Full Yamaha FG800 Review
Verdict and Review Summary
Driven by the appeal of an extremely low price tag, the Yamaha FG800 is built with a solid Sitka Spruce top - same tonewood used in the Taylor 114ce - and an upgraded form of Yamaha bracing. For the price range (around $200) it's hard to do much better.
Of all the acoustic guitars around the $200 price range, the Yamaha FG800 is one of the few that is built with a solid top. In most cases, you've got to spend more than $500 to get any kind of solid wood.
It should also be mentioned that there are different grades of solid wood - and we'd assume a lower grade here - but a solid top is always better than laminate.
Solid Spruce is used in the top piece, which is the same tonewood used in the top of the Taylor 114ce acoustic (a far more expensive guitar). And while we'd still classify the FG800 as a beginner acoustic, it's on the upper-tier of that group and certainly doesn't feel like you're playing something cheap. Anytime you have a solid top, holding the guitar in your hands will feel inherently more sturdy.
Here's how we scored things in our Yamaha FG800 review:
Point Value (%)
1. Overall Tone Grade
5. Features Overall
8. Tone Quality Bump
Yamaha FG800 Review Comparison Table
Taylor Big Baby
Martin LXK2 Little Martin
The FG800 projects brighter than what we typically see out of the dreadnought body shape, which is even more odd with the added solid wood top. It highlights your picking hand dynamics and will pronounce a lot of scraping, both from your pick and your fingers. This makes it a better fit for fingerpicking and lead or melody-focused acoustic styles.
On the rhythm side, strumming and chord progressions sound decently full, though thicker strumming patterns will expose the guitar's weaker resonance compared to higher-priced acoustics.
Open chords give off the most pleasing response, with a good balance of lows and highs throughout the strings.
It's not going give you the full, heavy "boom" that you'd hear from Martin dreadnoughts, and for the price you wouldn't expect it to be. We definitely like it more on the high end of the tone spectrum, kind of like the Taylor acoustics, but its tone is remarkably good overall, especially when you consider the price tag.
Yamaha FG800 Tone Highlights
- Brisk, clean
- High-end chime
- Sensitive to right-hand dynamics
- Bright, full
The 700-level models in the Yamaha FG series (preceding the 800s) use Mahogany in the back and sides, while the models in the 800 series use a laminate mixture of Nato and Okume. Since we're a little more familiar with pure Mahogany (Nato is a blend of eastern mahogany), we recommend it over the Nato and Okume blend, which is more of a wild card.
Even still, the difference between the FG700 and 800 series is subtle, and hard to pin on the tonewood alone.
The Nato, in particular, helps boost the brighter resonance, which can make the guitar sound a little too biting in some cases. There's already going to be a lot of brightness from the Spruce top and it seems like the Nato sort of amplifies that part of the tone profile, where we'd prefer to see it balance things out in the other direction.
Yet, the star of the tonewood show is the solid Spruce, which we've already talked about.
Read more: Solid spruce tonewood
We weren't able to tell if it's a comparable grade of Sitka Spruce you see in other guitars that use a solid Spruce top. But it was able to keep up with those models in terms of tone quality, similar to economy Taylors and low-grade Martin acoustics. The rating in our chart is certainly subjective, but reflects our experience testing the acoustic guitars we've been able to get our hands on over the years.
Bracing and Construction
Yamaha uses a scalloped bracing in the 800 series, similar to what the Taylor 114ce implements.
This helps improve sustain in the FG800 and gives you a somewhat wider broadcast range and resonance, helpful if you're recording with a microphone. It's a thicker and heavy feel than what you had with the 700 series acoustics, with a slightly thinner, more tapered neck that's easier to play.
The back panel is one single piece of layered Nato, with Walnut in used in the fingerboard and bridge.
While Yamaha took some understandable shortcuts here, the FG800 is built a lot more like than the 114ce, yet still retains a scant $200 price tag.
In addition to having a concert and dreadnought body type to choose from, the FG800 provides an acoustic-only and an acoustic-electric option. This gives you four variations of the guitar to choose from:
- Dreadnought Acoustic-Only
- Dreadnought Electronics
- Concert Acoustic-Only
- Concert Electronics
The $200 version of the FG800 has no electronics, while the $300 version has a Yamaha-made System 66 preamp and pickup system. This pickup is a piezo under-saddle setup that has a three-band EQ, tuner, and additional midrange control.
We didn't rate this category because the default version of the FG800 doesn't include the System 66.
For those interested in the acoustic-electric version of this guitar, you do get a better control scheme than the Taylor ES-2, we just didn't think it sounded quite as "natural" as what you'd like to hear out of a good acoustic preamp. It's very challenging for cheaper electronics to replicate a natural acoustic tone, and not to simply amplify it like an electric guitar.
This preamp/pickup combo only sort of does that.
It's not the main attraction.
Cost and Value of the FG800 Series
The FG800 is a clear high-value purchase, though it's also helpful to see how other similar guitars compare in a value chart.
We can visualize this by plotting a graph of several acoustic guitars we recommend with the ratings we've given them and then plot them on a graph based on their approximate retail cost.
In this graph, lower and further to the right is better.
You can see that the FG800 snags a super-low price while falling roughly in the middle of the group with an 85 overall rating. Despite a comparatively lower rating in this particular group, it's still one of the higher-value acoustic guitar options available.
In this section, we'll quickly touch on a few frequently asked questions related to the Yamaha FG800.
The page we linked to from the orange Amazon button at the beginning of our Yamaha FG800 review is just the guitar. However, there are several different packages you can get - also on Amazon - that include things like gig bags, strings, picks, and other accessories.
It can definitely work, though I'd probably recommend the concert body type, just because it's a little smaller and easier to hold. Personally, I've always found the dreadnought body shape to be just a little too bulky. Both versions of the FG800 are the same price.
Yamaha lists the FG800 as a little over 40 inches long, so while it's not quite the full 41 inches, it's not a 3/4 or "small" guitar either.
Best Fit and Context
As a budget acoustic guitar, the FG800 one of our top recommendations for beginners, as it's ideal for early learning, guitar lessons, bedroom jamming, or as a backup for a nicer instrument.
Other FG800 Articles & Resources
In our rating system we went ahead and removed the preamp/pickup rating, so if that matters to you, it might be more fair to dock an additional 10 points (we just redistributed those points throughout other rating factors). But for many beginners the electronics aren't going to be a priority. The FG800 gets you an easy-playing acoustic guitar with a decent tone profile that doesn't sacrifice the experience of the instrument.
In other words, Yamaha gets you the budget-friendly price and a guitar that feels and sounds good to play.
We can recommend it comfortably for most acoustic beginner situations.
Your Questions and Comments
Do you have questions about our Yamaha FG800 review or the review process? If so, feel free to leave them in the comments section and I'll do my best to help out.