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The Perfect Balance: How Yamaha’s THR Series Is Both Timeless and Timely

July 20, 2021
Written by
Cynthia Schemmer
Creative by
She Shreds
Yvette Young Photo Credit
Filipe Motta
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Maybe you’ve seen one of the many Yamaha-related memes that suggest the absurdity in the range of products the company offers. From pianos to, yes, motorcycles, Yamaha has provided customers with a variety of products for almost 135 years, and are ranked as one of the biggest music companies in the world. 

Within Yamaha exists a breadth of experts and departments—from A/V to Steinberg software—under one roof that work together to create modern classics across the scope of music gear and more. And so while the multifariousness of their production may seem laughable to the unfamiliar, there is certainly nothing absurd about Yamaha’s quality and craftsmanship to musicians in the know.

Part of what keeps Yamaha at the forefront of the gear industry is their dedication to classic sounds with a timely twist, and their THR amp series is a prime example. Launched in 2011 and coined as “The Original Desktop Amp,” Yamaha’s vision for the THR series is compact amps for guitarists who are serious about their offstage sound and want an easy recording option. The THR falls into what Yamaha calls a “third amp” category: not a stage amp and not quite the usual practice amp, it’s an amplifier that brings home a classic tube sound at practice volumes with Yamaha’s Virtual Circuitry Modeling, built-in tuner and effects, wireless capabilities, and everything you need to record in the comfort of your bedroom, studio, or on-the-go—and especially during a pandemic. 

“Guitarists have different needs when playing at home,” says David Miner, Product Marketing Manager at the Yamaha Guitar Group. “So we wanted to make a practice amp that wasn’t simply a smaller version of a larger amplifier—one that fit into one’s space both physically and aesthetically, and was designed for what and how guitarists play when they aren’t on stage or in rehearsal.”

She Shreds spoke with musicians Yvette Young and Sarah Lipstate to get a more personal look into how and when musicians are using the Yamaha THR amps and the myriad at-home options for virtual streams, practicing, recording, and more. 

But first, let’s break down the three models of THR we’ll be focusing on:

THR 1 v3

THR5: For the guitarist seeking big practice sound in a compact size, a variety of amp and mic models, and everything needed to record at home.  

The original THR was designed to include everything you need off-stage, including Virtual Circuitry Technology to deliver authentic tube amp sound; true hi-fi stereo sound for both guitar and stereo playback; THR Editor, which can be downloaded to a computer for even more control of your tone; and it’s bundled with Cubase AI, a professional music production application that offers recording and editing options. 

The original THR10 models were discontinued with the launch of THR-II, but the THR5 and THR5A are still available:

THR5 features 5 different guitar amp models plus a variety of effects that include both stompbox-style modulation and studio-grade delays and reverbs.

THR5A features three mic models for acoustic-electric guitars, a mode voiced for electric nylon-string instruments, and one amp model so that acoustic players still have the option to plug in an electric.

THR 2 v3
THR-II Wireless

THR-II Wireless: For the guitarist seeking everything in the THR plus a full wireless experience—and even more guitar amp models.

The THR-II Wireless includes everything from the original THR plus a full wireless experience, including BlueTooth connectivity for audio playback and “THR Remote” mobile editor app for iOS and Android so you can tweak your tone right from your sofa, built-in rechargeable battery that lasts up to five hours (includes AC adapter), and Line 6 wireless receiver (Line 6 Relay G10T transmitter sold separately); 15 guitar amp models; Rec’n’Share, which offers the ability to play along and record with your music library, as well as uploading and sharing recordings directly from an iOS device; and Cubasis LE for iPad, in addition to Cubase AI for Mac/PC.

THR 3 v3

THR30IIA: For the singer-songwriter seeking acoustic-specific professional sound for guitar and vocals, and everything needed to record at home. 

The THR30IIA includes everything from the THR-II plus it’s designed specifically for acoustic guitarists: acoustic mic modeling, which includes realistic models of boutique condenser, dynamic, and tube microphones for professional sound, as well as a voicing optimized for nylon-string guitars and a flat mode. It also includes a second input with a microphone preamp, making it an ideal portable practice solution for singer-songwriters.

Sarah Lipstate — Noveller, Iggy Pop
Sarah photo 3 web
Sarah photo 4 web

Uses: I moved into a new place at the beginning of the year that doesn’t have a dedicated studio space, so having the ability to practice and work on demos in my living room is really useful. I’ve also used it in several of my pedal demo videos—I love being able to record in stereo directly out of the THR30II Wireless

Go-To Settings: I’m usually running through my pedalboard into the THR30II Wireless, so I like to go for a clean sound. I switch between using the Classic and Boutique settings. One of my go-to effects settings is tremolo and echo/reverb—I call it my “Twin Peaks” setting. I also really dig the chorus and echo. When I’m rehearsing Iggy Pop songs I like to switch to the Lead and Boutique setting and dial in some spring reverb.

Favorite Features: I absolutely love how compact and lightweight my THR30II Wireless is. I’ve struggled with carting around heavy tube amps for so long, so it’s such a nice change of pace to have a versatile desktop amp. The fact that I can record stereo signal directly out of the amp so easily is also extremely useful for me. Also, having the ability to work on demos and easily record from my living room has been invaluable. 

Sarah Lipstate’s Go-To Settings: 

Sarah amp v4

Watch the THR30II Wireless in action: 

Yvette Young — Covet
Yvette 2 copy
Photo by Filipe Motta

Uses: I’ve been using my THR30IIA regularly for about two years now. I’ve taken it on tour to soundcheck in the greenroom, to practice, and to teach lessons… but I actually have even played a show with one in the UK! I was able to cram it in my suitcase with all my clothing. I’ve also used it plenty for live-streaming and also all of my recording. I find that it tracks so cleanly and clearly, and I actually am in love with the built-in chorus.

Go-To Settings: Clean—it’s just a great clean pedal platform, very clear and crisp. I use the chorus so much and love to add reverb on the lead setting. I also use the hi-gain sound and crank the gain with a bit of echo too for sustain/ambience.

Favorite Features: Aesthetically, I love the size (it’s so convenient for travel and teaching lessons/soundchecking on the road) and how sleek and minimal it looks. I feel like the amp gets impressively loud as well, and has so much versatility tone-wise. 

Productivity: What I like out of an amp is truly just how consistent it is and how it sounds. I tend to also need something that is easy to just plug in and play with little fuss, especially when that wave of creativity strikes… so the THR-30IIA has been tried and true for me time and time again when I need to just record on the fly. I don’t like to waste any time when I’m writing, having to troubleshoot tech or change parts out, and so far the THR-30IIA has proven to be super reliable! It’s also so portable that I can take it into any room.

Yvette Young’s Go-To Settings:

Yvette amp v4

Watch the THR30II in action:

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