YAMAHA SA 1200S - 1980
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.
Part of this line was the SA-1200S, which featured a solid spruce top, ebony fretboard and push-push coil tap on the tone pots. This is a fantastic semi hollow body from Yamaha, with much of the features of the top of the line model, with a more reserved dot neck and chrome hardware. This particular guitar is in incredibly nice, all original condition.
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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 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.
Center block construction has a hard maple center block sandwiched between spruce blocks with kerfs cut into them, just as an ES-335 would have. 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. Almost all semi hollow bodies use a laminate top. This Yamaha uses a solid spruce top as you can see in the pictures, more akin to a high end acoustic.
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. Add in the push-push coil splitting tone pots and the guitar delivers a very wide range of tones. 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.
Condition of this guitar is excellent, as you can see in the many pictures this guitar is incredibly well preserved for its age. There are a few dings and scratches. Chrome is in excellent condition.
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, especially the solid spruce topped SA 1200S.