From the January 2019 issue of Acoustic Guitar | BY PETE MADSEN
The partnership between Yairi and Alvarez goes back several decades, with the Alvarez-Yairi stamp reserved for Alvarez’s finest instruments. While much of Alvarez’s line is manufactured in China, the Yairi-branded guitars are made in a small shop in Kani, Japan, where modern power tools are eschewed in favor of hand tools, like spokeshaves for carving necks, and hide-glue construction is standard throughout.
For cannon-like sound with thumping bass and treble clarity, many guitarists prefer dreadnought-sized instruments. The Alvarez-Yairi DYM60HD is a guitar that speaks to the quality of a classic dreadnought, but includes some modern appointments, such as a direct-coupled bridge and ebony tuners, which should give the dread enthusiast something to ponder.
The DYM60HD was conceived in collaboration with blues guitarist and one-time Allman Brothers Band member Jack Pearson. For the soundboard, Alvarez and Pearson opted for Adirondack spruce, paired with Honduran mahogany from a recently rediscovered stash that had been seasoning for over 40 years.
I pulled the DYM60HD from its classy tweed case with leather trim and was immediately impressed by the guitar’s artistry. The instrument has a striking elegance. Its relatively pale AAAA Adirondack spruce soundboard is centered with a shimmering abalone rosette, which contrasts nicely with the dark ebony fretboard and bridge.
The mahogany back and sides radiate a deep and striped reddish-brown glow from under the thin gloss finish, and gold Gotoh tuners with ebony buttons add to the elegant display. There are fret markers on the side of the neck, but the fretboard bears only a single inlay, an Alvarez-Yairi insignia at the 12th fret. Instead of the usual faux tortoiseshell, the DYM is outfitted with a clear plastic teardrop pickguard. And inside the box, the guitar sports forward-shifted scalloped X-bracing and the same meticulous attention to detail as outside.
An interesting feature is Yairi’s patented direct-coupled bridge system, which separates the bridge-pin block from the saddle. A base mounted on the underside of the soundboard provides support, avoiding the “uplifting” action of other conventional bridge systems. This also results in a steeper angle between the actual bridge and anchoring mount—which, at least theoretically, improves the transference of string vibration to the top.
FLUID AND FULL
A natural comparison for the DYM60HD would be a Martin D-18. The Yairi’s C-shaped neck feels similar to that of a D-18 and will be a good fit for most hands. The 1-23/32-inch nut (just shy of 1-3/4-inch) provided plenty of room for my fretting hand to navigate the neck. Like most dreadnought-sized guitars, the DYM60HD has a 25-1/2-inch scale, which feels slightly stiff to me but is by no means uncomfortable. I played single-string runs up and down the one-piece mahogany neck and, despite its semi-gloss finish, I felt no stickiness or impediments to fluid playing. When I strummed the guitar heartily, first-position chords sounded full and rich, but not undesirably boomy.
Generally speaking, mahogany guitars are known for punchiness, while their rosewood counterparts sound a little warmer. As expected, the DYM60HD has bass-heavy midrange punch. I would have expected the treble strings to be a little brighter than what the guitar offered, but it still sounded rich and vibrant, perhaps thanks to the aged mahogany.
I recently played Martin’s Model 1 America, which is essentially a D-18 that replaces mahogany with sycamore and pairs it with an Adirondack top. I didn’t have both guitars to compare side by side, but these two guitars play and sound very similar, cost about the same, and display impeccable quality that both professional and amateur players could appreciate.
STRUMMING vs. FINGERPICKING
If you are primarily a strummer and flatpicker, the balance between the bass and treble on the Alvarez might not be as pronounced as it would be for a fingerpicker, who’d probably have to compensate by picking the treble strings harder and/or backing off on the bass strings. I found that adjusting my picking attack didn’t quite do the trick when I fingerpicked on the DYM60HD. The bass was still a little overpowering and I wanted a little more sustain and brightness from the treble. I don’t want to overstate this issue, however, because my experience with Adirondack-topped guitars is that they take a while to open up and it’s more than likely this guitar will shimmer after more playing time.
The big sound and silky playability of the Alvarez DYM60HD puts it right in league with other high-end guitars. For players in the market for a good-quality dreadnought, the Yairi Honduran will give flatpickers and strummers alike something to consider; it will also be a great choice for fingerpickers, provided they’re patient enough to let the top settle in. If you have the opportunity to sit down in a shop with the DYM60HD and some other quality dreadnoughts, don’t be surprised if the Alvarez is the one you walk out the door with.
BODY 14-fret dreadnought with Honduran mahogany back and sides and AAAA-grade Adirondack spruce top with forward-shifted scalloped X-bracing; abalone rosette; ivoroid binding; gloss finish; clear plastic pickguard
NECK One-piece mahogany with semi-gloss finish; 25-1/2″ scale; 20-fret ebony fretboard and headstock overlay; abalone inlaid headstock and fingerboard; 1-23/32″ nut width; gold Gotoh 510 tuners with ebony buttons
OTHER Bone nut and saddle; ebony direct-coupled bridge with ebony bridge pins; D’Addario EXP16 coated phosphor bronze strings (.012–.053); hardshell case
PRICE $2,699 (MAP)
MADE IN Japan
This article originally appeared in the January 2019 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.