Yamaha Revstar Element Review: Incredible New Models For 2022!

By Christoper Horton •  Updated: 03/14/22 •  18 min read

The Yamaha Revstar Element series is the newest in a large lineup of really great budget guitars. So how do they stack up against the more expensive older models? Today we take a look.


Yamaha Revstar Element: An Updated Legacy

When it comes to budget guitars, Yamaha has been knocking it out of the park for the last few decades. The company is often overlooked by guitarists, at least at the pro level. The Yamaha Pacifica for example is known for being a great beginner guitar, and people forget that there is a high end Pacifica that has all kinds of amazing features. But all of the higher end offerings from Yamaha are often overlooked, unfortunately. Yamaha has a whole line of pro-level guitars that seem to get pushed to the side, but this year Yamaha is changing how we look at the brand.

The Yamaha Revstar series was released in 2015, and it was meant to be a professional guitar for players that wanted something different and stood out from the usual Fender and Gibson guitars. The original Revstar did rather well in the sales department, and the people that play them exclusively have sang their praises for a while. But Yamaha and Line 6 have become the same company, and we are seeing a totally new approach with the Yamaha Revstar Element series. This is a total reboot!

It can be easy to write off the Yamaha Revstar Element, and the entire new lineup of Revstar guitars, as an “SG Copy”. But that’s the interesting part of Yamaha’s approach; this is not a Fender or Gibson, but a totally unique guitar that blends elements from all kinds of guitar models. The Revstar isn’t really comparable to any major guitar brand’s models, and is actually a hybrid of a few different designs while still retaining its own identity.

The Revstar gets its name and look from “café racer” style motorcycles. The colors, sleekness, and racing stripe is all a nod to these famous bikes. Yamaha already had this body style, from years ago with its SBG, and SG series of guitars. The SBG was a little more aggressive looking, and “borrowed” quite a few design choices from “The Big G”. The body style was toned down a little bit for the new Revstar, but the DNA is there. The colors, and new design specs are all borrowed from the motorcycles that Yamaha also specializes in producing, and the result is a brand new design.

The Yamaha Revstar Element series is the bare bones, affordable versions of the new lineup. But that doesn’t mean it is lacking in any features. These budget-focused versions have most of the bells and whistles that the more expensive models have. I absolutely could not believe the price tag on these, and after checking a few other reviews, it seems like I am not the only reviewer that seems surprised!

We got to check out the Standard/Professional Series as well, but I feel like those models need to be a separate review. The Professional Series is made in Japan, and has all of the craftsmanship that you would associate with MIJ instruments. The Yamaha Revstar Element is exactly what it sounds like…it has all of the elements of the more expensive models but is made in Indonesia, and lacking some of the aesthetics of the Pro/Standard Series. But the quality is what matters when it comes to affordable guitars.

The Element Series offers a nice middle ground between the most basic Yamaha Revstar guitars, and the fully equipped Standard/Professional Series. The Element fills a gap for guitarists that just want the basic, no frills model. I was surprised at the price tag after I played the Element guitars, and I think this is a testament to Yamaha’s attempt at a “soft reboot” of the Revstar.

So let’s take a look at the new Yamaha Revstar Element guitars!


Yamaha Revstar Element: Features And Specs

Yamaha Revstar Element
The New Yamaha Revstar Element Colors

I think that Yamaha really put a lot of thought into the new Revstar line. There are small details here and there, that make a huge difference in the design of these guitars. We got to play the “Swift Blue” and the “Electric Neon Yellow” colors, and they look much different in person ( We will talk about that later). There have been quite a few improvements from the original Revstar Series, and we are going to talk about this in great detail. The Yamaha Revstar Element has some cool stuff going on:

The Revstar Element RSE20 chambered electric guitar refines the look, sound and feel of Yamaha’s original Revstar guitar series. The RSE20 features a chambered body developed using Yamaha’s exclusive Acoustic Design process, enhancing tone, reducing weight and ensuring optimal balance. Dual Alnico V humbucking pickups deliver a powerful sound with a warm mid-range. A push/pull Dry Switch high-pass filter built into the tone knob provides more prominent highs and tighter bass without the decreased volume and added hum of coil splitting.

Yamaha Guitars

Construction/Quality: Wow, I honestly don’t know where to start with this. This is a very well made guitar, and both models arrived setup to play out of the box. The action was a little high for my taste on the Swift Blue one, but the Neon Yellow was perfectly set up. The 12” radius allows you to get the strings pretty low on the fretboard, and the standard Tune-O-Matic tailpiece makes it easy to raise and lower your action. Intonation was spot on.

Now Yamaha had no idea that either of these guitars were going to be reviewed, which is also a sign that the company has put some serious effort into setting these up before shipment. I looked for finish flaws, and they were a couple of finish marks that I had to really look for to find. The satin neck was sanded perfectly, and there were no high frets or “fret sprout” problems. This guitar is also very lightweight, and the two we had were about 7lbs each. Overall, this is a little bit above and beyond what I expected “out of the box”.

The fretboard is a nice piece of Rosewood on both of the guitars, and the fretboard is not grainy at all. It looks like a much more expensive fretboard in my opinion. The more expensive models have nice “line” inlays, but the Yamaha Revstar Element guitars all have pearl dots. The side dots are smaller than what I’m used to, but it didn’t affect playing at all.

The colors are not represented very well in the stock photos, if you ask me. For example, I would say that the “Swift Blue” looks like a darker “Lake Placid Blue” that photos just cannot translate. The same goes for the neon yellow color. The neon yellow is pretty amazing, and it actually has a little more green in the color. So if you’re expecting a “day glow” kind of color, the neon yellow is that…but it also has a bit of green in it as well. Schecter had a similar color a couple yeas ago for SVSS series, and the Yamaha Revstar Element looks more like that “Birch Green” color in person.

All of the plastics and hardware looks great. The bridge is an “in house” version of your normal stop bar tail piece. The pickup rings/pickguard are either cream or black depending on the finish you choose. All models have covered humbuckers in the Element Series. The tuners are also generic, but I had no problem with these at all. The headstock has the Yamaha symbol, but not obtrusive logos. Now, let’s get to the interesting part…

The body of all of the Yamaha Revstar Element guitars is something totally new. The body is chambered for a couple of reasons. First, it makes the guitar much lighter. But the most important thing, is it has an affect on the sound. You can tell by strumming the guitar without it plugged in. It has a big sound acoustically, and sounds bright and loud. While tone wood can be argued, construction cannot. The chambered body has quite an effect on the guitar’s resonance.

I’m really intrigued with this design choice. Les Paul guitars often have chambered bodies for weight reasons. The fact that this body resonates so well, it will hopefully transfer that sound to the pickups. Like I said, we can argue about the tonal properties of wood, but construction is a whole different conversation. I think this chambered body will make the guitar have great midrange/treble definition. But I guess we need to play one for a while!

I think it is also important to point out that the Yamaha Revstar Element is a very ergonomic guitar. Everything feels balanced, and there are no sharp edges. The asymmetrical double cut design allows you to reach the top frets, without seeming “off” in any way. The body style is just really well thought out, and an obvious upgrade from the original Revstar. This is a great looking guitar, that will stand out on stage!

Yamaha Revstar Element
The Yamaha Revstar Element Chambered Body

Note: Both guitars were tested through a BOSS Katana 100, and a PRS Archon 50. This felt fair, since these are budget amps that people buying this guitar might own.

Playability/Sounds: The Yamaha Revstar Element guitars might be made well, but that doesn’t always mean that it plays well. I always like to start with the neck, since that is the “make it or break it” feature when it comes to most guitars. The original Revstar models had a pretty chunky neck like a classic Les Paul. This new neck carve is a bit more skinny, and if I had to compare it to something…I would call say it feels more like a Fender Strat with a “Modern C” neck. The satin finish is a great touch, and your thumb never “sticks” to the back of the neck.

The jumbo frets feel great, and so does the flat 14” radius neck. The neck is by far my favorite part of this guitar. If you like your necks to have more of a C shape than something skinny like an Ibanez, but you don’t get along with vintage necks either…this is a great compromise. Like Schecter/LTD, the neck is somewhere very “in between”. There is no neck dive when standing up with the guitar, which I worried about with the chambered body. The neck also has a volute, which will save your headstock should it take a fall!

Yamaha Revstar Element RSE20
$499.00

A budget MONSTER!  Dual Alnico V humbucking pickups deliver a powerful sound with a warm mid-range. A push/pull Dry Switch high-pass filter built into the tone knob provides more prominent highs and tighter bass without the decreased volume and added hum of coil splitting.

BUY NOW

The Yamaha Revstar Element pickups are different than what comes with the higher end models, but they sound absolutely amazing for stock pickups. These pickups sound like a slightly hotter PAF-style humbucker. I think the days of “stock pickups are trash” are slowly slipping away since most guitars I have tried over the past two years have had surprisingly usable stock pickups. Of course, I have always said that you should try out and adjust the stock pickups before you start thinking about replacing them. Let’s start with the 3 “normal” pickup positions.

The neck humbucker is amazing clean through both amps, and much brighter than I expected. This pickup is super clear sounding, but you can easily tame it with the tone knob to get some jazzy sounds. I cranked up the gain on both amps, and the neck pickup remained incredibly bright, to the point where I had to turn down the tone on high gain settings as well! If you back the tone almost all the way down, you get that creamy solo tone that everyone wants, like the Clapton “Woman” tone. I would probably adjust this pickup, and lower it away from the strings it so its not so bright.

The bridge pickup is the same, and the brightness and clarity is in line with the neck humbucker. Clean tones are bright, but not biting or that awful “Ice pick” sound. Under some gain, you can get a killer crunch and chug tone. Surprisingly, the string separation clarity under high gain holds up well. You can hear every note in complex chords even under massive gain/distortion. The high end just sings with both humbuckers, and you can do just about any genre you want with the tones these humbuckers put out.

The response was about the same with both amplifiers. The PRS tube amp sounded better, of course, but the high end was not lost on either amp. Through the Katana, I was able to dial in some really surprising tones that I can’t even get with my personal guitars. I found myself turning down the treble and mids on both amps, which is rare for me since I usually crank both. But I would much rather have too much high end, than to have a muddy guitar sound! You will have no problem cutting through a mix, either!

The middle position turns on both pickups, and this is usually great for clean tones on any guitar. The middle position gives you that “acoustic” quality that sounds ethereal with some reverb or delay. Both pickups together balance each other out well, and the result is a really full sound. Again, if you back off the tone knob a bit, it sounds sweet.

All in all, I am impressed with this pickup set, and if you told me they were name brand, I would probably believe you. If I had to compare, I would say they are similar to a Duncan JB, but brighter. With a little bit of adjustment, these are perfect. But the Yamaha Revstar Element has a trick up its sleeve that we definitely need to discuss, because it is astonishing.

Most guitars these days come with a coil split option, and I think that works well for most guitarists. Personally, a coil tap never quite gets the sound I want, so I opt for a single coil guitar. Yamaha decided to do something a little different with this concept. The push/pull knob activates the “Dry Switch” and it does more than any coil split option can do. It basically acts as a high pass filter, and it changes the dynamics completely. This can be used a couple of different ways, and probably more than just the ones I have personally discovered!

The Dry Switch boosts the highs quite a bit, but in a good way. On clean tones, it can make it sound close to a single coil, but noiseless and with more character. Now it is not going to sound like a Fender single coil tone at all, but it does make the tone more open, and wiry. The clean tones just sound totally unique, somewhere between a single coil and a humbucker. The coolest thing is that there is no loss of volume when you pull the switch, unlike coil taps/splits. The sound is just…thinner?

The Dry Switch really shines under high gain in a massive way. The biggest issue with high gain amps, is they can sometimes lack the bass response and sound “loose”. The way to combat this in a live situation, is to throw an overdrive pedal in front of the amp to “tighten up” the bass response. Well the Dry Switch does this for you when dealing with high gain, and it sucks out all of the flabby bass in highly distorted applications. The difference is not subtle at all when you hit the Dry Switch, you can definitely tell the tone is different.

I’m sure the Dry Switch has more potential than I have discovered, but these were the things that I noticed. The only other company I can think of that does something similar is Reverend, but even then the difference is nowhere near as prominent as it is with the Revstar. The Dry Switch can either make the pickups sound thinner like a P90, or it can tighten up the distortion tone if you have that woof-y bass response from your metal/high gain amp.

I am surprised by the Yamaha Revstar Element, and I was shocked at the price. But who is this guitar for? I think this guitar can do just about any genre, but it will excel in rock and metal because the pickups have so much clarity, even under high gain situations. On the other hand, I think that someone more clever than me could make this guitar do all kinds of cool country and indie music tones when you factor in the Dry Switch. The Yamaha Revstar Element is a versatile guitar, that lots of players will probably love.


Yamaha Revstar Element: Final Thoughts…

The Yamaha Revstar Element series is obviously trying to be its own thing, without outright copying any of the major brands. I think if Yamaha was trying to do its own thing, then the Revstar reboot is a huge success. At the beginning of the review I felt like the Revstar is a “hybrid” of other guitars, but that really isn’t fair at all. These guitars are unique, and extremely versatile. But I do have a couple of gripes…

I wish that these models came with locking tuners, and I will probably say the same thing about the Standard/Professional series. Locking tuners just make life easier, and I think it should be the industry standard these days. My other gripe is the lack of a gig bag, where the other models come with a gig bag/hard case. But then again, this is a budget guitar at the end of the day, even if it was hard to remember that when I was playing it!

The Yamaha Revstar Element series can cover a lot of ground, sonically. I usually don’t like guitars that try too hard to appeal to everyone. But the Revstar does this in a totally different way, by giving you the options if you want them. You could just as easily never use the Dry Switch, and use this guitar like a regular HH model. But I think you would be missing out, since this feature just opens up your tonal options in a totally idiosyncratic way.

So no matter what kind of music you play, the Yamaha Revstar Element will probably fit your style. With the clarity of the pickups, you can honestly play just about anything. It sounded great through both amps, and I think this would be a great guitar for someone just starting to play shows and gig. It could also be a versatile studio tool as well, filling in gaps that your usual guitars don’t reach. The Dry Switch in the studio could be a great tool for doing overdubs, and complimenting your usual guitar frequencies.

Going in to review the Yamaha Revstar Element guitars, I had… mediocre enthusiasm. I was not prepared to be blown away by the pickups. I tried to stay away from other reviews so I wouldn’t be influenced at all, but I knew that reviewers were saying very good things about the Yamaha Revstar Element, and the rest of the Revstar range. I would totally gig this guitar, and the only mod I would make would be locking tuners. So if you want to stand out from the overwhelming sea of Fenders and Epiphones that everyone gigs with, then the Revstar might be exactly what you are looking for.

My final opinion, is the Yamaha Revstar Element is a budget guitar that punches way above its weight class. This is a guitar for people that want something truly unique in look, but also classic in feel. There is a lot of versatility, and I think it will work with any genre or style. Yamaha has a real contender this year, and I hope the new Revstar does better than it did during the original run. The Yamaha Revstar Element is a great start!

The Yamaha Revstar Element is available for preorder, and will ship in early April!

Yamaha Revstar Element RSE20
$499.00

A budget MONSTER!  Dual Alnico V humbucking pickups deliver a powerful sound with a warm mid-range. A push/pull Dry Switch high-pass filter built into the tone knob provides more prominent highs and tighter bass without the decreased volume and added hum of coil splitting.

BUY NOW

Does The Yamaha Revstar Element come with a case?

The Element series does not come with a case or gig bag. The Standard series comes with a gig bag, while the professional guitars come with a hard case. The Yamaha Revstar Element will fit most generic gig bags.

When do the Yamaha Revstar Element guitars start to ship?

Yamaha has stated that these will start to ship in late March or early April 2020.

Is the Yamaha Revstar Element worth it?

If you are looking for a great budget guitar that is ready for the stage, then yes. The unique features make this a great beginner guitar, but experienced musicians will enjoy them as well.

Is The Yamaha Revstar Element Expensive?

They are only $499.00! The Yamaha Revstar Element is a steal!

Christoper Horton

Christopher has been playing guitar and piano for 27 years. He has been active in the professional music industry for over two decades. He has toured for years with several bands and music projects. He worked in LA as a studio musician and engineer working with bands like IAMSOUND, Baroness, Kylesa, Black Tusk, Reflux, and Tripping Daisy. In between giving private lessons, he is recording a solo album for 2022-2023. Christopher plays Schecter guitars, BOSS amplifiers, and uses STL Tones in the studio.

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