action, no problem, but this is for me a deal-breaker.
Unlike the FG800, whose sides and back are made of the inexpensive nato laminate, the FG830 features rosewood back and sides. This simple swapping of materials makes a tremendous difference in the sound, as the crisp mid-scoop of rosewood brings fullness to both the low and the high end, correcting one of the key issues of the FG800.
The necks of both guitars are made of matte finished nato, and feature similar headstocks. The FG830 sports twenty-one frets instead of the FG800’s twenty, but in most other ways they are the same.