Yamaha FG-TA Tran­sA­cous­tic

CHO­RUS AND RE­VERB EF­FECTS ON AN ACOUSTIC GUI­TAR? WE’VE SEEN IT BE­FORE. WAIT, YOU MEAN CHO­RUS AND RE­VERB WHILE UNPLUGGED!?

Australian Guitar - - Contents - 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 in tegrated 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 fin ger­board 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 high­end 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.

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