Aria Pro 2 YS-500 WA
Made in 1980 by the famous Matsumoku company in Japan this must have been one of their top models and pretty much "state of the art" of that time.
Look at the cataloge from 1979/80 (below) where you will find this guitar in light oak (LO) and walnut finish (WA).
There Arai mention the "tone selector" switch but they don`t explain EXACTLY what it does.
I never had a guitar with the VARITONE circuitry but from what I know this must be one of these rare biests.
Listening to what it does at first I thought it was a simple treble roll off but then I realized that this was true only for the first two positions (The very first position on top is a Varitone bypass).
But then on position 4,5 and 6 the high frequencies are back but the bass is cut off and some of the mids too...
Some positions emulate a singlecoil-style sound, there is a notch in the mids... it sounds a bit quacky, hollow, nasal, out-of-phase-style...
The last two positions are ridiculously thin, sharp and out-of-phase sounding. You can use those only with a lot of overdrive.
The trouble is that all these 5 positions affect every pickup sound you choose with the 3-way toggle selector and the coil cut switch. So even the sharpest and harshest single coil sounds from the bridge pickup will be filtered if the rotary is on and will in certain positions sound absolutely terrible, while the same rotary position may sound good on the full neck humbucker...
In short: The wiring is great in theory but in real life it is inpractible and inconvenient, overly complicated.
You CAN find good sounds, that`s true, but you have to switch around like crazy while you are searching them and there are a lot of nasty sounds in your way as well ...
Aria Pro 2 YS-500 WA
Would I buy it again?
Shall I keep it?
It is very well built and it is interesting as a statement of what Japanese luthiers were capable of in the late 70s and early 80s.
It is so typical in many ways:
The thick see-throu polyester finish over
beautiful natural and dyed woods,
the through-neck construction,
the brass nut,
the over-complicated wiring ...
... and finally the Japanese had started to do their own thing instead of copying US and European guitars.
The tragedy with this guitar are the electronics.
This reminds me of my Ovation Breadwinner :
Ambicioned electronics that are so sophisticated that they spoil everything...
So here is the dilemma:
If I want to keep the guitar as original as it still is now ...
... it is likely that I will never use it again:
I dislike the coil cut switch and can`t get to grips with the Master-Varitone but I don`t like the amplified sound. A lot of bass and treble and nothing in between.
You could play jazz on that neck humbucker and slice onions with the bright bridge pickup
and you can make a parody of funk music in the middle position.
But the guitars will almost ever sound a bit cold and sterile with these pickups, the nut and the bridge saddles...
if I start modifying it in order to improve it, I will ruin the collector`s value.
But is there ANY collector`s value at all?
Who wants a guitar like this and really PLAY it?
And I have doubts whether the guitar is worth modifying: Played without an amp it sounds pretty light, balanced and boring. It comes to life with crunch and more so with distortion. Very convincing! Sparkling, detailed, precise, tough, direct, heavy and powerful...
I guess it`s a real great rock and metal guitar.