Yamaha introduced its TransAcoustic resonance-based effects processing system in 2016 aboard its premium LL and LS models. This new type of signal processing is generated in the guitar’s resonance chamber and springs forth through the soundhole when the instrument is unplugged, turning the acoustic guitar into its own amplifier, complete with reverb and chorus effects. Yamaha has now extended the system to its more affordable FS-TA concert-size guitar and the FG-TA dreadnought on review here.
The TransAcoustic system controls are discreetly located, so no one but you will notice the three slightly raised black knobs at the crest of the bass bout. There’s one for reverb, one for chorus, and another that controls guitar volume and turns the effects on and off. Even when turned to their maximum, the effects are more subtle and natural than standard processing because they are generated via an “integrated actuator” — essentially a metal device mounted between two of the ladder bracings on the inside of the back. String vibrations cause the actuator to vibrate, transferring movement into the body and surrounding air to create realistic reverb and chorus effects. With the guitar plugged in, the effects stop emanating from the soundhole and are instead amplified through the Yamaha’s piezo saddle pickup.
The effects sound clear, with plenty of top-end presence as the TransAcoustic system regenerates, reflects and interacts with the tone of this specific Yamaha FG dreadnought. For such a simple setup, the effects have a good amount of versatility. The reverb runs the gamut from a barely noticeable ambience to what sounds to my ears like a long tunnel with a bit of regeneration as it trails off. The chorus sounds more chimey than watery, and it ranges from a subtle warble to stronger 12-string-like chorusing.
Of course, integrated signal processing is just part of this affordable package. The FG-TA plays like a dream, thanks to a rather narrow and slim C-shaped neck and a nice factory setup with super-easy action. An old repetitive stress injury to my hands and arms flared up at the time of this review, and it’s been a blessing to have the FG-TA around, because it requires so little effort to play even complicated fingerpicking patterns and stretchy chords on it.
Yamaha’s TransAcoustic system is clearly a game changer in the acoustic guitar market. We’ve seen a similar concept in the form of the ToneWoodAmp, which offers deeper signal processing and can be attached to the back of virtually any guitar. However, I had not seen an acoustic instrument with such activated onboard effects until the arrival of Yamaha’s TransAcoustic system, and we’re very likely looking at an industry trend here. How exciting is it to consider that in the coming years we’ll witness progressively more powerful effects processing on myriad instruments? As it stands, acoustic guitar buyers looking for something novel and modern will find Yamaha’s FG-TA offers what they seek in an instrument with broad appeal and a friendly price.
PRICE $599 street
NUT WIDTH 1.69"
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 25.56" scale
TUNERS Die-cast chrome
BODY Laminated mahogany back and sides, solid Sitka spruce top
ELECTRONICS System 70 TransAcoustic preamp with SRT piezo pickup
FACTORY STRINGS Yamaha FS50BT or D’Addario EXP11
WEIGHT 5 lbs
KUDOS Integrated effects. Affordable and easy to play
CONCERNS No bag or case included. Relatively heavy, as onboard effects and preamp add about a pound