Chorus and reverb effects on an acoustic guitar? We’ve seen it before. Wait, you mean chorus and reverb while unplugged!? By Peter Hodgson
Back when Yamaha first introduced their Silent Guitar – which is essentially a neck with strings on it, and some detachable bars in the shape of a guitar’s outline – they hit on an interesting idea: make the bars a little bit longer than they needed to be, so they needed to be bent a little in order to fit them into their sockets. This caused them to subtly vibrate in response to the strings, making it feel more like a traditional acoustic guitar.
It was a great idea back then, and now Yamaha has taken that general concept much, much further with their new TransAcoustic Guitar. The technology at play was first released in 2016 with two high‑priced premium models, but it’s now working its way down the price range, appearing in the industry-leading FG and FS Series guitars in the form of the FG-TA dreadnought (which we’re taking a look at here) and FS-TA concert.
Each guitar in the series has an integrated TransAcoustic actuator hidden inside the guitar, which uses completely mechanical methods to generate reverb and chorus effects acoustically.
LOST IN THE WOODS
The FG-TA is a classic dreadnought with a solid spruce top and mahogany back and sides. The neck is made of nato and the fingerboard and bridge are rosewood. It’s an elegantly understated-looking instrument; we’ve got a clear pickguard that shows off the grain of the wood, a simple soundhole rosette, undersized fingerboard position dots and a minimal floral motif and Yamaha logo on the headstock.
Yamaha has also redesigned the top bracing, which no doubt helps the TransAcoustic technology really do its thing. The tuners are basic chrome die-cast models, and there are 20 well-finished frets onboard. Yamaha has always had extremely strict quality control, so you can trust that there will be very little variation from one instrument to another. All in all, it has the aesthetic one would expect from Yamaha.
There are three knobs on the bass-side upper bout of the guitar: one engages the TransAcoustic effect itself when you press it down, one governs the reverb (which can go from subtle room ambience to full-on hall reverb), and one allows you to dial in as little or as much chorus as you need. And again, this is all achieved mechanically, and not with any kind of digital trickery whatsoever: we’re talking about legitimate reverb and chorus effects coming to life on an unplugged acoustic guitar.
Having said that, there is an output jack on this instrument, and when the guitar is plugged in, the TA knob becomes your main volume. The effects are still audible since they’re working on the vibrations of the guitar itself, which are of course picked up by the piezo pickup. Ingenious stuff indeed!
TURN ON YOUR INSPIRATION MACHINE
So, how does it sound then? In two words: bloody incredible. There’s something about the depth and dimensionality of the reverb, and particularly the chorus that tricks your brain into feeling like you’re hearing a fully mastered sound coming right out of the very guitar itself.
That kind of exciting sound option genuinely increases your confidence as a player and your willingness to take chances on the instrument, and it’ll likely lead you into musical ideas you might not otherwise have explored. It’s an inspiration machine, pure and simple. And once you get over the initial shock of having these effects at your disposal even while it’s completely unplugged, you start to appreciate the strong bass, clear highs and great playability of the guitar itself. The TransAcoustic effect is a great addition to an already great guitar, not just a gimmick that Yamaha have tacked onto a subpar instrument for a quick sell.
This brings us back to those clever little bars that form the edges of the Silent Guitar, and the way their vibrations create that feedback loop of, “pick a note, feel it vibrate back at you, subconsciously gather data about how the guitar responds, and play the next note accordingly.”
Because the TransAcoustic actuator employs an authentic mechanical process, it makes any guitar it’s installed in feel so much more alive. It quickly becomes quite an addictive feeling, and it makes it hard to pick up another acoustic guitar afterwards and not feel that it’s missing that extra little something.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Yamaha have gone and done a really great thing in making this technology more available in models further down the line, instead of just the really, really high-end stuff that is less likely to be widely circulated. It’s a feature that truly any player – from beginner to professional – can benefit from and it’s one of the few developments in recent guitar technology that feels like it’s really there to inspire you to make music, instead of just go, “Whoa, check out this cool feature!” Give it a try as soon as you can. There’s some great songs in this guitar.
TOP 5 FEATURES
• Traditional western body
• Solid spruce top
• Mahogany back and sides
• Natural reverb and chorus
• New scalloped bracing for louder, richer acoustic sound
• Innovative new sounds
• Very playable neck
• Great overall quality
• No preamp tone controls for amplified sound
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