18 November 2022

New Guitar Day: Yamaha Pacifica PAC 311H

Figure 1a. Yamaha Pacifica PAC311H


Yamaha Pacifica PAC311H
Figure 1b. Yamaha Pacifica PAC311H

I’ve been wanting to try one of these for a few years now, but I’ve been nervous about two things:

The unusual pickup combination looks weird. It doesn’t bother me, but I was worried that it would after I’ve had it a while, if that makes sense. It seems like that would be the first thing I would get sick of. I love the idea of HS guitars (I have no use for a middle pickup), so I figured I could probably live with it.

I’ve also been worried about the resale value, in case I ever decide I don’t like it and want to sell it. I have sold many guitars over the years – sometimes I do OK, sometimes I take a bit of a hit, but I usually won’t buy something if I don’t think I can sell it without taking too much of a hit.

I found it on sale on Reverb recently, so I got it for a price I can live with (Manchester Music Mill shipped incredibly fast, the guitar was very well packed, they sent tracking info, they posted feedback right away – the transaction could not have gone better, so props to them).

A quick note: I got the PAC311 instead of the PAC611 for a few reasons: 

  • I prefer unfinished/satin necks (the 600 series have a gloss finish).
  • I prefer natural headstocks (the 600 series have matching headstocks).
  • I figured that the main difference between the two series besides the finish are that the 611s have Seymour Duncans, but I can swap those out with pickups of my choosing, and for less money than the cost difference between the two series. 

Anyway, here’s my take, for what it’s worth:

Acoustically pretty decent. Some guitars sound great unplugged, some don’t. Wouldn’t be dealbreaker by any means, but I do play unplugged a lot, so it’s nice bonus that it sounds good unplugged.

The electronics are cheap, but good enough (Figure 2). I would say the stock pickups (G&B – budget pickups made in South Korea, same pickup brand that is in my PRS S2 Standard) are slightly lacking (Figure 3). It might be because I prefer hotter pickups, or it might be because they are lacking. But for my purposes, I don’t need to change anything. I will probably swap in a couple of different pickups for the hell of it, but because I enjoy doing that, not because I have a major problem with the stock pickups. (I actually didn’t remove the neck pickup, so I am only assuming that it’s also a G&B.)

Cheap electronics
Figure 2. Cheap but serviceable electronics


Figure 3. G&B pickup

The fret ends needed attention, but it’s pretty dry this time of year, so I was kind of expecting that anyway. I got a MIM Fender Deluxe Strat from Sweetwater a few years ago that was way worse than this guitar, so this issue isn’t confined to cheap guitars. I spent 15 minutes or so taking the bite off them with a file.

I do not like the Grover locking tuners at all. Lots of slippage, at least initially. Some of that was just that I put new strings on and they had to stretch, but some of the slippage was clearly the tuners (you know the sound, I’m sure). The next time I restring it, I will probably install regular tuners, or maybe just string them with a wrap this time. I also noticed that the tuners are crooked (Figure 4). I noticed the same thing when looking at one of the 600 series, which was a turnoff for a $600 used guitar. That also informed my decision to go with the 300 series. It’s probably something I can adjust, but if I’m going to install new ones, it doesn’t matter.

Figure 4. Crooked tuners

It comes with a Tusq nut, which I like. So far, no pings when tuning.

Regarding purely aesthetic stuff, I like the looks overall. The arm contour is more of hard angle, not smooth contour like a Strat’s (Figure 5). I don’t notice the feel, but I do notice the appearance a bit (but not when I’m playing it, so I don’t care). I also hate stickers on my guitars (Figure 6). I’ll leave the little decal that says PAC311H, but I removed the CE marking/Made In Indonesia sticker (which came off easily after I warmed it up with a lighter) and placed it on the inside of the control cavity backplate (Fig. 7). Nothing I need to keep, but can't hurt to hang onto it, I guess.

Figure 5. Contour is more of a hard angle

Figure 6. Headstock sticker

Figure 7. Relocated headstock sticker

Takeaway: I like it, and I’m sure I’ll have a lot of fun with it – playing, tweaking, modding, etc. For a few hundred bucks, I can live with whatever I don’t like about this guitar (or cheaply and easily tweak what I don’t like). So although I wouldn’t recommend any guitar, let alone this one, at the new price (I think these are $420 as of this post), I paid $330 for this and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it at that price, albeit with the aforementioned caveats.




21 November 2021

Removing a Pickguard from a Taylor Acoustic

Taylor 150e, with and without pickguard

I hate Taylor pickguards. I have a 150e 12-string that sounds great, but I find no joy looking at it. I have never removed an acoustic pickguard before (but I have removed a headstock laminate), but I thought I'd look into it. It looked pretty thin, so I thought a little heat might do it.

And indeed it did. The only tool required was a hair dryer on high heat, low speed. (I should probably add the disclaimer here: do NOT use a heat gun. Assume that nothing good will come of that.)

Lifting a heated corner to check for "tan lines" before removing the whole pickguard

I held the hair dryer about two inches above the pickguard, heated one end of the pickguard and lifted it to check for tan lines, but there were none. I never leave the guitar out of the case, so the finish hasn't faded much at all. If you've had your guitar a while, you might see a noticeable difference between the finish where the pickguard was and where the rest of the finish faded.

Holding the hair dryer a couple of inches above the surface

After that, I heated the rest, slowly moving the dryer back and forth and very slowly lifting the pickguard with my other hand. Start to finish, the peeling part took about a minute or so. I was glad to see that no adhesive remained on the surface of the guitar. It was all stuck to the back of the pickguard.

Goop on the back of the pickguard

So that was a quick job, and it looks a lot better to me. I ordered a Yamaha pickguard to put on it, because I really like the looks of those. If that doesn't fit, I'll leave it as is.