From one of Japans best factories come a super-sweet sunburst blues/folk fingerpicker 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.
Formerly called the YF20, this ‘New Yorker‘-style concert model echoes a vintage Martin 00. The elegant, tortie-bound, 14" wide spruce/rosewood body is allied to a short-scale neck joining the body at the 12th fret with a slot headstock.
Another period feature is the simple bar bridge with long saddle. The body’s gloss lacquer, with comely dark sunburst top, is immaculately buffed; the neck has a smooth low-gloss patina.
Yairi employs laminated backs and sides on Artist Series instruments – a courageous move when all-solid-wooders are increasingly commonplace even in the budget arena.
The idea is to add strength without adversely affecting sound quality, and Yairi points out that the laminations (sawn from the same log) are made up of just two layers of timber with the grain running in the same direction, rather than the typical three with a cross-grain in-between. Unusual, but who’s to say they’re misguided?
Predictably, the NY0021B is built for fingerstyle, with a broad neck and very generous string spacing at the bridge.
The neck’s combination of moderate depth, gently V’d profile and a slick action make it feel snug and accessible, and it’s an excellent picker.
The only limitation – as with any non-cutaway 12-fretter – is restricted up-top access.
Part-laminate construction or not, the K Yairi‘s delivery is resonant, expressive and dynamic. A bloom of mid and low-end warmth nicely richens up the tone, and there’s that hint of hollow, blues-friendly woodiness that’s so appropriate to compact-bodied acoustics.
It’s a pleasing sound, right for the genre.
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.