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This article was originally published in issue #52
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The Transacoustic in based on the 40th-anniversary reissue of Yamaha’s iconic L Series acoustic. The same build quality has transferred to the Transacoutic, and it boasts a solid Engleman spruce top, solid rosewood back and sides and real craftsmanship
Creates its own reverb and chorus acoustically
High-end production and construction
Solid back and sides
Great play-ability and feel
Bright and mid-tone might not appeal to some.
In recent years we’ve witnessed a number of innovations in the electro-acoustic market (Yamaha’s SRT mic emulation system being one). With a push to develop the ultimate mic'd or amplified acoustic tone without the expense of a top-end condenser mic or the perfect acoustic environment, Is Yamaha’s Transacoustic series the answer we’ve been waiting for? Stuart Shields finds out.
The Transacoustic’s animating principle is simple; to return the acoustic guitar to a more intimate and (literally) acoustic playing experience. What the Transacoustic LL-TA does is both simple and genuinely mind-blowing; in basic terms, the guitar can generate its own reverb and chorus from the body itself. There are a number of videos doing the rounds of players ‘reacting’ to this guitar and the magic button which suddenly transforms the instrument into a new state of resonance and ambiance. Having spent some quality time with the Transacoustic, I now empathise with the goofy grins and giggles I’ve seen from players who encounter this guitar for the first time. There is a mix of childlike wonder when engaging the Transacoustic function for the first time - very much like a magic trick that you can’t fathom. Passing the guitar to your buddy and waiting for the inevitable exclamation of “What kind of sorcery is this?’. To save any witch hunts, I’ll explain how this clever bit of kit does this. But first its worth considering the Transacouctic’s independent appeal as a very well constructed and beautifully made acoustic guitar.
The Transacoustic in based on the 40th-anniversary reissue of Yamaha’s iconic L Series acoustic. The same build quality has transferred to the Transacoutic, and it boasts a solid Engleman spruce top, solid rosewood back and sides and real craftsmanship. With this reissue came a few added extras to bring the guitar up to date with the technology developed by Yamaha in recent times; a new bracing pattern to shift the frequency response to a more low-mid range and give a punchy tone. This also cleverly shifts the centre of resonance in the guitar to the upper part of the bout so you ‘feel’ the guitar more. Yamaha’s A.R.E. treatment which organically ages the spruce top giving it the character and tonal qualities of a more older instrument, and new fret chamfering to round the edges of the fret wires - as you traverse the length of the neck this is really evident and does enhance the playability. Add to the mix a five-ply mahogany/rosewood neck and an ebony fingerboard, and you have a guitar that defies its three-figure price tag. Taking the Transacoustic in hand for the first time it really does feel ‘expensive’ and almost decadent in its looks.
The ultimate question is ‘Why have this function?’ is the Transacoutic simply a gimmick like a toy you only play with on Christmas Day until the novelty wears off? As always Yamaha has identified a very real need for this new technology. The idea is simple and relates to every guitarist. Acoustic guitars and their tone really do fall at the mercy of the room you are in; a small hotel room or that spare bedroom where your significant other has relegated your guitar collection may not give you the best acoustic environment. Amplification is an option but with it comes volume and the obvious complications of having an amp. It’s a very inviting idea to have an acoustic which you can simply grab and instantly engage the response felt in a large resonant room.
How does it work? There’s a clever little bit of kit called an ‘Actuator’ which is attached to the underside of the top. This takes the string vibration and essentially allows the top to act like the aperture of a speaker, pushing air and creating an organic (not digital) effect. The functions and controls are very simple - 3 knobs controlling Reverb, Chorus levels and Volume for the line out (the Transacoustic also has a Piezo under the bridge if you want it). The absence of any bulky or intrusive preamp in the side does help add to its natural looks and appeal as a predominantly acoustic guitar (not to mention reducing acoustic sound loss). This minimalistic placement extends to the battery pack which is located by the lower strap button.
Regarding tones, the Transacoustic/L series is brighter and punchy than expected with the intention to elevate the guitar in the mix or live band scenario. This might seem a contradiction for a guitar which you are going to spend ‘alone time’ with but once the Transacoustic side of things is engaged the balance makes sense and enhances the overall clarity of the tone. For those of you looking for comforting warmth or fatness from an acoustic may not get along with the Transacoustic but resonance and clarity are often overlooked characteristics. The mark of any life-enhancing bit of gear/guitar is that it positively affects the way you play, and I felt the Transacoustic continuously promoting me to be more subtle and dynamic.