Guitars Reviewed: Yamaha A4K Limited and A5R ARE

Confession: I suffer from G.A.S. (Guitar Acquisition Syndrome). I’m not in denial, but I don’t see it as a problem. No one does except my wife (wives must always, in some way, be opposed to their husband’s interests). In fact, those to whom she expresses her misplaced concern see no problem with my G.A.S. (I love enablers!). In this posting is reviewed my latest acquisition: Yamaha’s A4K Limited, as well as its sibling, the A5R ARE. They are both dreadnoughts with built-in electronics, and are all solid wood, and very well made guitars.

A4K Limited

The dreadnought A4K Limited is an all koa guitar — solid top, back, and sides. As you may know, koa is a hard wood, and comes principally from Hawaii. Koa, in my opinion, gives a bright , crisp, and clean tone which is quite pleasant. Other materials of this guitar are mahogany neck, and ebony fretboard and bridge. The binding appears to be mahogany, as is the case for the A5R ARE. The lower bout is a generous 16.25 inches (41.3cm), and the nut width is a typical 1 11/16 inches (43mm) of a dreadnought.

 

A5R ARE

The A5R ARE sibling has a solid sitka spruce (torrefactioned, or ARE as Yamaha describes the process), and solid rosewood back and sides. It too, has a mahogany neck, with ebony fretboard and bridge. The body and neck dimensions are identical to the A4K Limited.

Both models have identical electronics which consist of volume, treble, bass, and blend (you can mix mic and under saddle piezo pickups to you taste). The controls are laid out on the upper bout on the bass side of the bodies. A plastic “dear dummy” applique surrounds the controls and labels them for the player. The packaging that comes with the guitars contains smaller decals which are to be applied for identification at each knob. Both models have an attractive pick guard (surprisingly rare these days on many dreadnoughts).

I met both A Series guitars at Tacoma’s Ted Brown Music in August, 2018. I have seen an A5R ARE elsewhere, and have played an A3R before at this store a few years ago. My experience with Yamaha’s A Series models have impressed me in the past. In a recent e-mailing from Premier Guitar there was a video introduction and demonstration of the A4K Limited. By this video, I learned that only 75 of these guitars were made. With this information in mind, I was surprised that Ted Brown had an A4K Limited in stock. It begged to be played! It’s clearly one of the easiest guitars to play I have encountered — everything is smooth and effortless with its fabulous neck and setup! A personal test for playability is my own acoustic version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. The movements from a descending Am chord were without any effort as I find on some other guitars. (The A5R ARE is equally a delight to play, and if blindfolded, I couldn’t distinguish between the two, except for tone — the A5R clearly has a spruce top.) Gary, a friend and sales associate, plugged the A4K into a Fishman Loudbox Mini Charge acoustic amplifier. With electronics I usually shrug my shoulders and utter a silent, “Whatever…”, but the guitar was a joy to hear as its sound came through this outstanding Fishman amp. (Perhaps I won’t dismiss electronics so easily from now on!).

I’ve never been interested in “limited runs:” The prices of such guitars are over-the-top in my opinion, and for my budget. Regarding koa, other manufactures, such as Taylor, have made limited runs of all koa, but at a heftier price tag. The A4K Limited has a price of $1499 in shops and when offered online. (The A5R ARE sells for $1399.) This price is very reasonable for an all koa guitar. The reason is clearly that they are Chinese made, but as is increasingly the case, very well made, and if North American made, it would sell for well over $2,000. (The A5R ARE is make in Japan.)

Back to G.A.S. I kept truly, and honestly, hoping that someone would buy the koa dreadnought (G.A.S. can be suppressed — for awhile at least). Well, on October 6, 2018, I innocently happened to stroll into Ted Brown Music, and there in the acoustic room was the A4K. Hmmm…Well, needless to say, G.A.S. took over, and I took this beauty home with me. And I’m pleased I did. And by the way, my wife thinks it was a good call!  As of November 17, 2018, six A4K Limiteds can be found on reverb.com. So act quickly to get one, because I don’t want to be able to say, “I got one and you didn’t!”

 

 

Keep on playing!

Fr. Irenaeus

 



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