You can’t help but love Yamaha sometimes, especially when it comes to the thought they put into guitars and related accessories. It’s more than the fact that their build quality and attention to detail is consistent without exception that wins them serious respect, it’s also the amount of work they put into new ideas.
And so we bring you the THR10 and THR5, which Yamaha says have been designed as your “third amp”. That is, alongside your hulking stage rig and your small-gig/rehearsal amplifier, they reckon that no-ones ever quite nailed the idea of a practice or light recording amp. “How you play at home isn’t a small version of how you play on stage,” they say, ” so why would an amp based on a small version of your stage rig really give you what you need?”
Picking up that idea and running with it, Yamaha has seen fit to overhaul the very core of what a practice amp should, be and the results are both surprising and impressive.
We can talk about the looks first if you like. Vintage kitsch has long been a favourite with pretty much every guitarist, even when it’s hiding cutting-edge technology. The little lights that amp up when you turn everything on to simulate an all-valve setup are either comical, hilarious or both, but the knobs on top of the amp will feel familiar and no-fuss for anyone who’s used any kind of guitar amp before. It’s not just a cynical demographic-savvy design either – you genuinely feel like you’re playing, well, a regular amplifier.
The two models are similar in design, although the THR10 can do significantly more (for a £100 price hike of course). The THR5 has five onboard amp models (clean, crunch, lead, brit hi and modern), eight onboard effects (chorus, flanger, phaser, trem, delay, delay/reverb, spring reverb and hall reverb), hi-fi stereo playback, an aux input, battery or mains power options, a USB computer connection (both to record with and edit the THR’s sonic possibilities) and a bundled copy of Cubase AI to get you recording from the get-go. There’s also a built in chromatic tuner for good measure.
The larger model, the THR10 has all of these things, but also incorporates acoustic mic modelling (remember the effects pedal that Yammy produced a while back? It’s the same ace technology ported into the amp) and bass amp modelling. It also carries a ‘flat’ model, which is a transparent, uncoloured input for line sources, and save slots for user settings that you’ve decided you want to keep as you play. Which you decide to plump for will therefore depend on what your chosen instruments are, and whether you’re going to need that flat response.
We mentioned the potential for editing sounds up there, but we should emphasise quite how intricate a system this is – with the THR editor (free to download from http://download.yamaha.com) on your computer, you’re able to go deep into any of the models or effects and happily mess with the finished product until you’re effectively carrying around a little case full of go-to tones for recording or playing on tour buses, in your bedroom or even outside thanks to the battery option. There are also extra noise-gate and compression options that can be added exclusively from the THR editor, perhaps as a clever incentive from Yamaha to get you using the digital side of the new amps? Either way, it’ s very definitely going to be worth your investigation.
If you’re mainly interested in using this model as an amp for actually playing rather than recording, we suspect the stereo speaker technology should do the job, designed as it us to gift you with “an incredibly wide, spacious audio image with studio-quality reverb,” according to Yamaha. You can hear for yourselves in the video, of course, but from the initial demo we were given, it was an incredibly impressive sound, and certainly gave each of the modelled tones a rich, thick and most-importantly believable quality. It doesn’t look as though these little amp chassis can put out much in the way of sound, but actually for bedroom practice and recording playbacks when you’re hooked up to the laptop, they’re perfect.
Speaking of computer recording, the USB out and bundled Cubase AI will be ideal for anyone who’s a little nervous about the idea of recording for the first time and is much more at home in front of an amp than a mouse and keyboard. Even your very first attempts should be painless, but what’s great is that once you’ve spent some time getting to understand the THR5 or 10, you can learn some significantly advanced tricks – not least reamping.
Well, that is, you can send both a wet and dry channel to your computer and record them simultaneously (that’s one with effects and modelling, and one which is the sound of your guitar ‘naked without them)’. That way, if when you’ve absolutely nailed a guitar part and the take’s one you don’t want to redo, you have the option of either using the model and effects you’ve used to record with, or you can use the dry signal and start over with your EQing and effects. It’s a brilliant safety net for those of you who are likely to change your mind about the sort of tone you’ll be after when the guitar’s been put down.
Overall, then, this is something quite special, and even without the recording capabilities it’s not a lot of money for an incredibly adaptable, portable and just downright likeable amplifier. The videos can give you an even better perspective than we can, but either way I suspect that anyone with a need for the so-called “third amp” is going to take a serious interest. Hell, it might well be a consideration for a stonking “first amp”, too.