Who Is This For?
Appearance / Features / Controls
Unlike many parlor style guitars, this Yamaha has an all solid wood construction, and when it comes to tone that’s a big deal. It features solid Sitka spruce on the top, and solid mahogany on the back and sides. The choice of wood not only positively benefited the tones, but also the looks – this guitar was absolutely stunning.
It was clear that Yamaha had put real thought into the wood selection. The aged vintage tint on the top looked wonderful, and the grain pattern was gorgeous throughout the top, back and sides.
It had a nato neck, which was unusual given the premium nature of the rest of the guitar, but in reality we don’t think we’d have noticed much difference had it been mahogany. The fretboard was made from a fantastic piece of rosewood, however (as was the bridge), and it looked and felt amazing. We found that the fretwork was also just about perfect, too.
The tuners were die cast sealed units that performed perfectly. They allowed for easy fine tuning, and held pitch perfectly during our time with the guitar. Also helping with the tuning stability were the factory fitted Elixir Nanoweb strings.
Being an acoustic electric model, it also featured a pickup. In this case an SRT Zero Impact Piezo. There was no preamp however, nor was there any kind of volume or tone control, which would have been nice, but wasn’t too detrimental to the playing experience.
Performance / Sound
We really did fall in love with the Yamaha CSF3M during this review. The playability far exceeded that of any other parlor guitar we’ve had the opportunity to test, and it was just incredibly apparent from the moment we unboxed it that this had come from a manufacturer that cares deeply about its products and the customer experience.
The neck felt great in the hands. It had a soft V shape profile that was ergonomically sound, and encouraged proper form without ever feeling uncomfortable. It was fast, and even though it had a gloss finish, we never thought it felt sticky or slow.
We thought that the factory setup was just about perfect, too. The action was low, but never buzzy which allowed us to explore more delicate playing styles without worrying about whether we were properly fingering notes.
The tones were absolutely exquisite. It was full of nuance, and every time we played we heard something new that we liked. It had a surprisingly big voice considering the small size, and it projected very well. Frequency balance was about as good as it gets, with a harmonious blend of bass, mids, and top end delivering the classic American frontier tone that parlor size guitar fans crave.
When played fingerstyle it was sweet and articulate. The note separation was excellent whether played with picks or fingers, and the response to changes in dynamics was superb. When strummed hard, the resonance provided by that all solid wood construction really shone through, with obvious fizz coming from the spruce, and some balancing warmth from the mahogany.
Other Guitars to Consider
While it’s obvious that we absolutely love the Yamaha CSF3M, there’s a good chance you might want to at least consider some other options before pulling the trigger on what is a relatively expensive guitar. Keep reading to learn more about some of our other favorites in this category.
The PRS SE P20E is another phenomenal choice when it comes to acoustic electric parlor guitars. It’s made to similarly high standards, but offers something of a more dynamic, contemporary look to the very traditional Yamaha, largely down to the white pickguard and the Birds in Flight fretboard inlay.
The Fishman sonitone pickup on this guitar is one of our absolute favorite acoustic pickups, making this a great choice if you’re planning to spend most of your time plugged in.
The Takamine G93 New Yorker is an absolutely wonderful choice for a parlor guitar in this price range. It has a gorgeous spruce and walnut wood combination that comes together for a phenomenally bright and punchy tone. Aesthetically speaking, it’s one of the nicest models around, with no detail spared, and a clear commitment to quality demonstrated in every aspect of the build quality.
Final Thoughts on the Yamaha CSF3M
The Yamaha CSF3M is really a magical little guitar. It’s comfortable and lightweight, it’s incredibly portable, and of course its tones are so evocative of simpler times that it’s easy to just drift away and truly be lost in the moment while playing it.
We regularly talk about the exceptional attention to detail and high end construction quality in even the most affordable Yamaha models, so as expected, this premium parlor guitar delivered in a big way when it came to fit and finish.
If you’re looking to spend a little more and get exceptional quality from your parlor guitar, at this price point it’s hard to do much better than this Yamaha. It did everything we asked of it and much more, and for that, it gets our highest recommendation.