Yamaha can do no wrong. When it comes to innovation and high quality, the company makes no distinction between its incredible range of products from concert pianos to motorcycles. This is a company that is revered by musicians and motorists. U2 drummer Larry Mullen once joked that when Yamaha contacted him about giving him something for his decades-long association with the company, his first thought was, “Yes! A motorbike!”
Still, developing an instrument that links Yamaha’s legacy of musical and motoring worlds is a pleasant surprise; one that would lead you to think, “Oh yeah, why didn’t they think of it from the start?”[center]
Designed with Yamaha motorcycles as an aesthetic reference, the Revstar series of electric guitars is that link. The Revstar line has garnered numerous design awards since its introduction in 2016 and not only does the line-up look cool: each model from the basic RS320 to the RSP20 Professional is designed for comfortable playing ergonomics and tones that you can push to roar like, well, a finely-tuned Yamaha motorcycle.
Revstars share an offset body shape with pointy horns, a belly cut, and round bottom that variate on Yamaha’s own iconic SG/SBG series (the SBG has been revived, but should you see an old used one from the late 70s/early 80s, go buy it!) and a pair of control knobs. All necks are set-in with a slim three-per-side “Gumby” headstock adorned with a metal Yamaha logo. It adds a touch of class to even the meat-and-potatoes 320 which is equipped with a pair of humbuckers and tune-o-matic stop tailpiece. In fact, the 320’s playability and fat tones is an excellent indicator for the entire line’s quality.
All Revstars (save for the 320) feature Yamaha’s proprietary Dry Switch which can be accessed via the push-pull tone knob. It acts as a bass roll-off circuit when engaged (knob pulled up) to simulate the clarity of a single coil minus the associated hum and buzz; it is not a coil-tap or a coil-split, but something entirely different. The result is subtlebut the lows do become clearer. There is no output drop so there is no need to say, compensate by turning up your amp or pedal’s gain knob as one might do when switching from a humbucker to a single coil.
Up the ladder is the RS502 which has soapbar-style single coils that deliver a throaty throttle-y tone even at high gain settings.
The RS502 has a TonePros wraparound adjustable bridge; its sister the 502T has a tune-o-matic with an extended aluminum tailpiece that looks like a hip motorcycle gas tank. The 502s on up feature body binding, matte finishes, and hand-brushed hardware including TonePros bridges (the 502T has a gloss finish that contrasts nicely with the brushed tailpiece).
The RS720B features a Bigsby-licensed vibrato bridge and locking tuners; admittedly, the “faded denim” finish may not be to everyone’s taste (it does however point back to the Revstar’s motorcycle lifestyle fashion aesthetic).
The RS820CR features an anodized aluminum scratchplate and gloss racing stripes that are simply gorgeous against either the grey or “rust rat” finishes.
At the top of the Revstar garage is the RSP20CR which is a higher-grade 820CR with a copper scratchplate and Japanese craftsmanship (the other ‘Stars are made in Indonesia) and heftier price tag. The CR by the way stands for ‘Café Racer.’
Whichever Revstar catches your eyes and ears (and your budget) is nearly secondary to every model’s fast comfortable action. The build quality is consistent throughout the entire line, and you feel the care and precision engineering as if they were actually motorcycles.The Revstar line is a nod to Yamaha’s creative range. It may seem to be a self-referential Yamaha tribute, but thankfully, these ‘Stars are as reliable as anything the company has produced throughout its amazing history. There’s a lot of form in the Revstars, and also a huge heap of functionality…but that is what Yamaha does, isn’t it?