Yamaha Magicstomp Acoustic

With their pianos and band instruments alone, Yamaha has probably gotten more people playing music than any company in history. When you add in their acoustic guitars, it’s no contest. My first real guitar was a Yamaha, and I’ve always had a soft spot for them when it comes to acoustics. Their groovy little Magicstomp Acoustic pedal gives players a bunch of ways to get great steel- and nylon-string tones onstage or in the studio in a compact, flexible package.

The Magicstomp Acoustic ($299 retial/$200 street) is a 2lb pedal that, according to Yamaha’s website, “has the footprint of a portable CD player.” It looks relatively simple, with an LCD, four knobs, three footswitches, and a little store/edit button on its face. The rear panel sports a mono input jack, stereo outputs, an input level switch, headphone jack, and a USB jack for editing parameters on a computer screen. Easy, right? Well, yes and no. The Magicstomp can be as plug-and-play simple or as mid-bogglingly deep as you want it to be, as we’ll see in a minute. First, let’s take a look at what inside this little powerhouse.

Under the Hood

The Magicstomp Acoustic packs 24-bit A/D converters and a 32-bit DSP, which promise stellar sound quality. It’s good to have all that horsepower, because some of what this box can do is pretty complicated. The list of effects includes some of the

company’s classic sounds, such as the awesome “Symphonic” from the SPX 90, along with a few latter-day tones like the “8 Band Parallel Delay” popularized by their UD Stomp. In addition, you get a ton of other cool effects including chorus, flange, reverb, rotary speaker, compression, phaser, etc. Yamaha has conveniently created some multi-effect patches of logical choices such as Compressor/Amp Simulator/Flanger/Delay/Reverb to save you some programming time.

Plugging In

With the Magicstomp in “Up Down” mode, you can stomp through the various presets with the left or right footswitches (“Performance” mode lets you assign three patches of your choice to the switches). I was pleased to hear that most of the patches avoid the gaudy, overly effected sound that many companies use to show off their processors. Picking a Babicz ID-JRW-06 jumbo (with an L.R. Baggs iMix system), I auditioned the first few presets: warm, relatively dry tones that approximated different condenser and dynamic microphones with a touch of reverb or chorus on them. For each patch, Yamaha has assigned what they believe to be the most useful parameters to the three encoder knobs in order to facilitate on-the-fly tweaks. This gives you, for instance, treble, delay level, and reverb level for the “Wet Lead” preset. Handy and easy to use.

Several of the patches have Yamaha’s AFR or Auto Feedback Reduction function. This is an ingenious set of five notch filters that seek out and kill runaway frequencies. It works amazingly well. With AFR in a preset, just turn up until something starts howling, then step on the middle switch, (labeled Auto F.R.), and hear the feedback disappear. If another frequency gets out of control, just depress the switch again. The tone will obviously change if you notch out too many frequencies, but I didn’t ever need to squash more than two on a preset. Well done!

Deep Depths

As mentioned, Yamaha has given you quick, front-panel access to three parameters per patch. But there are more parameters—a lot more. For example, the Flanger alone has 13 (!) separate areas to modify the tone. So, how do you get to those parameters? Well, there are a couple of ways, neither of which is for the faint of heart, the impatient, or the technophobic. Here goes:

You can enter the Deep Edit mode by hitting the Store/Exit button and then tapping the AFR switch. You can then use the switches and knobs to access and modify all the parameters. This isn’t the most intuitive process, so you’ll want to have the manual handy until you memorize your moves. With perseverance, though, you can adjust anything you want this way.

If you really want to get into programming the Magicstomp Acoustic, you’ll want to use the CD-ROM and USB cable that Yamaha provides. This lets you see all the parameters on your computer screen and will save you innumerable headaches,

especially for some of the more complex effects like the 8 Band Delay. You can also rearrange the order of patches onscreen via the software, making it easy to map out a gig’s worth of tones.

Stomping Ground

This is a very cool device for any acoustic player’s gigging or recording arsenal. If you’re willing to spend some time at home dialing it in, the Magicstomp Acoustic could be all you need to get a great sound in just about any venue. You could set up the encoder knobs for EQ, for instance, and

tailor a patch to the room in seconds. If your flattop gets unruly, the Auto Feedback Reduction will swoop in with Ninja stealth and quickness to save the day. And the sound quality is consistently awesome, whether you go with just a hint of EQ and reverb or radical delays, choruses, and ring modulators. If it’s possible to cram more goodies in a box this size, I haven’t seen it yet.