I spent a lot of time playing in an acoustic duo, so acoustic guitar amplification is something close to my heart. In this THR5A review, we’ll take a look at Yamaha’s acoustic practice amp. We’ll look at the features, discuss the pros and cons and finally consider it’s practicality. Ready? let’s go!
Overview of THR5A
Those of you familiar with the THR series by Yamaha will recognize the striking design of the THR5A. Styled to look like a classic radio, it departs from the classic cabinet style amp. The output is handled by two 8cm / 3.1″ speakers, producing 10 watts of power (5 watts per speaker).
Featuring two speakers instead of one allows the THR5A to produce stereo sound, which is enhanced through Yamaha’s Extended Stereo Technology. The amp can be powered by 8 x AA batteries or the included power adapter. It’s good that the power adapter comes included because the battery life is questionable.
The THR5A is extremely compact and portable, good for those short on space or who are frequently on the move. In fact, the THR5A weighs just 2kg / 4.5lbs. There’s a sturdy metal carry handle instead of a cheap leather type strap handle, which is present on some amps.
What’s On Top?
All of the controls for the THR5A are on the top of the amp. To the far left is the power switch, which has a retro look and feel to it. There’s nothing complicated about the power switch, the amp is either on or off. There’s no standby mode.
Immediately below the power switch is a small LED screen. This is where the chromatic tuner is housed. The default frequency is 440hz and can’t be changed. The tuner is accessed by holding down the button to the right of the screen. It’s very simple to operate, with familiar indicators to tell you if you’re flat, sharp or in tune.
Next comes the mic type. This provides the user with a number of modeled tones, which can be further sculpted using other controls such as Blend and Tone. There are 5 mic styles to select from:
- Condenser – Produces rich mid-range tones. Bright sound with a boost to the middle
- Dynamic – Tightened tone
- Tube – Similar to the Condenser but with more push to the middle
- Nylon – Dampens the tone to give you a nylon guitar sound
- EG Classic – Designed for electric guitars to simulate acoustic. Clear, rich and clean tones
The next control is “Blend”. This controls how much the signal is affected by the mic style selected. If the blend knob is turned all the way to the left you’re pretty much using only the direct signal from your guitar’s pickups. The further the blend control knob is turned to the right, the more effect the selected mic style will have on the output.
When the EG Classic mic style is selected, the blend control turns into a gain control providing more distortion the further clockwise you turn the knob. Next is the master control knob, which does what is says. It’ll increase the overall volume of the amp.
Next is the Tone control knob. This acts as your EQ control. I much prefer to have some bass, middle and treble controls. At the very least I’d expect bass and treble controls. Instead you’re reliant on the tone control to mix bass, middle and treble. That detracts from your overall control over the tone. The further clockwise you turn the tone knob the brighter the tone.
I’ll handle the effects in a separate section so we’ll move onto the volume control. This controls the level of the input from your guitar. Next to the volume control is the 1/4″ jack input for your guitar. Above is a 1/4″ headphone jack. This doubles as a recording out port so you can connect to a recording device. When the headphone port is connected the speaker will automatically be muted.
Above the headphones jack is an AUX in port. Use the included stereo mini cable to connect to your phone or other external device, which will allow you to play music through the amp in stereo. That can be handy for playing along with songs too. There’s no Bluetooth support, so you’ll need to use the AUX in port if you want to output from a smart device.
One glaring omissions from the THR5A is a mic port. Most modern acoustic amps have both an instrument and mic input, allowing you to use the amp to both play and sing at the same time. The THR5A doesn’t support mic input, something important to note if you’re looking for an amp that’ll do both. You’ll need something like the Roland Cube Street if you’re into busking.
The THR5A comes with some on-board effects, which can be controlled via the top panel. There are three core effects:
- Compressor – smooths out the tone
- Compressor / Chorus – The chorus adds body whilst the compressor smooths the tone
- Chorus – adds body to the tone
These effects are controlled in zones. You’ll notice that one control knob controls all of the effects. The further to the right of the zone the more intense the effect. The same goes for the Delay / Reverb control knob, which provides three options:
You can use the tap button to set the intervals of the delay, which is an added bonus. In my opinion the delay is better set at a mild level. At higher levels I think it sounds a bit over the top. The reverb options are good to add a bit of dynamism to the tone and they work well. The effects are powered by Yamaha’s VCM technology, which is the same technology that’s found on their high end studio mixers. I don’t have any argument with the quality of effects built into the THR5A.
On the back panel is a USB port, which allows you to connect to a computer. The THR5A comes with the correct USB cable included. This allows you to record without needing to use external effects or mic up the amp.
The THR5A comes with a download code for Cubase AI recording software, allowing you to record and edit your compositions. You can also play back the tracks via the THR5A, allowing you to hear your compositions in stereo.
You’ll need to download a driver when you first connect the THR5A to your computer, but it’s a one off download and can be found on Yamaha’s website quite easily. You can also use the free THR Editor software to edit the tone and effects in greater detail. Not bad for what is essentially a practice amp.
There’s a lot to like about the THR5A. Portability, stereo sound quality, decent on-board effects. Here are the best bits:
- Great For Recording
- Great Quality Tones
- Compact & Portable
When I compare the THR5A with other acoustic amps, it is left wanting is some areas. Here are the main problems:
- No Mic Input Support
- No Memory Banks
- No Proper EQ Control
If you’re looking for an acoustic guitar that’ll suit bedroom practice and allow you to record directly onto your computer, then the THR5A is a solid option. Pretty much everything you need is included with the amp and the inclusion of Cubase AI for recording is a really great bonus.
It’s not suitable for live performances. There’s not enough power to cut through much background noise. It’s also missing a mic input, which is a fairly standard feature on most acoustic amps. If you’re looking for something to use for performances, you’d need more power. Something like the VOX50AG will be more suitable.
It’s not cheap for a practice amp, but in general there’s a premium on acoustic amps and the THR5A does have a lot of useful features. Perhaps most importantly it produces good quality sound. The THR5A is most suitable for those looking for the ability to record whilst maintaining portability. It’s also a good way for beginners to get a feel for some basic effects that work well with acoustic guitars.
I hope you’ve found this review useful. Feel free to leave any comments or questions below. Alternatively you can get in touch using my contact page.
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