Al McKay of Earth Wind & Fire played one. Bill Nelson of Bebop Deluxe played one. Carlos Santana made them famous. Yamaha Guitars commemorates its 40th year selling guitars in the United States by reissuing the SBG3000 solidbody electric guitar. Originally issued in the mid-70s, the SBG line became celebrated for its cool looks, ridiculous sustain and awesome versatility. With its intricate aesthetic detail and individually handcrafted workmanship, it’s no wonder guitarists as wide ranging as Bob Marley and Al Di Meola took to the SBG series.
I’m a big fan of these guitars and have owned more than a few of the vintage models in the SG and SBG line. Aficionados proudly call these guitars, “The Les Paul Killer.” Its striking non-traditional looks never fail to turn heads, and its smokin’ tones send people rushing online in hopes of purchasing one of their own. Lucky for them Yamaha saw fit to reissue these babies.
Cracking the case on this bad boy and getting an eyeful of its unadulterated glory was love at first sight. The neck-through body construction, carved maple top over a maple/ mahogany body is just plain hot. The ebony fretboard is a thing of beauty. Aesthetically speaking, I could see this guitar becoming my new girlfriend. Its two Alnico V, covered humbuckers allow you to get a Swiss Army Knife range of sounds, with the aid of coilsplitting push/push pots located on the tone controls. Top-of-the-line hardware includes gold precise torque tuning machines, a low-mass bridge, mother-of-pearl/abalone inlays, position markers and a gorgeous binding. It’s a stunning piece of workmanship— even the dorkiest guitar player would look sharp as a tack wearing this guitar on stage.
Although it’s historically accurate, a new feature has been added. Yamaha has utilized a proprietary aging technique called Initial Response Acceleration. It’s a manufacturing technique that accelerates the aging process of their guitars. It makes a new guitar sound vintage, by realigning the cellular structure of the wood to replicate an original 1970s SBG, or so they say.
For a test comparison, I whipped out my trusty tobacco 1978 Yamaha SG2000. It’s a great instrument that I will never sell, and comes equipped with that sought-after, creamy Moonflower -era Santana tone. I felt sorry for the reissue, because it had such a tough act to follow. I was deeply concerned that I would give this new guitar an inferiority complex, so I took it nice and easy. The stock pickups in mine are a little different than the ones in the SBG3000, but it’s still in the tonal ballpark. For amps, I plugged into a Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb, Peavey JSX, Fender ’65 Pro Reverb and a Marshall JCM2000.