From one of Japans best factories come a super-sweet sunburst blues/folk fingerpicker and an OM-sized all-rounder. Jerry Uwins reckons that all-solid woods arent everything
The name of K Yairi has always been right up there with the best Japanese makers, and now – thankfully – the brand has a proper UK distributor and nearly 30 shops stocking its wares.
K Yairi has been around since the mid-’30s and it now produces around 4000 instruments a year, including those sold in the USA under the Alvarez-Yairi name. The emphasis is strongly on handcrafting, and apparently no CNC machinery is involved. Our review guitars both fall within the Artist Series.
The most immediately eye-catching feature on this OM-style model is the patented Direct Coupled Bridge, which Yairi also uses on its all-solid-wood Masterworks Series.
The design involves separating the main bridge assembly from the flush-mounted rearward plate which holds the bridge pins.
The company makes bold claims for the sonic benefits of DCB, but the practical advantages, it seems to me, are providing consistent string tension due to the more steeply angled path over the saddle, and relieving the bridge of the stress of string pull which can, on a regular guitar, cause lifting problems along the back edge.
DCB aside, the guitar’s £100 or so uplift in price buys a more deluxe cosmetic treatment. The body – again a pairing of quality-looking solid spruce and two-way laminated rosewood – includes a wood-and-abalone rosette, a transparent pickguard to protect the top while maintaining a natural look, and multi-ply cream/black purfling, while the 25.4"-scale neck, also cream bound, bears decorative pearl markers.
The bound headstock overlay is given Yairi’s distinctive and attractive treatment of twin diagonal abalone stripes along with the logo and ‘Y’ motif.
The bridge and fingerboard are ebony, rather than the NY’s rosewood. Quality of detailing is again very good, with a lacquer treatment of gloss body and low-gloss neck.
The neck, which as on the NY is one piece mahogany with an additional heel portion, is more mainstream when it comes to size.
The width, starting at 44.5mm across the nut, is a millimetre or two narrower all the way up, while string spacing over the bridge is a regular 55mm rather than the NY’s 58mm.
The profile retains a gentle V’ing, slightly reduced in depth along the crown. The upshot is a grip that feels very well suited to the instrument – compact enough and comfy for general strummage but sufficiently airy for easy, accurate picking.
Set-up is excellent, almost electric-like in its slinkiness and speed.
Despite its larger soundbox, the FY84 lacks a little of the NY’s front-end muscle but as the sound is altogether different, that aspect of comparison is a little unfair.
Rather than a parlour-redolent earthiness, it delivers a taut yet supply sustaining texture, the intrinsically bright tone tempered by an engaging sweetness that sits well for folksy noodlings.
The overall tone could arguably use a touch more warmth, but it’s a guitar that’s not lacking in poise or articulation.
Specification obsessives will likely be deterred by these Yairis' part-laminate construction, when the vast majority of acoustics around these prices nowadays are solid woods throughout. Open-minded souls, though, will look beyond that and assess the guitars on their own strengths. Those strengths are plentiful: top-notch build and finishing, great playability, and sounds - especially the peppy NY's - that do justice to this long-respected brand. Don't be a slave to specs... that's the motto.