Smart technology has fully arrived onboard the acoustic guitar, and the breakthrough comes from France’s Lâg Guitars in the form of the Tramontane HyVibe series. While we’ve seen shades of similar technology, we’ve never seen anything as advanced or flexible as the HyVibe system, which provides integrated onboard effects that emit from the guitar’s soundhole. In addition to eight acoustically generated digital effects, HyVibe also features a metronome and looper, and in Speaker mode the acoustic guitar becomes a speaker that can amplify tunes or tracks from your phone using Bluetooth. The system charges via USB to provide an estimated 10 hours of use, and there’s a free app on the way that will greatly expand the HyVibe’s functionality and flexibility. Lâg makes three dreadnought cutaway models with HyVibe technology that are close in design and cost, with street prices starting at about a grand. The THV30DCE on review here represents the top of the line.
Any player who has checked out a ToneWoodAmp or a Yamaha TransAcoustic will be familiar with acoustically generated digital effects. Like those systems, HyVibe technology uses actuators to process guitar vibrations into effects that emit from the soundhole, turning the acoustic into its own signal-processing amplifier. The HyVibe has two actuators beneath the top, rather than on the instrument’s back as the other systems do. In essence, this turns the soundboard into a membrane speaker, so the sound is coming directly from the top.
“It makes more sense to place the actuators under the top because it vibrates much more than the back,” product manager Robin Tirado explains. That’s an interesting point proven by how the HyVibe’s effects are so clearly pronounced and capable of great volume, if that’s what your heart desires. If not, it’s easy to dial things back with the volume knob.
HyVibe engages with a push of the volume knob. You then use an intuitive left/middle/right button system to scroll through and select options, shown on a small screen, that include Tuner, Effects, Looper, Metronome, Speaker, Calibration and System. Effects have names such as HyChorus, HyHarmo and HyPhaser, and I was instantly knocked out by their quality and flexibility. HyReverb and HyEcho sounded gloriously natural on the Tramontane. HyChorus and HyPhaser are pretty severe unless dialed back, but HyTremolo is tastefully subtle. HyOctave creates a high octave at one end of the spectrum and a bellowing low octave at the other, while HyHarmoP5 stacks the phaser with a harmony that runs a parallel 5th above the fretted note, bringing Frank Zappa to mind. HyDisto is outrageously fun, as it conjures a “Ziggy Stardust” style of distortion. As on a real amp, certain notes interact and produce feedback. Imagine that — endless sustain on an acoustic!
The onboard metronome is simple for selecting a time signature and tempo, and it sets the stage for the looper. Four clicks count off a two-measure time frame in which you can perform your part. The looper automatically starts playing at that point, freeing you to add complementary ideas on top of your creation. (Lâg notes that the looper will be editable up to 100 measures with the app.) Switching to Speaker mode, I synced with my iPhone, put on the playlist for my Allman Brothers tribute band, and was jamming along to “Melissa” in a matter of moments. The HyVibe system was a revelation for practice, and it acts as a pickup and preamp system for amplification as well. I tested it through a Fishman Loudbox Mini Charge amp and an L.R. Baggs Synapse Personal P.A., and the jam-along factor was off the hook.
The HyVibe effects sounded more pronounced when the Tramontane was plugged in, so I dialed them back. The amplified tone didn’t compress when pushed, which was nice, but it was also a bit more boxy and midrange-focused than I would have preferred. The HyVibe mobile app wasn’t available at press time, but online videos demonstrate how it will allow users to program the effects to their tastes on a larger screen and use EQ on the amplified tone.
Of course, none of the this would matter if the instrument itself wasn’t worthy. Lâg put its revolutionary signal-processing system in perhaps the most popular acoustic body style, a cutaway dreadnought, with a clean, modern look and a neck that’s easy to get around on. Unlike many traditional dreadnoughts, the guitar’s acoustic tone is neither bass heavy nor top heavy but focused in the middle range.
All together, the Lâg Tramontane THV30DCE HyVibe makes a ton of sense, especially at this price point. It’s wildly innovative, endlessly interesting and a ton of fun. It’s a clear choice for an Editors’ Pick Award, and a harbinger of more amazing acoustic innovations to come. Lâg says the HyVibe app will add the possibility to modify, create or add more effects, and the company has plans “to implement a ‘social’ feature, which will allow users to share effects or presets.” Stay tuned.
Tramontane THV30DCE HyVibe
PRICE $1,199 street
NUT WIDTH 1.69", graphite
FRETBOARD Brownwood (pinus radiata), 25.59" scale, 13.78" radius
TUNERS Black satin
BODY Figured bocote back and sides, solid Sitka bear claw spruce top
BRIDGE Brownwood, graphite saddle
ELECTRONICS HyVibe pickup, preamp and effects system
CONTROLS Volume knob, expressivity fader, navigation buttons for access to reverb, chorus, flanger, delay, distortion, EQ, tremolo, pitch shifter, looper, record, tuner and metronome. Bluetooth functionality for mobile app controls and programming functions.
I/O ¼" output jack, ¼" input jack for additional sound sources, USB jack for charging
FACTORY STRINGS Lâg proprietary coated bronze light .012–.054
WEIGHT 5.2 lbs.
KUDOS Innovative and awesome-sounding onboard processing with intuitive interface and Bluetooth connectivity. Great playability
CONCERNS Onboard electronics add slight weight