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Old 09-30-2023, 04:10 PM
alexevans917 alexevans917 is online now
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Default Searching for a Dreadnought - do I want a 1970s Yairi?

Hi, forum friends,

I'm on a quest for another acoustic, and I would appreciate your insights on where to look.

TLDR: I have an Eastman OO and a Martin OM. I'd like a dreadnought and would prefer to buy something used/older with a bit of character. I probably don't have the money for a nice vintage Martin or Gibson - is it worth looking at MIJ guitars like K Yairis? If so, what's a fair price? If not, what should I be looking at instead around $1-2000 (or should I save up more)?

I currently have two acoustics: a Martin OM-1 from ~2008 and an Eastman E10-OOSS/v from ~2016. I love both - the Martin was my first good acoustic and is a wonderful instrument for fingerstyle playing, though it hasn't been played quite as much since buying the Eastman. The Eastman OO is surprisingly awesome - I paid ~$700 for it as it was a demo guitar for an Eastman dealer, and it is a tremendous instrument for that kind of money. It looks and feels much nicer than the Martin and cost less. It's a bit of a jack of all trade - fairly nice with a pick for strummed parts or lead playing, cool for fingerstyle, good in open tunings...it's a really fun guitar and tonally quite different than the OM. Both guitars have K&K Minis in them, and they've seen their fair share of recording sessions and gigs.

While I love both of these guitars, I'm starting to think about a dreadnought. I've always gravitated toward smaller guitars, but I'm increasingly drawn to the bigger sound of a dreadnought both for strummed parts and picked parts. Neither the OM nor the OO can really do a driving rhythm guitar part, and more and more music that I listen to/play is calling for that kind of sound.

As much as I'd really like a Collings or a Bourgeois or something, I don't really have the budget for that. Aside from my two acoustics which are fairly recent models, pretty much all of my instruments are vintage (I have a couple old Fenders, a 70s Gretsch, a 60s Ludwig drum kit, a nice Roland analog synth from the 80s, and so on...), and I would really love to buy something older with a bit of character. Again, not sure that I really have the budget for a good Gibson or Martin, but I've been reading up a bit on 70s MIJ acoustics from K Yairi and other brands. I've been super impressed by the quality of many older MIJ electric guitars (Matsomoku Epiphones, Fujigen Fenders, Arias, etc.), and I'd be intrigued to know if these acoustics offer a similar quality.

The issue, of course, is that I can't find any old Yairis to play near me. Years ago now, I borrowed a more recent (90s, maybe?) Alvarez Yairi from a friend for a couple weeks and was really impressed with it, but that's the extent of my experience with the brand.

So, does anyone have experience with these guitars that they'd be willing to share? It seems as though prices have been on the rise in recent years - are they still worth the price of entry? Are there specific models to look out for or to avoid?

If an old Yairi is not a good buy, what would you recommend instead? My budget is flexible, but part of the appeal of the Yairis is that they're often available for well below $1000. Are there any other dreads worth looking at in this range (or a bit more, say up to $2000), or should I just save my pennies for more recent luthier-built instrument or a vintage Martin/Gibson/whatever? I’m considering some of the Eastman models as possibilities (E10-SS, maybe) as well as some current production/recent Gibsons (J-35?) or even some slightly more affordable boutique-y brands like Furch.

Thanks for your help!

A

Last edited by alexevans917; 09-30-2023 at 06:47 PM. Reason: Adding some other instruments I’m considering and a more specific price range
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Old 09-30-2023, 07:36 PM
Big - Al Big - Al is offline
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Older Alvarez Yairi guitars can be fantastic. If you are considering one, make sure that the neck angle is okay. Neck resets on the early models can be nearly impossible due to the type of glue used to attach the neck.

I had a seriously beat up 1978 DY57 a few years back. I got it for $125 from a local guitar repair guy I know because it needed too much work to make it worth his while: crack glued, new tuners, fret replacement, finish repair and neck angle issues. It was a real project for an amateur like me. I wound up installing new frets and sanding down the bridge to expose more saddle. Yes, that is kind of a hack way of fixing the neck angle problem but it saved the guitar from the kindling pile. When I was done, the guitar had good action and sounded wonderful. It still looked pretty rough though. I played it for a year or so and wound up selling on eBay for around three hundred dollars. The buyer seemed happy.


I currently own a 1991 DY45 Alvarez Yairi dreadnought. I stumbled across it on vacation back in July. It had been consigned to a music store at a pretty decent price. It is a dandy guitar and is in great shape. Yes, prices on Yairi and other vintage Japanese guitars seem to have gone up in the last few years but decent bargains can be found with some patience.

If I wanted a good brand new MIJ dreadnought at a decent price, I would be looking at the new red label Yamaha FG5 model for around $1,500. I understand that they are pretty outstanding and they won’t have the issues that vintage models may come with.
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Last edited by Big - Al; 09-30-2023 at 08:04 PM.
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Old 09-30-2023, 08:36 PM
alexevans917 alexevans917 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Big - Al View Post
I currently own a 1991 DY45 Alvarez Yairi dreadnought. I stumbled across it on vacation back in July. It had been consigned to a music store at a pretty decent price. It is a dandy guitar and is in great shape. Yes, prices on Yairi and other vintage Japanese guitars seem to have gone up in the last few years but decent bargains can be found with some patience.

If I wanted a good brand new MIJ dreadnought at a decent price, I would be looking at the new red label Yamaha FG5 model for around $1,500. I understand that they are pretty outstanding and they wonít have the issues that vintage models may come with.
Iíve seen a few folks recommending the new red label Yamahas! Those are interesting for sureóthe original red labels were the first MIJ acoustics that caught my interest before I went down the Yairi rabbit hole. Your 90s Yairi sounds really interestingóI havenít really looked at their later guitars, but the one I played a while back played and sounded fantastic.

Your note about condition is the real worry for me, especially given that many older Yairi models seem to be drifting close to $1000 on Reverb right now. Iím a bit worried about buying one that ends up needing a bunch of work (or worse, one that cannot be set up satisfactorily at all) at those prices, particularly when a nice Eastman dread would be close in price.

I have a feeling Iím going to need to trek around a few shops in my region and play some things. Between $1000 and $2000 there seem to be a ton of options, especially shopping used.
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Old 09-30-2023, 08:54 PM
ScottSD ScottSD is online now
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See if there's anyone in your area with a late 70's or 80's Taylor 610 or 810 that you can try out. Those are some great playing/sounding guitars with plenty of nice examples around your price point.

Scott
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Old 09-30-2023, 09:23 PM
jamf jamf is offline
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A used Martin D-15 should be around that price and would be a great option. Eastman has a lot of good dreadnoughts too. Gibson J-15 and WM-15 can be around there too.

There are a few Yairi DY's at Guitar Center, which at least has the benefit of easy returns so you can thoroughly check them out. There's a DY38, DY74, DY71 and DY45 for $650-$900. You'd be out the shipping cost if you end up returning it, which has been $20-30 for me.
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Old 10-01-2023, 02:35 AM
kizz kizz is offline
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Some Yairi's are great, but as Big-Al says, pay attention to the neck angle, you can also find good guitars in Kasuga, Levin and many other lesser known brands from that time. Of newer brands, you can find good used Blueridge, recording king or newer Yamaha's in the price range you mention.
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Old 10-01-2023, 03:08 AM
Robin, Wales Robin, Wales is offline
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Quote:
...TLDR: I have an Eastman OO and a Martin OM. I'd like a dreadnought and would prefer to buy something used/older with a bit of character. I probably don't have the money for a nice vintage Martin or Gibson - is it worth looking at MIJ guitars like K Yairis? If so, what's a fair price? If not, what should I be looking at instead around $1-2000 (or should I save up more)?....
You'll get the most for your money by buying second-hand rather than "vintage". I can't see the point in paying a "vintage" mark up. The one guitar I regret selling was a second-hand Art & Lutherie dreadnaught that I bought for $150 second-hand (spruce top, cherry laminate b/s). That guitar had a lot "character" and played really well. It was not "vintage" so it was dirt cheap.

There's definitely a cross-over point where "vintage" gives you a more costly but a poorer instrument than buying something second-hand that's a little younger. So I would be inclined to factor that into your choices. For example; the old Yamaha Red Labels have a "mystique" and price that is really not warranted. Whereas you could by a 90s or 2000s Yamaha FG series for peanuts that could be a much better guitar and still get that well played in guitar vibe and feel.
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Old 10-01-2023, 07:36 AM
rollypolly rollypolly is online now
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I have a Yairi parlor from the 90s that I really like. Itís not ďvintageĒ but still itís got 30 years on it and the neck angle is still perfect. The guitar feels like a boutique build. Tone is surprisingly good for a small guitar. I wouldnít hesitate to get one of their dreads or any other models for that matter. Just ask the seller for saddle height and 12 fret action measurements.
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Old 10-01-2023, 09:33 AM
RomanS RomanS is offline
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If I were looking for a dreadnought in your price range, I'd go with Eastman - but if you want vintage, how about a 1970s Guild? Those should easily be available within your budget, and unlike 1970s Martins, they are usually very good.
No experience at all with Yairis!
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Old 10-01-2023, 10:08 AM
alexevans917 alexevans917 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin, Wales View Post
You'll get the most for your money by buying second-hand rather than "vintage". I can't see the point in paying a "vintage" mark up. The one guitar I regret selling was a second-hand Art & Lutherie dreadnaught that I bought for $150 second-hand (spruce top, cherry laminate b/s). That guitar had a lot "character" and played really well. It was not "vintage" so it was dirt cheap.

There's definitely a cross-over point where "vintage" gives you a more costly but a poorer instrument than buying something second-hand that's a little younger. So I would be inclined to factor that into your choices. For example; the old Yamaha Red Labels have a "mystique" and price that is really not warranted. Whereas you could by a 90s or 2000s Yamaha FG series for peanuts that could be a much better guitar and still get that well played in guitar vibe and feel.
I think this is where I’m starting to drive myself into confusion. My other vintage instruments were, by and large, cheaper than their modern equivalents and equal or better performers. A lot of that was luck, some of it was buying less popular models from less desirable years or with modifications or what have you. I’m not as well versed in the acoustic guitar world, so I’m sure I’m missing things, but I’m struggling to figure out how these vintage instruments from Yairi or the other brands mentioned stack up against the latest models from Eastman (or Gibson, or Martin, or Yamaha, or Furch). While I do like a well-worn instrument with some character, I’d prefer not to pay a premium for a guitar that may need quite a bit of work to be playable, and I feel like this price range is really butting up against some incredible value new or lightly used instruments.Would a Yairi (or a 70s Guild, as someone recommended) offer a similar quality of construction to a new Eastman, Furch, Gibson, or Yamaha? Would the age of the instrument contribute positively to its sound?

I realize these are big questions that are hard to generalize about given the wide range of models from all of these manufacturers, but I’d appreciate any insights y’all have as I’m unlikely to find a store anywhere near me with both a nice selection of older acoustics and a variety of new or lightly used guitars from some of these smaller brands. As it is, I’m likely to be driving two hours just to get my hands on a few Eastmans and Furchs.

So, discounting the value of the “vintage markup,” with an absolute max budget of $2000, would I be better off buying something older (let’s say a 90s or earlier Yairi, Guild, Yamaha, etc.), an Eastman or Furch (both seem to be available new within this price range) or similar, or a used (but recent) J-45 or D-18?

Last edited by alexevans917; 10-01-2023 at 10:42 AM. Reason: Adding more information.
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Old 10-01-2023, 11:53 AM
fretfile100 fretfile100 is offline
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You might also keep your eyes open for a Larrivee or Breedlove. When you buy used you might be in your price range
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Old 10-01-2023, 01:38 PM
grinningfool grinningfool is offline
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Lots of excellent advice here, but donít completely rule out a Yairi. There are lots of Yairis from the 70ís, 80ís, and 90ís that are fabulous guitars. And many of them have perfectly fine necks. These are not mass produced guitars from a factory in China. They are all hand crafted in a small shop in Japan, by skilled craftsmen. And though the prices have been inching upward, so has the prices on everything else we buy. But I believe the older Yairis are still a great bargain. Just be patient and find a good one. They donít all need a neck reset. You can find a good one for well under a grand.
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Old 10-01-2023, 03:03 PM
alexevans917 alexevans917 is online now
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Originally Posted by grinningfool View Post
Lots of excellent advice here, but donít completely rule out a Yairi. There are lots of Yairis from the 70ís, 80ís, and 90ís that are fabulous guitars. And many of them have perfectly fine necks. These are not mass produced guitars from a factory in China. They are all hand crafted in a small shop in Japan, by skilled craftsmen. And though the prices have been inching upward, so has the prices on everything else we buy. But I believe the older Yairis are still a great bargain. Just be patient and find a good one. They donít all need a neck reset. You can find a good one for well under a grand.
Thanks for this! Iím definitely not ruling out Yairi all together, but Iím wondering whether some of the later models make more sense in my situation that the 70s ones. My impression is that they are still very much hand-built instruments (at least at the higher end) like some of the other brands under consideration.

And the pricing thing is a good note tooóI guess Iím just trying to separate the ďeverything is more expensive nowĒ markup from the ďanything older than 1990 seems to now sell for silly money on Reverb because itís ĎvintageíĒ markup. I donít doubt that many of the the Yairis still present a good value, despite prices continuing to climb.
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Old 10-01-2023, 03:33 PM
Charlie Bernstein Charlie Bernstein is offline
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I wouldn't fixate on a Yairi. It's a perfectly good brand, but they're nothing special.

Meanwhile, Reverb.com has a lot of 1970s Guild D-35s and D-40s at well within your $2k ceiling. Union-made killer axes, as good as any post-WWII Martin D-18 at a fraction of the price.
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Old 10-01-2023, 03:48 PM
rollypolly rollypolly is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grinningfool View Post
Lots of excellent advice here, but donít completely rule out a Yairi. There are lots of Yairis from the 70ís, 80ís, and 90ís that are fabulous guitars. And many of them have perfectly fine necks. These are not mass produced guitars from a factory in China. They are all hand crafted in a small shop in Japan, by skilled craftsmen. And though the prices have been inching upward, so has the prices on everything else we buy. But I believe the older Yairis are still a great bargain. Just be patient and find a good one. They donít all need a neck reset. You can find a good one for well under a grand.
I would heed this advice. Of course, if youíre buying used, especially vintage, you are gambling. It could be great but it could just be ok.
Eastmans are great guitars, Iíve owned three, and they are good. But because theyíre brand new Chinese made guitars, they donít have any mojo to me. Even slightly older Yairi will have loads more mojo. My parlor feels like a nice old Martin in my hands. But thatís just me. I get the feeling youíd be happier with a guitar thatís already seen a few decades of use. Iím the same. Others suggest Guild which is another great choice. Anyways, good luck on your search!
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