LL16: My New Wife Has Balls & Curves…

by KV

Boy, Motorola sure puts a lot of effort in packaging the RAZR2 V9, the boxes in the set I received were almost more stylish than the flippy itself!

Acoustic Guitars are best because (excerpts from The Acoustic Guitar Forum)

1. They don’t complain if you bring more guitars home
2. Stroke them just right and they sing
3. They don’t complain if you don’t do it quite right
4. You can’t successfully serenade a woman with a trombone
5. Playing a Stratocaster in a canoe can be fatal
6. “Bagpipes around the campfire” is just wrong
7. There’s just something unmanly about a ukelele
8. Defending yourself from a mugger with a two handed swing of a piccolo is not an option
9. If stranded in the arctic with just a pack of matches a saxophone will not burn
10. Heaven is acoustic only – no electricity
11. They smell good and chicks love them!
12. Owning one is the only way most of us are ever going to hear the phrase he’s plucking good!”

Ladies & fellow wankers, while some crazy uncle is marrying his 4th wife & hornily preparing to add to his stable of 25 children, I’m here to present my new wife, the all-solid Lana Lang 16.

Uh, wait, I’m of course referring to officially my 1st serious acoustic guitar, the handcrafted Yamaha LL16 from the top-of-the-line handbuilt acoustic Yamaha L Series.

Okay, so naming her Lana Lang just because it’s an LL model (& since she was my old flame) may sound lame, but hey, it’s my first RM3k guitar & I’m pretty much on cloud nine right now, so screw you, if I say it’s Lana, it’s Lana you punks. After all, she (the guitar) would probably be as beautiful as Kristin Kreuk’s Lana Lang at the age of 16 anyway, but with bigger boobs & an even bigger butt of course, no contest.

Let’s start from the beginning. I’ve been scouting for a serious guitar for quite a while now, after being faithful to my old Yamaha F340 BL for over 8 years now (bought it with my own piggy bank 500 bucks when I was 14!). Now let’s be honest, brands like Taylors, Larivees, & Matons are sold at outrageous prices over here in gawddamn Malaysia. Initially armed with only a 2k budget, I went around hopelessly in search of a good, beautiful guitar but at the price I wanted. There’s no doubt the ultimate acoustic guitars come from Taylor, so at Bentley’s, while trying really hard to ignore the gorgeous T5s on display, I tried the Taylor 110 which sounded like crap but was priced at 3.6k, while the Taylor 210 was retailing at 4.6k. So when you can’t afford made-in-USA guitars, you look at the Asian made models. The Takamines G Series ranging at 1-3k just could not satisfy me either, & don’t even get me started on the apalling sub-2k acoustics from Fender & Ibanez. At Mahogany’s, they let me try a Takamine retailed at 3.6k that had a very jangly bright sound. But then that Takamine’s (like many other Takamines) finishing & physical look was so unattractive & half-baked (maybe I’m just vain). It wasn’t long before I ended up back at Yamaha.

Some of Yamaha L Series artists: Clint Lowery of Sevendust with the LJX6C, Dave Navarro has his own signature L series model, the LLX6 DN, & John LeCompt (formerly from Evanescence) uses the LJX6C

Among other Yamaha Acoustic Guitar artists: Edwin McCain uses the APX10NA, Chad Kroeger endorses the handcrafted CJX32, while Avril Lavigne performs with the APX9C

Overshadowed by what are without doubt the best pianos in the world, Yamaha on the other hand has always been associated with cheap affordable guitars just because, well, their prime market IS at the affordable range, but upon closer look, the guitars are always bang for bucks. Yamaha guitars are under-rated, simply put. In the midst of trying everything from their CPX700 to the sexy APX700, it was one fine morning when Chris forwarded me an online catalog of Yamaha’s high-end L Series Acoustics, & suddenly it brought back memories of how infatuated I was with this handcrafted series back when I was working part-time with Yamaha. I always thought they were beyond my reach (in terms of price) then, but couldn’t help but be kinda pumped-up this time around especially upon checking out the many (& I mean, MANY) raving great reviews of the L series guitars online. It did help that Marié Digby used an LLX6 when she performed at 1 Utama months back (refer back to my Digby entry). Well, Yamaha has 4 lines within the L series, the 6, 16, 26 & 36s. The 26 & 36s are handmade in Japan & retails here at an average of a whopping RM12000, but to my silent joy the bottom-of-the-barrel 6s go for around RM2290 while the 16s were retailing from RM2990, because these two lines are handmade in China/Taiwan (Yamaha moved it’s Taiwan base to China a couple of years back).

Some of the L series guitars on display at The Curve (from left, the LS16, LJ6 & LL6 Sunburst). On the extreme right is the LJ26, which retails at RM11900

The L Series also offers 3 types of body built which gives the distinction in each sound & playability. The standard dreadnought (LL) is widely touted as the most well-rounded & balanced, always associated with a bright sound suitable for both strumming & finger-picking. The semi-jumbo (LJ) has a rounder & bigger body, often suitable for strumming because of it’s better & warmer sound projection, while the ground-auditorium size (LS) is smaller in built & has a more focused midrange. Choosing a guitar based on excellent online reviews & its handmade reputation (though to what extent of handcrafting is still questionable especially for the 6 & 16s, considering their rather good price) of course is not an option, I had to try them out. To my joy the LL6 (with a solid top & laminate back & sides) was a dream to play, but then found out that for an extra 700 bucks I could upgrade to the LL16 with a FULL-SOLID body! In this moment of desperation, it was mom & someone (wink wink) who decided to pump in some financial support to finally enable me to make an order for my first full-solid handmade 900-US-dollar acoustic guitar. Purchased it at 15% off, & it took about 3-4 days for the guitar to arrive after the deposit for order was paid.

Moment of unvirginizing at the Yamaha outlet (top), & then back at home

Miss Lana Lang 16, or the Yamaha LL16, is a handcrafted acoustic slender dreadnought guitar, boasting a hand selected Solid Engelmann Spruce top & Solid Indian Rosewood back & sides (this Engelmann Spruce-Rosewood combination is also used in the 4,5-times-more-expensive Taylor 700 series). While traditionally a guitar neck is carved out of a single block of wood, the LL16 neck is crafted off the unique L series trademark 3-ply design, featuring a strip of Rosewood sandwiched between 2 layers of the Mahogany neck construction for extra neck stability. It also features a new non-scalloped 90° X-bracing construction that is designed to deliver a thick & well-focused tone. The Ebony bridge is bigger & has a bigger mass than usual Yamahas & the Ebony fingerboard has neat humble abalone rosette position markers that do not exactly shine out, but it’s acceptable. The die-cast Gold grover style tuners keep the strings in tune just fine (though I’m suspicious of how long they will remain gold), & the nut width is 1 3/4″. The flawless Hi-Gloss on the body & clean Satin finish on the neck & headstock gives the LL16 an extremely understated but alluring look, given that extra spark by its nice inlay encircling the sound hole. Feeling a little skeptical about the foam casing it came with instead of my preferred hard case, I was thoroughly relieved to find the foam casing fits her (yes, I’m referring to the guitar as a her now) like a glove & keeps her nicely cushioned.

Amboi~ selesanya…

“It’s the ballsiest sound I ever heard”, proclaimed a review online about his LL16, & though I’ve never encountered any guitar associated with the word “ballsy”, after playing her for the past few days, I simply cannot find a more suitable word to describe the gorgeous bright sound she produced other than BALLSY. Having no pick-up system or cutaway, I knew I was getting every single dollar fully invested into her sound & tone. Has a well-balanced & rich sound with great sustain, with a strong bass that does not overwhelm the sweet clear mid & highs. Though not perfect in terms of clarity & separation, it was such a joy to hear how such a physically understated, composed & simple-looking guitar can sound like it has an enormous pair of balls when aggressively strummed, though the sound has become warmer (probably due to the Yammie factory strings it came with) day by day. Many forums have mentioned how incredibly remarkable the LL16 can sound like the Taylor 400 & 600 series & kicks Larivee’s ass (some of these comments came from Americans guitarists themselves, mind you), & at a quarter of the price. Frankly, I think of it this way, if you can afford them or willing to go for broke, just buy the damn Taylors & if you can’t, like me, you find the guitar that might just match them.

The solid Rosewood grains of her back/sides & the 3-ply Mahogany-Rosewood neck (apologies for the poor photography, my place had very poor lighting)

The Rosewood grains on the back & sides of the LL16 I chose were nicely tight. However, upon peeking inside the sound hole, some minor glue marks at some edges hint at it’s China handmade origins, but I could forgive that :). The neck has a V-profile that I got used to without any problem, although I have to say the factory setup of the action & saddle is a little too high for my liking, thus affecting it’s playability. In addition, there was a little buzzing on the low E string when plucked hard (discovered this when executing my favourite “Little Wings” acoustic solo on it the 1st time). Another complain I would force out is if they had only gave extra effort in creating a more distinct looking pick guard that would suit a 3k-worth guitar, rather than the standard black dull one, & but hey, again, I’m just nit-picking at what is already an incredible guitar. The slender dreadnought curves fit snugly into my wrapped arms & the usual Yamaha straight boxy butts at the end have been rounded off for the L Series. This guitar is noticeably a little heavier when compared to my old F340.

No, I’m not being racist just because I replaced the old black one with a fairer one

From bonking heavy to light strumming to finger-picking, the Yamaha LL16 is probably one of the best guitars at this price range (I of course can’t state for certain as I’m not exactly an expert nor did I try all the guitars available). Where else can you find a handcrafted full-solid body acoustic at this price value? I tend to stay loyal to my instruments, as shown by how my brother & I stuck to our old Made-in-Japan LU-101 piano from the beginning till the end (hey, that so-called beginner piano produced two 140-distinction Grade 8 results okay?). Like many, it is likely that many of us (especially Malaysians) start off with an affordable Yamaha acoustic, & if in the future I am still unable to afford a Taylor, I just might not be surprised if my Yamaha LL16 goes well on its way towards being more than capable of being my last guitar. Ooooh yeah, Lana Lang has never been this hot.

As an addition, find out how the L Series guitars are handmade in this tour around the Yamaha L series factory in Japan at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dP0d18tFjSY. You will be pleasantly surprised at how intimate & small the factory is, with a small group of Japanese luthiers showing incredible dedication to their work. If you wanna hear how the L series guitars sound, Dave Goodman gives a solid demonstration here at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tt2FbHCWPNA.

Kevin is now officially much skinnier (yearight! His wallet actually) in this week alone due to expenditure for his car repaint, his perempuan simpanan (the V9) & Lana.