When is an acoustic guitar not just an acoustic guitar? Ben Morgan-Brown finds out
We’re used to acoustic guitars coming fitted with pickups these days – usually undersaddle piezo transducers. Over the years there have been attempts to take this further, with onboard tuners and even effects but very little, if anything, as ambitious as Yamaha’s Transacoustic system. The Transacoustic’s selling point is that the built-in pre-amplifier doesn’t just work to add effects (reverb and chorus) to the output of the pickup, but is actually audible in the guitar’s otherwise acoustic sound. In other words, hit the switch and (adjustable) reverb is present in your sound even without plugging the guitar in to a PA or backline amp. Given the way reverb can bring a dull sound to life in a ‘dead’ room, this could be a very desirable feature – and chorus is usually fun on the odd number, too.
The Transacoustic principle was first revealed in a very up-market Yamaha but now is filtering down the Yamaha range to this mid-priced level. The two models we were sent to try were the FG Folk (Dreadnought) sized guitar and its Concert sized sibling, the FSTA. As Ben found out, both are well made and very ‘clean’ in their lines, featuring solid spruce tops and laminated mahogany backs and sides, with rosewood fingerboards and bridges.
Yamaha has a fine tradition of making acoustic guitars and they have found themselves on some of the most famous recordings ever made, as a result. Jimmy Page is one user, and so was Bert Jansch, so it’s safe to say that Yamaha knows what it is doing in this field. Certainly, Yamaha has drawn on its heritage with these two models, which feature scalloped bracing, thinner body woods (to enhance response) and a lot of small details taken from the maker’s FG Series.
In essence, what you are being offered here is a pair of good quality, gigging laminated body acoustics with the ‘magic ingredient’ of the Transacoustic effects. Are they worth what the amplification has added to the cost of these two guitars? Plug in your best headphones and find out what Ben thinks of these two very original newcomers.
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Yamaha FG and FSTA
UK price £664.80
Top: Solid Spruce
Fingerboard & Bridge: Rosewood
Nut Width: 43mm
Scale Length: FGTA = 650mm; FSTA = 634mm
Tuners: Di-cast Chrome (TM29T)
Electronics: System 70/SRT Piezo Pickup
Controls: Reverb, Chorus, TA Switch, Volume
Strings: FS 50 BT
Colours: Natural, Brown Sunburst, Vintage Tint