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A chambered body and enhanced switching make this affordable Revstar light and loaded with tones.
Scads of cool tone combinations. Articulate pickups. Relatively light. Balanced and comfortable. Well built.
Some P-90 players might miss the extra grit the Revstar trades for articulation.
Yamaha Revstar Standard RSS02T
While the Yamaha name is famous in circles beyond the guitar world, they’ve made first-class guitars since the 1960s. And while they don’t unleash new releases with the frequency of some larger guitar brands, every now and then they come down the mountain with a new axe that reminds us of their capacity to build great electric 6-strings. In 2015, Yamaha introduced the first generation Revstar. With a handsome aesthetic inspired by the company’s motorcycle racing heritage, the Revstar combined sweet playability and vintage style touchstones. This year, Yamaha gave the Revstar an overhaul—including body chambering, updated pickups, and new switching. What’s impressive is how these alterations enhance the already impressive playability and versatility of the original.
At a glance, the newest Revstars look a lot like the originals. And streamlined controls suggest little difference between the Yamaha and a lot of other simple 2-pickup electrics. There’s a volume knob, a tone knob, and a pickup selector. Simple, right? Not necessarily. Though the control layout is economical, it conceals a trove of tone possibilities. The pickup switch is now a 5-way selector. Positions 1, 3, and 5 are neck, neck/bridge blend, and bridge pickup settings. But positions 2 and 4 offer cool out-of-phase sounds. Yamaha also made the tone knob a push/pull pot which activates a passive boost called the focus switch. It effectively kicks up the low and mid ranges and shaves off the higher frequencies. In the case of our review guitar, the revised circuit is paired with a set of of Yamaha-designed VP5 P-90s with alnico 5 magnets. A humbucker-equipped model is also available.
The build quality on our gorgeous sunset burst Revstar is very nice. The double-cut body, which tastefully echoes vintage Yamaha style elements with a trace of ’60s offset lines, is built around a layer of maple over chambered mahogany. And though the construction feels substantial, it’s still light at just about 8 pounds. The carbon reinforced neck is built around a 24 ¾" scale and features a 12" radius rosewood fretboard. The tastefully subdued pearloid inlays are situated between jumbo, stainless-steel frets that will weather years of road rash before showing any wear. Unlike the deep glossy finish on the body, the back of the neck is finished in satin. It’s an absolute dream to hold and feels faster and more precise for the lack of gloss.
In the context of a full band, the focus switch is also a handy solution when you need to duck into the rhythm pocket.
Yamaha succeeded in their efforts to make the Revstar more comfortable. Compared to a Gibson SG Classic, the Revstar feels a hair heavier but much more balanced. Hanging over my shoulder from a strap, it didn’t exhibit any tendency toward neck dive. This isn’t the only benefit of Yamaha’s chambered design, but it pays a big dividend in this respect.
With the Revstar out in front of an Orange OR50 and a 4x12, additional comparisons with the SG classic were enlightening and edifying. In general, the Yamaha’s P-90s have a moderately lower output, are less noisy, and exhibit greater overall clarity. While the pickups on both guitars sound similarly hefty playing campfire chords, the Revstar’s output was more articulate playing barre chords further up the neck. Lead lines from the Revstar also brandish a bit more midrange honk that begs for funk riffs. Coupled with a glass slide, the Yamaha happily morphed into a blues monster.
Pulling up on the focus switch kicks sustain into high gear. That sustain comes at the cost of some detail in the top end, but it’s absolutely perfect for long, drawn-out lead lines and slide. In the context of a full band, the focus switch is also a handy solution when you need to duck into the rhythm pocket. It’s also a breeze to flip between the two voicings. Ultimately, the focus switch shines most with high-headroom amplifiers. With smaller amps, like a 5-watt Champ, the augmented lows and mids induce speaker break-up and some mud at moderate volumes, while the “unfocused” output remained gritty, yet eloquent.
At just a shade under $800, the Yamaha Revstar is a great deal. The array of available tones is impressive. And the sharp, unique looks speak for themselves. While the P-90s are a natural fit for classic rock and blues riffage, the overall capacity for picking detail, the out-of-phase switching capabilities, and the low/mid boost feature significantly extend the guitar’s vocabulary—making the new Revstar a great companion for most pedals and very capable of being the only stage guitar you need. Whether you desire crystalline, single-coil chime or punchy, bottom-heavy power chord tones, the Revstar handles it all as gracefully as a café racer leaning into a sweeping curve, and feels great doing it.
Misfits guitarist Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein unveils a new line of strings, collaborating with Josh Vittek of Sheptone.
Von Frankenstein Nickel Plated Electric Guitar Strings are vacuum sealed individually in anti-corrosion bags with gauges clearly labeled for easy identification, an especially helpful feature for working guitarists. In addition to the traditional gauge sets, the Von Frankenstein line will include three sets of actual signature sets that Doyle uses personally. His Abominator set is made up of gauges .010/.013/.017/.028/.038/.060 and used almost exclusively with his band, Doyle. The Decapitaters (.010/.013/.018/.030/.042.065) and the Monsters (.010/.013/.017/.028/.038/.052) are used for performances with the Misfits.
Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein emerged from the fiery pits of New Jersey, the birthplace of the Misfits and a blood-soaked form of music called horror punk. In recent years, Doyle has made his own distinct mark on the genre with the inception of his self-monikered band. Doyle’s debut album, Abominator, was released by his own label, Monsterman Records in 2013 and followed by Doyle II: As We Die in 2017.
Each set includes a different free vinyl sticker, encouraging fans of Doyle and Misfits to collect them all. MSRP $13.99. For a closer look and to learn more about Von Frankenstein Monster Gear, visit www.vonfrankensteinmonstergear.com.
My years-long search for the “right” Bigsby-outfitted box finally paid off. Now how do I make this sumbitch work in my band?
Considering the amount of time I’ve spent (here and elsewhere) talking about and lusting after Gretsch hollowbody guitars, it’s taken me a remarkably long time to end up with a big Bigsby-outfitted box I truly love. High-end Gretsches are pricey enough that, for a long time, I just couldn’t swing it. Years ago I had an Electromatic for a while, and it looked and played lovely, but didn’t have the open, blooming acoustic resonance I hoped for. A while later, I reviewed the stellar Players Edition Broadkaster semi-hollow, and it was so great in so many ways that I set my sights on it, eventually got one, and adore it to this day. Yet the full-hollowbody lust remained.
I’ve long been more of a single-coil player than a humbucker guy, so the more I thought about it, the more intrigued I was by the idea of a hollow with pickups that weren’t of the Filter’Tron variety. I also liked the idea of a lower-key aesthetic. So in early April, after a bunch of research and listening, I pulled the trigger on a beauty from the other stellar “G” hollowbody brand. With its transparent blonde finish and P-90-esque Franz single-coil pickups, the Guild X-175B Manhattan I picked up ticks both boxes nicely. And for a very reasonable used price, too.
After outfitting it with a set of Thomastik-Infeld flatwound strings, I ended up loving the Manhattan’s woody resonance so much I had to try it with my band. Problem is, I play in a drums-and-guitar duo where my Vibrolux Reverb runs in tandem with a bass amp to fill out the sonic space (two of my main band axes are baritones, and a keyboard goes through the same pedalboard and amp array). As you might’ve guessed, the Manhattan did not initially love the bass amp. When I plugged in with my usual settings, the howling was so rabid I figured the Guild would never work out at band volumes—or at least not in that band.
You can’t ride the wild horsey without widening your entire playing mindset to be much more cognizant of when something … threatens to cause a fit of mad buzzing.
But the more I played the 175B through other amps and at quieter volumes, the more I realized I had to give it another go. The guitar’s acoustic depth and the Franz’s clear-but-mellow, almost Jazzmaster-esque response are so old-school charming but big and bold and vibrant that I decided it might be worth revamping settings for the entire bass-and-guitar-amp rig.
Figuring it all out has been a wild mustang ride. Tremolo and vibrato intensity needed to be increased a tad to yield the same vibes they do with other guitars. But my usual gnarly fuzz tastes are too out-of-control and indistinct with the Manhattan, so fuzz might be off the board indefinitely. The good news is that you can work that howling susceptibility to your advantage and create huge, pulsating sounds that are as bombastic in their own way as a fuzzed-out solidbody.
To bridle the beast, I tried shoving a sock or four through the f-holes. It worked a bit, but it also deadened the sound and killed that “alive” feeling that makes the resonating body so cool to work with in the first place. So out the socks went. Interestingly, bringing down the volume of the Vibrolux—not the bass amp—helped significantly, though I refuse to take it below 3 because it just won’t sound right. Being mindful of how playing positions and proximity to the amps exacerbate the problem are also key. Even so, you can’t ride the wild horsey without widening your entire playing mindset to be much more cognizant of when something—most often it’s simply sustaining a 6th-string note—threatens to cause a fit of mad buzzing. It’s an entirely new world of dynamics, dampening, and muting, with both your fretting and your picking hands.
We’re still experimenting with how all this might shake out in the band, but so far the sounds and overall vibes are so cool we’re considering adjusting song arrangements, instrumentation, and tunings to better coalesce around the Guild’s wonderful sounds. (The simplicity of one guitar, one keyboard, and not too many pedals has its attendant benefits, too, including a streamlined sonic aesthetic and reduced time and technical issues between songs.) Anyway, wish us luck!