Yamaha is trying to create a unique niche for its new THR10 and 5 amplifiers - marketing them as yourthirdamp. The company is basically saying that its newest amplifiers are the simplest and quickest way to get a great, tube-like tone in your studio, bedroom or practice room, without worrying about volume levels, while having the flexibility of a studio monitoring system as part of the package. The idea of having a low powered amp that models high powered tube tones is nothing new, but combining this with a true Hi-Fi quality, stunning looks and a full range speaker system designed by Yamaha's pro audio boffins, is a great idea and the pairing works exceptionally well.
The THR10 we reviewed is the bigger and more fully featured of the two and is packed with high quality models, effects and recording features. Five core amp models are available with increasing amounts of gain and bass, with acoustic and flat settings on tap for use with the appropriate instrument. Flat mode simply bypasses the modelling section so you can hear the clean DI sound of your guitar plus effects. The acoustic setting is not an acoustic modeller but rather a mic emulation mode for use with an acoustic guitar with a pickup and works rather well. Effects are well catered for and are of the usual high quality Yamaha level. I'm a big fan of Yamaha's digital reverbs and choruses, having owned several pieces of high end Yamaha audio gear and the effects here match up to my expectations. Reverbs, delays and modulation effects abound and there is more control available than some other effect integrated modelling amps. A nice touch is the ability to use reverb and delay together and the addition of a tap tempo button makes getting that perfect delay sound even easier.
The models available are surprisingly authentic in that they really feel and respond like tube amps. Yamaha has been as thorough as possible with their VCM technology and the EQ and gain structure of each model work exactly as you'd expect in each amp model. For example, the Clean setting, modelled on a Fender Twin style amp, has EQ controls that cut the sound completely when attenuated fully, whilst with the Brit Hi model the EQ is less responsive, just like the original amp. This is a small touch but it's great to know that the EQ will respond exactly as you expect from the amps you know and love. A full range of tones, from super clean to Stevie Ray Texan overdrive to death metal madness, are available and sound great through the supplied extended stereo speakers. All of this flexibility might be overwhelming were it not for the ability to store five user presets via the small push switches at the top left of the unit. These are so simple to use and do their job with minimal fuss, the only downside being that at this price you can't expect motorised controls, so the settings on the amp are not updated visually when switching presets.
The overriding selling point of the THR10 has to be the ability to capture all these great tones through the supplied USB output and monitor everything from your DAW back through the built in speaker system - effectively using it as a quality soundcard and monitoring set-up in one. The unit ships with a copy of Cubase AI, a fully featured DAW, to get you going straight out of the box. You can even record the direct, clean signal of the guitar through one channel (for re-amping later) whilst recording the wet, effected signal on another channel at the same time. Monitoring the computer output or another source via the Aux In sounds superb through the in-built speakers and it's obvious that Yamaha has spent a lot of time producing great quality hardware at a cost effective price for the consumer. I was very impressed with the sound quality from such tiny speakers and, front on, you get a good stereo image thanks to the extended stereo technology.
There is another angle to the THR series too. While dedicated guitarists might think a tatty AC30 looks just fine in the living room, Mrs dedicated guitarist might not agree. Yamaha hasn't just gone to extraordinary lengths to make the THR sound and perform well, it has also made the THR 5 and 10 look like pieces of high-end AV gear, which no one is going to object to having in their home, office, hotel room - or, really, just about anywhere. In short - it looks as revolutionary as it sounds!
Build quality is top notch and given that you have the choice of two models, both of which feature the most important elements of the design, the THR series seems like a no-brainer for me, given that it is a complete modelling, recording and monitoring system in one with great sound quality. You can even run the units from AA batteries, allowing for the ultimate busking set-up with just enough volume to please the crowds! If you feel that this is a product that could solve some of your musical needs then you'd be crazy not to check it out. I for one will be sticking this amazing new product on my Christmas list!