Testing the Yamaha TransAcoustic Guitar

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Testing the Yamaha TransAcoustic Guitar When not photographing, podcasting, writing and making videos–I toil away for hours on the guitar. In this latest video, from the #TalkingTech garage in Manhattan Beach, California,

I offer my finger-style guitar take on “Don’t Know Why,” the song popularized by singer Norah Jones. I’m playing the new Yamaha TransAcoustic guitar, which has cool inside tech to offer reverb and chorus effects acoustically.

No plug-ins required.

My original review: 

MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. - “Are you playing through an amp?” my wife asked me the other day, when I was strumming an acoustic guitar in the living room.

The answer was no.

“Then why does it sound that way?”

Because, as I explained to Ruth, I was testing out this ultra-cool new Yamaha guitar, the ($1,000 street price) TransAcoustic LS-TA, which can sound electrified, if you so choose, without being plugged in.

When I say plugged in, I’m not talking Jimi Hendrix, wall of Marshall amps style, but amplified acoustic, with a little more bite than normally.

Yamaha pulls this off by installing what’s called an “actuator,” into the inner surface of the guitar back, which vibrates in “response to the vibrations of the strings,” according to the company.

It ends up producing two distinct sounds-- Reverb and Chorus. Reverb is a popular effect going back to the 1950s, on classic records from the Harmonicats, producer Phil Spector and the Beach Boys.

It adds more presence and oomph to the sound, and makes it appear as if you’re performing in a large hall, even if you’re not. Chorus multiples the notes, to make it sound as if a note run is actually much richer than just one guitar. (According to Sourceaudio.net, the Police's Message in a Bottle, is one great example of chorus on the guitar.)

Many guitar amps have reverb and chorus effects built in; and there’s a cottage industry of effect pedals that offer both, in various forms of strength.

But it’s not the effects that has me sold on the new Yamaha guitar, which ships in September, it’s the natural sound of the instrument itself. It’s a big, rich tone, with strings that sing and make themselves heard, in a way great Martin acoustic guitars can overpower competitors in music shops.

Yamaha says the guitar is treated with something it calls an “Acoustic Resonance Enhancement” process, which enhances the sound based on how it treats the wood. “It gives the instrument a rich, vintage quality tone,” says the company. (And should you want to connect to an amp and go all electric, you can do that too.)

And for all the hoopla about the built-in, battery powered effects, at first, I’ve got to admit that I found them gimmicky.

The Chorus sounded tinny, and the reverb sounded like I had the effects turned up too high. Which I did. Once I adjusted the intensity, down to about 20% for the reverb (the chorus I can live without altogether) it added a richness I couldn’t get otherwise.

And best of all, for recording live guitar videos and showing them on Facebook and YouTube (see the accompanying clips) my guitar playing sounded fuller and more recording studio like than I’d ever achieved on a mobile video. So excuse me while I go back to practicing. I have another video to make.

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