Guitar Review: Yamaha LL-TA (TransAcoustic)

I love acoustic guitars. There’s a T-shirt that sums it up for me. It reads, “Love one woman, many guitars.” I think I just fell in love today with a guitar I met at Tacoma’s, if not western Washington’s, best music store: Ted Brown Music. A sales associate named Steve introduced me to Yamaha’s new LL-TA dreadnought. OK, so it may only be infatuation, but let me tell you about this guitar.

img_0635Honestly, I haven’t cared for the vast majority of the Yamahas I’ve played. Several years ago I picked up a LL bodied 12-string, and immediately put it back — stiff and lifeless. However, I have truly appreciated their A Series dreadnoughts. This Yamaha dreadnought caught my eye. I pulled it off its wall mount and began playing the Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset.” I was impressed by the easy playability, and its very open, clear, and pleasant tone. Steve saw my attention and informed me of its truly unique and incredibly innovative electronic feature: in-built chorusing and reverb! Unplugged you are able to access reverb and chorusing! The TA stands for Trans Acoustic — it is self-amplified, or better, self-effected. Wow! Then, after Steve set up a bass amp (YES, a Fender Rumble 500 watt head and cab) this feature came alive like no other acoustic-electric I own, or have ever played! Wow, and wow! In this new universe, the Kinks’ “Village Green,” the Beatles’ “Eight Days a Week” and “Norwegian Wood” — songs I’ve played for years — sounded completely new to me. Wow, wow, and wow!

2017-01-26-18-30-40The guitar’s specs are as follows.  Yamaha calls the LL body style a jumbo.  However, it has more of an appearance of a “rounded” dreadnought body — very similar to a Breedlove dreadnought’s, or a Taylor Grand Symphony’s appearance / design. It possess all solid woods: Engleman spruce top, and rosewood back and sides. There is maple binding around the body. The fretboard and bridge are ebony. The nut width is 1 3/4 inches, and the lower bout is 16 5/8 inches across. It has a clear pick guard. There are three electronic controls. Due to the guitar’s innovative features, they are not the typical base, treble, and volume. There is a control for reverb (both “hall” and “room”), chorusing, and volume (which also serves as on-off control). The electronics are powered by two batteris with access located at the end-pin / 1/4 inch jack. It comes with its own “hard bag” case. The LL-TA comes in both natural (“vintage tint”), and burst finishes.

img_0653Electronics are a mystery to me. When Steve had me look “under the hood,” well, I was perplexed. “How does this happen?” Here, I’ll refer to Yamaha’s website for the explanation:

An actuator installed on the inner surface of the guitar back vibrates in response to the vibration of the strings. The vibrations of the actuator are then conveyed to the body of the guitar, and to the air in and around the guitar body, generating authentic reverb and chorus sounds from inside the body.

It plays like a dream! I play with a pick to get a bold, expressive tone, and without the TA system turned on, it has a lot of dynamic and sustain. Being articulate with arpeggios comes with ease, as does the articulation needed for a variety of rhythms — in other words, the string spacing is quite good, and the 1 3/4 inch nut width is a nice bonus with any dreadnought.

The Yamaha LL-TA sells for $999 both at Ted Brown Music, and internet retailers. I have come to appreciate many imports.  For example, Eastman, Faith, and Fender’s new Paramount line of acoustics (I have posted reviews elsewhere in this blog), in my opinion, all stand up to comparable North American guitars, but sell for about a third less. I am seriously considering adding this innovative guitar to my collection.

Keep on playing!
Fr. Irenaeus

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