As 'mini-jumbo cum grand auditoriums' go, this CPX isn't acoustically the loudest instrument you'll come across. However, the substantial plus it has going for it is that typical Yamaha tone, which blends sweetness, a gentle, open sparkle and an easy, long sustain. In addition, you’ll get some fluid, warm and rounded low end, courtesy of the walnut back and sides, we'd wager, at least in part. Whatever the reason, it all adds up to a very pleasant and melodious sound.
Powering the instrument up will make you aware of the enormous tonal potential and range of the new system, not least because you're presented with choosing the level of each of three sensors and how they can be EQ'd – in a master context – to fine tune the overall sound. It really is pretty impressive, particularly when dialling in the auxiliary sensors that add considerable breadth and a sense of added dimension. In fact, I found the optimum-quality sounds were achieved by setting up the auxiliaries to taste first, and then gradually adding in a (usually modest) degree of main sensor, rather than the other way round.
However, two things soon become apparent. Firstly, unless sensor and EQ levels are set quite high, the system isn't hugely powerful, which necessitated plugging in to the high-gain input of an amp. Secondly, the additive tonal effect, particularly of the low and high sensors, is quite extreme – such that one always seems to be reining back the EQ sliders and keeping sensor levels quite low. This, in turn results in fairly modest out-front volume. Let us stress there are some superb sounds to be had, but something was nagging. Then, almost by accident, I discovered those aforementioned trimpots: nine of them in two rows, comprising input level, frequency, and frequency gain for each sensor. Alas, there is nothing mentioned about them in the owner’s leaflet.
When this was taken up with Yamaha, the company said that the trimpots are preset at the factory to the same values on all the Mark IIs and are not designed to be adjusted. No surprise there, since it would involve repeatedly slackening the strings to access the trimpots on a trial and error basis. Alternatively, you could extract the preamp housing, but that isn't practical because of the length and positioning of the various connector leads. It remains to be seen whether Yamaha will hide the pots inside the casing on future production or leave them accessible and – of critical importance – explain their function and quote ex-factory settings in an updated manual. This reviewer favours the latter. As Yamaha UK’s guitar supremo Julian Ward commented: 'Yes, having the tweakability would be good - a nice element for user customisation.'