Yamaha has spent year designing guitars for the beginner but have increasingly been augmenting the range to suit intermediate and more experienced players alike. This Yamaha Pacifica 311 review will look into the features of this mid-range offering by Yamaha. Is it really possible that this guitar could support you on the road? Is it the next step up from your $60 beginners guitar? We’ll take a look at the specification and features. Finally I’ll provide a recommendation. Let’s get started. Be sure to check out my post on the best guitar accessories for beginners too.
Overview of The Yamaha Pacifica 311
The Yamaha Pacifica 311 is a good looking guitar available in 4 colors:
- Vintage White (pictured)
- Red Metallic
- Yellow Natural Satin
All of these ooze vintage style but the Vintage White and Yellow Natural Satin especially so. The 311 takes the solid construction of the PAC600 series, Yamaha’s high end offering that’d cost you around $500 more than the 311. Whilst sporting good looks and boasting a great build quality there is some question over the humbucker pickups in the bridge. Although you get the styling of the higher end model, you get the power of a mid-range guitar. The 311 departs from the classic stratocaster style that we associate with the Pacifica range. That may be to do with the vintage styling, but the guitar is still comfortable to play and doesn’t suffer as a result of the adjustment to it’s looks.
The neck is bolt-on, as with all Pacificas but this doesn’t appear to affect tonality to any noticeable degree. The satin finish on the neck means you can move about the fretboard unobstructed. The hardtail bridge is a nice feature for the beginner to intermediate guitarist. It makes restringing easy and allows for intonation changes with relative simplicity.
It limits the tremelo options, which will suit some play styles better than others. The guitar comes out of the box with a set D’Addario EXL120 custom lights attached. Whilst certainly an upgrade on the strings that come with the entry level PAC012, you still might want to consider changing them to suit your playing style. You can then also be sure you have your favorite strings on your shiny new guitar!
The History of the Yamaha Pacifica Series
Yamaha started producing the Pacifica series in the early 1990s. The guitar’s roots are on the west coast of the United States, where the first model was designed in California. Today the range includes 15 models from the entry level PAC012 to the higher end PAC600 series. You can expect to pay around $200 for the entry level PAC012 and upwards for $1000 for some of the guitars in the top end PAC600 series. Yamaha’s philosophy centers on Excellence, Authenticity and Innovation. With their unique pickup configuration Yamaha has long asserted itself as a heavyweight player in the beginner to intermediate market.
Features of the Yamaha Pacifica 311
This is a full scale (full sized) guitar at 25.5 inches. The body is made of Alder. You’d expect a bright and crisp sounds like a stratocaster however the Alder means it’s able to produce crisp and warm tones dependant on pickup selection equally. The fretboard is Rosewood producing softer, more mellow tones. Even with the maple neck the rosewood will dampen down the harsher, brighter characteristics of the maple. My strat has a maple freboard and I love it, but most guitars tend to come with a rosewood fretboard as standard.
There are 22 frets, so plenty of room to maneuver and plenty of room to learn scales all the way up the neck. The frets are medium, so plenty of fret to aim at. Perfect for beginners and useful for even intermediate guitarists. Pickup selection is controlled by a 3-way pickup switch and the tone control knob. Here’s a diagram explaining how it works, courtesy of Yamaha.
The neck pickup is a single coil P-90 Alnico, which is Yamaha’s own design. The bridge pickup is an Alnico Humbucker. The tone knob enables you to change the configuration to use some or all of each pickup at any one time. The pickup plating adds to the vintage feel of the PAC311. As will all Pacificas, the neck is bolted on. Whilst traditionally not as good as set-neck guitars, the Pacifica seems to avoid the potential pit-falls of tone degradation.
Review of the Yamaha Pacifica 311
This guitar punches above it’s weight in terms of styling and construction, but there are a few drawbacks. The bridge pickup just doesn’t provide enough punch for me. A humbucker with a little more output would make this guitar exceptional, but we have to remember that this is an entry level to intermediate guitar. If they stuck a seymour-duncan humbucker in there you’d be paying a lot more. That said, there’s nothing stopping you from replacing the bridge humbucker to extend versatility. It all depends on what style you want to play. I don’t see this being such an issue for blues players, but if you’re into your heavy rock or metal it might cause you a problem.
The guitar offers a wide tonal range thanks to the pickup configuration. The P-90 single coil neck pickup is outstanding, providing exceptional note sustain naturally. The action is reasonably low and the Graph Tech TUSQ nut is great quality. The locking tuners pair well with the hardtail bridge to provide stability. It should play well out of the box but, as with any guitar, you might want to adjust the action or the truss rod, dependent on your preferences. If you’re a complete beginner you really don’t need to worry about that! I don’t like the strap anchor point on the horns of the guitar. It’s a similar position to my strat, but it just feels a bit prominent for my liking. That’s my preference though and it’s such a minor point.
If you’re a beginner and not worried about the looks you could get away with the PAC012. However if you want a good looking guitar at a reasonable price, which will also fulfill your longer term needs the PAC311 is a very good candidate. I even think think this guitar could serve as your number 1 guitar indefinitely if you invest in a seymour-duncan humbucker for the bridge. Equally if you’ve been playing for a while and are looking for to replace a $60 guitar you may have bought as a beginner, I think this is a more than acceptable candidate. The quality build and styling of this guitar means it’s punching well above it’s weight. That’s owing to Yamaha’s experience with the Pacifica range.
Yamaha Pacifica 311 Pros
- Quality build
- Beautiful styling
- Great P-90 neck pickup
- Versatile pickup configuration
- Excellent for beginner and intermediate guitarists
Yamaha Pacifica 311 Cons
- Humbucker pickup on the bridge is a little weak
- Stock strings will need to be replaced
- Neck strap anchor seems a little mis-placed (minor point!)
The PAC311 is a good choice, but it does suffer from problems commonly associated with low to mid-range guitars. It becomes a balance between styling and functionality for designers. The buyer expects some decent styling and an upgrade to the functionality of their entry level guitar. The challenge for producers is how best to balance these requirements against cost, which will impact the price. Of course, no one wants to pay thousands of dollars for a guitar that’s aimed at entry to mid-level buyers.
Taking all that into account Yamaha have done a decent job with the PAC311. The styling and build quality is excellent, taken directly from their higher end PAC600 series. Although the P-90 is good quality they seem to have made sacrifices to the humbucker pickup at the bridge. I like a rockier style so that’s the important pickup for me. That said it’ll still provide a wide tonal range thanks to the pickup configuration options. Overall the guitar is really good value for money and punches well above it’s weight. This is definitely a candidate for the intermediate player and even as an entry level guitar. It definitely avoids the perils of the unnamed, bargain-basement $60 guitars.
I hope you’ve found this review useful. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below. As always you can get in touch using my contact page. Please share this with anyone who you think might benefit. Happy strumming!
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