There are two types of people in this world – those who appreciate the sound and value of Yamaha’s lower-line acoustics and those who have never played them.
However, my only gripe is they are patently lousy at naming guitars…and thus we’ll review the “FG830”.
Now, I own more acoustic guitars than should be legal, but I wanted an “at-hand” acoustic for my workspace. I wasn’t willing to compromise with an all-laminate model, nor did I want to venture into the premium price range for an all-solid acoustic guitar.
After thoroughly surveying the music store solid-tops, I found the Yamaha FG830 to be truly worthy of a detailed review.
In this post, I’ll share my views on the FG830, the models that give it a tough fight, and why I think it’s the best guitar of its type under $500.
Yamaha FG830 Specs
- Non-cutaway dreadnought acoustic guitar
- Solid spruce top with scalloped bracing
- Laminate rosewood back and sides
- Nato neck and rosewood bridge & fingerboard
- 29 9/16 inch scale length
- 20 frets with dot inlays
- 15 3/4 fingerboard radius
- 11 mm string spacing
- Tortoise pattern pickguard
- Urea nut & saddle, Black ABS bridge pins
- Chrome tuning machines
- D’Addario EXP11 strings
- 3 finish options: Natural, Tobacco Burst, Autumn Burst
- Case / gig bag not included
The Yamaha FG830 is a dreadnought acoustic guitar from the highly acclaimed FG series. It’s a mid-market option that’s priced a little over $300, which is fiercely competitive for a solid top guitar. No wonder it consistently features in many “X best guitars under $500” roundups.
It has replaced the now-discontinued FG730S, which reigned as a popular choice in the cost-effective, solid-top segment. However, the FG830 has some improvements and features scalloped bracing. Let’s take a closer look at the important aspects of the guitar.
Design & Build Quality
The Yamaha FG 830 is a full-body dreadnought acoustic guitar, although Yamaha chooses to call it a ‘Traditional Western’ body shape. It sports a solid spruce top and rosewood back & sides, all done up in an ultra-thin gloss finish.
Rosewood/Spruce is a cookie-cutter tonewood combination, but it certainly gets the job done.
It’s nice to see scalloped bracing on this one. The discontinued Yamaha FG 730S acoustic guitar had non-scalloped bracing, and the difference in sound is tangible. Between the die-cast chrome hardware and scalloped bracing, you’ll receive the nuts and bolts of a traditional design and a sturdy instrument.
The rosewood bridge is a welcomed improvement in this model. Sadly, the Urea nut/saddle and the black ABS bridge pins are flimsy at best.
The guitar isn’t exquisite, but it has a lot going for it. The beige/cream binding, tortoise pattern pickguard, abalone soundhole rosette, and dark brown undertone of the rosewood give it an elegant appearance.
More importantly, it’s built to last and will only need replacement if you outgrow it.
What’s That Neck Like?
The back of the guitar neck has a satin finish, which feels smooth to the touch and is well-suited for moving your hands around the fingerboard. The profile feels flat, smooth, and upmarket.
It’s comparable to many mid-market USA-made acoustic guitars in terms of playability.
The fingerboard radius is 400 mm (15 3/4”) with an 11 mm string spacing. It’s pretty standard and quite comfortable compared with other dreadnoughts. It’s a non-cutaway model, so don’t expect to go beyond the 14th fret with any grace. However, that ought to be plenty for most people.
The Nato neck features a rosewood fingerboard with 20 frets and dot inlays. Nato necks may not be top grade, but brands like Ibanez and Yamaha have demonstrated that they can still be used in a good quality instrument.
Although commonplace, the tonewoods are top quality. While this guitar is a bit hefty, it won’t weigh you down during a gig or recording session.
Out of the box, the setup is impressive. The fretwork is smooth (no rough cuts), and the narrow nut-width will ease the chord-fretting woes for most beginners. The intonation and string action of the guitar gives me no reason to nitpick either.
In a nutshell, the guitar sounds great and calls out to be played. It’s comfortable to grip while standing or seated, with no shortcomings beyond what one should expect from the dreadnought size.
That said, it may not be suitable for guitar players with small hands or stature.
Tone / Sound
The Yamaha FG830 acoustic guitar has a sound that’s at home in most genres. The projection is loud, and you can work it up with some heavy strumming.
The chord work sounds full, and the tuning is stable. The unplugged output is loud enough for campfires and couch sessions.
Through a finger-style repertoire, the FG830 sounds impressive for the price point. The individual notes are articulate and balanced, though more sharp-sounding than what I’d typically settle on.
The top-end vivacity is not something you’d immediately associate with a Yamaha guitar. It’s reminiscent of the “chime” you can hear in lower-line Taylor or Breedlove guitars. The bass is there, and it’s punchy enough. Yet, it’s not a warm or dark sound. If you want more of that, check out the alternate options at the end of this post.
Even so, the FG830 is not tinny or strident. There is plenty of heft in the mid-range, and the highs are very palatable. However, if it bothers you, the highs can be tamed with the right pair of strings and minor adjustments to your playing style.
In a nutshell, the Yamaha FG830 sound is full, rich, and fairly balanced.
Every now and then I forget how much it costs and starting wishing for more depth in the low end. But truth be told, it could easily compete with something twice the price.
It’s almost as good as some of the big-brand acoustic guitars I’ve played. It’ll do a fitting job to replace my old Taylor 114CE, which had a solid Spruce top and layered walnut wood body. I can see a lot of difference in the price tag, but can’t attest to hearing the equivalent difference in the sound.
In any case, the Yamaha guitar punches way above its price. It’s not an entry-level model for a beginner.
There are other options in the FG series that are significantly cheaper. However, the FG830 can be an ideal guitar to “future-proof” if you are committed to learning the instrument.
(To look at some other great guitars in this price range, check out 7 Best Acoustic Guitars Under $600 (That Sound Incredible))
Potential Upgrades To Consider
It has some cost-effective components that aren’t exactly the smoothest in the market. You can upgrade the tuners, although they do an upright job in my opinion. I reckon you’ll hear a noticeable improvement in the sustain if you upgrade the plastic nut and saddle to bone and/or TUSQ.
I also recommend a proper setup and string change. I prefer Martin Lifespan 2.0 acoustic guitar strings, but Fender Dura-tone, Elixir 80/20, or any good phosphor-bronze strings will do you right.
If you want to go the whole nine yards, throw in some slotted bone, boxwood, or ebony bridge pins (string pegs) if you plan to perform or record with the instrument.
50 years since the introduction of the FG acoustics, the new range features the best-ever FG tone and the same great playability and class-leading quality that’s made it the choice of millions of guitarists.
- Full, rich, and fairly balanced sound
- Champions quality and value
- Value for money
This is a truly classy acoustic guitar that you won’t regret buying! Yamaha continues to champion quality and value with the FG830 model.
The guitar is an earnest instrument, and I have no qualms in recommending it to a friend or student. As long as you’re game for the way it’s voiced, it’s the guitar to beat in the sub $350 price range.
Yamaha FG830 vs Yamaha FG800: Which Is Better?
If you are contemplating the Yamaha FG830, you’re bound to bump into the model that sits right below it in the series – FG800.
The $100 difference is obvious, but other details require a little more scrutiny. Let’s see if it’s worth the extra dough, and what you get in return…
The two models are equal when it comes to build quality, playability, and hardware. In general, FG830 is a tad under in all the body dimensions, which makes it a relatively thinner instrument. The difference is minuscule and both should be regarded as standard-sized dreadnought guitars.
They both have fast necks, a similar body shape, and share much of Yamaha’s house-made hardware. The only difference is the bridge material.
FG800’s walnut bridge, I reckon, is inferior to FG830’s rosewood bridge. Although, it’s a paltry reason to disregard a guitar.
Sound-wise, the body wood is a deciding factor since both guitars sport a solid spruce soundboard with scalloped X bracing.
FG800 sports Nato back and sides while the FG830 has rosewood back and sides. To my ears, this is enough of a difference to justify paying extra. Rosewood delivers better overtones and the FG830 is decidedly superior sounding to my ears. You can notice it instantly if you play them one after the other.
Admittedly, you might not hear the difference or appreciate it as I do. After all, sound quality is riddled with subjectivity. Either way, both guitars are a viable choice and offer good value for what you pay.
Personally, I would recommend the FG800 for a beginner or student only if they can’t extend their budget. For anyone who can afford the price difference, there’s no doubt that the FG830 is superior.
Other Alternatives to the Yamaha FG830
Alvarez Artist Series AD60
Alvarez's Artist Series AD60 provides a selection of hand-selected solid tops; forward-shifted scalloped bracing, awesome tone, and player experience.
- Award-winning guitar
- Rich and warm tone
The AD60 is neck-to-neck with the Yamaha model. Both instruments virtually share a price tag but differ in some aspects of construction and aesthetics.
In a nutshell, the AD60 features a stepped bridge, a bone saddle, and a mahogany body & fingerboard. Compared to the FG830, the AD60 tone is more ’rounded’, and probably better suited to anyone wholly committed to finger-style playing.
The guitar's combination of premium tonewoods makes it a great value for seasoned players, but it's priced to be attainable for new players, as well.
- Great low end
The 800C is from the acoustic-electric aisle of the FG series. It features a solid Sitka spruce top, Nato body, a cutaway shape, and the Yamaha System-66 electronics.
It’s the obvious choice for anyone who likes the Yamaha design but wants a built-in pickup with a preamp (3-band EQ). Plus, it’s roughly the same price.
With the AAD100, Ibanez offers a grand dreadnought acoustic that has slightly larger overall dimensions. The result is not only a richer and brighter sound but a bump in volume!
- Great tone
- Features a clear bottom end
- Pristine finish
The Ibanez dreadnought body is a touch bigger in size and sports a solid spruce top with Okume back and sides.
It’s another good option for a full-bodied acoustic with loud projection. It features an open-pore finish, a thermo-aged nyatoh neck, and an ovangkol fingerboard. Specs apart, it’s in the same price range and tonal ballpark as the FG830.
I hope we’ve covered enough pros and cons in this review to get an idea if this guitar is the right choice for you.
Yamaha has seemingly mastered the art of making high-quality instruments at unbelievable prices. The Yamaha FG830 and other options within the FG series are no exception.
Even the customer reviews consistently rate it with five stars, raving about the bright tone and resounding projection of the guitar.
The only limiting factor (and a possible con) is the lack of colors. This model isn’t available in the black or tobacco sunburst, which people generally opt for.
It’s a shoo-in for any beginner or intermediate-level guitar player. It’s one of those instruments that makes you want to return for another session of jamming, playing, or practice. But don’t write it off if you are an expert guitarist either.
You know you need a guitar by the couch for when inspiration strikes. This guitar can fulfill that criteria too, and better than some models twice the price.
I’m not saying it’s comparable to my Eastman ED40 or Blueridge BR73, but nor is the price tag.
Quite frankly, after making the upgrades that I’ve mentioned earlier, the guitar sees way more playtime than any of my other acoustics.
If you were simply reading this review out of curiosity, you might be in the market for an acoustic guitar. If this is the case, make sure you read 5 Critical Things To Look For When Buying An Acoustic Guitar to make sure you find the guitar that’s right for you.