At a glance, the new Revstars look a lot like the originals. And the simplified controls suggest little difference between the Yamaha and many other simple 2-pickup electrics. There is a volume knob, a tone knob and a pickup selector. Simple, right? Not necessarily. Although the control layout is economical, it hides a wealth of tonal possibilities. The pickup selector is now a 5 position selector. Positions 1, 3, and 5 are the neck, neck/bridge blend, and bridge pickup settings. But positions 2 and 4 offer cool out of phase sounds. Yamaha also made the tone knob a push/pull pot that activates a passive boost called a tune switch. It effectively boosts the low and mid ranges and shaves off the high frequencies. In the case of our review guitar, the revised circuit is paired with a set of Yamaha-designed VP5 P-90s with alnico 5 magnets. A humbucker-equipped model is also available.
The build quality of our beautiful Sunset Burst Revstar is very pleasing. The double-cutaway body, which tastefully echoes vintage Yamaha styling cues with a trace of ’60s staggered lines, is constructed around a layer of maple over chambered mahogany. And while the build looks substantial, it’s still lightweight at around 8 pounds. The carbon-reinforced neck is built around a 24 ¾” scale and features a 12″ radius rosewood fingerboard. Tastefully understated pearloid inlays sit between jumbo stainless steel frets that will withstand years of rash before showing any wear. Unlike the deep gloss finish on the body, the back of the neck is finished in satin. It’s an absolute dream to hold and feels faster and more accurate for the lack of shine.
In the context of a full band, the focus switch is also a handy solution when you need to dive into the rhythm pocket.
Changing gears on the open road
Yamaha succeeded in its efforts to make the Revstar more comfortable. Compared to a Gibson SG Classic, the Revstar feels a bit heavier but much more balanced. Suspended from my shoulder by a strap, it showed no tendency to dive into the neck. That’s not the only benefit of Yamaha’s chambered design, but it pays a big dividend in that regard.
With the Revstar released ahead of an Orange OR50 and a 4×12, the additional comparisons to the classic SG were illuminating and uplifting. In general, Yamaha’s P-90s have moderately lower output, are less loud, and exhibit greater overall clarity. While the pickups on both guitars sound similar when playing campfire chords, the Revstar’s output was more articulate when playing barre chords higher in the neck. The main lines of the Revstar also wield a slightly more midrange horn that begs for funk riffs. Coupled with a glass slide, the Yamaha happily transformed into a blues monster.
Pulling the focus switch kicks sustain into high gear. This sustain comes at the cost of some treble detail, but it’s absolutely perfect for long lead lines and slips. In the context of a full band, the focus switch is also a handy solution when you need to dive into the rhythm pocket. It’s also a breeze to switch between the two voicings. Ultimately, the focus switch shines the most with high-headroom amplifiers. With smaller amps, like a 5-watt Champ, the boosted bass and mids induce speaker breakup and a little muddy at moderate volumes, while the “unfocused” output remains grainy, but eloquent.
At just under $800, the Yamaha Revstar is a bargain. The range of tones available is impressive. And the sharp, unique looks speak for themselves. While the P-90s are great for classic rock and blues riffs, the overall detail picking ability, out-of-phase switching capabilities, and bass/midrange boost function greatly expand the guitar’s vocabulary, making of the new Revstar a great companion for most pedals and very capable of being the only stage guitar you need. Whether you want crystal-clear single-coil chime or punchy, heavy power chord tones, the Revstar handles it all as gracefully as a cafe racer leaning into a fast curve, and feels great doing it.
Yamaha Revstar Standard RSS02T Demo | First look