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  #1  
Old 08-02-2011, 12:27 PM
Yairi Player Yairi Player is offline
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Default Are new Alvarez Guitars really worth the bother?

I am curious about this. I have been a big fan of Alvarez guitars since I started playing back in the early 1970s. Over half of the inventory of acoustic guitars at the music store I took lessons from (and hung out at) was either Alvarez Artist or Alvarez Yairi. I currently own two Yairi models and based upon this, Yairi is always on the top of my list whenever I consider getting a new guitar.

Every music store I go to these days either does not or no longer stocks Alvarez guitars! I looked on their website and can see about five stores listed that still carries the brand. I could get one on line from Musician's Friend but what if I did not like that particular model and wanted to try something else?

Has something happened since LOUD technologies acquired the brand from SLM a few years back? From my perception, it seems that the name "Alvarez" is nothing more than a brand now that they stick on guitars manufactured at whatever factory in China that can pop them out in the quickest and cheapest fashion. I understand that the Yairi line is still manufactured in Japan in the same fashion as always but how and where do I get my hands on one to try them out and what kind of technical support could I expect from a company that appears to have a diminishing presence here in the US?

Add on top of this the fact that Alvarez Yari used to be equated with a great value for the price you paid. The $500 DY-45 I bought back in 1985 sounds every bit as good if not better than a Martin D-18 you could get for around $1,200 or so. Nowadays, it seems that a $2,500 Yairi guitar sounds every bit as good as that $2,500 Martin or $2,500 Taylor that you could actually get your hands on and play at your local Guitar Center or wherever!

Is LOUD technologies is driving Alvarez into the ground? If so, it is truly sad that such would happen to what was once an outstanding Guitar company. Perhaps LOUD is to Alvarez today what Norlin was to Gibson and CBS was to Fender back in the 1970s/early 1980s?
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Alvarez Yairi DY-45
Alvarez Yairi DY-71 Koa Graphite
Takamine Santa Fe
Ovation Celebrity
Ibanez Anhorra Recital Classic
(and lots of gadgets, acessories, and electric and bass guitars but who cares about all that right?)
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  #2  
Old 08-02-2011, 02:15 PM
Tony Burns Tony Burns is offline
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Their are so many different brands at that price point that sell better .Now Yairis are another story altogether -they rock !

all kidding aside Alvarez are nice guitars -but their are so many brands out their at that price point- especially the godin line ( simon and patrick comes to mind )
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  #3  
Old 08-02-2011, 02:58 PM
architype architype is offline
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Default I feel your pain

I have a 1990 Yairi DY-77 that I bought new from a dealer that has since closed shop, and 2 yrs. ago I wanted to get a smaller bodied guitar w/ a different voice than the dreadnought. I was interested in the FY or FYM series folk bodied Yairis and wanted to play one before I commited to such an expensive, (for me), purchase. There are hardly any dealers that carry the Alvarez line. I found one dealer here in Louisville, KY and they only had 2 lower end models in stock, but no Yairis. The owner of the store said that since Loud Technologies bought St. Louis Music it seems as though the Alvarez brand is not getting much corporate support and the people he had been dealing with were frustrated w/ their new bosses. He said that Loud Tech. was more interested in the other brands under the St. Louis Music umbrella like Crate and Ampeg. Maybe Alvarez is not a money maker for them. I know that Yairi is a different animal, but if Alvarez doesn't survive I wonder if the Yairi line will still be available here in the states. Alvarez really does make good guitars for the money, and the Yairis are the best kept secret in the higher end market. They are still hand made guitars.
I ended up buying a Taylor 414ce ltd from a local dealer. it is one of the Tazmanian Blackwood models and I absolutely love it. It has such a sweet tone.
I would still like to get another Yairi someday...maybe one of the Masterworks models that are all solid wood.

Architype

1990 Yairi DY-77
2009 Taylor 414ce ltd. Tazmanian Blackwood
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  #4  
Old 08-02-2011, 03:01 PM
Big.Al Big.Al is offline
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I just bought a used late-model Alvarez. Although it looks like my old Korean one, this one is made in China. Alvarez was always an import brand, with the difference being that the guitars were designed by St. Louis Music and every one of them was inspected and set up in St. Louis before going to the dealers.

That seems to have changed with the new ownership. Their website doesn't appear to have been updated in a couple of years, with no new press releases. Their online forum has vanished. Their once extensive dealer network is all but gone, and even the online stores seem to carry very few models, and the ones I see there are mostly the low-enders. Used Alvarez guitars don't seem to sell at all on eBay, unless priced very low.

This all looks bleak to me for buying a new Alvarez. It might be a good time to pick up a used one at a good price, though. It worked for me.
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Old 08-02-2011, 03:25 PM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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Interesting. I hadn't heard any of this.

What I've always been aware of was that the "Alvarez" guitars were mostly inexpensive imports while the "Alvarez-Yairi" were imports but of much higher quality.

There are trends in the acoustic guitar business just as there are in anything else, and that particular market niche that used to be occupied by Alvarez-Yairi and Takamine - of professional quality guitars at about two thirds the price of the American-made versions - is one that has been very hard to hold onto.

In large part this market shift has been driven by the rise of CNC machines and other innovations in technology in guitar manufacturing that have allowed North American guitar companies to take back a lot of that portion of the market. You've got successful newer companies like Taylor and Larrivée making some guitars at that same midrange price point, you've got a new industry juggernaut in the form of Godin making Seagulls that are sold even more cheaply, and you've even got Martin successfully competing in the midrange guitar market, too. All of them made in North America.

Which has obviously squeezed brands like Alvarez-Yairi and Takamine quite a bit. Takamine has held on better, probably because they have long established their acoustic-electric guitars as an excellent choice for plug-and-play stage-readiness. The Alvarez-Yairi instruments have had a less distinctive brand profile, and have probably suffered as a result.

What I'm seeing these days in the music stores I visit is that the sort of store that used to have a lot of Alvarez and Alvarez-Yairi guitars hanging on the wall now has a lot of Godin and Seagull guitars hanging in their place.


Wade Hampton Miller

Last edited by Wade Hampton; 08-02-2011 at 03:36 PM. Reason: clarity
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  #6  
Old 08-02-2011, 05:29 PM
architype architype is offline
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I agree that the guitar industry has changed w/ the avent of CNC technology and Bob Taylor gets a lot of credit, (or blame, depending on your point of view), for this manufacturing revolution. You have to admit that the quality of most instruments even at the low end is quite good these days. I just hope my Taylor holds up as well as my Yairi has. I haven't had any type of adjustment or work done to the Yairi since I bought it and it finally needs a refret that I've been putting off for a while after 20 years of playing. It has developed a buzz on the B string. The second and third frets are almost down to the fingerboard. I'm only a living room picker, so it hasn't had the kind of playing hours that a gigging musician would have put on it, (although Monty Montgomery's Yairi is a pretty good advertisement for their durability). The neck is straight, the action is still low, and there are no cracks in the finish or he body. I have always kept it in the case, but I haven't babied it...it has seen it's share of drunken camping singalongs over the years.
I have a couple buddies that have been professional musicians at one time or another and they have always commented on how nice a playing and sounding instrument it is. They both love the neck...they say it feels like an electric and it is a good guitar for flatpicking and leads, (not that Ricky Scaggs is going to lose any sleep over my picking skills). I would recommend a Yairi to anyone that is looking for a durable quality instrument that is almost completly handmade...they all still have hand carved necks w/ hand fitted dovetail joints. Go on The You Tube and look up "Yairi Factory Tour" and there a couple videos showing the build process. From the video it looks more like a studio than a factory. Apparently Mr. Yairi still takes part in building some of the guitars.

1990 Yairi DY-77
2009 Taylor 414ce ltd Tazmanian Blackwood
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  #7  
Old 08-02-2011, 06:06 PM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by architype View Post
IGo on The You Tube and look up "Yairi Factory Tour" and there a couple videos showing the build process. From the video it looks more like a studio than a factory. Apparently Mr. Yairi still takes part in building some of the guitars.
Of course, the immediate question that raises is how current that video clip might be, as well as how selective the filmmakers were when depicting the factory process. It can be very easy to dwell mostly on the process of making a small number of higher end instruments and not even film the construction of the less costly models in a production line.

I'm not mentioning that to question the quality of the workmanship, just pointing out that it's not difficult to pick and choose whatever goes into a promotional video.

On a completely different note, those of us mourning the possible eclipse of the Alvarez-Yairi line of instruments are looking at this from our own North American viewpoint, which is perfectly natural given that most if not all of us who've commented so far are in North America. But the same line of instruments, possibly marketed under a different name, might be doing quite well in Europe and Asia.

So they might not be in decline, they could just be concentrating on more profitable markets for them right now.

Just a thought....


whm
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  #8  
Old 08-02-2011, 07:02 PM
architype architype is offline
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[QUOTE=Wade Hampton;2710065]Of course, the immediate question that raises is how current that video clip might be, as well as how selective the filmmakers were when depicting the factory process. It can be very easy to dwell mostly on the process of making a small number of higher end instruments and not even film the construction of the less costly models in a production line.

That is an interesting point. I hadn't thought about marketing "spin". I'm not sure how many Yairis are made for the states each year, but they are as scarce as hen's teeth, at least that is what I found from my search when I was shopping for one. Like everything else these days it seems like a big part of the guitar market is through on line shopping. I just couldn't bring myself to spend well over 2 grand on a guitar that I hadn't played. I also didn't want to spend a few hundred on gas , not to mention time, driving all over the country trying to test drive a guitar. I like the internet for research, but I rarely buy anything on line.
As far as the international market, the Yairis built for sale in the states have the "A superimposed over the Y" logo, (Alvarez Yairi), on the headstock. Alverez is the exclusive distributor for the Yairi brand. Yairis sold over seas are sold under the "K Yairi", (Kazuo Yairi is the guy's name), brand and have that in logo form on their head stock. Apparently, Kazuo Yairi also had a relative named Sado Yairi, (he passed away), that was also a luthier with a competing guitar co. and those instruments are sold under the "S Yairi" brand. If that isn't confusing enough, K Yairi's dad was also a luthier and he made violins for the Suzuki Co.. I don't think he ever had an independant Yairi brand of violin.
I think people get turned off from the Yairi brand thinking that it is just another cheap Japanese guitar w/out realizing the family heritage of luthery, (if that is the appropriate word).
Sorry for the long post.

1990 Yairi DY-77
2009 Taylor 414ce ltd. Taz Black
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  #9  
Old 08-02-2011, 08:13 PM
sneaky sneaky is offline
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The A/Y headstock logo is seen on high end models in the local Rock Inn shop in Sendai, it`s not just for those exports to the US. They have a wall of them and this isn`t a very big city, go to Tokyo or Osaka and you`ll see many more hanging in shops. The powerful yen is putting a damper on many Japanese companies that export to America right now, in fact theres talk the gov`t will step in...they`ve done that before and it works for a while but goes back up...so that may have a role to play in the situation overseas.
The Japan Vintage book, volume 3 from the acoustic series has an article with an extensive interview with Kazuo and many guitar pics going back to his earliest models...published in 2006 however I believe he is still alive and kicking.
Hard to say just how much information about the Yairi family is accurate...seems there was some bad blood between Kazuo and Sadao...some say they were brothers some say cousins...but it does seem the original Sadao Yairi did leave the Suzuki violin factory in 1935...think it was...to branch out on his own and start a guitar factory. Many Japanese evidently think for steel strings...Kazuo...for nylon strings, Sadao ... I own 7 Sada nylon strings now and they are fabulous guitars, do not own any Kazuo models though the same Rock Inn is full of em but I`m only interested in used guitars. Evidently one of Sadao`s sons now operates the S. Yairi line made today, his dad passed some time ago, I`m sure the info on when is out there I just haven`t looked it up...but I can say the nylon string S. Yairis I have are fantastic and they are still very inexpensive on the used market though guitars do not seem to be a priority for many Japanese people these days and that probably is a factor in the prices.
You guys wanna play Yairis of every ilk and price, come to Japan...or if any of you have friends here they can easily find them and pick one out.
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  #10  
Old 08-02-2011, 09:17 PM
dmw999 dmw999 is offline
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Default Pro Alvarez

I bought an Alvarez MD80 a few years ago. Great guitar. Deep lows with very crisp highs. It is just a beautiful guitar. I also bought a 1988 Alvarez Yairi DY53 a few weeks ago - a sitka top, pecan back/sides European jumbo. Wow! Almost as much bottom end as my MD80. Where it really shines is the midrange. It has the most amazing sustain. I can't speak to the lower range newer Alvarez, but my MD80 is a gem. I would also add this about Alvarez, their tech support/customer service is the best. Emails answered within 24 hours by a very knowledgeable rep/tech.
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  #11  
Old 08-02-2011, 09:44 PM
architype architype is offline
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[QUOTE=sneaky;2710186]The A/Y headstock logo is seen on high end models in the local Rock Inn shop in Sendai, it`s not just for those exports to the US. They have a wall of them and this isn`t a very big city, go to Tokyo or Osaka and you`ll see many more hanging in shops.

I didn't realize the A/Y logo Yairis were sold anywhere other than the US. It was my understanding that they were intended to be distributed by Alvarez only for the US market.
I've heard different stories about the Yairi family and their relationships and, as you say it is difficult to know the truth. The common thread is that they are all master luthiers and they build wonderful instruments.
I also understand that Kazuo has an incredible collection of wood that he has acumulated for many years. Apparently, the wood that goes into the Yairis is never kiln dried and has been air dried for many many years prior to being used for guitar making. The grain and color of the spruce top on my Yairi is gorgeous and when I pull it out of the case people tend to go "wow".
I'll never sell my Yairi because it is a great guitar w/ beautiful warm tone and there are too many good memories associated w/ it to let it go.

1990 Yairi DY-77
2009 Taylor 414ce ltd. Taz Black
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  #12  
Old 08-02-2011, 09:47 PM
Cibby Cibby is offline
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Talking

The new Alvarez are not the same. I wish I still had my old models they had a great sound.Since they changed hands I played a couple Masterwork models that were not close to the old models..
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Old 08-03-2011, 02:34 AM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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After I wrote:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wade Hampton View Post
Of course, the immediate question that raises is how current that video clip might be, as well as how selective the filmmakers were when depicting the factory process. It can be very easy to dwell mostly on the process of making a small number of higher end instruments and not even film the construction of the less costly models in a production line.

I'm not mentioning that to question the quality of the workmanship, just pointing out that it's not difficult to pick and choose whatever goes into a promotional video.
Architype replied:

Quote:
Originally Posted by architype View Post
That is an interesting point. I hadn't thought about marketing "spin".
Oh, there's always going to be marketing spin in any sort of promotional video or literature: that's a given. There's also marketing spin present in any interaction any instrument manufacturer has with independent publications.

For example, when I was in Japan the first time I made a point of visiting the Kentucky Mandolin Factory - or, to be more precise, before I left for Asia I called Saga Musical Instruments in the United States and said: "Hey, after I spend a month in South Korea I'm going to be swinging through Japan on my way back to the United States, and would like to visit your production facility to write an article about it for Frets Magazine."

Saga's owner and CEO Richard Keldsen was delighted that he was going to get some ink for his mandolin brand in the American musical instrument press, so we made arrangements that my fiance and I would leave Tokyo on the train to Nagoya, to be met there by two of the Saga Japan honchos, Tom Hosakawa and Nobu Ochi.

Which we did. They met us at the station and then drove us up into the Japanese Alps where the facility was located. Here's a scan of the article I wrote about it:

http://www.vintagemandolin.com/kentu...iclepage1.html

Here's how this digression relates to the reality of marketing spin: nobody took us to the Kasuga musical instrument factory in Nagoya where the bulk of the Made-In-Japan Kentucky mandolins were built in the early to mid-1980's. Nobody took us to the unnamed factory where the absolute bottom of the line Made-In-Japan Kentucky mandolins were built, either.

Nobody was trying to hide anything: Hosakawa-san mentioned these other facilities to me, and if you read the article you'll see I mentioned their existence in the second paragraph.

But what they did was take us to the small shop, limited production facility that was housed in an old house that was less than a thousand square feet, where five people made their most expensive mandolins by hand. Since those were the instruments I was most interested in myself, everyone was happy.

So even though everything was completely aboveboard and nobody even pretended that this was how most Kentucky mandolins got made, it left a much higher class impression than if I had visited the Kasuga factory where steam presses stamped the arch into flat pieces of maple and spruce to create the backs and tops of the midrange Kentucky mandolins.

So there's going to be marketing spin, however subtle, on any information that comes out of an instrument company, or any other sort of company, too, for that matter.

Then I wrote:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wade Hampton View Post
On a completely different note, those of us mourning the possible eclipse of the Alvarez-Yairi line of instruments are looking at this from our own North American viewpoint, which is perfectly natural given that most if not all of us who've commented so far are in North America. But the same line of instruments, possibly marketed under a different name, might be doing quite well in Europe and Asia.

So they might not be in decline, they could just be concentrating on more profitable markets for them right now.
And though not responding directly to my post, Sneaky (who lives in Japan and follows the Japanese guitar market with great interest) wrote:

Quote:
Originally Posted by sneaky View Post
The A/Y headstock logo is seen on high end models in the local Rock Inn shop in Sendai, it`s not just for those exports to the US. They have a wall of them and this isn`t a very big city, go to Tokyo or Osaka and you`ll see many more hanging in shops.
Now here's the kicker, and the real explanation for the paucity of Alvarez-Yairi guitars we're seeing in North America these days:

Quote:
Originally Posted by sneaky View Post
The powerful yen is putting a damper on many Japanese companies that export to America right now, in fact theres talk the gov`t will step in...they`ve done that before and it works for a while but goes back up...so that may have a role to play in the situation overseas.
It was the rise of the yen in 1985 that stopped Kentucky mandolin production in Japan, and basically wiped out most of the lower end guitar manufacturers in that country. Only the strongest firms made it through that little episode...

Sneaky concludes:

Quote:
Originally Posted by sneaky View Post
You guys wanna play Yairis of every ilk and price, come to Japan...or if any of you have friends here they can easily find them and pick one out.
Good news, Sneaky. Thanks for giving us the proper perspective on that.

So there you have it. Very few Alvarez-Yairis are making it to North American shores these days, probably as a combination of the factors that I mentioned with North American guitar companies making more intermediate grade instruments, but also as a direct result of the strong Japanese yen.

Makes sense to me.


Wade Hampton Miller
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Old 08-03-2011, 08:31 AM
Yairi Player Yairi Player is offline
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Thanks for the feedback! It appears that I have purchased my first Yairi during the peak of their popularity back in 1987 - a year before Monte Montgomery purchased his. I have taken better care of mine though!

Perhaps it is a matter of economics as has been mentioned as it appears that all guitar manufacturing (as with any manufacturing these days) is making its way to China and other developing companies where labor is cheap. I noticed that even the top of the line Alvarez Masterworks (not Yairi) are made in China. I really have a problem paying over $2K for a "Made in China" guitar!

Most of the music stores I have gone to asking about Alvarez and Alvarez-Yairi are now pushing many of the guitars mentioned - especially the Godin/Seagull brand (which do seem to be nice guitars). I picked up a Canadian made Larrivee that had an asking price of $1,500 and almost plunked down the cash and walked out with it. Takamine (Japan made, not "G Series") seems to still be a good value but I haven't picked one up that I absolutely HAD to have. If you have not yet played a Cole Clark (Australian made with a Bunya Top), you are in for a treat and they are priced quite well!

I probably will not purchase any more new Alvarez or Yairi guitars but I always have my eye out for some of these nice older models and the way things are going, looks like they will become quite collectible in the very near future!

If LOUD Technologies is not committed to Alvarez, perhaps they can sell the brand off to someone who is? Hey, Fender and Gibson made it through their respective CBS and Norlin era!

The future of Yairi will be dependent upon the legacy that K. Yairi will leave behind. I am certain that he is getting old and certainly will not be around forever. Will there be some generations following K. Yairi in the same way that the Martin Family has with C.F Martin?
__________________
My Arsenal:

Alvarez Yairi DY-45
Alvarez Yairi DY-71 Koa Graphite
Takamine Santa Fe
Ovation Celebrity
Ibanez Anhorra Recital Classic
(and lots of gadgets, acessories, and electric and bass guitars but who cares about all that right?)
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Old 08-03-2011, 09:46 AM
Big.Al Big.Al is offline
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I was poking around a bit on the LOUD Technologies website this morning. Apparently the bad economy almost tanked the business. They were de-listed from NASDAQ in 2009 and it looks like they now have all new senior management. According to one business article I read, they have completely re-organized their management structure and re-grouped their product lines in 2011. I noticed that none of their sites have any email links anymore, and that Alvarez only lists six US dealers. My read on this is that the parent company probably was leveraged heavily and continues to be in dire financial straits. Yairi guitars seem to be out of stock everywhere, and I'm finding only a couple of their Artist and Masterworks Alvarez guitars here and there online. Perhaps LOUD doesn't have the funds to import inventory and support dealers. Not good at all.

Last edited by Big.Al; 08-03-2011 at 09:59 AM.
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