Yamaha Revstar RS420 Review

A lovely, retro looking rocker with great features at an even greater price.

Cost: $499.99 new, find it on Reverb.com

This review would not have been possible without Stephanie from Yamaha generously lending me this for review!

Overview and Final Score: 9.2

The Yamaha Revstar RS420 is a pure garage rock monster. The guitar features a stripped down design with vintage vibes while still retaining some Gibson similarities that will attract less adventurous buyers. This version of the Revstar is the on the lower end of the series, making it an excellent candidate to become someone’s second guitar or trusty (but not too dear) stage guitar. While not as popular in the electric guitar field as they are in their other pursuits, Yamaha once agains shows off their quality control, craftsmanship, and design skills with the RS420.

Sound: 9

The Revstar RS420 has something for almost anyone thanks to its high quality tonal controls, pickups, and features not often found in this price range. Both pickups are nicely balanced and sound clear, even as you increase the gain. The bridge especially sounded great as the humbuckers drove my Vox AC15 nicely without any outside boost or distortion beside rolling up the guitar’s volume knob. To me, the guitar sounded best when used in a punk or garage rock setting. The Clash, The Black Keys, The Ramones, and The Strokes all poured out of this guitar and I felt very inspired bashing out power chords on it. Huge bonus feature was the “dry switch”, which is a pull-push function on the tone knob, which creates more a single coil sound without cutting out any of the output or noise removal that sometimes happens with normal coil tapping or coil splitting. The switch essentially increases the treble, while slightly cutting lows, taking away the full, warm PAF-like humbucker sound. And honestly, it sounded spectacular, I almost bought the guitar on the spot after playing it, there is so much potential for getting a variety of sounds out of it live or in the studio.

Playability: 9

I was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable the guitar was and how great the setup was out of the box. At this price range, it is always a mixed bag on what you’ll get, as some companies give up quality control in favor of electronics or vice versa, to keep costs down. But Yamaha did not do that here, this guitar plays smoothly. My only critique would be that only the G string would go out of tune really easily, which is obviously a common complaint of guitar players at all budget/experience levels. The guitar also features a bit of a neck contour on the heel which makes the higher frets super accessible. Otherwise, the guitar is super light and well balanced when playing sitting down or standing up.

Finish and Construction: 9

I was generously sent a model with a “Fire Red” finish and it was stunning, it drew tons of compliments from roommates and friends when they walked by and saw it. The finish was almost flawless, except for a few dings and dents, but that could be because I was sent a well-traveled demo guitar. It is hard to tell how scratch resistant or road worthy the finish would be because of this, but the guitar felt structurally solid and tough, and the low price makes it easy to take it out on the road without fear of ruining a cherished, vintage instrument.

Value: 10

The RS420’s best feature is absolutely the value. For under $500 you’re getting a ton of tonal options, a beautiful instrument, and reliable performance every time. I would kill to take this thing out for a gig and see what kind of stripped-down rock goodness I could coax out of it. While I’m sure you will build up a strong emotional attachment to it, the cost makes it easy to replace, modify, or beat up without fear of being bankrupt should it break, get stolen, or falls out of favor in your rig.

Eastwood Sidejack Pro JM Review

A unique looking, surf guitar alternative

Cost: $1099.00 new but look for savings HERE from Reverb

Can’t thank Michael from Eastwood Guitars enough for also sending this surf rock meets punk rock monster!

Overview and Final Score: 8.2

Inspired by the Mosrite guitars made famous by Johnny Ramone, Eastwood’s Sidejack Pro JM is marketed as an exciting alternative to Fender Jazzmaster guitars. Much like all of Eastwood’s vintage, pawnshop inspired offerings, this guitar mixes modern playability with historical design and aesthetics. With some familiar features such as a Jazzmaster-style bridge and 25.5 scale length, the Sidejack is sure to feel less foreign than it looks.

Sound: 7

Featuring two Eastwood designed M90 pickups, the large single coils do sound like a lovely mix of Jazzmaster pickups and more traditional P90’s. However, Ramone fans should take notice this is not just a copy of Johnny’s guitar, which featured a Tele-style bridge pickup and a neck mini humbucker. Overall, the guitar is capable of producing some great tones, including treble-rich surf tones via the bridge and middle positions on the 3-way selector. However, as you creep up in gain, the guitar begins to sound a bit thin. This should be expected as they aren’t overwound P90’s or even the Gibson-style ones that helped create punk rock. However, once boosted with pedals such as a Tube Screamer or DS-1, the guitar’s overdriven tone started to improve. At the end of the day, don’t expect to push the tubes on your amp hard with just this guitar. The neck pickup was incredibly muddy, something I was surprised about in this price range, making most of the tone knob settings useless.

Playability: 9

The action came just a bit too high on the guitar, another surprising observations for a $1000+ instrument, but otherwise, the guitar’s playability was smooth and comfortable. The guitar featured a Fender-like C style neck which felt really familiar and easy to play. The medium jumbo frets came well polished and sanded, and played with ease all over the neck. The nice thing about this vintage Mosrite shape is the easy access to the upper frets, something that even more “shredder” or “lead”-friendly guitars sometimes lack. The guitar is deceptively large and heavy, something more slighter framed guitarists may want to avoid, but the body does not feel as bulky when played sitting down.

Finish and Construction: 9

One of the upsides of that heavy, large body is how sturdy it feels. Despite its size, which is closer to an ES-335 than to a Jazzmaster, the guitar is fairly thin, with a slightly raised top that feels great. Furthermore, a lot of the sustain, and full bodied clean tone of this guitar likely comes from the weight of the tone-chambered Alder body and German carved top. The sunburst finish was spotless, but I much prefer the look of the natural finish, and I assume they all come with similar quality. This guitar is certainly going to wow audiences with the shape and color options available.

Value: 8

Ultimately, this is a top notch instrument with killer looks and unique tones that will suit indie rockers or surfers best. Considering the M90’s lack some of the aggression of more traditional P90’s, punk and rock players should be aware that it will take help from boosts, drives, and distortions to really shape the guitar’s tone. With only a few small issues such as high action, and a muddy neck pickup, the guitar is arguably a little bit overpriced to not be more finely set-up out of the box, or well balanced tonally. Of course, these are more minor issues, which is why it is still a good value and should definitely be worthy of serious consideration if you’re looking for a Jazzmaster or similar alternative.

Guild Jetstar Review

The exact Guild Jetstar I fell in love with.

Cost: $599.00 new, buy from Reverb.com HERE

Thanks to Keena from Cordoba Music, makers of Guild Guitars, for lending me and then selling me this gorgeous instrument!

Overview and Final Score: 9.7

This guitar has quickly become one of my main instruments, and before I dig into it, I have to make it clear I liked this instrument so much, I purchased it shortly after the review. The Guild Jetstar is a re-issue of a classic, historical model that mixes distinct design with vintage tone. Looking like something that should be found in Dan Auerbach’s arsenal of pawn shop guitars, the Jetstar has a truly original body shape, with an eye catching bite out of strat body and an awesome reverse headstock. Adding to the charm is two LB-1 humbuckers, Guild’s toaster top style dual coil pickups with plenty of output, low hum, and a Rickenbacker-esque chime. 

Sound: 9 

The Jetstar sounds somewhere between a jangly, British invasion tone and a crunchy, garage rock guitar. The neck pickup is full, round, and warm, like you would expect a neck pickup to be, but retains much more top end and treble than others. This is a tone that may not be for everyone, but for me, a loyal bridge pickup obsessive, I loved being to switch up my sound without losing all that top end. The bridge pickup was spot on perfect, it shined through recording mixes and jam sessions when played clean, over driven, or with heavy distortion or fuzz on top. The guitar even pushed my Vox AC15 tube amp to breakup a bit as I cranked the volume, but the humbuckers here are still a far cry from the breakup you can achieve with PAF-style humbuckers. The only real negative is that the pickups tonal options are somewhat limited by a tone knob that doesn’t have great spread, as you have to really turn it past 5 or 6 to hear much a change. 

Playability: 10 

Tuning stability has been superb so far and the 22 frets are all easy to access thanks to the friendly, large cutaways. Furthermore the Fender 25.5” scale length feels familiar and comfortable to play even though it is paired with Gibson-esque features such as a stopbar tailpiece and dual humbuckers. The guitar is also incredibly easy to play, with a “Pau Ferro” fretboard on top of a Mahogany neck and body. The distinct shape and dual body contours on either side make it comfortable to play sitting down or standing up, and even better, the guitar feels fairly light as a feather, and feels well balanced in my hands. 

Finish and Construction: 10 

One of the best features of this whole guitar is the awesome finish options. I was fortunate enough to be sent one in Seafoam Green, which looks stunning and has already drawn audible attention from everyone who sees it. It is also available in white and black finishes, with a beautiful tortoise shell pickguard. The guitar feels reliable too, it stays in tune, it’s lightweight enough to play comfortable for hours, and feels like one solid piece of wood. It’s important to feel that you can trust your guitar once you put it on before a gig or recording session, and this guitar certainly evokes that sense of trust quickly. 

Value: 10 

For the mid-range price of $599.00 USD, there is a lot to like for the guitar. That price is firmly in the price range of most experienced players, and wouldn’t even be outlandish for a young player’s second guitar. With oddball, vintage reissue guitars being very popular right now, especially in indie and alternative rock scenes, I fully expect these to continue to be good sellers. Even though this guitar doesn’t feature a lot of extras such as tremolo arm, coil splitting, or fancy wiring schematics, it flat out plays great and sound great for an affordable price. You can feel how just much higher quality it is in than more budget oriented options the minute you pick it up.