A nylon string electro-acoustic with the feel of a steel string – David Mead enjoys a classic moment…
Yamaha’s nylon string NTX range stands in line with their successful APX steel string instruments, with a similar set of cosmetics and that distinctive oval soundhole. The company say that their NTX guitars are designed in such a way that electric or acoustic players will feel immediately at home with the thinner body, 14th fret neck to body joint and slimmer nut width. Top all of this off with Yamaha’s ART two-way pickup system and you have all of the allure of a stage ready classical guitar in a neat, good looking package.
The NTX range is not exactly new, but the sandburst finish on this particular model was only introduced to the market earlier this year and so we thought it was worth hauling one in for a review. Artists using this series of instruments include Paulo Nutini and the range extends upwards from the 700 we have here to the more sumptuously appointed 1200. Further on upward we enter the realm of the NCX guitars which have attracted the endorsement of Antonio Forcione, Lee Ritenour and Rodrigo y Gabriela. So it’s the lower end of the range we’re considering, but knowing Yamaha, I don’t doubt that quality abounds even at this more humble price point!
The NTX’s top is made from solid spruce with laminated nato the choice for the back and sides. The top looks good, the sandburst finish appearing like a more subtle, lighter sunburst. Nato is commonly found on instruments emanating from China and Korea and is known in some circles as being Eastern Mahogany as its characteristics and grain pattern are similar. It is, however, more readily available than mahogany, especially in the Far East, hence, I suspect, its presence here.
It’s nato for the NTX’s neck, too – a three-piece affair with a separate heel and grafted on headstock, the latter being another distinctive feature of the range with its “Batman ears” shaping at the very top!
As I said earlier, this particular range of instruments is aimed at the steel string player who fancies exploring the sultry allure of nylon strings. So when we reach the fingerboard, we find that it measures in at a trim 48mm – wider than the average steel string acoustic but still easier to handle than a classical guitar’s 52mm. There’s even a slight camber to the fretboard, as opposed to a classical guitar’s flat profile, and so it’s logical to assume that it’s not going to feel foreign under the hands of players more accustomed to a standard steel string instrument. Add to this a body depth which is a mere 90mm and you have a very trim package indeed.
The neck joins the body at the 14th fret and the cutaway guarantees access to the uppermost frets, should you find yourself launching into one of those high treble moments.
The NTX is equipped with Yamaha’s own ART pickup system which eschews the use of a standard issue under saddle piezo in favour of two sensors placed under the treble and bass sides of the guitar’s bridge. Yamaha claims that this will give a more accurate account of the instrument’s natural sound and cut down the tendency to feed back in a live situation at the same time. Furthermore, the user has the chance to blend the two signals via the System 61 preamp mounted on the guitar’s upper bout and add EQ to taste.
Played acoustically, the NTX has a very warm, slightly dark sound to it. Obviously with a reduced body size, you’re not going to get the full-blown tone and volume you’d expect from a concert classical. Add to that the fact that classical guitar tops are more often made from cedar as opposed to the spruce we find here and it’s definitely going to be different. That’s not to say that it lacks anything in the tonal stakes at all; on the contrary, it sounds very sweet and responsive, the spruce and nato combo being very well balanced indeed. The thinner neck means that any undue exertions for the left hand are kept to a bare minimum and so everything is extremely player friendly.
Once amplified, the NTX really comes into its own. The EQ on the System 61 preamp is comprehensive and the independent volume controls for the two sensors adds another layer of flexibility to the tonal setup. After a while I found it was best to have both the treble and bass sensors pretty much balanced with a slight amount of midrange removed via the three way slider controls. Once I’d found a sound I was happy with, I didn’t have to make any further adjustments, despite swapping between my steel string repertoire and the very few classical pieces I can still remember from way back. The NTX’s amplified voice accentuates its acoustic sweetness and virtually everything I played hit the mark in terms of the sound you’d expect from a nylon string guitar.
The concept of designing a guitar that effectively bridges the gap between standard steel string and classical guitars is inspired, and I’m surprised that more manufacturers haven’t added a similar model to their stables. The price point of £620 means that its quite affordable and, looking around the internet, I see that there are deals to be done and so you could pick one up at an even better price if you shop around a bit.
There’s no doubt that players of acoustic and electric guitars would very quickly find themselves feeling at home with the NTX, blowing the doors wide open to a new timbral experience in the process. As a stage ready instrument it succeeds at virtually every level, the ART system proving its worth in giving an accurate account of the gently voiced forefather of the steel string acoustic. David Mead
Retail Price: £620
Body Size: Classical cutaway
Made In: China
Back and Sides: Nato
Tuners: 3-a-side classical
Nut Width: 48mm
Scale Length: 650mm
Onboard Electronics: Yamaha System 61 ART
Strings Fitted: Yamaha nylon classical
Gig Bag/Case Included: Case optional extra
Pros: A well built, stage ready nylon string at a good price
Cons: Personally I’d like a little more acoustic volume
Overall: A brilliant gap filler between the steel string acoustic and nylon string classical markets!
Contact Details: Yamaha Guitars