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Late '90s weird (but cheap!) guitar, Yamaha AES-500


Getting this much personality in a guitar from the '90s for the price it sells for is a steal.

To start off with, the AE500 exists but that is a totally different guitar. The S makes all the difference here.

The Yamaha AES-500 was made for just three years, that being 1998, 1999 and 2000. That's it. This is a bolt-on guitar with a 22-fret neck that has a 12" fingerboard radius, which basically means Les-Paul-like.

And yes, they came from the factory with that weird shaped pearloid pick guard. That is not an aftermarket thing. Yamaha sent it out that way on purpose.

Not only is the pick guard pearloid, but the rear electronics cover and the truss rod cover all match the pick guard too. Same color and everything. The truss rod cover even "swoops" in shape to match the pick guard shape. Neat!

Fortunately, Yamaha designed this as an easy player. The body does have a "belly cut" on the rear. Electronics are two volume controls, one tone control - and supposedly this does have push-push for coil splitting. Also, yes there is a pickup blade selector switch. It's on the bottom of the pick guard and somewhat camouflaged by pearloid. If you look at the bridge side pickup and then look further down you'll see it there. The bridge is similar to what the PRS SE 245 uses with fixed saddle position. You never have to mess around with intonation on this guitar as a result. Like I said, this is designed to be an easy player.

Why does the AES-500 sell for so low?

My guess is probably because it had a short run, hardly anybody knows about it, and when it was made is a factor. People don't generally consider late-'90s/early-'00s electrics to be all that valuable - yet. They will be someday.

I should also mention that yes, there was a different model with a more "civilized" pick guard and more advanced features, the AES-800. That one has the bridge + single individually mounted bridge saddles. About the same price as the AES-500!

The AES-500 definitely has personality. I think what it suffered from more than anything else was right guitar, wrong time. This guitar looks totally fresh today.

Published 2024 Mar 26

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