Alvarez-Yairi Masterworks DYMR70SB Review

Gear Alvarez

Posted by Adam Levy

The Alvarez-Yairi company began in the mid 1960s as a partnership between American manufacturer/distributor St. Louis Music and Japanese luthier Kazuo Yairi. Since then, Alvarez-Yairi has earned a solid reputation as a maker of excellent acoustic guitars. Its Masterworks series comprises the company’s top-notch guitars, manufactured in Japan under the supervision of Kazuo Yairi—now an octogenarian. The DYMR70SB is an updated take on the classic slope-shoulder dreadnought, and is a standout of the Masterworks line. 

Not Your Father’s Dreadnought

The Alvarez-Yairi Masterworks DYMR70SB bears a resemblance to some slope-shoulder giants of the past. Its gently curved outline, 12-fret neck, and slotted peghead all call to mind the earliest Martin dreadnoughts. At the same time, its darkly shaded sunburst top and solar-plexus-thrumming voice—generous in the low-to-mid frequencies—are reminiscent of classic Gibson jumbos. But hold on. Before you get all misty-eyed for the great guitars of yesteryear, know this: the DYMR70SB is neither a knockoff nor an homage. It definitely has its own thing going on, both cosmetically and sonically, as our review model gloriously illustrates.

            I first examined this beaut from a visual standpoint and was charmed by several of its unique details. For example, its rosette is simply two concentric circles around the soundhole—the outer of gleaming abalone, the inner of mocha-toned rosewood. The overall effect is quite elegant. Even more striking is the look of what Alvarez-Yairi calls a direct-coupled (DC) bridge system. Behind a mustache-shaped bar of ebony that supports the bone saddle, there’s a separate piece of ebony that looks to have been countersunk into the guitar’s Sitka spruce top. This allows the bridge pins (ebony as well) to be anchored into the top and increases the strings’ break angle behind the saddle. The sharper angle increases the string tension—in a good way. According to Alvarez-Yairi, this design is intended to give the guitar “a responsive feel” and add “quality to its volume and sustain.” The DYMR70SB bears this out. This review model feels responsive and offers remarkable volume and sustain.

            Another notable design feature is actually an anti-feature—the absence, that is, of fingerboard decoration at the customary positions. The sole inlay work is a thin abalone line, diagonally crossing a slotted mother-of-pearl diamond at the 12th fret. (Worry not, there are ivoroid position markers along the edge of the unbound ebony fingerboard to guide your fingers.) This complements the guitar’s uncluttered aesthetic—as does the see-through pickguard, sealed beneath the guitar’s glossy topcoat. Even the multi-layered ivory-and-black purfling around the top somehow comes across as understated. The DYMR70SB doesn’t saylook at memuch as it saysplay me. So let’s play.

Versatile Player

Before even plucking a string, I relished the contour of the mahogany neck. The shallow V shape seems to be a compromise, with modern players in mind as well as those who really like the feel of old-school necks. I like this shape a lot. I had no trouble grabbing chords anywhere along the 12-fret fingerboard, and I could easily set my standard Shubb capo just about anywhere I pleased. (Up to the ninth fret, that is. At the tenth fret and above, the heel was in the way—though that’s to be expected on any 12-fret guitar.)

            I was in a White Album mood while testing the DYMR70SB, so I played through a few acoustic tunes from that late-’60s Beatles classic. “Mother Nature’s Son” and “Blackbird—both of which feature Paul McCartney’s fingerstyle strumming—sounded appropriately warm and mellow on the Alvarez-Yairi. Next, I put on a capo at the second fret and tried “Julia”—a tune with a steady alternating-bass pattern played by John Lennon. It was while playing “Julia” that I began to appreciate the DYMR70SB’s string spacing—2 7/32-inches wide at the saddle—which gave me room to fingerpick very comfortably. (My fingers are a bit meaty.) Finally, I took a crack at “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill”—an outright strummer with parts played by both Lennon and George Harrison. The DYMR70SB was happy to oblige. Caught up in the spirit of the song, I strummed harder and harder. But no matter how much I leaned into the strings with my flatpick, the guitar kept translating my kinetic energy into pleasantly musical tones. One really nice aspect of the DYMR70SB’s character is that it almost sounds as if there’s a studio-grade compressor/limiter on it, smoothing the dynamic peaks and letting every note sustain a little longer. What’s more, its sonority is rich and woody without being cartoonishly boomy. These qualities would make it an excellent choice for recording, as it already sits in a sweet spot, acoustically. It would sound great on its own or in a full-band mix, with minimal studio tweaking.

Fit and Finish

After having some musical fun with the DYMR70SB, I decided to take one more look—this time with build and prep quality in mind. I could find no inconsistencies in the gloss coat that covers the guitar’s top, back, and sides. It appears to have been expertly applied and buffed with equal skill, highlighting the top’s dark sunburst hues and giving the tonewoods a lovely glow. Unlike the body, the neck has a satin-style finish, as is the norm on most acoustics these days. Again, job well done. The fretwork too was very consistent across the entire fingerboard. Each string intonates beautifully across its entire length. No matter where I looked, inside and out, I couldn’t find any cosmetic or structural issues.

Bursting with Tone

Though the acoustic guitar community has plenty of traditionalists who rarely look beyond Nazareth, Bozeman, or El Cajon when it comes time to buy a new instrument, more and more players these days are willing to consider other options. If you’re one of these open-minded guitarists and are in the market for a handsome dreadnought that’s easy to play and delivers great tones across the dynamic spectrum, the Alvarez-Yairi Masterworks DYMR70SB may be right up your alley.

AT A GLANCE

SPECS: Slope-shoulder dreadnought with 12-fret mahogany neck. Solid AA Sitka spruce top. Solid Indian rosewood back and sides. Hand-scalloped braces (forward-shifted X pattern). Ebony fingerboard and bridge. Bone nut and saddle. 25.5-inch scale. 1 3/4-inch nut width. 2 7/32-inch string spacing at the saddle. High-gloss finish (top, back, sides), semi-gloss finish (neck). Gotoh 510 open-gear tuners. D’Addario EXP light-gauge phosphor-bronze strings. Left-handed model available by special order. Made in Japan.

PRICE: $3,799 list/$2,799 street.

MAKER: Alvarez Guitars/St. Louis Music: (314) 727-1191; alvarezguitars.com.

Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar, December 2013

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