1978 Yamaha SR-400

This one may seem a little out of character for me but I have written about how terribly underrated the Yamaha name is here in Australia and everything that came out of the the Nippon Gakki factory was superb. I'm a HUGE fan of sixties, seventies and eighties Yamahas, especially some of their amazing design aesthetics and attention to detail, and of course, the quality. 

As some of you who follow me know, I'm not a huge Strat fan. I've owned and played some great ones, and some terrible ones over the years but I like the weird and wonderful, the bizarre and strange and, well, Strats just don't fall into this category. Some of my favourite guitarists use them, to amazing effect but, well, they're just not for me.

We've had a heap of these mid/late seventies Yamaha "Strats" through the shop over the years and I realised while setting this one up, I've never written about them on my blog. Maybe because they're "Strats" or maybe because they're reasonable "common" but playing this made me realise just how Strat they really are. 

These 400's were made from solid pieces of ash laminated together in a technique used in several of the great Japanese factories. I have no problem with this method of construction (Gibson and fender used it over the years) and the timber used by these factories was always great quality. The body is quite weighty on a lot of these, although not seventies Fender "boat anchor" heavy. 

 

The necks are two or three piece maple construction with a glued on fretboard in either rosewood or maple depending on the model. This method meant you only needed to tool for one neck and then glue on the appropriate fretboard rather than have a one piece neck with a skunk strip down the back to insert the trussrod.

This has a nice medium round neck that is VERY comfortable to play. 

 

Even though these Japanese factories weren't really making accurate "reissues" as such throughout the seventies you would call this a "late sixties Strat" in features although some don't really match up perfectly. The big CBS headstock with two string trees, the trussrod adjustment at the body end, the four bolt neck, the three way switch .... The "slightly" bloated (less defined) body shape and contours are more seventies Fender than sixties. 

 

The pickups do a VERY convincing job of sounding like a Strat and all the electronics are essentially the same as a real one. The bridge has cast saddles which carried over to the more expensive models but by around 1980 folded steel saddles were standard. This one is ALL original and has the original (and hard to find) bridge ashtray cover and arm as well as hangtag owners manual, accessories booklet, tools and tuning fork. 

The SR-500 had a "solid body" of three (or more) pieces (not laminated) and the 600 and 700 (the top of the line) had a two piece body and small Strat headstock making them more "early sixties" reissues. 

 

Setting this one up reminded me just how good, and underrated these Yamahas really are. A late seventies Fender will set you back considerable money now and playing this (and vintage Greco/Tokai/Burny/Aria/Suzuki etc from similar periods) makes you realise there is much better bang for buck out there if Strats are your thing. 

Of course by the early eighties Fender were getting their guitars made by these amazing Japanese factories and they were making absolutely superb guitars and while original US Fenders from this period, and now early Fender Japan guitars start to climb in price it's nice to remember that there were other manufacturers making similar products that are still great value for players. It's kind of weird that a '81 Greco Strat can be worth half (or less) than a '82 Fender Strat even though both were made in the FujiGen Gakki factory, and brands like Tokai and Fernandes/Burny and Yamaha were making essentially the same thing and are worth even less than the Grecos.

 

I've always said, ignore whats on the headstock and PLAY the guitar. If it speaks to you, it is your guitar regardless of who made it and how much it costs. 

 

 

Dec 13 2017 Written By: Tim Brennan