Yamaha has been very busy revamping its parlor-size line and rolling out progressive TransAcoustic effects technology, and the two meet in the form of the CSF-TA. The guitar is essentially built on the recently re-introduced CSF parlor platform [see the CSF3M], with the added thrill of onboard resonance-based effects for extra dimensionality.
Yamaha first introduced its TransAcoustic processing system in 2016 on its premium LL and LS models, then brought it aboard the more affordable FS concert and FG dreadnought body styles. Now the TA system is available on the classical style CG-TA and on the CSF-TA reviewed here.
Until now, I’d had the privilege of hearing resonance-based processing only onboard full-sized guitars, including Yamaha’s aforementioned FG-TA dreadnought, Lâg’s Tramontane dreadnought (which features the effect-laden HyVibe system) and a few grand auditorium models on which I used the versatile ToneWoodAmp.
I was particularly curious to hear Yamaha’s TA system on a parlor guitar for two reasons. First, there’s a natural “big-ification” that occurs, and wouldn’t that be cool on a small guitar? Second, I wondered if such resonance-based effects would sound as cool given less of a body chamber to resonate within.
A quick primer: TransAcoustic signal processing manifests in the body via an actuator integrated within it. Mounted between the back bracings, the actuator transforms vibrations into the reverb and chorus effects, which emanate from the soundhole, basically turning the chamber into an amplifier with built-in effects.
A pair of small black knobs on the upper bout control the effects, and a third knob below the other two serves a dual purpose as the on/off button for the TA system in acoustic mode and volume control for the piezo bridge pickup when plugged in. The reverb knob is actually a dual controller too, as the left half sets the desired amount of room reverb, while the right side provides a hall reverb.
Yamaha’s TransAcoustic system sounds particularly fantastic on the CSF-TA. Its loud and lively parlor platform provides an ample chamber for signal processing to bounce around and interact with organic vibrations, creating a holistic reverb tone whether you add a tad or a ton of the effect.
Likewise, the TA chorus adds a sweet shimmer that can act as a subtle enhancement or take the instrument from six- to 12-string territory when pegged. With a low effects level, the TA system makes an already-impressive parlor acoustic sound a bit bigger and more impressive. Ramp up the effects, and the TransAcoustic transforms the tone from parlor style into a larger room or small hall.
Amplification intensifies the situation. With the guitar plugged in, the effects funnel through the pickup signal, and you can choose to have the “natural” effects on simultaneously or not. I tested the CSF-TA with a battery-powered Fishman Loudbox Mini Charge, creating an extremely travel-friendly combination.
With the amp turned down, the effected tone springing from the soundhole was still audible. Increasing the pickup signal’s volume made the amplified tone more dominant and the effects more prominent. With the effects pegged and the amplified signal loud enough to drown out the soundhole tone, the effected sound went from subtle to soaking in lush chorus and reverb.
Effect-laden amplified tones like these can be particularly awesome when you play to the guitar’s natural strengths. For example, the fact that the CSF-TA’s action was a tad on the high side actually made harmonics spring forth readily from it, and the processing and amplification allowed me to create a celestial sound. In addition, the controls facilitated easy changes on the fly, including altering the acoustic environment.
Adding the TransAcoustic system to the CSF platform takes Yamaha’s fine-looking and fabulous-sounding parlor guitar into new territory. If a “parlor-plus” sounds like the kind of thing you’ve been wanting, the CSF-TA deserves a listen.
PRICE $699 street
NUT WIDTH 1.69”, urea
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 23.6” scale, 16” radius
TUNERS Die-cast chrome
BODY Laminated mahogany back and sides, solid Sitka spruce top
ELECTRONICS Yamaha System 70 TransAcoustic preamp with SRT piezo pickup
POWER 2xAA battery pack conveniently incorporated into slot-style housing that slides in alongside output jack
CONTROLS Reverb (room/hall), chorus, TA on/off and piezo volume
FACTORY STRINGS Elixir Nanoweb 80/20 Bronze Light
WEIGHT 4 lbs
KUDOS Fine tone extended with naturally spacious reverb and chorus effects and quality pickup system. Quality craftsmanship. Travel-perfect hard bag included
CONCERNS Action a tad high