It’s 1966, and the Rolling Stones are taking the world by storm with “Paint it Black.” Meanwhile, Yamaha are 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 to be designed entirely in-house by the company.
No one at the time would’ve guessed that the FG line would go on to become a powerhouse. A splendid balance of playability, sound and build quality, the FG Series quickly exploded in popularity and became a bestseller. And not ones to rest on their laurels, Yamaha are continually updating the line with new models packing better features every now and then. Let’s take a look at two of the more-recent additions into the Yamaha acoustic guitar family: The FG-700 and FG-800.
Yamaha FG700 vs FG800: A Background
Yamaha has a rather simple naming system compared to other manufacturers. The initials ‘FG’ stand for ‘folk guitar’, traditionally defined as a small-to-midsize acoustic ax. The numbers, on the other hand, represent successive iterations in the family.
Yamaha FG-700: Setting the Standard
At 16 & 11 inches across the lower bout and waist respectively, the FG-700 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 fingerboard 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 rather 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.
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 have 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 actually makes you buy such a hefty guitar; volume and projection are what you’re really after. As we highlighted earlier, this unit has you properly 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” 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 have been navigating this tricky balance for 5 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. The neck has however been slimmed down further, and the fretboard edges are more rounded for an even better grip. Yamaha have 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 black finish, with a black pickguard nicely complementing its character.
Other than that, the FG-800 has largely stuck with the deep hourglass dreadnought body of its older sibling. 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 a lot more depth and definition in the low and mid-ranges, but with the same sublime balance overall. Once again, Yamaha have provided the perfect example of how to improve 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
Gear manufacturers had for decades 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 at 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 are testament to the company’s zeal to improve and better their best. 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, however, you can’t go wrong with the FG-700 either.