By Greg Olwell
“The greatest invention ever seen on an acoustic guitar” is a bold claim to make when introducing a new guitar. But a new collaboration between two French companies does just that with the introduction of the Lâg Tramontane HyVibe series, in which digital and analog meet to turn the guitar’s body into a speaker that can add several different effects to your acoustic tone, loop, metronome, and interact with a smartphone app for even greater control of the preamp’s parameters. They’re calling it a smart guitar and our test Lâg Tramontane HyVibe 10 mates a feature-packed electronics system to a guitar made with sustainable woods and an uncluttered modern look.
With Yamaha’s TransAcoustic line and the Tonewood amp, we’ve seen a revolution with acoustic guitars paired with onboard electronics that deliver processed sounds out of an acoustic guitar without using any external amplification. Hearing chorus or reverb from an acoustic guitar can be eerie the first few times you experience something like this, yet for those who have tried guitars equipped with these systems, it turns out that watching the baffled looks on listeners’ faces is almost as fun as playing the guitars. With its new HyVibe line, Lâg not only joins this innovative crew, it adds a host of other hip features that could appeal to boundary pushing guitarists.
Let’s start with the guitar’s more traditional side. This cutaway dreadnought is an honest-to-goodness acoustic guitar with a tone and feel that’s very fitting for its price. My test guitar was on the heavy side for an acoustic and I suspect that it may have something to do with the HyVibe system’s extensive plumbing (more on that later). The svelte dimensions of the neck and the string spacing at the bridge seemed like they might appeal to guitarists with more experience on electric guitars than acoustics. Acoustically, the tone was full and warm, if a bit modest in volume, with classic dreadnought punch and plump roundness and I liked it for both fingerstyle and flatpicking. Its rich overtones came with a pleasant softness, perhaps thanks to the cedar top.
On the material side, part of Lâg’s claims to the smart guitar banner includes its use of sustainable woods, such as the Khaya mahogany for the neck, back, and sides, and a rosewood replacement for the fingerboard and bridge. Though perhaps not as richly colored in deep reds as true mahoganies of the Swietenia genus, Khaya is in the same genus as African mahogany and sapele and my test guitar had good tone and handsome looks. The satin open-pore finish had a nice natural feel and highlighted the wood’s figure. The fingerboard and bridge are made of Brownwood, an FSC-certified wood product made from New Zealand–grown Monterey pine (Pinus radiata), which is processed with heat and pressure into a convincing replacement for rosewood and ebony. It’s very dense and hard, looks good, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing this promising and ecologically sustainable alternative on guitars more often.
The electronics is where this guitar gets really interesting and Lâg hopes that it will lure newer, tech-savvy players interested in the HyVibe’s ability to loop or use the onboard effects. Dr. Adrien Mamou-Mani, who has a PhD in acoustics from Paris’s famed IRCAM institute of sound and music, says he developed the system to transform the vibrations of the guitar into “its own pedalboard, Bluetooth speaker, and looper.” The HyVibe uses an onboard computer to control a pair of actuators on the bridge-plate and an undersaddle pickup. An integral battery powers the system for ten hours on a charge through a USB port on the dual input and output jack.
The HyVibe system offers a lot of control over the guitar’s enhanced acoustic and electric tones, especially when paired with the app, which is a tone tweaker’s delight for those who want to dig deep into the functionality. In spite of the elegant and intuitive design, I found that navigating the features and taking advantage of much of what this guitar offers may be more than is manageable in a performance situation, but it’s an inspiring guitar for exploring new tones and practicing. For all that this guitar can do, I was surprised to find that I couldn’t use the effects and looper at the same time. I really wanted to lay down bass lines with the octaver and play chords on top, but I couldn’t.
You can also use the guitar’s Bluetooth to stream audio into the guitar from your smartphone or laptop, so it acts as a speaker. I wouldn’t use this feature as a speaker at home, but it was fun to play along with favorite songs. I also found that I needed to watch out because text notifications and audio from Instagram videos poured out of the guitar while the two were still connected. Ah, technology.
Made with sustainable woods, modern construction techniques like a bolt-on neck, and of course, its onboard electronics, the Lâg Tramontane HyVibe 10 feels like a guitar that is very much of its time. It’s a handsome instrument with warm acoustic tones that fares well against anything around a grand, plus its integrated onboard amplification is fun and inspiring in equal parts. It’s certainly not for everyone, but for players looking for many modern features in an affordable and useful instrument, it’s worth getting to know.
BODY Solid red cedar top on laminated Khaya mahogany body, satin, open-pore finish; Brownwood bridge with compensated black graphite saddle; stylized rosette with HyVibe logo
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NECK 25.6″-scale bolt-on Khaya mahogany neck with satin finish; Brownwood fingerboard with 20 nickel-silver frets; 1.69″ nut width; black graphite nut; diecast 1:18 tuners with black satin finish
ELECTRONICS HyVibe system with effects (reverb, chorus, delay, phaser, octaver, tremolo, distortion, and boost), acoustic looper, Bluetooth speaker, metronome, and tuner; USB charger for 10 hours of use on a charge
OTHER No case
MADE IN China
PRICE $1099.99 MAP