When I first heard about the Yamaha THR, it was through the medium of Youtube. At the time nobody really seemed to know what the hell it was, the best bloggers from the shredosphere had never heard of it. We later found out that this was partly due to a long-term marketing strategy, and partly due to a problem in sourcing the power supply, but alas, the THR was ready to be shown to the world at the 2012 NAMM show.
If anybody saw my video/news item on the amp from the show, then you’ll know that I’m in love with it for a number of reasons, but let me first just get a few things straight:
The Yamaha THR is not a valve amp
Yes, the orange valve glow is just for show
It sounds as great in real life as it does on the Youtube advert
It models analogue circuitry rather than the sound of a valve amp, in doing so, it has some of the most authentic tube modelling I’ve ever heard
THR stands for ‘Third’, it is designed as your third amp
Just to expand on that last point, you might have a big Mesa amp for the stage, an old Fender combo for the studio, and the Yamaha THR is designed for your house. It doubles up as an interface, so it’s also perfect for home recording.
As you can hear from the video review, it sounds really (really really really) good. For the price of the damn thing you just can not go wrong, you might be wondering why I’m so excited about it, but my job sees me exposed to a lot of modelling equipment, and none have come so close to sounding like the real thing as the THR has.
It responds like a valve amp, the gain and master knobs change the signature of the tone as they would on a valve amp. Obviously you don’t quite get the character of an analogue circuit, but Yamaha more than make up for this with the range of distortion tones on offer, as well as the high quality effects.
The crunch setting is my favourite, it sounds authentically British, I could stand at the front of a stage, strum one chord, and it would shake the rafters (if it was miked up properly of course). There are no nasty harmonics in any of the distortion voices, in fact, the only odd harmonics come from the modern high gain setting. The small speakers simply can’t carry the low-end sufficiently, so you get the effect of a double distortion in the sub frequencies. At lower volumes this problem disappears though.
The British high gain setting sounds great on Gary Moore style solos, if you’re a fan of the squeaky bluesbreaker sound then you will have a big grin on your face when you plug into the THR. It really just makes you want to jam out.
I could talk about each individual voicing, but there really isn’t any point. You would be better off listening to the demonstration of each voicing in the review and making up your own mind, I think you’ll sympathise with my creepy and slightly worrying love for the inanimate object.
Basically, plug into one, turn your back to it, and imagine you are playing on your favourite amp. The response is there, the break up changes with your dynamics, it’s got the goods.
On to the effects, they’re all great, enough said. Haters might say that they could be more flexible, but these are effects nabbed from some high-end Yamaha mixers, at least they sound good, and they are enough to inspire a riff or two. Anybody who wants to use effects seriously will have their own rig anyway. No need to discuss that point any further.
Did I mention that it’s also an interface? Yes I did, but I didn’t say that it comes bundled with a version of Cubase, so that you can plug directly into your computer via USB and track your ideas down into a DAW.
There is also an editor for the THR, you can download the editor and programme your own sounds, Yamaha really do have all bases covered. Add this to the auxiliary input (complete with its own volume dial) for plugging in MP3 players, the three band EQ, on board tuner, and the fact that you can also plug a bass or an acoustic guitar into the amp, and you’ve got yourself a pretty impressive little amp for £299.99.
There is only one issue, but I guess the amp would have to sell for considerably more if this issue were to be fixed. A speaker output would mean I could gig this amp, and after lugging around some hefty amps in my time, it would make a nice change to carry around a 4kg amp.
They’ve designed it to be pretty, so that your significant other will let you have it in the living room, but this also means that it would look cool on stage, sitting on top of a 1x12 cab. Please Yamaha, please make one with a speaker output!
Yamaha have nailed the sound, they’ve nailed the functionality, and they’ve nailed the size of the little fella, but the speakers are just a bit teeny. Whilst they sound phenomenal on some settings, it’s not an amp for chugging drop C riffs, but would you expect something that looks like a valve radio to be good for death metal?
If you are looking to buy, then this is a recommended purchase in its category.
Available now THR-10 £299.99/ $469.99 - street price significantly less.