I recently received a Yamaha SV-255. I think I got the first one on the east coast, so I thought some folks here would appreciate a short review
Caveat: I have never claimed to be an accomplished violinist! I'm a real punter, but I do have vast experience as a recording engineer & producer, so I know sound very well. I also used to hang out on Maestronet forums, so am well versed in the mechanical / setup aspects of the fiddle.
Since I play pop music & some country / cajun, and like to play simple lines under/behind the singer, a 5-string was a no brainer. I was considering one of Barry Dudley's excellent 5 string acoustics, as I don't like the typical "E Violin" tone. Still, I longed for something I could play at night, and also something a little less fragile for rock gigs.
I saw/ heard the NAMM demo on YouTube, and even through the cheap camcorder & background noise, I heard something that really caught my ear. Decided to take a chance.
Now that it's here. What do I think?
Sound: Absolutely to die for. No kidding. It is the closest I've ever heard to a real acoustic fiddle There is plenty of "wood" and decent "body." The body is actually hollow, with a spruce top, and I guess it really does help. I am processing the sound through a convolution plugin, with an impulse-response of an acoustic guitar body (can't find a violin IR yet) roll off a little treble, to simulate EQ loss through the air, add a VERY good reverb, and seriously I can't tell that it's not a full acoustic. I may literally sell all of my acoustic violins. (well, except for my Carlisle.)
-but even without the convo IR, the sound is just wonderful. Much better than any previous Yamaha. Fuller & more resonant than Steinberger or Jordan.
The timbral response is equally excellent, due I suppose to having both a bridge & a body pickup.
Response up the neck is incredible. No dead spots, and it just sings & sings in 5th & 6th positions, on all strings.
The low C is full & resonant. However, you do have to be careful with bow pressure. It feels somewhat like controlling a pure-gut G-string. This is probably true with any 5-string violin.
OK, so I'm in love with the sound. NOW FOR THE BAD:
The setup is so dreadful, I have to wonder if Yamaha is having these made in Taiwan by homeless drug addicts. Some highlights:
The scale length is 325mm! - and you can't move the bridge feet, as they sit in a recessed slot.
I can JUST barely get 328mm if I bend the bridge tip waaay back (easy to do as the bridge blank itself is complete garbage) but this will surely cause failure in the near future.
The fingerboard is too low. Yes, there is a grey area, but no luthier would accept 6.9mm, at the relief, from the FB to the bottom of the G. 5mm would do nicely, or maybe even less as string-crossing in 5th position is tough on a 5-string. My E-string is at 4.5mm. Again, absurdly high.
The bridge is at the "correct" height of 34mm, so the problem is indeed the FB. Since this instrument doesn't use a standard dovetail, how would I find a luthier to do an adjustment? I can't even find out if they used hide glue on the joint.
The nut spacing is too narrow, and not centered. The accepted minimum is 16.5mm. mine is less than 16, and there is twice as much room to the side of the E string as to the side of the low C.
Luckily, the FB is PLENTY wide enough to support standard spacing, or even 17-18mm, which I prefer due to my very large fingers. - but less than 16mm from the factory is inexcuseable, IMO.
The after-length is wrong, and so far I can't find how to access the tail-cord. (I assume there is one, but the chinrest area does not easily come apart. More research needed....)
Last, the bridge slot is not even centered on the body. (not even close) I suspect that most of these ills are all simply due to the bridge slot. If it were 3-4mm further towards the tailpiece, and centered, the scale length & after length would be correct, and the string height would even be a little less. (though still high.)
OK, that's enough for now, I have to get back to work. SO WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED TODAY?
Yamaha has completely changed the game, as far as e-violin sound & response, but their QC is SEVERELY lacking. DO NOT buy one of these without trying it first. The company is aware of these problems, and is checking their stock & manufacturing plant as I write this. They seem very concerned (so far) and will be getting back to me soon. Worst case, they offered to ship my violin back to evaluate, and replace it if needed. (if needed??? !!! )
Well, talk is cheap. We shall see........
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