Could there be anyone better than Yamaha to subtly combine trendy design elements of motorcycles and electric guitars? With a common body style that hints of previous generations of Yamaha guitars and style elements borrowed from classic guitars and motorcycle designs, Yamaha’s new line of RevStar guitars not only look great, they are quality instruments that sport the quality hardware and electronics needed to produce great tone.
The new RevStar models are all similar in shape, with solid mahogany body designs, maple caps and mahogany necks. While these guitar models all have a bit of a retro look to them, each offers the player an instrument that plays well and can produce a surprisingly wide variety of tone. We found the two models we reviewed, the 502T and RS820CR, to be well built and equally playable with flat fingerboards, full c-shaped necks and jumbo frets. A useful feature of both models we reviewed was a tone control that pops up to act as a ‘dry switch.’ When engaged, this control is a high pass filter that rolls off some of the considerable ‘fatness’ that these guitars can produce. Unlike a ‘coil tap’ approach used to achieve a similar effect, the ‘dry switch’ gets you quickly to that classic single-pickup tone without losing the hum-cancelling properties of the humbucker pickups.
Street Price: $729
Each RevStar model offers a look flattered by standout custom hardware including the use of various tailpieces on the different models that both add to each guitar’s good looks, as well as its tonal properties. Essentially the same as the RevStar basic model 502, the ‘T’ suffix in the model 502T points to the addition of a boldly designed, height-adjustable aluminum tailpiece. This feature provides a way to subtly ‘dial in’ the response your playing style calls for. When screwed down, you can get a more Les Paul-like tone or leave it higher to get the performance you would expect with a trapeze tailpiece. A hidden bonus here is that this stylish tailpiece is spring loaded so it can give you a subtle, pitch-rise vibrato control.
The model 502 has 24.75-inch scale, a smooth rosewood fingerboard with 22 jumbo frets and a set-in neck with a neck radius of 13 3/4”. It boasts two vintage-looking soapbar single custom designed coil pickups with Alnico V magnets, German silver baseplate and plain enamel wire for pure, vintage tone with a lot of presence. Control is provided with solid, smooth volume, tone/dry switch and a three-way lever pickup selector switch. In addition to the versatile aluminum tailpiece, the 502 has a satin nickel-plated tune-o-matic bridge and enclosed, die-cast tuners.
Street Price: $999
The body shape of the RevStar RS820CR is the same as the 502, but the look and tonal characteristics are markedly different. Designed to appeal to rockers on both fronts, the CR distinction in the name refers to the high-performance Café Racer bikes seen racing through Europe in the 1960s. These racers, stripped down to their bare essentials, were custom built to showcase the unique style of their owner. In that spirit, the RS820CR’s extremely clean look sports a gloss top, satin hardware and a distinctive set of racing stripes.
The 820CR hardware is upgraded to Tone Pros AVT-II wrapover bridge, and the guitar is powered by a pair of VH5 pickups with Alnico V magnets to give you a bright, powerful tone, but also a wide range of vintage to modern sounds. Smooth volume, tone and three-way lever pickup selector provide control along with the innovative RevStar tone control that doubles as a high-pass ‘dry switch.’ Tuners are fully enclosed and die-cast. In addition to its racing stripes, the bold look of the RS820CR is accented by a unique, copper-colored, anodised aluminum pick guard.
In both motorsports and guitars, it’s all about personal styling and performance and both the RS502T and RS820CR RevStar guitars have plenty of both. These are substantial, well-balanced guitars with plenty of neck and solid wood to give them a serious feel. Built in Indonesia, the back of each RevStar headstock bears a Far East traditional hanko impression, a traditional form of signature for documents, contracts and art. The unique shape of the guitars, mostly flat face and back, and vintage looking broad almond binding that runs up neck and around the headstock are striking. But don’t overlook the fact that Yamaha, in addition to building motorcycles, has 50 years of guitar-building experience. That bit of history shows in these models.