Yamaha Pacifica 112J Electric Guitar Review

The Yamaha Pacifica 112J. A Fender Stratocaster copy? An upgrade? or something completely different?

What I’m reviewing here is my 1997 Yamaha Pacifica 112J (as opposed to the later 112v model). Originally this guitar was billed as a Squier Stratocaster killer, featuring solid body-woods as opposed to the rumoured plywood Squiers of that time.

Features

The Yamaha Pacifica 112J is a HSS (Humbucker in the bridge, single coil in middle and neck) alder double cutaway bodied, maple bolt-on necked, rosewood fingerboard electric guitar closely (but not too closely) based on the Fender Stratocaster template, and made in Japan. Like the Fender Stratocaster, it features a floating tremelo system, a blade selector switch and 6 aside tuners with straight string pull over the nut.  Unlike the Fender Stratocaster it features a Gibson style ‘Headstock’ nut as opposed to the thinner ‘Fingerboard’ nut, a side-mounted jack (as opposed to front-mounted), and a master volume and tone (as opposed to a master volume and two tones).

User Upgrades

  • Wilkinson 6 screw vintage style vibrato – chrome steel block (WVP6SBCR)
  • Graphtec nut
  • roller string tee

The above purchases have virtually eliminated all friction from the machine-heads to the tremolo block, resulting in an instrument that is hard to knock out of tune, even with sustained tremolo abuse.

Yamaha Pacifica 112 Review

Yamaha Pacifica 112 Review

Why is the Yamaha Pacifica better than the Fender Stratocaster?

Control Layout

The master tone and output jack positioning of the Yamaha Pacifica gives the instrument a much less fussier set of hardware to deal with. In fact this configuration has been used on much higher end ‘Superstrats’ like the Ibanez JEM series and a number of Suhr models.

Body Wood

Although equivalent Fenders (Squier) have upped their game in recent years, the solid alder body Yamaha Pacifica, particularly in a natural finish, was advertised to almost mock the plywood Squiers of the time.

Build Quality

Without question, Yamaha’s build quality and attention to detail is legendary. The Pacifica is a much more solidly put together instrument. With the natural wood finish, nothing can be hidden, but even on close scrutiny there’s not a single fault to be found.

Yamaha Pacifica 112 Review

Yamaha Pacifica 112 Review

Tuners

Unlike cheap Squiers, I’ve never had a single issue with the Yamaha Pacifica’s stock tuners. They’re rock-solid.

Yamaha Pacifica 112 Review

Yamaha Pacifica 112 Review

Versatility

The Yamaha Pacifica’s ace card is the bridge humbucker, which can take you into territory the (unmodified) Stratocaster can’t. Unless of course, you go for a HSS Squier Stratocaster.

Why is the Fender Stratocaster better than the Yamaha Pacifica?

Playabilty

Both guitars share the same scale length (25.5 Inches) but the Yamaha Pacifica features a much flatter radius neck which is just not as comfortable for me. At the end of the day, I’ve always been able to zip over a Stratocaster fretboard faster than anything else. It just fits my hand like a glove.

Volume pot positioning

The Fender Stratocaster’s volume pot is in the perfect position for volume swells and general manipulation (for me, some would say it’s too close). The Yamaha’s is placed maybe only 2 centimetres away, but it does make a difference.

Superior nut design

The Achilles heal of the Yamaha Pacifica 112 is the decision to go for a GIbson-Style, nut positioned on the headstock. I’ve had a number of issues with this, because replacing a nut of this type may leave residue, so you need to be vary careful otherwise (like me) you end up with an uneven surface for the new nut, causing all-manner of problems. I may not be too clear in the below image, but they’re a clear gap underneath the Yamaha’s nut I can’t do anything about because the headstock surface is now so uneven.

Much preferable is the far less bulky, much more efficient and much easier to replace Fender-style fingerboard nut, which you can simply slide in or out. I really wish Yamaha had gone for this nut-style.

Yamaha Pacifica 112 Review

Yamaha Pacifica 112 Review

Visuals

Squier Japanese Stratocaster

Squier Japanese Stratocaster

I’m going to go slightly off track and compare the Yamaha Pacifica 112 to a truly beautiful instrument. My old late 80’s Japanese Squier in Olympic White with a maple fingerboard. A big part of the Stratocaster’s appeal is the timeless, elegant design of the headstock, the three single coils with corresponding tone controls. It’s iconic and, immediately, for whatever reason, just looks ‘right’

Yamaha Pacifica 112 Review

Yamaha Pacifica 112 Review

Sounds Of the Yamaha Pacifica 112

Here’s an example of the Yamaha Pacifica 112 played clean on my song Everything’s Alright

And with overdrive, (notably the neck single coil at the end of the song). please have a listen to Sitting Here at Home. The bridge humbucker is used for most of the main passages and riffing.

In general, the Yamaha Pacifica 112 is a more generic sounding instrument than the Squier Stratocaster,  less clean and ‘pingy’. Sometimes though, generic(ness) is good. Sometimes the Stratocaster can imprint its slicing cut over anything, but the Yamaha Pacifica makes no such shouty statements. It’s smoother, tougher and more ‘together’, there’s less peaks and troughs, more consistency.

For a more in-depth look into the Fender Stratocaster, please read Why The Fender Stratocaster is better than the Gibson Les Paul

Having said that, there is an underlying ‘scruffiness’ to the tones too, but then we’re talking about a sub £200 guitar here, not a £1000 one. I’m sure a pickup upgrade would improve things no end.

Yamaha Pacifica 112J specs

Body & Bridge

  • Body: Alder
  • Bridge: Vintage Style Tremolo
  • Construction: Bolt-on
  • Colour: Yellow Natural Satin

Neck & Fingerboard

  • Neck: Maple
  • Scale Length: 25.5″
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Radius: 13.75″
  • Frets: 22 Medium
  • Inlays: Dots
  • Nut: Ureo

Pickups & Hardware

  • Bridge Pickup: Humbucker (Ceramic)
  • Middle Pickup: Single-Coil (Ceramic)
  • Neck Pickup: Single-Coil (Ceramic)
  • Controls: Master Volume, Master Tone, 5-Way Pickup Selector
  • Tuning Machines: Die-Cast
  • Pickguard: 1-Ply White

Conclusion

The Yamaha Pacifica 112J takes the Fender Stratocaster template and looks to improve on it by concentrating on build quality and guitarist-friendly improvements to the layout.  Some designs, however just can’t be bettered, and the Yamaha can’t live with the playability, nut construction and iconic visuals of the Stratocaster.

As an instrument in its own right, however, it’s extremely difficult to fault, especially for the price.

I really hoped you enjoyed my review! However, I couldn’t complete it with telling the story of how I came to own my 1997 Yamaha Pacifica 112J…..

The Yamaha Pacifica 112 : My Story

It was a cold, snowy winter just before Christmas. My now wife was heavily pregnant and expecting our first-born son. I shouldn’t have been thinking about guitars at all really!  However, I saw this particular Yamaha Pacifica 112 in a guitar shop and immediately took a shine to it, so much so that I’d gone into the shop, plugged it in and was just about ready to buy it.  My mobile then rang and distracted me, cold reality hit, and I put it back….

A couple of days later I started thinking about the guitar again…. I didn’t have a Stratocaster at the time, and owned a Yamaha Pacifica previously,so I had convinced myself how good they were and how much I needed it. Yet again my long-suffering partner agreed to be dragged along to the guitar shop in the snow once again. With great sadness the guitar was no longer in the shop window. I ran in and quizzed the owner. It was too good a guitar not to sell quickly, he knew it and I knew it. I was so angry with myself to have let this one go, but then I looked at my too-understanding partner with my about-to-be-born-any-minute son, and drew a line under it.

Then we had the miracle of our first child being born, and, along with the manic run up to Christmas,  I forgot all about the guitar.  I had planned all along to ask my partner to marry me on Christmas morning, down on one knee, beside the Christmas tree. She said yes!

As we exchanged gifts on a perfect Christmas day, I was completely in the dark about the contents of the large oblong box coming towards me.

Its was the guitar! She had sneaked out after my first visit to the guitar shop, still pregnant, in the heavy snow, and bought it for me. The owner knew all along!

We’ve now been married almost 2 years and have 3 beautiful children.

I still have the guitar…..

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