Pros: Looks, stays in tune, well finished, Sound (plugged)
Cons: Sound (unplugged), cheap tuners.
I bought this guitar at the end of June 2004 for AU$599 (US$450) with the intention of using it as a utility/silent practice instrument as well as a backup for my guitar students to play during lessons - as they frequently dont bother bringing their own guitars. The financial year ends in Australia in June, and its the best time to buy music gear. The list price for the APX5A here is AU$999, which makes you wonder about the sort of margins they work with if they can offer a 33% discount.
The Fender Stratacoustic was the other guitar on my shortlist - a great looking instrument with a lovely neck. Sadly, everything else about it was most disappointing. Unplugged, it was like a cigar box with a strat neck attached, while plugged-in it started feeding back at very low volume settings. Others have reviewed it on Epinions read their reviews, then make up your mind to stay away from it!
The APX5A is a good guitar(as opposed to a great one), and I like it (as opposed to love it). Its one of those instruments which does nothing brilliantly, yet does nothing badly either. Like all the Yamahas Ive owned and played, its reliable, playable and sounds good. I have never paid more than AU$600 for an acoustic or acoustic/electric. Having tried a few Taylors and Martins, I could never justify paying the asking prices - which can run into the thousands. To me, the improvement in quality and tone is nowhere near proportional to the price difference.
The vital stats of the APX5A are as follows: 22 frets, rosewood fretboard/bridge, enclosed chrome tuners, single cutaway, Spruce solid top mine has the natural finish , Nato back and sides. Piezo-electric pickup under the bridge, a 9V battery compartment, Volume control, EQ controls with Low/Mid/High and a feedback reducing slider Yamaha calls AMF (I think its some sort of notch-filter).
As with any thin-bodied acoustic, the unplugged sound will be neither as loud nor as rich as a full-bodied dreadnaught, jumbo etc. The relative lack of volume is actually a blessing for me, as I can play into the wee hours of the morning without waking all and sundry.
Once plugged in, the sound becomes more versatile. The pickup is a bit trebly, so I normally wind back the high and mid on the EQ to below their half way settings, and move the bass to almost full. Using overdrive and distortion pedals brings on the feedback characteristic of most acoustic/electrics, but playing with the AMF control soon gets rid of it. I have GHS light strings on. I had the action set very low. Things get a bit buzzy towards the upper frets, but nothing too obtrusive.
The tuners look cheap, but they manage to keep the instrument in tune even after some heavy duty string bending. The overall finish is typical Yamaha: Too much lacquer, but solid and durable. The oval sound hole looks great, but the plastic rosette is a bit kitsch.
The Yamaha brochure claims that the APX5A is the most popular thin bodied acoustic/electric in the world. I have no way of verifying this claim, but I have seen them used live by many solo musicians and duos. I use it as a working instrument in my studio, and it stands up well to the rigours of
student use and abuse. I highly recommend the APX5A to the working musician or as a general purpose acoustic/electric for the hobbyist. It's a guitar that is sure to grow on you.
For a review of my "other" Yamaha, please have a look at the Yamaha acoustic guitar FG403S.
You might also want to checkout my review on the Ibanez SRX300 Bass Guitar.
If you are in the market for a guitar, you may want to read my review on: How to buy and electric guitar.