Yamaha LLX6 DN acoustic-electric guitar
Yamaha Corporation of America, yamaha.com
Orginally printed in Guitar World, January 2007.
Dave Navarro is anything but unassuming. The guy's a rock star by vocation as well as by trade, so it's fitting that his signature acoustic-electric guitar is an instrument that makes a visual, as well as sonic, statement.
First the visual: The Dave Navarro Yamaha LLX6 DN is white in almost the same way that the cover of Spinal Tap's Smell the Glove was black, except that here, tasteful black accents-such as the headstock, fretboard, binding and even the finish inside the guitar-are there to put the blizzard of white into stark relief. But if anything, the contrast brings out the whiteness of the guitar's finish even more boldly. A dab of reflective color is provided by the pearloid tuning keys and a custom abalone headstock inlay of Dave's personal "Unicorn S" logo. Taken as a package, this dreadnought is extreme, bold and in your face. Onstage, it doesn't inspire as much as it demands attention. Clearly, this ax is for players who want to be seen.
And heard: Beneath the gloss are premium materials that give the guitar its commanding sound. These include maple sides and back, a solid Engelmann spruce top and a rosewood neck capped with a 25 1/2-inch-scale ebony fingerboard. Perhaps because of the finish, the Yamaha feels a little heavier than a typical dreadnought but is by no means uncomfortable to hold.
Sonically, the Navarro model has a full acoustic tone that leans to the bright side, with plenty of detail to cut through a typical rock mix. This dreadnought is loud, as well, easily filling a small room without the need for amplification. Single notes sing, sustain is long, and chords sound chimey and rich. All in all, it's a very musical combination.
But the Navarro is clearly designed to be plugged in and rocked hard. It boasts Yamaha's formidable System 45 electronics, a hybrid mic/piezo setup that includes a three-band EQ and a clever control arrangement. Most hybrids feature a blend control-usually a slide control-that sets the balance between the bridge-mounted piezo and the mic. Instead, the LLX6 has a volume control for the mic only, allowing you to mix in the condenser as desired. This is especially nice when playing onstage: it's much easier to grab and turn a knob than to fuss with a blend slider.
While this feature alone makes taming feedback simple-just grab the mic control and turn it down-the Navarro boasts several features designed to keep feedback to a minimum. The mic resides on an adjustable gooseneck, so you can move it around to adjust its tone and combat feedback that might be induced by the mic's position relative to the top. A phase switch helps to combat resonant feedback, and a notch filter, continuously variable from 80Hz to 10kHz, lets you pinpoint squealing frequencies and zap them to oblivion.
The EQ is effective at dialing in a range of tones, and you can mellow the LLX6's naturally bright character with some judicious tweaking. The guitar was effective in solo singer-songwriting settings (where its appearance earned comments from the audiences) as well as with a full band.
If you like the kind of slick neck that's typically found on electric guitars, you'll be glad to know the Navarro model is of similar design. The neck is fast, with a low action; its overall feeling is of speed. The 14-inch radius is flat, but since the neck isn't too wide, every note is within easy reach. The guitar came out of its sturdy soft case very well set up, with good intonation, no buzzing, and low action. I found it a pleasure to play, and it can handle a wide range of styles. It would be even better with a cutaway.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Some signature guitars come across as just marketing gloss-stockroom stuff with a couple of decals tacked on. But Yamaha's Dave Navarro Yamaha LLX6 DN has a great mix of personality and functionality. Its powerful acoustic tone is enhanced by well-designed electronics, making it a winner onstage and in the studio. And no matter where you use it, you won't go unnoticed.
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