Review: Yamaha Pacifica PAC611VFMX Guitar

(Image credit: Yamaha)

Dual-Pickup Guitars featuring both humbucking and single-coil pickups first started appearing on the market during the Sixties. With a few exceptions, the most common configuration was to place the single-coil pickup at the bridge and the humbucker at the neck. But during the Eighties a handful of players like George Lynch and Warren DeMartini preferred to reverse that configuration, placing the single-coil at the neck and the humbucker at the bridge, which is ideal for hard rockers and blues players who prefer humbucker bridge tones but also need a full range of single-coil tones.

More recently numerous guitarists, including Matt Bellamy, John 5, Lee Malia, Munky, Chris Robertson and others, have favored that setup as well, and now a few dozen guitar models offer this highly versatile pickup configuration as a standard feature, such as the Yamaha Pacifica PAC611VFMX reviewed here.

The Yamaha Pacifica PAC611VFMX is a limited-edition model offering several professional-quality upgrades and distinctive styling. Should you miss out on the limited-edition version, Yamaha also offers two other 611 models (the HFM and VFM) with slightly different features as well as the more affordable PAC311H. The main distinguishing features of the PAC611VFMX include a selection of matte finishes (translucent black, translucent blue or root beer) and an aluminum pickguard.

Tonewood materials consist of an alder body with a maple top and flame maple laminate, maple neck and rosewood fingerboard. The bolt-on neck features 22 medium-jumbo frets, a 25 ½-inch scale length, 13 ¾-inch radius, shallow C-shaped profile and Graph Tech Black TUSQ nut. The chrome-plated hardware is high quality and includes Grover locking tuners, a Wilkinson VS-50 vibrato bridge and knurled dome-top knobs for the master volume and master tone/push-pull coil-split controls. A Seymour Duncan Custom 5 TB-14 Trembucker humbucking pickup resides in the bridge position in a mounting ring, while the Seymour Duncan Vintage SP90-1n Alnico 5 neck single-coil pickup is direct-mounted to the body. A three-position blade pickup switch lets you select bridge, both or neck settings.

Beyond that, the PAC611VFMX offers the classic Yamaha Pacifica asymmetrical double-cutaway design, with a deeply scooped treble cutaway and generous, comfortable belly and forearm contours. Also typical of Yamaha guitars is the meticulous attention to detail in all aspects of construction, from the tight-fitting neck pocket to the silky smooth fretwork.

Although the Yamaha PAC611VFMX pairs a very high-output humbucker (our example’s TB-14 measured 14.4k ohms of resistance) with a vintage-output single-coil (the SP90-1n measured 7.6k ohms resistance), the volume output and character of each pickup is surprisingly well matched, with no noticeable drop in volume when switching from the bridge to the neck pickup. However, the TB-14 is pretty much dirty from the get-go, generating a slight amount of distortion even with my Friedman Pink Taco’s gain control completely at zero. At higher levels of amp gain, the TB-14 is very aggressive yet satisfyingly defined and clear, with a distinctive midrange that’s fat but never muddy. In contrast, the neck SP90-1n sounds big and round but with plenty of string “clang” and percussive snap that’s perfect for funk or ballsy blues solos.

The guitar is a joy to play, but if you’ve ever played a Yamaha Pacifica guitar you probably already knew that. The neck provides just the right balance of slimness for speed with ample heft for rock-solid stability. The matte finish and aluminum pickguard are super-cool aesthetic upgrades, so if you prefer that look over the other Pacifica 611 models it’s completely worth the extra handful of bucks and effort to track down this limited-edition beauty.

LIST PRICE: $1,050

● A Seymour Duncan TB-14 bridge humbucker and Seymour Duncan SP90-1n neck single-coil pickup provide a wide range of heavy and vintage tones.

● The matte finish and aluminum pickguard are exclusive features offered only on this limited-edition version of the Pacifica 611 model.

With its very affordable street price and custom-shop-level construction, attention to detail and features, the Yamaha PAC611VFMX is a highly versatile axe that delivers the heaviest humbucker tones and dazzling vintage-style P90 action.

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Chris Gill

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.