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Yamaha AG-Stomp Acoustic Guitar Preamplifier

Could it be that the designer of the AG-Stomp’s metal encasement was a guitarist, just as frustrated as any other in trying to coax a realistic sound out of the dry, tone-sucking transducer pickup in an acoustic/electric, and upon hearing the sound of the prototype knew the casing had to be finished in gold, to reflect its tone? Could be.

Right now you might be thinking: “Bollocks! There is no substitute for a pair of carefully placed condenser mikes to capture the true sound of an acoustic guitar, you digital-age heretic!” And yeah, you’re right. Miking is and always will be the best way to get the truest tone, but some situations don’t allow such luxury and most of us don’t have the scratch for the big-gun capsules capable of such demands. But with the AG-Stomp, the determined domes at Yamaha have created a far-better-than-average alternative to miking.

The first thing that pisses me off when I start playing a transducer-equipped acoustic is that sharp clicking when the pick hits the string. It bites at the ear, eliminating all mellowness and, over time, fatigues any listener. That’s the most noticeable difference with the AG-Stomp. The clicking disappears, opening the sound and bringing forth the warmth of the box without sacrificing the clarity of the notes. Four different mike-types are available: condenser, dynamic, tube and a setting that mimics a condenser on a nylon-stringed guitar. Each mike-type has two settings, one simulating a close mike, the other a mike placed farther away for which “room sound is present,” as the easy-to-understand manual puts it. A smooth, round voice comes from the close-mike settings-no more biting-but the room-mike positions aren’t quite as convincing, using digital reverb to simulate the sound of reflections off walls. Operating the unit in stereo alleviates this problem to some extent, but further tinkering by Yamaha’s engineers could prove useful in later versions to match the near-realism of the close-mike settings. Even so, a dedicated knob-turning session with the unit’s EQ, limiter and effects (reverb, chorus and delay-all digital) can result in pleasing tones, from warm and comping-friendly to a cutting brightness for solo work. And once the perfect balance has been attained, storing the settings (up to 30 of them, in addition to the 30 unrewritable presets already included) is simple, even for us guitarists.

At $699 list, this little tone factory makes a smart addition to any project studio as it’ll save loads of bread, but bringing it into a real-deal studio with a collection of actual microphones might get you dirty looks from purists standing at their vintage Neumann-equipped pulpits. The main place for this unit is the stage, where space for mikes can be tight. With the bandstand in mind, Yamaha included a notch filter that can wipe out up to five separate frequencies of feedback on the fly (without sacrificing much in the way of harmonics) simply by pressing one of its four footswitches for a couple of seconds.

Like many, I’m not solely a strummer, and put the AG-Stomp (simply a preamp, after all) between a Fender Rhodes and a solid-state PA amp. Dare I say the wealth of sounds that became available have me questioning if I should bother sending the Rhodes through a Fender Twin anymore. Yes, the AG-Stomp can add a subtle touch of character to any instrument, and even microphones (I tested with an SM57) can benefit from its warmth.

Lo and behold, it looks and sounds like gold.

Originally Published