Spotlight on Second-Generation Yamaha Revstar Guitars
These great guitars have gotten even better.
I love demonstrating the latest Yamaha guitars at trade shows. These events allow me to interact with the Yamaha, Line 6 and Ampeg teams, as well as with dealers and fellow guitar players. At the 2020 Winter NAMM show, I was invited to a private gathering to “test drive” some prototypes for a planned new series of Revstar guitars. It was exciting and inspiring to get a sneak peek at what lay ahead, but details of those new implementations could not be discussed with anyone … until now.
I’ve been working with the original Revstar guitar lineup since 2017, so I feel I have a unique perspective. Having just spent a couple of weeks playing and recording two of the new second-generation models, I’d like to share with you my impressions of these exciting upgrades. First, though, let’s talk about the new features.
New Revstar Features
The Revstar line has been streamlined into three main categories: Professional (RSP20), Standard (RSS20) and Element (RSE20).
All second-generation Revstar models feature chambered mahogany bodies, mahogany neck-through body design, rosewood fingerboards, jumbo frets (stainless steel on Professional and Standard models), humbucking or P90 pickups, new gloss finishes and satin finished necks that match the body color. They also all sport a set of lovely ivory-colored tuners that complement the unique headstock shape and striking Yamaha logo.
The RSP02T and RSS02T Professional and Standard models feature the original 02T tailpiece, and there are also left-hand Element and Standard models available (the RSE20L and RSS20L).
Revstar Element models retain the first-generation “dry switch” feature on the tone control. This pull-pot effectively filters low-end frequencies for a cleaner tone. I particularly like this sound for rhythm guitar parts.
Professional and Standard Revstars employ a new five-way selector switch (shown above) in combination with a unique passive boost on the tone control. When the tone control is pressed in, the five-way selector switch toggles between the bridge and neck pickups. However, positions two and four engage a capacitor circuit that slightly delays the output of the opposite pickup, resulting in a subtle phase shift. The resulting tone is similar to the familiar “out of phase” sound we often hear from guitars with single-coil pickups, but rarely found on instruments with humbucking pickups.
Pulling up on the tone control engages the “focus” switch — essentially a passive boost that cuts the highs while boosting the low and mid frequencies to produce a sound similar to that of overwound pickups.
Colors in the Standard line-up include Black (shown below), Flash Green, Swift Blue and Vintage White. The tailpiece edition of the Standard lineup (the RSS02T) clocks in with Black, Hot Merlot, Sunset Burst and Swift Blue. (The latter two colors are also available in Professional Series Revstars.)
All Element models feature matte-finished double-stripe “café racer” detail through the middle of the gloss-finished body — a subtle but unique addition. These guitars come in four new colors: Black, Vintage White, Swift Blue and Neon Yellow (shown below).
The body dimensions in all second-generation models are slightly larger than the original solid-body Revstar. This allows the guitar to balance well and reduces some of the overall weight. Even when played for extended periods of time, the instrument never feels too heavy or uncomfortable.
The new neck profile and stainless-steel jumbo frets are some of the best I’ve ever encountered. The string spacing seems perfect for my hand size and personal playing style. Navigating the length of the fretboard is super-fast and smooth due to the “dryness” of the satin landscape.
The tuned, chambered body actually resonates like a semi-acoustic guitar, adding a nice “bounce” to the picking attack and a roundness to the tonality. Chords ring longer, and single-note passages generate pleasing upper-harmonic content within the sustaining tones. The humbucking pickups articulate dynamic touch, and faithfully reproduce what you feel and hear from the acoustic resonance of the guitar.
I like the simplicity of three-way switching and the bass filter (dry switch) on the Element guitars, but the new five-way pickup selector and focus switch on the Professional and Standard Revstars add a beautiful set of twenty onboard tonal variations. My favorite tones were with the focus switch engaged, as I prefer the softening of the upper frequencies along with the pronounced mid-range and low-end bump those settings produced.
I really appreciate the tuning stability of these new Revstar guitars too. The carbon-reinforced neck on my RSS20 allowed for prolonged bending and perfectly intonated complex chords, as you can see and hear in the videos below.
These two videos will give you a good sense of how the new Revstar guitars sound, along with a feel for how they can sit in the mix with other instruments. (The only piece of outboard gear used is a Line 6 Helix modeling processor.) The isolated clean crunch and bluesy pickup tones show off the unique character of the guitar, and I also demonstrate the various switching options for rhythm and lead guitar playing.
Revstar guitars hold a special place in the hearts of guitar players looking for a unique and expressive instrument. I certainly became an advocate and poster-child for the RS720B and RS502T, my favorite first-generation Revstar models.
The second-generation Revstars retain the essence of that legacy, but refine, define and elevate the original visual appeal, playability and tonality to a whole new level. I think there’s a Revstar in the new lineup for any discerning guitar player looking for something special.
Personally, I have my eye on the RSP02T in Swift Blue. Just sayin’!
Photographs courtesy of the author.