ls-ta trans acous­tic

At first sight, an or­di­nary acous­tic – but it has on­board reverb that can be heard un­plugged…

Guitarist - - Contents - Words David Mead

The acous­tic gui­tar world has wit­nessed many in­no­va­tions over the years in terms of pickup de­sign and am­pli­fi­ca­tion. Once upon a time we put our faith in stick-on trans­duc­ers, gaffer tape and lucky heather in or­der to trans­mit our fin­ger­style fan­cies to an au­di­ence. But the world is a rapidly chang­ing place and in­no­va­tion has not left the hum­ble acous­tic un­touched. Yamaha has al­ways been one of the front run­ners as far as ad­vanc­ing the art is con­cerned and its lat­est con­tri­bu­tion to the bold strum­mers so­ci­ety al­lows you to play com­pletely un­plugged but with the en­hanc­ing prop­er­ties of cho­rus and reverb mys­te­ri­ously ap­pear­ing from out of the sound­hole. No, we haven’t lost our mar­bles: reverb and cho­rus with no am­pli­fi­ca­tion or out­board gear at all. Fas­ci­nated? So are we…

But be­fore we get to the clever bit, we’d bet­ter just con­sider the gui­tar that’s host­ing all this wiz­ardry. Ba­si­cally, the LS-TA is what Yamaha call its ‘Orig­i­nal Jumbo’ body size, which, as the pic­tures re­veal, is slightly less

bul­bous and more in pro­por­tion than jum­bos of­fered by many other com­pa­nies. The top is En­gle­mann spruce, which has un­der­gone Yamaha’s ARE treat­ment to give an aged and ‘played in’ sound to the tim­ber, with back and sides made from rose­wood. The neck is a five-way lam­i­nate of ma­hogany and rose­wood and the fin­ger­board is ebony. There are 20 well-seated and nicely fin­ished frets, plus a bridge sad­dle and nut made from urea at ei­ther end of the gui­tar’s scale length. There’s an at­trac­tive but un­der­stated rosette around the gui­tar’s sound­hole, made from al­ter­nat­ing cir­cles of black and white with a cen­tre ring of abalone. A trans­par­ent scratch­plate doesn’t in­ter­rupt the Brown Sun­burst fin­ish to the body – and if sun­burst isn’t to your taste, the gui­tar is avail­able in a more stan­dard Vin­tage Tint as well. Every­thing looks to be well up to Yamaha’s renowned level of build qual­ity.

Reverb and cho­rus with no am­pli­fi­ca­tion or out­board gear at all. Fas­ci­nated? So are we…

Feel & Sounds

So, the gui­tar it­self is just the ticket for any­one look­ing for a home-based strum­mer or even a gig-friendly com­pan­ion. In terms of how it sounds with­out the en­hance­ments en­gaged, there’s a full­ness to the acous­tic sound with a good bal­ance be­tween lows, mids and highs. The ARE treat­ment has def­i­nitely given a the im­pres­sion that there are al­ready some miles on the clock in terms of the tone hav­ing set­tled from puppy-like en­er­getic bright­ness to a more se­date ma­tu­rity and rich­ness. In other words, here’s an in­stru­ment that prac­ti­cally any­one would en­joy play­ing, ir­re­spec­tive of stylis­tic pref­er­ence. But that’s re­ally not what we’re here to find out; let’s turn our at­ten­tion

to the re­mark­able in­no­va­tion that lurks within the belly of the beast…

The sci­ence be­hind it sounds de­cep­tively sim­ple but in­volves some be­fud­dlingly clever elec­tron­ics. Ac­cord­ing to Yamaha, it all goes some­thing like this: “An ac­tu­a­tor in­stalled on the in­ner sur­face of the gui­tar back vi­brates in re­sponse to the vi­bra­tions of the strings. The vi­bra­tions of the ac­tu­a­tor are then con­veyed to the body of the gui­tar and to the air in and around the body, gen­er­at­ing au­then­tic reverb and cho­rus sounds from in­side the body.”

The three low-pro­file ro­taries that con­trol the reverb, cho­rus and (plugged in) vol­ume are mounted on the gui­tar’s up­per bout. From a player’s per­spec­tive, the left-hand con­trol over­sees the amount and type of reverb present in the gui­tar’s sound. At the 12 o’clock po­si­tion it switches from ‘room’ to ‘hall’ – terms fa­mil­iar to any­one who has dal­lied with reverb ped­als in the past. The cen­tre ro­tary switches the in­ter­nal ef­fects on and, when plugged through an amp, acts as a level con­trol. As you might have guessed, the other re­main­ing con­trol af­fects the in­ten­sity of the cho­rus. Power comes from a bat­tery com­part­ment down by the out­put jack/strap pin at the gui­tar’s base.

So, what’s it like? Well, it’s dif­fi­cult to sum up. We’re all well ac­quainted with cho­rus and reverb, but we’re prob­a­bly more used to them as out­board ef­fects and not some­thing that ap­pears mag­i­cally from within an acous­tic gui­tar. With the bal­ance be­tween cho­rus and reverb just right, the sound at­tains a third di­men­sion that would def­i­nitely en­hance a liv­ing room per­for­mance or writ­ing ses­sion. The ef­fects them­selves might not be stu­dio stan­dard, but they’re both good enough to give the gui­tar a pro­fes­sion­ally pro­duced am­biance.

Ver­dict

The level of in­ge­nu­ity here is ab­so­lutely stag­ger­ing. Ev­ery­one in the Gui­tarist of­fice who has played the gui­tar has come away with a grin on their face – and surely that’s the point? It’s bags of fun and with a def­i­nite prac­ti­cal edge, too. Se­ri­ously, try one.

Pho­tog­ra­phy Joseph Branston

1 1. The built-in ef­fects are con­trolled by the two out­side ro­tary con­trols, while the mid­dle ro­tary con­trols the vol­ume when the gui­tar is plugged in

2 2. Revo­lu­tion­ary in­ter­nal gub­bins aside, this is ac­tu­ally a stan­dard, per­fectly playable Yamaha L Se­ries ‘Orig­i­nal Jumbo’

4. The gui­tar’s En­gel­mann spruce top has been given Yamaha’s ARE treat­ment, which is de­signed to make it sound more played-in

3 3. The in­ter­nal ac­tu­a­tor vi­brates on the gui­tar’s body and the air in­side to cre­ate au­then­tic cho­rus and reverb ef­fects with­out any am­pli­fi­ca­tion or out­board gear

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