Yamaha recently announced their new concept amp, the THR series. It seems like Yamaha's answer to the Roland Cube, or the Vox Valvetronix series, but aesthetically the amp looks more like a boutique tube amp than a digital starter crate.
So based upon the look of the THR, it would be fair to assume that this is not being marketed to beginners, but rather to those who have been playing guitar for a while and have already owned a couple of amps.
Yamaha claim that their new concept amp delivers true valve tones, but I'm always fairly dubious about these claims, especially when the amp in question works from a digital pre-amp. Even the digital fan-boys accept that modelling rarely ever gives you the same playing experience as a classic tube amp. It's all in the dynamics and the 'feel', and when it comes down to wire, you'll never beat the dynamic response of valves.
That's not to say that digital doesn't have its plus points. The versatility and reliability of modelling is a major advantage. Line 6's DT series combines the best of both worlds, but it's at the higher end of the market, and there's definitely a gap in the market for something small, squeaky, cheap, and... well, digital.
So Yamaha have clocked this, and from what I've heard from the THR it does sound incredibly impressive. Not only does it provide a distortion which sounds completely free of the nasty harmonics and mid-range frequencies often kicked out by digital amps, but it also has some genuinely impressive onboard effects processing.
It also looks really cool, I imagine that if you turned up to a gig with a Cube amp, you might get some dirty looks from the guy in the headline band who is sporting a triple-rec. But with the THR you have the upper-hand, it has very little branding on it (just a small Yamaha badge at the moment), and it looks like a little transistor radio. Of course, it won't sound as good as the other guy's amp, but he paid a lot of money for his, and you actually know how to get a decent sound out of your's (he's one of those guys with more money than ability - there seems to be a lot of those guys).
Of course you'd need a cab as well, as the THR is actually designed to be the perfect size for your bedroom, and that means that it's not very loud either.
On the subject of bedrooms, you have a bedroom studio in your's don't you? Of course you do, you are a musician, we all have sorry excuses for bedroom recording studios. Yamaha have thought of this, they have also added digital recording capabilities into their amplifier, and bundled it with Cubase AI. This is a really neat idea, and we are seeing more companies do this with their gear, if you have a digital amp it really does make sense to have digital recording capabilities inbuilt.
So based on all of the above, I do think the THR is going to be a little firecracker. Yamaha have got the product right, they've got the marketing right, the only thing they've got wrong is the name. THR just sounds a bit forgettable. We can forgive them for that though, I couldn't name an amp to save my life. Retail price on the 10-watt amp looks like it's going to be around £260 by the way, so not that cheap, but not likely to break the bank either.
Hopefully we'll be getting one of these in as soon as we can for a full video review, but in the meantime, you can watch Yamaha's trailer below. Also... our new guitar show has just gone live on Youtube, so check it out here if you are interested in tips on guitar technique, recording guitars, guitar news, and tips on tone.
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