It’s 1966, and the Rolling Stones are taking the world by storm with “Paint it Black.” Meanwhile, Yamaha is hard at work putting the final touches on a couple of acoustics slated for launch later in the year. Dubbed ‘FG150’ and ‘FG180’, these are the first models designed entirely in-house by the company.
The main difference between the Yamaha FG700 and Yamaha FG800 acoustic guitars is the addition of scalloped bracing in the FG800 and a slightly thinner neck. The finish options are also different between the two guitars.
No one at the time would’ve guessed that the FG line would go on to become a powerhouse. The FG Series quickly exploded in popularity with a superb balance of playability, sound, and build quality and became a bestseller. And not ones to rest on their laurels, Yamaha is continually updating the line with new models packing better features now and then. Let’s look at two of the more-recent additions into the Yamaha acoustic guitar family: The FG-700 and FG-800.
Yamaha FG700 vs FG800 Guitar: A Background
Yamaha has a relatively simple naming system compared to other manufacturers. ‘ FG’ ‘s initials stand for ‘folk guitar,’ traditionally defined as a small-to-midsize acoustic guitar. On the other hand, the numbers represent successive iterations in the family.
Yamaha FG-700: Setting the Standard in Tone Quality
At 16 & 11 inches across the lower bout and waist, respectively, the FG-700 killer guitar looks like any other dreadnought. This isn’t your average entry-level dread, though; it boasts of a solid Sitka spruce top. With that comes more resonance potential — you can’t even tell that the rest of the bowl is made of laminate Nato.
The neck, topped with a rosewood fretboard sporting tiny fret inlays, is also a Nato piece. It’s attached to the body via a dovetail joint — a welcome break from the bolt-ons we’re used to seeing at this price tier.
The body itself is held together with a non-scalloped X-bracing, with an unobtrusive multi-ringed rosette surrounding the soundhole. The latter combines with a chocolate pickguard and natural wood finish to create a stately look. While a plastic nut & saddle still remind you that this is a mass-produced ax, the FG-700 is about as classy as you’ll find in this range with an affordable price range.
It plays even better than it looks. The action is set just taut enough to retain intonation — no buzzing or rattling whatsoever on the strings — but not so high that each chord costs a fingertip. It’s perfectly balanced to accommodate both soft picking and hard strumming. Yamaha has also slimmed down the neck significantly to allow for an easy grasp — the size of your hands notwithstanding. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more approachable non-cutaway dreadnought ax.
But of course, it’s not the handling that makes you buy such a hefty guitar; volume and projection are what you’re after. As we highlighted earlier, this unit has you adequately taken care of here, thanks to its solid soundboard. And not only is the sound meaty, but it’s very well-defined too. There’s enough clarity that you can tone it down to a whisper and not lose any detail. Overall, the Yamaha FG-700 is surprisingly-versatile and refined for a unit that’s supposed to provide a stepping stone onto more “mature” and expensive guitars.
- Dreadnought Non-cutaway Body with Six Steel Strings
- Non-Scalloped X Bracing
- 25.6-inch scale; 20 frets (dot inlays)
- Die-cast chrome tuners
Yamaha FG-800: Building Upon a Legacy
Updating an already-successful design isn’t as easy as most people think. You have to walk a fine line between changing too little (and getting accused of complacency) and making wholesale changes that risk ruining the whole thing. That Yamaha has been navigating this tricky balance for five decades is pretty impressive.
With the FG-800, they’ve stuck with the solid spruce top and Nato back/sides, as well as Nato neck and rosewood fingerboard. However, the neck has been slimmed down further, and the fretboard edges are more rounded for an even better grip. Yamaha has also ditched the standard bracing with scalloped supports for improved resonance. The other notable change is in the finish options. While the FG-700 was only available in a natural gloss finish, its successor can be had in a black finish, with a black pickguard nicely complementing its character.
Other than that, the FG-800 has primarily stuck with its older sibling’s deep hourglass dreadnought body. This means that the tone stays unchanged for the most part – although the difference afforded by the scalloped bracing won’t be lost on you once you start strumming. The sound now has more depth and definition in the low and mid-ranges, but with the same sublime balance overall. Once again, Yamaha has provided the perfect example of improving upon a great design. Retaining the DNA of its elders but with an enhanced sonic character, the FG-800 is perfectly poised to take over from where the FG-700 left off.
- Dreadnought Non-cutaway Body; 6 steel strings
- Scalloped Bracing
- Radius: 15.74 inches
- 25.5-inch scale; 20 frets
- Die-cast Chrome tuning machines
Summing Up These Reviews
For decades, nice guitar manufacturers of musical instruments purveyed the belief that entry-level guitars can either be user-friendly or sound good, but not both. Yamaha overwhelmingly dispelled that notion when they introduced the FG Series. Not only did these guitars tick all the crucial boxes, but they were also priced very agreeably. And beyond being just a stepping stone for aspiring guitarists, the FG line has gone on to become an industry icon.
Both the FG-700 and FG-800 reviews are testament to the company’s zeal to improve and better their best for beginner to experienced players. First came the former, a solidly-built guitar that handled neatly and could adapt to various genres and playing styles. The FG-800 sticks to the same recipe while bringing a few notable improvements to the design. So it’s fair to say that most people would be better off picking the latter. If you prefer to keep things a little old-school as a guitar player, however, you can’t go wrong with the FG-700 experience either.