Yamaha as an instrument maker is well-known for its high-quality work, and their guitars are no exception. I’ve been teaching guitar lessons for over 10 years, and I always feel comfortable recommending their guitars to people.
But there are so many Yamaha models out there with endless descriptions. How do you sort through it all?
I can help. Read on to get an in-depth comparison of the guitars in the FG series specifically the 800, 820, 830, 840, and 850. I’ll break it all down for you, so you can feel confident in your purchase.
Overview and Common Features of the FG800 Series
In the 1960s Yamaha entered into the field of guitar making. Their success with acoustic guitars spurred them on to create more and more over the years.
The current flagship series is the FG800 series. The “FG” stands for “Folk Guitar” which refers to the guitar’s history and purpose as a purely acoustic instrument.
While each specific model is different from the others, they do have some of the same common features. Check out the main features of the series as whole below.
Pro-tip: Don’t get this confused with the FS800 series. The “FS” refers to “folk-small”. These guitars are essentially the same except for a little smaller in the body.
The body is in the traditional western shape for all models in the series (although you can opt for other choices). This shape provides a great mix of easy holding and access to the fretboard without sacrificing inner body space for greater resonance.
The scale length for each model comes in at 650 mm (25 9/16”). This makes the guitar long-scaled. Long-scaled guitars are typically easier to finger the shape of the chords and create a larger sound, but it does require more pressure to fret the strings.
The body dimensions (length, width, and depth) are also all the same. This means that each guitar is beginning in the same place when it comes to forming the sound. As a comparison, this makes it easier for us to compare because differences in sound and playability will all come down to the specific differences in materials.
Fingerboards and bridges
All of the fingerboards and bridges are made from rosewood. Rosewood is a standard material for these because of how it softens the harsh natural timbre (quality of sound) of the steel strings. This is considered by many to be the best of the woods for fingerboards and bridges.
Urea nut and saddle
Another nice feature common to the whole FG800 series is the urea nut and saddle. Nuts and saddles are usually made from some kind of plastic, fossilized ivory, or bone with bone being generally considered the best.
Urea is Yamaha’s way of raising the quality of plastic closer to that of bone by making it tougher and more consistent in its density. Nuts and saddles do help to mellow the sound, but, more importantly, a broken or chipped one can seriously shorten the life of your strings.
In general, these common design elements are all part of what makes the FG800 series such a standard in the acoustic guitar world. For a quick reference, here is a table that includes all of the common specifications for the series:
Summary of Common Features
|Features||FG800, 820, 830, 840, 850|
|Body Shape||Traditional Western|
|Total Length||1038 mm (40 7/8″)|
|Scale Length||650 mm (25 9/16”)|
|Body Length||505 mm (19 7/8″)|
|Body Width||412 mm (16 1/4″)|
|Body Depth||100-118 mm (3 15/16”- 4 5/8”)|
|Nut Width||43 mm (1 11/16”)|
|String Space||11.0 mm|
|Nut and Saddle||Urea|
|Bridge Pins||Black ABS with White Dot|
|Tuning System||Die-cast Chrome (TM29T)|
Main Difference Between Models
In the following section, I break down the main differences from model to model. In general, the higher the number, the “better” the guitar and the more it costs. As you read, take note of the different features and what you may be looking for in your guitar purchase.
Pro-tip: Each guitar gets more expensive as the list goes on. Make sure to check current prices if you have a specific budget.
Side by Side Comparisons
For those in a hurry without having time to dive into details, I have provided This section including two tables for your easy reference. The first one here is a side by side of the different specifications for each model.
|Back/Side Wood||Nato||Mahogany||Rosewood||Flamed Maple||Mahogany|
|Top Wood||Solid Spruce||Solid Spruce||Solid Spruce||Solid Spruce||Mahogany|
|Body Binding||Black||Cream||Cream||Cream||Mahogany and Cream|
|Soundhole Inlay||Black and White||Black and White||Abalone, Black, and White||Abalone, Black, and White||Abalone, Black, and White|
The second table is a quick reference for the pros and cons list of each model. Consider this a general, simple translation of the different specifications into easy-to-understand language.
2. Reliable Construction
3. Clear sound
|1. Standard look
2. Sound lacks depth
3. Punchy sound
|FG820||1. Reliable construction
2. Deep, clear sound
|1. Standard look
2. Punchy sound
|FG830||1. Reliable construction
2. Mellow, rich sound
3. Good looking accents
|1. Punchy sound|
|FG840||1. Reliable construction
2. Clear sound
3. Deep low and high register sounds
4. Good looking accents
|1. Punchy sound|
|FG850||1. Reliable construction
2. Clear sound
3. Low and high register rich and complex
4. Mellow striking of strings
5. Great looking accents and colors
|1. More expensive|
Now those who would like to know more details about each individual model can take a look at the following sections:
Yamaha FG800 Snapshot
The FG800 is the entry level of this series. It has all the same features covered above, but it is different in some key areas. It’s these areas that make it more affordable, and I’ll cover them here.
The material of the top of the guitar is solid spruce wood. Spruce is considered a good choice for guitar tops. It offers strong resonance and clear sound compared to cheaper alternatives, but it isn’t as responsive as more expensive wood like mahogany.
The back and sides of the guitar are made from Nato wood. Nato is wood that comes from the Mora tree. It’s a sturdy and more affordable wood type. It works well for guitars, but in the back and sides of the guitar, it doesn’t add any richness to the guitar tone.
The body binding is a simple black and the soundhole inlay is black and white. These don’t have any impact on the sound of the guitar but mainly affect the look. These are pretty standard on acoustic guitars.
The only thing you need to watch for with binding is that it’s strong enough to hold the guitar together. Yamaha’s black binding is perfectly fine for this.
Bottom Line: The good design of the series makes this entry FG800 an affordable good sounding option while the more average quality woods don’t add any special qualities to the sound.
Yamaha FG820 Snapshot
Stepping up to the FG820, you’re going to pay a little more but also get a little more sophisticated sound from the guitar. Here’s how this one differs.
The top is still solid spruce which discussed before. It’s a standard wood that gives a strong, clear sound but lacks the depth of more expensive woods.
For the FG820, Yamaha made the back and sides out of mahogany. This wood is more expensive and gives a good, clear sound. The biggest difference I notice in using mahogany is how the bass and middle tones are richer and stronger. Mahogany adds depth of sound to the guitar.
The soundhole inlay is still a simple-looking black and white. The body binding is upgraded to a cream color. This doesn’t impact sound, but it does make it look nicer.
Bottom Line: The FG820 is the good balance of price and sound quality. The addition of mahogany for the back and sides is the biggest difference. You’re going to notice the biggest jump in quality from the FG800 to the FG820.
Yamaha FG830 Snapshot
As before, the next step up costs more but gives more features.
Like the FG820, this model uses a solid spruce top which we’ve discussed before. Also, the same. The body binding is the upgraded cream color like before as well.
The biggest difference comes with Yamaha making the back and sides out of rosewood. Though rosewood is typically used in fingerboards and bridges, it works well for guitar bodies as well.
Rosewood costs a bit more, but the dense material softens and deepens the tone quality of the guitar’s sound more than the Nato or Mahogany. This guitar has a beautiful mellow sound as demonstrated in the video at the end of this section.
Another nice upgrade is to the soundhole inlay. The FG830 adds Abalone to the normal black and white. Combined with the cream body binding, this gives the guitar nice color contrast and a beautiful look.
Bottom Line: In my opinion, FG830 is the best balance of price and quality. The rosewood back and sides with the upgrade style choices make this a great guitar at a great price.
For a detailed review of this guitar click here.
Yamaha FG840 Snapshot
Everything on the FG840 is the same as FG830. It has a solid spruce top, cream bindings, and an Abalone, black, and white soundhole inlay.
The difference in this model is the flamed maple back and sides. Maple, in general, promotes the low and high ends of the guitar sound allowing for more of a punchy, complicated sound than rosewood or nato. Flamed maple, even more than the standard maple, offers some more projection with less strike from the strings.
Bottom Line: With little difference in the style between the two, it all comes down to the sound you prefer. Compare this video with that above to see which sound you prefer. Also, maple is considered really nice to look at, so take that into account if you like its look.
Yamaha FG850 Snapshot
Now, we arrive at the top model, the FG850. The FG850 is going to cost the most, but for the extra cost, you get many of the guitar parts with a good upgrade.
The back and sides are mahogany which we’ve discussed before. Now the top is too. With a fully mahogany body the low and middle ranges of the guitar with a sound strongly giving the tone a complex and deep quality.
The soundhole inlay is again Abalone, black, and white adding to the stellar look. On top of this, the body binding is now mahogany which further accentuates the sharp look of the wood, inlay, and pickguard.
Bottom Line: If you compare with the FG800 directly, you can see why this one is so much better. All the materials and looks have been upgraded to create a great looking and sounding folk acoustic guitar.
For a more detailed review of this model check out this post.
I hope you found the in-depth comparison of the Yamaha FG800 series helpful. By looking at how they’re the same and different, you can decide which one may be the best for you.
I recommend the FG850 to anyone looking for a top-notch folk acoustic guitar. It may cost more but the mahogany sides, back, and front gives a pure and rich sound that spruce can’t quite do. The upgraded design elements also make it look much nicer (although it doesn’t impact the sound).
If you can’t find it in you to pay the larger sum, any other one is fine. I do recommend you go for the FG830 if you can. The rosewood sides give a unique depth of sound, and this would be the model I’d push for any of my students from this list.
Feel confident in buying what you need. Remember, the most important thing you can do is just to go play. Happy music making!