NGD: Yamaha Pacifica 120Sj (detailed review)

Discussion in 'Other T-Types and Partscasters' started by social.defiance, Jan 27, 2015.

  1. social.defiance

    social.defiance TDPRI Member

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    This is my first NGD on TDPRI, so I'd like to say hi to everyone first. I've been a long time reader/lurker, but will take the time to share a bit about myself.

    I've played guitar for half of my life, and during that time I have learned to compose and record my own music. Throughout this journey, one develops and learns about one's tastes, not only in music and style but also in instruments. We realize that they are tools and everyone has different purposes for different needs. This is the main reason (for me), for having G.A.S. and it really is quite a phenomenon.

    Although I've never had a general interest in Telecasters, I am now the proud owner of a Tele copy.

    I am a guilty and proven Yamaholic - and having been more than satisfied with my Pacifica 612v (higher end Pacifica model) and pleased with their products as a whole - I decided to pull the trigger on a Telecaster type Pacifica 120SJ in a natural alder body.

    Seriously, when I see a young kid selling something he knows nothing about, and for cheap - I pounce.
    Picked this up for a song (kid was selling for $200 in early 2014 and I tried to haggle him down to $150 but he wouldn't budge so I gave up).

    After several months of forgetting about this guitar, last week I decided to check out the classifieds and lo and behold he was down to a $125 asking price. The volume pot was apparently busted and the guitar was missing a string. I used this to my advantage to get him down to $100. Eventually, he let it go for 80 beans! He just needed money, while I was out looking for a beater to throw around. But I wasn't expecting anything like this: this is AN AWESOME GUITAR.

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    I'm not lying when I tell you this is a serious guitar. I replaced both volume and tone pots to 500k, cleaned the whole guitar (the fretboard was especially dirty) and replaced some screws.

    Purely for cosmetics, I replaced the black stock knobs for gold speed knobs.

    So after a setup and new strings (D'Addario 9-46) this is one heck of a guitar. I'm surprised at everything and will break it down:

    Playability/feel and Hardware

    25.5 scale, 22 fret, double humbucker & string-thru construction with an alder body make this a solid, good-for-everything guitar. The body is so light it sometimes seems I'm picking up a toy guitar. One would think that this lightness would somehow detract from the tone, but I'll get to that later.

    The neck is the typical thin neck that Pacifica's are known for (they used to use Warmoth necks If i'm not mistaken and I wouldn't doubt these necks are somewhat similar). The neck is straight, fast and comfortable, like one you would find on a more expensive guitar. It doesn't feel too wide or too thin, it's just perfect for getting around the fretboard. Hitting the 22nd fret isn't a problem with the cutaway.

    I'm pretty sure the previous owner(s) did not give it much use because the frets are in pristine condition and did not need a fret polish or any work done to them. Good intonation, bends are silky smooth, did not expect this from such a cheap find.

    The tuners are solid, and hold tuning quite well. I had some free time last night and played it for several hours, jumping from one genre to another (which included some blues playing with heavy and frequent bending) and the tuners did not lose tune which was confirmed with a snark tuner before and after playing. They hold up just as well, if not better than most of my "nicer" guitars (holds tune better than the Grovers I have on my Schecter C-1 Exotic or Epiphone ES-339!)

    The switch is in perfect working condition and didn't need to be replaced. The nut is stock and I was told by my tech that it was fine and to leave it. Bridge and saddles were cleaned and polished in order to remove rust and the whole of the inner cavities were cleaned as well.

    Sound

    This is the part I've been most excited about. You would think that a low end, cheaper model such as the Pacifica 120SJ, would have a need to replace pickups immediately - but the pickups on this are surprisingly decent. I'm not sure what the specs are on the dual humbuckers, but they seem rather high output to me. I sometimes get too much fuzz with the bridge no matter how much I turn down the distortion and I can't lower the pickup anymore than it is currently. But it's not too bad if I tweak the EQ a bit on my amps. The neck pickup is actually quite nice and I can get really great clean tones as well as a nice lead/solo sound with some overdrive on it.

    When it comes to sustain, the string-thru body really delivers and I can sustain notes just as well than most of my other guitars, if not better, which once again, surprises me, given it is surprisingly lightweight and comfortable to play with a strap (my shoulders ache after 30 minutes with a LP). My tech was astonished at its' build and overall construction quality. He told me some people saw it while he was working on it and asked how much he wanted to sell it for! Just for kicks, I asked him how much he'd sell it for - he wouldn't sell it but if he had to, he'd let it go for $400. I literally laughed out loud, when thinking of how little I got it for (didn't tell him how much I paid for it, he would have had a big WTF moment!).

    This weekend I will make time to record and upload a sample of the guitar in various genres/tunings.

    This guitar is a keeper and its really fun to play aside from sounding great. Quite a looker too and I am impressed in the little I had to invest to make this a great all-round guitar.

    Also, I am thinking of someday swapping pickups. Do you think a SH-2 Jazz neck and SH-5 Custom bridge replacements are in order? I am pretty much decided on the neck, but want to be able to play a bit of everything on the bridge from classic rock, 80's thrash/death metal, grunge/alternative and for soloing.

    I don't need cleans for the bridge so that is something to consider. With some proper pickups installed, I deem this fit for gigging or recording, no questions asked. It really is that great.

    Hope this review helps someone, I researched information on this guitar for months and months and couldn't find much! Hope this helps someone out there.

    I actually feel the tele body to be pretty comfortable - let the G.A.S. begin!!! :lol:
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2015
    teletimetx and RoscoeElegante like this.
  2. Twang Tone

    Twang Tone Friend of Leo's

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    I wish I could find a Pacifica Mike Stern model, not the cheap one, the fancy one. When they were plentiful, that six-saddle bridge put me off. Now you can't get them over here.
     
    Brian J. likes this.
  3. Badside

    Badside Tele-Meister

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    I've had two of those, amazing bang for the buck. It's got good wood and a very comfy neck imho.

    Electronics and hardware are pure crap though (to be expected at this price). A pickup upgrade is indeed in order but you also need to replace the pots and switch IMHO. Once that is done, it'll sound quite good enough for gigging and recording.
    IIRC, the stock pots are 250k and very cheap, they'll muddy up any pickup you put in there. (Every Yamaha guitar I've had was ruined by these pots, they all came alive after an uprade to CTS, including a much more expensive RGX620)

    I've had to replace the nut on both of them though, the stock one is made out of the cheapest plastic ever.
    They also had a sort of "pingy" quality to the sound, which I still attribute to the bridge (very light pot metal, likely to create a resonance in the high-mids which would explain). I wanted to put a Fender hardtail bridge on them, but I never came to it. It's a fairly cheap upgrade, but required drilling and I'm not 100% sure the string holes align.

    "Fun fact", in my younger days (15 years ago), this was the guitar I would strap on for the last song of the set so I could throw it on the floor and kick it around a bit. Did it quite a few time, guitar never quit working. Solid stuff!
     
  4. tomringg

    tomringg Tele-Meister

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    I hope at least some of those beans you paid him were magic beans! Sounds like you got a very nice guitar. Yamahas are a favorite of mine. Happy Playing!
     
  5. social.defiance

    social.defiance TDPRI Member

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    Interesting experience! I don't know what amps, strings and type of stock pickups you had on yours, but the pickups that are on mine are rather nice actually.

    I changed the pots to 500k already; this weekend a .022 cap is replacing the .047 that was in there, and I'm installing a cheap tele hardtail bridge. Exact fit. Nut is absolutely fine, no need to tinker with or replace and the tuners are solid as well.

    Once it's ready, it will be a damn fine guitar and the last thing I will want to do is throw it or kick it. This baby will be great for jamming!
     
  6. zekaisapa

    zekaisapa TDPRI Member

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    Here is my modded Pacifica 120SJ. I just love it!
     

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  7. vanr

    vanr Tele-Afflicted

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    I have owned 3 or 4 Pacificas. Great guitars. Even the cheap $179 one I owned was a player.
     
  8. mally

    mally Tele-Holic

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    I cry everytime I see one for sale I sold mine for £250 about six years ago
     
  9. JD0x0

    JD0x0 Poster Extraordinaire

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    Is that a 4 piece body? I dont think I've seen a 4 piece body before.
     
  10. kpb5150

    kpb5150 NEW MEMBER!

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    I just saw one today at a music shop in pitman, n.j. the shop is called music museum...the owners name is jim the # is 18565894318...not sure if its the 1 your lookin for but its worth a shot
     
  11. Twang Tone

    Twang Tone Friend of Leo's

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    Thanks, and were I in New Jersey, I'd pop over and take a look!
     
  12. mally

    mally Tele-Holic

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    I had one and Stupidly sold i :oops:

    Whoops seems I already said !
     
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