YAMAHA SA 2000 - 1978 or 1979
In 1977 Yamaha introduced an entirely new version of their venerable SA line of acoustic electric guitars. These were called 'Super Axe' as seen on the headstock of some models, but what makes them really special is that these were the first Yamaha's to closely emulate the ES-335, which all SA's since have followed. Prior to this only two models were actually semi-hollow body, and while beautifully designed, you would never mistake one for an ES-335.
The initial models were the SA 700, SA 1000 and the top of the line SA 2000, which is what this guitar is.
Click on main image above for full size pictures
Looking at the literature from the time, Yamaha did a lot of engineering for these guitars, matching materials and components and then producing many prototypes which were tested by musicians of the day for feedback before the production guitars were finalized. This attention to detail shows up in many of the features of this model.
The pickups on this guitar are model specific, stamped with SA 2000 (see pics) and date coded to October 25th 1978, making this guitar produced in late '78 or early '79. Pickups sound fantastic, with a wide range of tones available between the neck and bridge pickups. I would describe these as a true vintage semi hollow body sound able to deliver on blues, jazz or classic rock. Another nice feature of the pickups on this model is the Yamaha tri-mount used only on the higher grade SA's of this era. The tri-mount uses three adjustment screws for adjusting the pickup height, two on one side and one on the other. This allows you to not only adjust the height, but also the pickup's angle to keep it parallel to the strings.
The SA 2000, being the top of the line model of its day has a beautiful ebony fretboard with real mother of pearl, split block inlays unique to the SA 2000. Ebony fretboards feel very smooth compared to Rosewood. It also features gold hardware, four ply binding on the body and five ply binding on the head stock. Yamaha tuners are very smooth and precise with 14:1 ratio and allow for easy adjustment of the resistance turning them so all six tuners can be set with the same resistance. Hardware and pickup covers are gold plated on this model.
The neck profile on this generation of the 335 inspired SA models is big. Comparing to Gibson's of the era, the profile would fit between a 58 and 59. The guitar uses a set neck construction, with the neck being one piece solid mahogany.
Construction of the body uses four ply birch and beech laminate for the top and bottom. Center block is the same construction as found on the original ES-335's, with a hard maple center block sandwiched between spruce blocks with kerfs cut into them. The center block runs the length of the body, fitted between the top and bottom of the guitar. This semi hollow body construction, whose origin is from the original ES-335's, allows for a fuller, fatter sound than a solid body, eliminates the distortion that a full hollow body suffers from at high volume and delivers plenty of sustain with the bridge and tail piece mounted into the center block.
As far as vintage vibe, this guitar delivers as it is 40 years old. It is in excellent, all original condition with some scratches and dings you would expect for a guitar of its age. It plays beautifully with no buzzing and It was clearly well taken care of for its entire life.
The pictures above show much of what is described above. As time permits I will post much of the information I have gathered about the different generations of Yamaha SA's that emulate the 335's as there is very little information available on the evolution of these guitars, some of the more subtle differences between models and generations and most importantly how these models play and sound compared to one another. How does the SA 2000 sound - well in my opinion it lives up to its top of the line status, able to produce some fantastic thick sounds when you roll the tone back on the neck pickup and solid classic lead tones from the bridge.
How do these Yamaha SA's compare to other Japanese made 335 inspired guitars? The Yamaha's play, sound and look great with the consistent level of quality construction vintage Japanese guitars are renowned for. If you spend time looking into the finer details of the Yamaha's, it becomes clear that Yamaha did much more engineering and testing compared to the other brands. This makes sense given the size of the company, and scope of what Yamaha manufactures compared to niche Japanese guitar manufacturers. While the Japanese guitars of this era all shifted to emulating the pinnacle of the American made guitars, which for the 335 is 58 to the early 60's, most makes focused on trying to produce guitars as close as possible to the originals. As you play more of these guitars it becomes clear Yamaha's approach was a little different with the SA models. Their guitars remain true to the originals in many regards, but they were not bound by trying to produce exact copies, rather they strived to produce the best guitars they could and were willing to make improvements or enhancements based upon putting guitars in the hands of musicians and incorporating their feedback.
The early 335 inspired Yamaha SA's are fantastic vintage Japanese guitars.
Just ask anyone who has played one.
I've acquired a second SA 2000, so this guitar is now for sale.
Offered at USD $1,700