Review: Yamaha THR5A Desktop Acoustic Amp

yamaha-thr5a-desktop-acoustic-amp

(MSRP $330.00 / Street price $199.99)

The THR5A is a small (actually tiny) amp optimized for use with electric-acoustic and electric guitars. It leverages advanced modeling technologies and studio grade effects developed by Yamaha for use in their mixers and other high-end audio devices. In addition, the retro-looking THR5A offers a good selection of classic tube, condenser and dynamic mic emulations to give you a recording studio-grade sound where ever you find yourself. It’s a very cool practice amp and much more.

Erase any ideas you might have about what practice amps sound like because the days of the underpowered, tinny sounding amps are (thankfully) gone. Yamaha has built a series of small amps with their Virtual Circuitry Modeling (VCM) that deliver a range of accurately modeled amp tones with on-board effects. They also have Yamaha’s extended stereo hi-fi technology that produces a seemingly huge sound from an extremely compact chassis. The amps have a built-in audio interface for direct recording and can even be battery powered. The THR series amps are well equipped for a wide range of practice and recording situations and, in particular, the THR5A provides features specifically for acoustic players.

I’ll admit that, while I had heard good things about the Yamaha’s THR series amps, I was skeptical when I saw the size of THR5A. So, I put it to the test at an acoustic guitar workshop. As the leader of the workshop, I needed my slimline acoustic guitar to be heard clearly by the class. Set up completely flat and with just a bit of reverb, the THR filled the room nicely and the guitar retained a nice full-range acoustic tone. Effects sounded clean and were easily adjustable. Another nice feature that I used immediately was the aux input. Recorded music sounded great with a good stereo sound and enough bass to sound well-balanced. As I explored the other options, I discovered that there’s even more to the THR5A.

Designed specifically for acoustic electric guitars, rather than feature amp model simulations, the VCM settings provide a choice of different classic mic types, including condenser, dynamic and tube settings, along with a clean and a nylon string specific setting. For effects, the THR5A has full complement of high-quality  effects, including chorus, flanger, phaser, tremolo, tape echo, echo, spring and hall reverbs (compressor and noise gate are available via the THR Editor software). Mic type, Blend/Gain, Master, Tone, Effect, Dly/Rev and Volume knobs provide control, along with a tap time button for time setting effects.

For practice situations, the amp has a handy built-in digital tuner and an aux input for plugging in an iPod or phone for learning songs or just playing along. As I’ve said, the stereo sound from the aux input is impressive. For private or late-night practice sessions, the headphone output provides a great experience. The clean effects and full-range sound of the THR5A makes an acoustic guitar sound like it should, whether you like it clean or bathed in effects.

If you like to go deeper into the effects, Yamaha provides THR Editor software, available for download from http://download.yamaha.com, that offers deep editing of amp and effect parameters. You have access to features past the knobs on the THRA5, including in-depth control of compressor and noise gate functions. With this kind of flexibility, you can understand why this amp would be very useful for getting a wide variety of sounds for recording. Cubase AI and a USB cable come bundled with the package so you can start recording tracks right away.

While it’s probably stating the obvious, this amp’s best feature is its size. The THR5A is physically very small (L 4.7″ x W 10.7″ x H 6.57″) and weighs under five pounds. It is rated at 10 watts (5W + 5W stereo), but the amp makes an impressive sound with only two 8cm speakers. It’s also got a great retro look with a metal case and LEDs that back light its grill giving it the look of a vintage amp with a soft tube glow from inside. So, it looks cool and feels solid.

All that said, this amp is not for everyone. If you are looking for a traditional, small, open-back practice amp with a light 12-inch speaker, this amp might not be for you. While it’s easy to operate, it has a good amount of built-in technology that you might not need or want. However, if you are looking for a more hi-fidelity stereo sound and clean effects for acoustic guitars and some direct recording features, you’ll appreciate the portability, design and great sound of the THR5A.

Yamaha’s new THR5A amp is great for practice sessions and, as advertised, delivers high-quality sound for acoustic instruments. In addition its high-quality effects, mic simulations and digital audio ouput can be used to make some very impressive recordings. You won’t find a great sounding amp with this much flexibility any smaller than this.

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