1983 Yamaha CJ-818SB Jumbo Flattop Guitar

Older Yamaha flattops are always in vogue in the "hip cheaper vintage acoustic market." They're durable, they sound good, they're affordable, and after the work is done they play just as well as a fancy guitar. Still, a fancy guitar they're not, and their most useful asset is that they're practical. This one was made in Taiwan, like most older Yamahas from the mid '70s and onwards.

This one is a rarer model, being a jumbo-style guitar after the fashion of a Gibson instrument, but unsurprisingly (as it's all-ply in construction) it sounds a lot closer to its other Yamaha stablemates from the same time in the "super dreadnought" category. Compared to them, however, it has a bit more mids definition and a cleaner overall sound.

This was brought in for consignment and it's squeaky-clean but does have a few minor use-wear marks here and there. The frets were good, so I didn't do a level/dress job and only opted to give it a good setup and some string-ramp additions. It's playing spot-on (3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE action at the 12th fret), strung with 54w-12 strings, has a straight neck, and feels great. The saddle is low on the bridge but it should get the job done for a while longer.

Heck, the guitar even has the accompanying bit of trivia that the owner grilled into me about Dave Matthews playing one for shows in the '90s. No offense, everyone, but that's not a way to sell me on a guitar. Maybe it is for you, however!

The top is ply spruce (x-braced) and the back and sides are ply mahogany. It's 100% original except for the new strings and my extra compensation of the original saddle.

This guitar has a 16 5/8" lower bout width and 4 3/4" side depth at the endpin. It's thus a little thinner side-to-side than most "big jumbos" but a little deeper, too.

There's binding all over the place on this guitar and rosewood is used for the headstock veneer, fretboard, and bridge. The nut is 1 3/4" which is unusual in itself for the decade it was made -- but it also has a fast, comfortable C-shaped profile on the rear of the neck.

The scale length is 25 1/2" -- fairly long.

During setup I compensated the saddle properly and added some string ramps behind it to get better angle on it to drive the top. Hey presto! Better tone...


Bill Chicag said…
Nice write up on the Yamaha CJ---did you ever sell it and if so, curious what it went for? Also what kind of saddle and nut materials were used on this model if you recall.

Thanks---nice recording of it too..
Unknown said…
This has been a reliable guitar as I purchased mine in 83'
Still strums strong and has a great sound.
Just added new strings.
Frank said…
Was this sold?
Unknown said…
I have one, and it sounds beautiful
Unknown said…
I have the same model also, it used to be my mums guitar that I've picked up recently as I wanted to start learning how to play it. This recording was really helpful!