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Hi everyone! I figured that my first MPN GearLab would kick off with the still-new Yamaha CP stage pianos, as (A) I've had one for over a year and (B) there's a lot of collateral excitement over the YC61 combo keyboard, which Yamaha tells me won't be available for review until spring. (There's the old saying that NAMM stands for "not available, maybe May," LOL.)

By way of a little introduction about what MPN GearLabs are, they’re ongoing interactive reviews in the form of threads on this forum. Only moderators can start them (for now, anyway), and they’re more strictly supervised than a “regular” post on, say, the Keyboard Corner. Manufacturers and community members alike are invited to participate and ask questions, but the review originator (me in this case) has their hands on the product and will be doing the bulk of the writing, speaking straight from experience. That said, the back-and-forth (and to a lesser extent, stream of consciousness) feel of the MPN GearLab lets the community steer the reviewer about what’s important to know about. Okay, on with it!

Yamaha CP73 and CP88 Stage Pianos: Introduction

The CP73 and CP88 are something of a known quantity at this point, but with the OS now up to version 1.2 (with 1.3 expected as of NAMM 2020), there are enough new sounds and features that a comprehensive look at what makes them competitive professional stage pianos is called for. The two models are identical except for their keyboard actions, and I opted for the CP73 because for most of my gigs, compactness is more important than being able to stretch out on a full 88 keys. For my money, the CP73 hits a weight and price sweet spot (though I totally understand if for many of you nothing but 88 weighted keys will do). It carries a street price of $1,999 (via a quick check of Sweetwater’s site) vs the CP88’s $2,499. Those extra keys also add some heft: The CP73 weighs in at 28.8 pounds, which comes in well under my limbo bar of carrying it under one arm while carrying some other piece of gear in the other hand. The CP88, by contrast, weighs 41 pounds—not inordinately heavy for a weighted 88, but you’ll know you’re carrying a piano.

Action

Speaking of keys, the CP73 and CP88 differ in slightly more than keyboard length. The CP73 uses Yamaha’s “Balanced Hammer Standard” keybed where as the CP88 ups the ante to the “Natural Wood Graded Hammer” action. That accounts for the extra weight of the 88-key version, and makes it clear that the latter is aimed at more puristic pianists while the former is best for keyboardists who, like me, are seeking a general-purpose weighted combo that will offer good finger-to-music connection on acoustic piano sounds but be non-fatiguing on electric keys where the original instruments (such as Rhodes, Wurly, and Clavinet) in fact have lighter actions than any acoustic piano. In my experience, the CP73 succeeds in that regard: It still feels far more like a piano than it feels like anything else, but I'm not digging in so hard on tunes like “I Wish” that what I'm in fact wishing for is some bandages. The keys do not sense aftertouch, which tends to be par for the course on digital stage pianos, even high-end ones.

For the uninitiated, a graded action simulates the response of a real grand piano by offering somewhat heavier touch resistance at the bass end of the keyboard, then getting slowly lighter as one ascends in pitch. Yamaha is known for crafting their own digital piano actions (which draw on their experience as the world’s largest maker of acoustic pianos) instead of using off-the-shelf keybeds (e.g. Fatar) as many manufacturers do.

Sound Sections

The CP73 and CP88 have taken a very different approach to the user interface compared to recent Yamaha instruments with “CP” in the name. In the attached image, you’ll see three sound sections from left to right: Piano, E. Piano, and Sub. We’ll devote separate posts in this VIP Review thread to covering each section in detail, but for now, just know that acoustic piano sounds (including Yamaha’s celebrated CFX concert grand) as well as classic CP electric grands live in the Piano section; Rhodes, Wurly, Clav, and DX-style FM pianos are in the E. Piano section, and literally everything else (synths, strings, etc.) is in the Sub section.

The silver toggle at the bottom of each section switches it on or off, and there are quick buttons to decide whether a given section to the left or right of an assignable keyboard split point (or in both), octave shift buttons per section, volume and tone knobs with nifty LED collars, and dedicated effects per section. (To the right of the Sub section and not visible are the master effects and EQ—more on these later.) Selecting sounds (or Voices, as Yamaha calls them) is accomplished by a large, clicky category knob in each section plus an adjacent rocker switch. The tactile feedback of these controls plus the silver on/off toggles gives the CP a somewhat retro feel, and I like it a lot.

More importantly, changing things up on the fly — as you might do when you’re subbing in a band and the leader is calling out tunes — is remarkably easy. Without ever looking at the manual (that came later), I was able to take the CP73 to pickup gigs and split and layer to my heart’s (and bandmates’) content. This is as good a place as any to mention that although the CP panel presents a format geared towards what we’d call three-part multi-timbral operation, there’s an Advanced Mode that lets you put any Voice in any zone and create more complex multi-zone setups. Advanced Mode will get its own post in this thread.

To change the split point, you simply hit the Split Point button then strike a key.

Live Sets Preview

Located in the memory/preset/main controls section (the area with the display) Live Sets deserve their own post in this review, and they’ll soon get it. For now, they’re equivalent to Multis, Combis, Setups, or Registrations, saving virtually the entire state of the instrument and commonly used for programming a gig’s worth of sound setups. As is the trend these days, the CP is “modeless” in that you don’t have to switch between, say, single and multi modes to perform different musical tasks. Want to just play a nice grand piano? Turn the other two sections off!

Next ...

I know ... how does it sound? Next up, we’ll devote a post to the Piano section and the Voices and effects therein. Then we'll keep going through the other sections. But you needn’t wait to fire off questions about any aspect of the CP73/CP88 in this thread. Of course, keep it civil and classy!


Description: L to R: the CP73's memory section, Piano section, E. Piano section, and Sub section.
Attached picture Yamaha_CP_panel.jpg
PIANO SECTION

The Piano section on the Yamaha CP73 and CP88 is home to grand and upright acoustic piano Voices, vintage CP electric grand Voices, and a Layered Piano category that “bakes in” strings and synth pads, presumably so that you don’t need to tie up the Sub section to add those.

I’ve linked to an image right from the YamahaSynth site, as it already has cool captions of the controls. Scroll past and we’ll get into the sounds.
[Linked Image from yamahasynth.com]

Here are the sounds (Voices) in each category along with my take on them. As mentioned in the first post, you select Voice categories with the clicky knob and Voices with the yellow rocker switch. Note: These Voices are the latest as of the CP version 1.2 firmware.

Grand Piano Category

- CFX: This Voice features a multisample of the Yamaha CFX grand piano, which in 2012 took the flagship baton from the CFIIIS as the maker’s finest nine-foot concert grand. Having played the genuine article several times, I can tell you that the emulation is as faithful as can be in the digital domain. However, the question for live keyboard players is not so much “How much does this sound just like the piano from which it’s sampled?” as it is “What is this piano patch good for in my real gigging life?” In that department, the CFX Voice has become my go-to for, oh, 75 percent of tunes I play in any genre. It is extremely versatile, and if I need it more or less aggressive, I tend to reach for the Tone knob instead of a different piano sound.
- Imperial: The Bösendorfer Imperial concert grand. Bösendorfer has remained largely autonomous under Yamaha’s ownership, and this piano has a very different character than the CFX (or any Yamaha piano) indeed. The hallmarks such as full, woody bass and long, singing sustain are all present. In fact, it’s got audibly more low end than the CFX Voice. The same goes for mellower highs. If I played more solo classical and jazz piano I’d be all over this all the time. It was my preferred sound for a piano-vocal duo gig where my girlfriend and I performed selections from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and other jazz-infused holiday fare.
- S700: The highly regarded 7'6" studio grand from Yamaha. It would be remarkable were it not for the presence of the CFX and Imperial. Your mileage may vary.
- Digi Piano: Half harpsichord, half saloon piano, all unpleasant. I have no idea what this Voice is doing in the grand piano bank.
- C7: Given that the seven-foot C7 grand has been used in more recording studios and backlines than any other acoustic piano ever made, this is a must-include, and sounds fabulous. As expected, its mids and highs are a bit brighter un-EQ’ed than the other grand piano Voices. I turned to this one when I needed a more aggressive grand for rock and blues jams.
- CF3 (UPDATE as of January 16, 2020): The 2020 NAMM Show saw the release of CP firmware version 1.3, which adds this new multisample of the CFIIIS, the nine-foot concert grand that was Yamaha’s flagship prior to the introduction of the CFX in 2012. Consequently, this was the star piano Voice in better Yamaha digitals until the CFX sample started trickling through the product line. Compared to the CFX sample, it’s a little brighter up top and, to my ears, simultaneously more bassy but less “round” in the lows.

Upright Piano Category

- U1: Captures the Yamaha U1 upright, probably the most ubiquitous upright piano in the world. In terms of realism and usefulness, I find this to be a weaker link in the CP’s piano offerings. While upright pianos use shorter bass strings than grands, the U1 multisample on hand here seems to overstate that point, with less thunder and harmonic complexity than the bass on any actual U1 I’ve played. About +4dB on the lows using the Master EQ, and things improved greatly.
- SU7: This is Yamaha’s top-of-the-line upright piano, for buyers who want to fit grand piano sound into an upright piano space. The real thing costs $40,000. This Voice does it total justice and then some. ’Nuff said.

CP Category

Before digitizing a piano was practical or even possible, electro-acoustic pianos aimed to put real piano sound in the hands of touring musicians in a kinda-sorta-portable-if-you-had-roadies-or-really-supportive-friends form factor. The concept was not unlike an electric guitar: Real strings, real hammers, but pickups instead of a heavy wooden soundboard. The kings of this type of instrument were the Yamaha CP80 and CP70 “electric grands,” known by their trapezoid-shaped harp. Combined with a bit of chorus, their somewhat more metallic timbre became sought-after for its own sake, and defined the sound of classic tunes including “Video Killed the Radio Star” and Peter Gabriel’s “Red Rain.” The new CP stage pianos earn those letters with the two variants in this section. Pick the one you like better, add chorus, go back in time.

Layered Piano Category

This category simply provides a layer of what sounds like the CFX voice with either strings or a nice, mellow synth pad. This means you don’t need to call up the Sub section to get this often-needed combination, leaving it free for tasks such as putting an upright bass under your left hand. The trade-off is that there’s no way adjust the volume balance between the piano and strings/pad components. That said, Yamaha did a good job here, with the pianos out in front and the supporting layer being certainly there but not distracting.

What About Resonance?

Make no mistake: Overall these are premium, lush, beautiful piano Voices with nice long decays and no audible velocity layer breaks or other unpleasant telltales of digital sampling. One feature that’s found in many home-oriented Yamaha digitals is absent here, however: Virtual Resonance Modeling (VRM). This is a complex algorithm that captures things like sympathetic string resonance and other acoustic nuances that result from the physical interaction of parts and the vibrations they create inside an acoustic piano. The omission is not terribly consequential here, though, because the CP73 and CP88 are stage pianos—no one is going to hear those things when you’re playing with other members of a band. In fact, I’d hazard that the only live environment where you might hear them is one in which Keith Jarrett would cuss you out for not turning off your cell phone.

Damper resonance, which is more audible under different circumstances because it’s the total of everything inside the piano vibrating when you play with the damper pedal depressed, is provided. It even gets its own button.

Piano Section Effects

Effects provided in this section are simple, as they should be for piano Voices, with just a one-knob depth adjustment so you can season to taste.
- Compressor: At lower depth settings, this will reduce dynamic differences between soft and loud playing, and there may be some musical contexts in which you need that. At higher depths, it adds that distinctive compression “pop“ to the attack of the sound. It’s pretty smart, too—it responded more aggressively to my playing several notes at medium velocity that it did to one note at full velocity, because those multiple notes are putting out more dB.
- Distortion: I’m not sure why you’d use this on piano sounds other than for Marco Benevento-inspired experiments. That said, even at it’s highest settings it’s not guitar- or even Leslie-like overdrive. At mild and medium settings it does a sort of cool thing where new notes seem to steal thunder from previous sustained ones, not unlike the phenomenon of voltage-robbing on a vintage Hammond organ.
- Drive: File under “Thing I thought I’d never use but kind of love.” This isn’t overdrive per se. It just seems to make the sound more aggressive, midrange-forward, and growly without being distorted or hairy. At settings just shy of 12 o’clock, I found it was a good way to bring piano solos forward in a mix without adjusting the master or section volume.
- Chorus: Ahhh. Again, on CP electric grand sounds, it’s almost necessary. Dial some into the acoustic piano Voices, though, and you have all the harmonic complexity of a real piano bathed in so much retro goodness that you will, in fact, not stop believin’.

Next ...

We’ll go into depth on the Electric Piano section and its buffet of very tasty Voices.
Hello all, has anyone tried the new firmware 1.30 for the cp73/cp88? There are two new Rhodes samples there!
While I try to do justice to all the amazing sounds in the Electric Piano section, I made a quick video of how easy it is to split the keyboard on the Yamaha CP73 and CP88. Enjoy and stay tuned for more!

Reader 1203 asked:

Quote
Hello all, has anyone tried the new firmware 1.30 for the cp73/cp88? There are two new Rhodes samples there!


Version 1.3 launched as of NAMM, and I have just downloaded it. Hence the delay in completing a post about the CP's Electric Piano section, as I knew these were coming and wanted to make sure to include them. Yamaha’s press release says, “CP OS v1.3 adds two new electric pianos: 73Rd Studio and 74Rd. These correspond to classic electro-mechanical tine pianos: a smooth, warm studio model from 1973 and a brighter, more aggressive stage model from 1974.” Though Yamaha cannot use someone else’s trademark in their press materials, I am free to speculate that this refers to a Suitcase and Stage Rhodes, respectively.

Expect to see the E. Piano section post, including evaluations of these two new sounds, sometime later today (Saturday January 18). Sound examples are forthcoming for all sections as well!
ELECTRIC PIANO SECTION

If you’re of a certain age, you might remember loading third-party electric piano samples into the sample RAM of your workstation in order to have something with enough meat and attitude on the gig. The original Motif synthesizer (2001) raised the bar for what we could expect from the factory EP patches in a ROM based instrument, and Yamaha has been steadily improving this area ever since. (Side note: I also think Kurzweil’s EP sounds were always ahead of the curve at any given time and still love them, but this is a Yamaha review.) In fact, nearly every brand out there has great EP sounds and we keyboardists are now pretty spoiled, but those in the CP are among the leaders of the pack when it comes to stage pianos. Here’s the diagram; more below.

[Linked Image from yamahasynth.com]

So, we have four categories here, and though Yamaha can’t use the real product names for obvious reasons, I can. (Dontcha just love freedom of the press?) Rd (Rhodes), Wr (Wurly), Clv (Clavinet), and DX (FM-based electric pianos. Okay, Yamaha can use this one because they invented it!)

Rd Category

Rhodes pianos used a combination of tines (which were struck by the hammers) and resonating bars (in which the tines were seated) to create a sound that had differing proportions of bell and bark depending on the model and vintage. As of OS version 1.3 (released at NAMM 2020), the CP series captures seven different flavors, with Voice names referring to years. The two newest Voices are 73Rd Studio and 74Rd Stage (likely referring to a Suitcase model with active preamp and Fender’s stereo tremolo console amp, then a Stage model with a passive preamp and chrome legs). I originally intended to do a Voice-by-Voice list here, but honestly they’re all so good that between the seven selections and the Tone knob, you can’t avoid getting the exact tonal balance you want for the tunes you want. The sounds all have wide dynamic and harmonic range in response to velocity. Spank the bottom keys hard and you’ll get plenty of sass. Dig into the top end, and you can almost feel the tine protesting.

78Rd (the first of the bunch) has been my go-to for just about everything. For a harder and less harmonically complex sound (think of the comping figures on “I Wish” or “Ladies Night”), I turn to 75Rd Funky and the new 74Rd Stage. I will say that to my ears, nothing in this category sounds quite like a “Dyno” Rhodes—the modification by Chuck Monte’s Dyno-My-Piano company that, among other things, really brought forward the bell-like character of the tines. 67Rd Bright, slathered in chorus) perhaps comes closest to that Al Jarreau “Morning” Dyno sound.

It wouldn’t be me writing this review if I didn’t name-check Steely Dan, so let’s just say that a full-bodied Voice like 78Rd with the Phaser 2 effect’s Depth and Speed knobs both at about 10 o’clock nails the “Babylon Sisters” vibe.

Wr Category

Three voices are on hand to represent the reed-based Wurlitzer electric piano, considered the main tonal alternative to the Rhodes: Wr Warm, Wr Bright, and Wr Wide. (Fun fact: Wurlies’ actions were far more complex than Rhodes, approaching that of an acoustic grand piano in geometry and number of moving parts.) For my money, the Wide variant has most of what I want to hear—enough aggression without verging on too buzzy. While I’d rate the Rd category 9.5 out of 10 for overall realism and detail, the Wurly Voices are maybe an 8.5 at worst, which stands to reason because this sound is somehow just a little less sought-after among keyboardists. They’re plenty expressive, and you won’t be lacking on Supertramp covers.

Yamaha has plans to update the CP series’ OS every six months or so for the foreseeable future, and I’d like to see a Hohner Pianet or two added to this (or some other) category. Its clarinet-like harmonic profile is often mistaken for the Wurly, as on tunes like Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World” and Steely Dan’s “Black Friday.” But it’s a distinct sound and us fans of vintage rock would love a couple of options.

Clv Category

The Hohner Clavinet is an indispensable sound in funk/soul and rock music alike. Using a rubber hammer tip, each key frets a string which continues to ring out until the key is released. Physically, the process is closest to the hammer-on technique on electric guitar. Pickup select, tone, and phase rocker switches on the genuine article (the D6 being the post popular model) allowed for a range of timbres from mellow and woody to bright and sharp. The Clavinet sounds in the CP number just two but are excellent, and cover 99 percent of what you’ll need to play.
- Clavi B: The full-bodied Bill Withers “Use Me” kind of sound. Go nuts.
- Clavi S: The sharper Stevie Wonder “Superstition” kind of sound. Go nutser.
And to think this instrument was originally conceived as an electric clavichord for playing Baroque music! Speaking of which, this category is also home to a Harpsichord voice, which has pronounced key-off noise. It's a nicely more realistic sound than the afterthoughts I’ve heard in many digital pianos.

DX Category

The sound of the Yamaha DX7 (and other Yamaha FM synths) dominated pop music of the 1980s. One aspect that made players go “I just have to find $2,000 for one of these” was its electric piano sounds: They had articulation, dynamic response, envelopes, and harmonics you just couldn’t get out of even the best analog keyboards of the time, and digital samplers were still in the realm of most working musicians’ five-figure dreams. In retrospect, they didn’t sound like a Rhodes (or Wurly) any more than a Rhodes sounded like the acoustic piano it was intended to emulate, but both got musicians close enough that they became sought after for their own sound. That said, many players today consider DX piano sounds cheesy—sort of the mullet of synth patches. David Foster’s bank balance is untroubled.

Six Voices here give a sort of historical tour through DX piano history, from the initial DX Legend (the first patch you’d find in the original DX7) to fare from the DX7II (my favorite for the “Law & Order” theme) and TX module series. Unlike on certain other Yamaha synths (Montage and MODX), these aren’t coming from an FM engine; they’re merely very good PCM multisamples. I still have my original DX7, and these take me back. Look, you may not ever want to get a mullet, but if your hairstylist didn’t even know how to do one, you’d consider their education incomplete.

E. Piano Section Effects

The CP’s E. Piano section provides two simultaneous insert effects, both drawing on Yamaha’s Virtual Circuit Modeling (VCM) technology in pursuit of authentic vintage stompbox and rack effects sound. The first bank has a choice of auto-pan, tremolo (modulation of the volume, not the pitch), ring modulation, a touch wah that follows your playing velocity, another wah controllable by a pedal, and a compressor. The second offers two choruses, a flanger, and three phasers.

The quality of all these effects is superb, with the only thing possibly to complain about being that you can’t adjust more than their depth and rate—but this is a stage piano, not a synth, those are what you’d most want to adjust, and (again), the audio quality is on par with dedicated effects hardware. So let’s talk about some applications ...

Auto-pan is essential for creating the “stereo vibrato” (actually tremolo) sound of the Fender Suitcase amp typically paired with the Rhodes. Cranking up the depth here reveals that the LFO waveform involved is close to a square; ideally I’d like to make it smoother and more sinusoidal. Up to about 12 o’clock on the knob, though, and it’s certainly smooth enough.

Touch wah is essential for nailing Clavinet classics like Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” and Chaka Khan’s “Tell Me Something Good” (and if your drummer can come in at the right time at the beginning of the latter, consider paying them more). I also love the Compressor for recreating the pop that happens on a real Rhodes when you dig into the mids and highs very hard. Especially on Stage Rhodes models with their passive pickups, some compression was inherent at higher velocities, so seasoning in a little of this to taste adds an extra touch of realism. Keep in mind it will also attenuate your bass bark factor.

There’s no way to describe the choruses other than sweet. A phaser on a Rhodes patch, though, is where I like to live, perhaps with a little auto-pan or compression added from the other insert section. The sound is emblematic of so many yacht rockers, from Simon and Garfunkel’s “Still Crazy After All These Years” (played by the late, great Richard Tee) to the Doobie Brothers’ “Minute by Minute” to countless Steely Dan tunes. Your mileage may vary, but my favorite for this sound is the second of the three phasers, with both depth and rate knobs set at around 10 o’clock.

Last but not least, a Drive knob (separate from the two insert sections) adds some crunch. I’m not going to get into how much it credibly sounds like a vacuum tube overdrive, but Yamaha VCM is definitely up to some magic here. It’s warm, it’s not fizzy, it’s not buzzy, and breaks up nicely at higher settings as you increase your playing velocity. I especially like the lo-fi way in which it interacts with the compressor.

Sound Examples

I really need to call out how the quality of the E. Piano section voices interacts with the effects: It‘s pretty darned delicious. When I first tried the CP73 at the 2019 NAMM Show (!), I found myself just getting lost in this section, experimenting, and playing—enough that a couple of times I looked up to realize I had negative five minutes to get to a meeting in a different hall in the convention center.

I’m working on some original sound examples for you, but in the meantime this page at YamahaSynth has some killer SoundCloud examples by Blake Angelos.

Apropos of nothing, layering in just a little of the phased 78Rd under the CFX grand piano Voice? Magic. The piano remained forward but the Rhodes sustained for longer and almost acted like a pad. Adding a little more approached the “Gaucho” vibe. (There I go with the Steely Dan again...)

Next ...

We’ll have another quick video interlude, then explore all of the supporting cast members in the Sub section: strings, pads, synths, chromatic percussion, acoustic and electric bases, and more!



Hey all,

Would love any feedback on this. Here’s a square, Instagram-style video (which, come to think of it, we’ll also put on our Instagram at musicplayernetwork). It’s a no-talking tutorial about creating quick splits and layers on the Yamaha CP series. The idea is that you can watch it without really worrying about the sound if you’re casually scrolling through your phone in the airport, DMV, etc. It’s inspired by those sped-up recipe videos that show you how to cook something with just captions flashing on the screen.

Useful? Silly? Somewhere in between? Let me know! Now to get back to working on the CP’s Sub section, which is where literally every Voice that’s not an acoustic piano or an electric piano lives. Coming in a day or so!

Big shout out to Trevor Contois and Cody Pavolvic of SOLI Music School in Essex, Vermont for the use of their studio and camera expertise in this video!

Originally Posted by Stephen Fortner
Hey all,

Would love any feedback on this. Here’s a square, Instagram-style video (which, come to think of it, we’ll also put on our Instagram at musicplayernetwork). It’s a no-talking tutorial about creating quick splits and layers on the Yamaha CP series. The idea is that you can watch it without really worrying about the sound if you’re casually scrolling through your phone in the airport, DMV, etc. It’s inspired by those sped-up recipe videos that show you how to cook something with just captions flashing on the screen.

Useful? Silly? Somewhere in between? Let me know!


Way useful, and very cool. One Minute Mastery - love it!

dB
Okay, we have one vote, so here's another in the same vein, showing that you can use the CP73/88 to mix through a second keyboard. And, since the CP has XLR outs, you can connect directly to a stage box. This eliminates the need to carry both a compact mixer and direct boxes!

Again, Trevor and Cody of SOLI Music School provided the vibey venue and camera work here.

Originally Posted by Dave Bryce
l. One Minute Mastery - love it!


Agreed. Hoping to upgrade to a CP 88 from my CP4 sooner than later
SUB SECTION

Okay, this took a bit longer than I wanted, but I have a good excuse for that. As of the latest firmware version (actually 1.2, the previous one) the Sub section now has so many cool sounds that I got lost in playing them and didn’t spend enough time writing.

This section is home to everything in the CP that’s not an acoustic or electric piano. Sixty-three Voices are spread across the four major categories: Strings/Pad (17), Organ (10), Chromatic Percussion (11), and Others (25). “Others” is far from ancillary — it’s where you’ll find several cool synth leads and comps, electric and acoustic basses, a couple of guitars, Oberheim-y synth brass, and more.

Here’s the diagram from YamahaSynth:

[Linked Image from yamahasynth.com]

All in all, this section may not cover every supporting sound for which you’d reach for a synth-oriented “top keyboard” perched above your CP, but it definitely covers most of it.

We’ll be here awhile if I try to describe 63 Voices in detail, but then again, what the heck else do I have to do? Don’t answer that. Let me cover some standouts instead.

Strings/Pad Category

Pop Pad (11), is superb for layering underneath acoustic piano. In Spandau Ballet’s rabbit-killing ballad “True,” the piano is backed by a very similar pad which sometimes goes into a subtle vibrato at the end of a musical phrase. Since the modulation lever is programmed by default to affect the Sub section but not the Piano section, I could do exactly that on the CP. It sounded so close that I was suddenly able to sing like Tony Hadley. (I made that up, but this much is true: it was close.)

Natural String (05) actually had a cool Fairlight-like quality that reminded me of “Under Ice” by Kate Bush. There are in fact more “natural” sounding string voices in this section such as Section String (08). Tape String (16) is a wonderful Mellotron emulation, and Octave Syn String (17) is equal parts disco and Bernie Worrell.

Organ Category

Let’s get this out of the way first: These are sample-based organs in a stage piano, so the B3-inspired drawbar Voices aren’t trying to be competitive with a dedicated clonewheel. (And with the YC61 showing up at NAMM 2020, Yamaha just released their first such instrument in, like, forever.) For example, the jazzy Click Organ (02) sounds harmonic percussion on all notes all the time instead of imitating the correct staccato-triggered behavior. That said, they’re largely quite good overall, and the Rotary effect in this section really adds a lot. Here’s a tip: With the effect off, the modulation lever just adds a simple LFO-based vibrato. With the effect on, it controls the speed of the actual Rotary effect—you can see the LED collar around the Speed knob change. The Depth knob is also fun to experiment with; higher settings emphasize higher frequencies and roll off the lows, so it’s sort of like having a rotor balance control as well.

This section is rounded out by three wonderfully woozy Italian transistor organs (06–08) and two pipe organs (09–10): one with full tibias and one that sounds like only a single stop is active. It’s worth mention that church organists actually do this on gentler passages.

Chromatic Percussion Category

Mallet instruments are all rendered with more than enough realism to take a vibes solo on a jazz tune (especially when paired with the tremolo effect in this section), cover those times when Earth Wind & Fire reaches for the Kalimba, and nail the chime hits on “Rapture” by Blondie. A couple of the bell Voices have synth-like qualities, notably Heaven Bell (11) and Brightness (05). Notably, a touch of slow Rotary effect on the latter did this throaty and slightly lo-fi thing that immediately had me playing the bell part from “Cities in Dust” by Siouxsie and the Banshees.

Side note: I know I refer to hit songs a lot. In my opinion they’re one of the best points of reference for conveying what a Voice does or can sound like. If talking about sound is like dancing about architecture, I’m trying to dance in front of particular famous buildings and tell you, “This one here!” Besides, a large portion of potential CP buyers are looking for something to play cover tunes on, amirite?

“Others” Category

Now we’re getting serious. I put that in quotes because Yamaha might have done better to call this category “Way Cool Shit.” When the new CPs first came out last year, I think this section just had a couple each of synths, basses, and guitars — I didn’t take inventory before updating the OS — but now the 25 Voices living here include synths I find myself reaching for again and again.

Take Funky Mini (13), which to my ears sounds like the slightly nasal lead Chick Corea uses so often. Nu Mini (14) stacks saw and triangle waves in octaves for a fatter sound that evokes the era of jazz-fusion when alien landscapes were obligatory album cover art. Unison Bass (17) nicely opens up the filter in response to velocity, and the two OB Brass patches (21–22) earn those letters. Tape Flute (24) perfectly does the Mellotron thing a la “Strawberry Fields.”

It’s obvious that this is by far my favorite Category in the CP’s Sub section. It’s not uncommon for stage pianos to include synth sounds, but the attitude and vibe of each Voice — and the way Yamaha has curated them — makes this one special.

Attack and Release Knobs

Big props to Yamaha for putting these here. Having come up gigging when most synths had a keypad and a lone data entry slider, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called up a patch that was suitable for a given tune I had to play, then thought “This would be perfect for this other tune if only I could make the attack more (or less) aggressive or hang a little more of a tail on it…” It is seriously nice to have this kind of control on supporting sounds in a stage piano. It would be even nicer to have a filter cutoff knob as well, but I’m not complaining.

Example: Let’s go back to Octave Syn Strings from the Strings/Pad category. With a slightly soft attack and just a little release, this patch does nicely for Prince’s “1999.” Sharpen up that attack and add a little more release, and you have something suitable for those synth stabs on “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds. (OK Gen-Xer, that patch is more brassy, but I’m talking about the envelope.)

Don’t forget — because Live Sets save the entire state of the instrument including all controller entry values, you can program setups with different attacks and releases that turn the Sub section’s 63 sounds into effectively more. Speaking of which, Yamaha’s Blake Angelos programmed several cool Live Sets using these new sounds. Check them out here.

Sub Section Effects

You get four effects here: Chorus/Flanger, Rotary, Tremolo, and Distortion. I’ve already talked about the Rotary effect as regards the Organ category, but by no means should you limit its use to organ Voices. On the Octave Syn Strings Voice (I guess I love that one), it imparts the phasey analog string machine quality made famous by such artists as Gary Wright and Jean Michel Jarre. Crank the Depth knob to get a high-pass filter character.

The Tremolo is straightforward. The Chorus/Flanger is interesting in that lower Depth knob settings act more like a chorus and those past 12 o’clock act more like a flanger. I was wondering what Distortion was doing here other than to dress up relatively unremarkable guitar Voices, then I found a far better use for it: Applied judiciously to patches like Nu Mini, it decently mimics the filter overdrive that was a famously happy accident in the design of the actual Minimoog.

A final thought on the Sub section: Again, it’s both the quality of sounds and the curation that makes it so useful. You don’t need to wade through a ’90s ROMpler’s worth of afterthought sounds to find something that suits the musical need of the moment — and doesn't sound like a ’90s ROMpler. I’m looking forward to seeing how Yamaha expands this section in future OS updates.

Next …

We’ll take a look at the CP’s global Delay, Reverb, and Master EQ sections, and walk through the rear panel. After that, it’s on to such features as Live Sets and Advanced Mode, in which you can place any sound in any section.
Good lord this is fantastic!! Great writing, great humor, and insanely great detailed information. Kudos to the good Dr. and MPN team for coming up with this section. And damn, this keyboard is amazing!
I will now forever describe DX7 sounds as "mullets," thank you very much.

For real, though, thank you so much for the excellent coverage of these instruments.

I'll throw in a few questions that maybe are super specific to my potential needs, but I haven't seen them addressed on the Keyboard Corner thread about these axes, and I could see them being useful to others...

Talking about MIDI and how it behaves with the different sound sections. Let's say I wanted to play a phaser Rhodes across the entire keyboard of the CP73 or CP88, but also connect an unweighted controller and use that to play the Yamaha's onboard clav sound simultaneously, so I can cover both keyboard parts on Peg (there's your Steely Dan right back atcha). Doable? I know the Rhodes and Clavs are technically both in the "e piano" section, but I'm pretty sure I read that you can move patches around if you so choose...

In addition to the stereo audio inputs (fantastic), I know these boards also function as audio interfaces via the USB port, correct? So I could attach an iPad to the Yamaha via USB to lightning, control Moog Model D for iOS with my Seaboard, and have the audio come through the main outs of the Yamaha? Seems too good to be true!
I'm just discovering this piano, so late to the party. I had dismissed it as not worth looking into due to my dislike of traditional Yamaha user interfaces. This in depth review really startled me. Some initial questions:

1. Please expand a little on the playability of the 73's action, especially comparing if you can to the TP-100 found in the Nord Stage 76 HP. How is the finger to ear connection, dynamic range, performance on fast repeats, heaviness on the back of black keys?

2. It appears from the panel that you cannot layer two sounds from the same engine, is that correct? One of my go to sounds on the Stage is 2 upright pianos layered to give a loose - tuned vibe. How would you approach this on the RD? Does Advanced Mode handle this?

3. The interface looks vastly easier to use than many instruments from Yamaha that I have seen previously. In practice, what are the good/bad/ugly points of navigating on the fly?
Hi Samuel,

Originally Posted by samuelblupowitz
Let's say I wanted to play a phaser Rhodes across the entire keyboard of the CP73 or CP88, but also connect an unweighted controller and use that to play the Yamaha's onboard clav sound simultaneously, so I can cover both keyboard parts on Peg (there's your Steely Dan right back atcha). Doable?


Yes. Since Advanced Mode lets you place any sound in any section, you could put the Rhodes in the E. Piano section (to take advantage of that section's phaser effect), then the Clav in either the Piano or Sub sections—that choice would be made by which section's effects you'd prefer on the Clav. Now, as for the Clav playing only from the secondary controller keyboard, there's not a one-to-one correspondence between the CP's sound sections and MIDI channels. Like on all multi-timbral keyboards, MIDI channels correspond to key zones. The CP has deep zone settings in its menus such that you could make that zone receive only on the MIDI channel on which your controller is transmitting. So this should be possible. There might be another hoop to jump through in terms of making sure local control from the CP keybed is disabled even though the section hosting the Clav is switched on — let me test this and I'll get back to you with the settings.

Quote
In addition to the stereo audio inputs (fantastic), I know these boards also function as audio interfaces via the USB port, correct? So I could attach an iPad to the Yamaha via USB to lightning, control Moog Model D for iOS with my Seaboard, and have the audio come through the main outs of the Yamaha? Seems too good to be true!


That's correct. If you wanted to attach the Seaboard and the Yamaha at the same time, you'd need a powered USB hub. But then you may be planning to use Bluetooth MIDI from the Seaboard instead? If your iPad is one with an 1/8" headphone out (and if it's the Lightning generation it probably is), consider using that as your audio path into the CP's analog inputs. One advantage is that it leaves the wired USB-to-lightning free for your Seaboard MIDI connection. A bigger one is that there's a trim pot on the back of the CP, whereas the level setting for USB audio volume is in a menu.

Hope this helps!
Originally Posted by mate stubb


1. Please expand a little on the playability of the 73's action, especially comparing if you can to the TP-100 found in the Nord Stage 76 HP. How is the finger to ear connection, dynamic range, performance on fast repeats, heaviness on the back of black keys?

2. It appears from the panel that you cannot layer two sounds from the same engine, is that correct? One of my go to sounds on the Stage is 2 upright pianos layered to give a loose - tuned vibe. How would you approach this on the RD? Does Advanced Mode handle this?

3. The interface looks vastly easier to use than many instruments from Yamaha that I have seen previously. In practice, what are the good/bad/ugly points of navigating on the fly?


Hello sir!

1. I don't have a Nord Stage 76HP handy for comparison. But as mentioned in the intro, the CP73 and CP88 have different actions, with the 73 being lighter and non-graded. It's intended to provide a happy medium between acoustic and electric pianos, and in my estimation succeeds. The finger-to-music connection is immediate and excellent. You do get four touch response curves (plus a fixed setting), and I find that for machine-gun repeats the Soft setting works best. The Wide setting provides incredible dynamic range at the trade-off of giving your fingers a real workout. But if you dig in enthusiastically in the heat of battle, this or the Hard setting may be just the thing. I tend to leave mine on Normal.

2. Advanced Mode does indeed take care of this. In a menu, there's an Advanced Mode on/off switch per section. If a section's switch is on, you can place any sound in it and thus take advantage of that section's complement of effects. Yes, you can double up on the same sound in two sections. The process is menu-driven but totally doable.

3. Good: If you're happy with the options the front panel offers (i.e. not Advanced Mode and just a two-way split plus layer), it is incredibly quick to configure multi-Voice setups and save them as Live Sets. In fact, it's so easy that even with quick song transitions in a cover set, I've actually underused the Live Set memories and just switched things up manually.
Not so good: Navigating the menus can be clunky. Spelling out names for Live Sets is a particular pain in the butt. The eight Live Set buttons become operation keys, and you scroll through letters and numbers with the data wheel, then press button 3 to insert the character and move to the next space. The thing is, it's more intuitive to press the data dial in for this because it's also the Enter button. If you do this, though, it bounces you to a yes/no Store screen. I'd reverse it: Press the dial down to select the character you've scrolled to (since your fingers are already on the dial from scrolling), then use one of the other buttons to Store. In some other menu contexts, Enter will bounce you all the way out to the home screen, whereas you want to press the Exit button underneath to back up just one menu.
No big deal but a bit strange: It's possible that the physical needle on each of the three Voice Category knobs can be pointing to a different category than the active one whose LED is lit. That's because they're not endless encoders and if you power off, the CP will power back up with the first category in each section active. Moving any of the knobs even one click brings up the category the needle is actually pointing to.
Originally Posted by samuelblupowitz
Let's say I wanted to play a phaser Rhodes across the entire keyboard of the CP73 or CP88, but also connect an unweighted controller and use that to play the Yamaha's onboard clav sound simultaneously, so I can cover both keyboard parts on Peg (there's your Steely Dan right back atcha). Doable?
Originally Posted by Stephen Fortner
The CP has deep zone settings in its menus such that you could make that zone receive only on the MIDI channel on which your controller is transmitting. So this should be possible. There might be another hoop to jump through in terms of making sure local control from the CP keybed is disabled even though the section hosting the Clav is switched on — let me test this and I'll get back to you with the settings.
I can't tell you how helpful that will be to know. I really appreciate you taking the time. This interactive review situation is so useful.

Originally Posted by Stephen Fortner
But then you may be planning to use Bluetooth MIDI from the Seaboard instead?
Yes, I realize I didn't specify that. The latency is low enough that I like to use the Bluetooth MIDI so I have fewer cables, more flexibility over where the Seaboard sits in my rig, and the opportunity to do silly things like walk out into the audience during a keyboard solo (Herbie Hancock, eat your heart out). But thank you for confirming that the Yamaha *will* do audio over USB.

Originally Posted by Stephen Fortner
A bigger one is that there's a trim pot on the back of the CP, whereas the level setting for USB audio volume is in a menu.
Great to know, thanks!

Originally Posted by Stephen Fortner
Hope this helps!
Tremendously; thank you so much!
Great review, love the informed commentary and style
Originally Posted by samuelblupowitz
Talking about MIDI and how it behaves with the different sound sections. Let's say I wanted to play a phaser Rhodes across the entire keyboard of the CP73 or CP88, but also connect an unweighted controller and use that to play the Yamaha's onboard clav sound simultaneously, so I can cover both keyboard parts on Peg (there's your Steely Dan right back atcha). Doable?
+1 on this question.

Also: Can the CP be programmed to send MIDI Program Change when you select a preset? Can it change entire registrations in response to a MIDI PC (e.g. from "Piano/Strings layer" to "EP split with Moog bass"? Can it change a particular patch in a particular section in response to a MIDI PC (e.g change the Sub section from Moog bass to upright bass?)

Many thanks,

Cheers, Mike.
Stupid question, I know, but does the CP73 have MDF (wood composite) underneath? I guess the CP88 does, much like the Montage8.
Fleer,
I'm not sure if there's MDF inside there, but on the CP73 the aluminum housing wraps all the way around the underside of the instrument. It's really a pretty tight design and feels very durable.

Originally Posted by stoken6

Also: Can the CP be programmed to send MIDI Program Change when you select a preset? Can it change entire registrations in response to a MIDI PC (e.g. from "Piano/Strings layer" to "EP split with Moog bass"? Can it change a particular patch in a particular section in response to a MIDI PC (e.g change the Sub section from Moog bass to upright bass?)


To your first question, yes, there is a Master Keyboard mode which is intended for exactly this and more. To your second question, Live Sets play the role of registrations or multi-timbral setups on the CP, and you can indeed change Live Sets based on a received program change from an external device. As for the third question, every parameter in every section (including Voice selection) is addressable via MIDI, but via sending value changes to parameter addresses (NRPNs), not program changes. What you're talking about is doable, but the quicker and dirtier way might be to just program another Live Set that's identical except for the thing you want to change e.g. the bass sound. Let me dig into this a bit more and experiment.
Thank you, Stephen, great to know.
It seems the CP73 action is related to the GHS keybed in lower tier Yamaha boards like the P-125 or the MODX8, but balanced. On the other hand, the CP88 has the higher tier NWX keybed. I didn’t much care for the longevity of the GHS keybed, so I have some doubts about its balanced sibling in the CP73.
Stephen-

If you're in communication with Yamaha, maybe you could get their answers on some things. I'd like to hear your guesses as well, if they're not forthcoming:

1. What is the status of the CP88/73 with MIDI 2.0? They've been heavily involved with MIDI 2.0 through the AMEI and I'd like to know whether their current instruments were designed to incorporate it, or will need to be updated in some way to take advantage of it.
2. Does Yamaha intend to make an editor program of some sort (an iOS Universal app preferably) to allow you to configure lives sets easily, name things quickly, etc? If not now, will they if enough folks request it?
3. Any chance they can develop a sound library and sound librarian similar to what Nord does? If users could contribute to the available sounds, and if sounds could be moved on/off the board at will, it would relieve the problem that there are still so many sounds that the CP's just don't offer.
I’m using advanced mode quite a bit. Helps me stack strings or synth patches.

Soundmondo works with CP for saving set list entries. But that is nowhere like a Melas editor, which seems far less necessary on a CP compared to a Montage. Really wish I could INSERT a new set list selection between 2 adjacent entries.

The new AP and Rhodes are good, but I haven’t switched from mainly using CFX and ‘78 Rhodes. I tend to stick with favorites rather than exact song replication.

The new feature that is most welcome is the ability to save EQ settings on a per set list entry level. I wish the CP would boot with the EQ section toggled in the on/off position that it was in when powered down.
Hey all! Sorry to be away from this thread for a few days. Family health support in a rural area with barely a phone signal. Back in my command center and I'll get your questions answered and the next post up ASAP!
The detail you've provided makes me wish I was in the market for a mega-piano of this type. Even so, its still quite valuable to me, as I've been nudging a few newbies (one a local friend) who lean towards new goods at times. I'll be able to advise them far better with reviews like this in-hand. Besides, I'm a near-antique Keyboard reader and you're just the latest on a long list of knowledgeable people who have nudged me where *I* needed it. Passing it along is only proper. I know someone so dedicated, she's actually planning a trip to Sweetwater to demo Everything in R/T. (Now that's a vacation! rawk ) I'll send her a link to this for her Must-See list. Fine work, Stephen.
Master Section and Rear Panel

I’m back! Not much good reason to lump these two things together other than my own workflow, but we gotta do ’em in any case, so let’s dive in.

The CP’s Master section is where you’ll find all effects that aren’t specific to the three instrument sections. It’s a pretty straightforward offering here: Global delay and reverb, and a master three-band EQ. Here’s Yamaha’s diagram:

[Linked Image from yamahasynth.com]

Delay

This thing sounds really hip and I could get lost playing it for hours. The most immediately cool feature is that via that button on the upper left, you can have different amounts of it on the Piano, E. Piano, and Sub Sections—or cycle the button until all three LEDs are lit to have the same amount on each. This amount is controlled by the Depth knob, which is in fact functioning as a send for each section. It has digital and analog-emulation modes, and while it’s tempting to say the analog mode sounds “warmer” or “more like a Space Echo” and the digital mode is more in the spirit of the Korg SDD-3000, the bigger difference is that the Feedback and Time knobs (the only two parameters) behave very differently depending on which mode you’re in.

One of my favorite uses of delay on piano is Pete Townshend’s song “And I Moved” from his solo album Empty Glass. The delay in the intro arpeggios creates this lovely call-and-answer effect that then becomes part of the rhythm of the song as the piano accompanies the vocal. Depth at 3 o’clock, Feedback at 10, and Time at 9 in Digital mode positively nailed this. Reduce that time and feedback a bit, and it’s perfect for pulsing echoes like on “Beautiful Day” by U2.

As great as this delay sounds on solo playing, it has a significant limitation: There’s no tap tempo feature. Likewise, digging through the CP’s menus I found no provision to make it sync to external tempo such as MIDI clock. This seems like a must-add for a future OS update (again, we're currently on OS 1.3) for anyone who wants to use this delay effect prominently in a band, with a click, etc. In its current form, it’s like having a really high-res sounding stompbox, which is certainly not a bad thing.

Reverb

The master reverb send is also affected by that three-LED section button, so you can have different amounts of it on each instrument section as well. Yamaha doesn’t say what kind of reverb this is, as in hall, plate, room, etc. It definitely sounds like a huge room of some kind, such as a concert hall or even a stone cathedral. I cranked the depth and time all the way and hit some piano notes hard, and at this purposely exaggerated setting there was just a tad of early-reflection slapback, followed by a very sweet decay that really conveyed a sense of the sound moving away from you in a physical space. I doubt Yamaha used actual convolution reverb in a stage piano, but I’ve heard convolution plug-in presets that don’t sound much better. Suffice to say, at real-world settings, this reverb will give you all the sweetening you need.

Master EQ

A simple but useful affair, the three-band EQ features a sweepable midrange band with a range of 100 Hz to 10 kHz. All bands boost/cut from -12 to +12 dB. The most obvious use for this is the reason you have a global EQ on any keyboard: To tune the instrument to the acoustics of a room. However, I like to find alternative, fun uses for things. With the midrange gain cut or boost all the way (boost is more pronounced), sweeping the Frequency knob approximated synth-filter affectations, especially on the various synth sounds in the Sub section. So if you want a brass patch to go "eeeeoooow," you’re not totally S.O.L. even though the CP (like most stage pianos) lacks filters per se.

Rear Panel

I applaud the CP73 and CP88 for including XLR outputs, and it’s really not about any sonic benefits of balanced audio or even the robustness of the connectors compared to 1/4-inchers. No, it’s about the fact that the stage boxes running to the ancient Mackie 1604 in all the venues you and I have played in are all XLR, and one of the favorite things for a sound guy to say to the keyboard player is, “Dude, we only got one DI for you so you can’t run stereo.” My ready reply to this was always, “Feast your eyes on my trusty Radial JDI Duplex!” in hopes the cleverer sound guys wouldn’t then flip to talking about bad mixer channels, but with the CP, I don’t even have to do that.

In fact, I double don’t have to. As I showed in a video a few posts ago, the CP also has 1/4" audio inputs, not the lame little stereo mini jack many keyboards give you so you can play break music or backing tracks from your phone, which probably no longer has an analog headphone out anyway. This means I can mix in a second keyboard without carrying a mixer and, again, no direct box needed. There's even a little trim pot on the back next to the audio inputs—I am so glad Yamaha didn't bury the gain setting in a menu. It occurred to me that if this second keyboard also had 1/4-inch audio ins like my Yamaha MODX7, I could plug a third keyboard into that and create a daisy chain with everything showing up at the CP's XLR outs. I've got the MODX and a Hammond SKX organ sitting next to the CP, so I'll let you know how that goes. (Weighted piano-y thing, unweighted synth-y thing, and dedicated clonewheel thing. That's the no-compromise gig rig, right?)

I digress. Speaking of mixing audio through, the CP can also do this via the USB-B port, acting as an audio/MIDI interface for a computer or tablet. The gain for this is in a menu (Menu button > General > USB Audio Volume) but I plugged in my Lightning-generation iPad Pro and the audio from Animoog showed up at the CP's XLR outs without a hitch. Both of the CP's virtual MIDI ports showed up in Animoog's setup menu and after selecting one, I could also play it from the CP's keyboard. Given that the CP has a Master Keyboard mode with four zones, channelization, and all that, I know I can get soft synths to show up only within a certain key range, or use a separate MIDI controller for them and call it good. But think about that: With just a CP, you can host both a second keyboard and a software instrument machine, carrying neither a compact mixer nor a direct box. Note, though, that the USB connection to the CP won't charge your device.

I’ll complain about one little thing: Where there are XLR outs, there should be a ground lift—like on a direct box—to kill the ground buzzes we inevitably encounter on gigs. Since this is a matter of a hardware disconnection in the analog domain, I doubt Yamaha could add this feature in an OS update. The fail-safe would be to carry a pair of inline ground-lift barrels in your gig bag.

What else? Five-pin MIDI in and out? Check. Dedicated sustain pedal input that supports half-dampering with an appropriate pedal (such as the Yamaha FC3)? Check. In addition, there’s an assignable footswitch jack and two expression/continuous pedal jacks. There’s also a 1/4-inch stereo headphone out and a USB-A port for storing stuff on a memory stick or feeding in OS updates from one. I'd prefer the headphone out to be in the front under the bass end of the keyboard, but I can see where the CP's design precludes this—the pitch and mod levers are above the lowest keys on the top panel, so there's no extended left cheek block where a headphone jack would otherwise live.

Finally, the rear panel has lugs for the included music rack, which sits in there sturdily and looks nice. As with any keyboard, this is only usable if the CP is on the top (or only) tier of a stand, but it's small and light enough that it can be on top without worry.

It occurs to me that adding a laptop via the USB port to the crazy daisy chain setup I mentioned above would give me four audio sources all blooming through the CP’s XLR outs. Just because I can doesn’t mean I should, advice that has always stopped me before. Not.

Next

Live Sets are the CP’s “multis” or registrations, and Advanced Mode lets you put any sound in any section. We’ll also get deeper into the CP’s functionality as a master MIDI controller.

Originally Posted by tfort
Stephen-

If you're in communication with Yamaha, maybe you could get their answers on some things. I'd like to hear your guesses as well, if they're not forthcoming:

1. What is the status of the CP88/73 with MIDI 2.0? They've been heavily involved with MIDI 2.0 through the AMEI and I'd like to know whether their current instruments were designed to incorporate it, or will need to be updated in some way to take advantage of it.
2. Does Yamaha intend to make an editor program of some sort (an iOS Universal app preferably) to allow you to configure lives sets easily, name things quickly, etc? If not now, will they if enough folks request it?
3. Any chance they can develop a sound library and sound librarian similar to what Nord does? If users could contribute to the available sounds, and if sounds could be moved on/off the board at will, it would relieve the problem that there are still so many sounds that the CP's just don't offer.


tfort, just a postscript to say I asked Blake Angelos of Yamaha these questions and he promised to hop on this thread and answer as soon as he’s able. I’ve been over there many times and know how busy they are, so give him some time. About question 3, Yamaha does have this online sound-sharing community called Soundmondo, with sections for various instruments (it launched at the same time as the Reface synths), and the CP is in there. But I think that’s for sharing patches (Live Sets) only, i.e. stuff you can program with existing sounds in the instrument. Now, that's plenty, but it's not the same thing as, say, the Nord Piano Library, where you can download sounds with new wave content. In terms of that, I’ll bet Yamaha prefers to keep it under tighter control and release new sounds with OS updates. They've already done a pretty good job of that, too. Upside: Since the sounds are all in ROM, there's no boot-up time, however many updates Yamaha makes. When I turn on the power switch, I can't even count to three before the CP is ready to play.

Hopefully we'll hear more from the Yamaha mothership soon re your questions.
Greetings all. I recently purchased the CP73 and love it. I did however notice that the 1.3 update has been suspended due to an issue that was found. Mr. Fortner have you heard anything from Yamaha concerning the update? When it will be re-released?
I just got a CP88 and am loading 1.31 right now. It appears to have been released today.
Hi everyone,

I'm going to install 1.31 today and report. Then we're going to talk about Advanced Mode, which lets you override the front panel's way of doing things and put any sound into any section.

SF
Quick note: Version 1.31 of the CP OS fixed a worrisome problem in 1.30: If local control was turned off in the MIDI settings, the instrument might not power on.

Advanced Mode

Advanced Mode in the CP73 and CP88 lets you put any Voice (instrument sound) in any section. That includes being able to double up, or triple up, on sounds from the same section. One advantage of this is being able to put a different section’s effects on a Voice. Another example: You could octave-shift three layers worth of the CP’s best piano Voices for a monster montuno sound.

Even in Advanced Mode, the CP remains a three-part multi-timbral instrument, so you won’t be accessing the industry-standard 16 parts via a DAW or anything else.

Here’s how it works. Press the Settings button, go to a menu called “Advanced Mode SW” and press the data dial in for Enter. Each section — Piano, E. Piano, and Sub — can be toggled into Advanced Mode independently. If a section’s switch is on, its LED display (as well as the LEDs for its category knob) will go out, indicating that the usual rules for what lives in that section no longer apply.

[Linked Image from yamahasynth.com]

You select Voices for a section with its rocker switch, the only feedback being that the Voice name appears next to its section in the main LCD display. Do not use the data dial, as this will change the entire Live Set. Since Live Sets include virtually all the settings in the CP, this will likely take you out of Advanced Mode as well, unless it’s a Set you’ve saved where Advanced Mode is active for one or more sections.

I have to admit that with the large number of Voices now in the CP as of recent OS updates, it’s a bit tedious that an up/down rocker switch is the only way to get at them in Advanced Mode. How I’d like to see it work is that you highlight a section in the main display, then use the Live Set buttons as a numeric keypad for random access to all the Voices. Then again, the CP doesn’t have cursor buttons so it’s not immediately clear how Yamaha could implement this. Better still, I’d like to see a software editor (paging John Melas) in which you could set up Live Sets with or without Advanced Mode lickety-split — or lickety-layer (groan).

Still, the benefits of being able to use any section’s effects on any Voice are certainly worth the trouble. One occasion this proved useful was recently, when my girlfriend (a classically trained soprano and conductor who’s been wanting to get a little bit rock ’n’ roll) and I were playing around with a duo arrangement of “Lowdown” by Boz Scaggs for some local cover sets we plan to perform this summer. If you listen to the keyboard alternating between Em9 and A13 chords on the original recording, it sure as heck sounds like the Rhodes is running through a Leslie speaker at fast speed. Well, the CP’s E. Piano section doesn’t have a rotary effect, but the Sub section does. With the “78Rd” Voice, the Sub section’s rotary effect got closer to what I hear on the record than did turning up the rate on the choruses or phasers in the E. Piano section.

As we’ve seen from previous posts in this review, the CP is plenty flexible even if you don’t know Advanced Mode is there. With it, though, you have an extra layer of customizability, and to see what it can do without even having to roll your own, plenty of Live Sets that take advantage of Advanced Mode are available at Soundmondo, Yamaha’s online patch sharing community. The CP section is here.

Next
We'll get into the nuts and bolts of Live Sets.
LIVE SETS

Live Sets in the CP73 and CP88 are what any number of other stage pianos or synth workstations would label performances, combis, multis, or setups. That is, they’re multi-timbral arrangements of sounds saved in memory along with all supporting settings such as key zones, controller entry values, effects, and more. In fact, the Yamaha Motif family used the term performance, and the Montage and MODX synths because are essentially in performance mode all the time.

That’s the case on the CP as well, albeit in a simpler fashion given that internally, the instrument has just three instrument parts. Live Sets also save all MIDI settings that relate to the external world, but we’ll get into that in a separate post about the CP’s capabilities as a MIDI master controller.

In terms of the CP’s own sounds, a Live Set can consist of one, two, or three Voices, with each of them active in either the left or right keyboard zones (or both) depending on the setting of the toggle button in its section. In Advanced Mode (see my most recent previous post), each Voice can be from any section. Either or both halves of the little lozenge graphic in the display will light up to let you know where it’s Voice is split-wise.

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1QZn6aR0dvoMoWkPUfW2MueKvHKpeiw8J

Live Sets are organized into pages of eight, with 20 pages available in total. Thirteen of these populated by factory presets; the remaining seven are empty and available for saving your own Sets without overwriting anything. You access pages with the +/- buttons and Live sets with the numeric 1-8 buttons, or you can scroll through every Live Set serially using the data dial.

In the Settings > Receive Switch menu, you can select which of the CP’s three instrument sections are affected by the expression, sustain, sostenuto, and soft pedals (independently for each section and each pedal). These settings are of course saved as part of the Live Set, which is important — depending on the musical application, you may want to sustain a pad while soloing a sustain-less electric piano over it. You may want to swell that pad up underneath a piano part that’s unaffected by the expression pedal. And so on.

There’s one thing I find a particular pain about Live Sets, which I’ve mentioned before: The CP’s procedure for naming them. However, firmware updates since I’ve had the CP have made this less of a pain, which I’ll describe in a moment.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/q...DWYY1WVK3nNNQyJa59q8426Arfs=w800-h732-no

In the image above (sorry but either Google Photos or UBB doesn't want to let me embed), I’ve selected Name from the Settings menu. The data dial scrolls through alpha-numeric characters for a given character place in the name, and you need the Live Set selection buttons for the rest. Buttons 1 and 2 cursor back and forth along the Live Set name. Button 3 inserts the selected character before the highlighted character space. Button 5 changes the current character to the selected one. Since you’re selecting characters with the data dial, the intuitive thing to do when you get to the character you want is to press the dial (Enter) to make it part of the name. Nope — you want to use button 3 or 5 for that. Back in OS version 1.0, making this mistake would bounce you out to the home screen and lose your changes. As of 1.31 (or perhaps before, I’m not sure) the situation has improved: You now get a prompt to “store” or “do not store now,” with the latter highlighted by default. Pressing Enter still returns you to the home screen, though — you want the Exit button to get back to the naming screen.

At any rate, scrolling through characters on a little LCD is no part of what Prince meant by partying like it’s 1999, which again speaks to the need for a CP editor. I’ll say the same for swapping and moving live sets around from one page/number location to another — though it’s better that the CP includes this ability than not.

What I also haven’t found a way to do — and perhaps I’m missing something obvious — is more complex zoning setups on the three internal sections. Let’s say I want to split the keyboard three ways or have Voices overlap within a limited range of keys. I know you can do this with external zones with the CP in Master Keyboard mode (which we’ll tackle in the next post), but again, I haven’t yet figured out the correspondence between the CP’s three instrument sections and how it communicates MIDI to them internally. I’ll keep at it.

Next

We’ll look at the CP’s abilities as a MIDI controller for external sound sources.
I have to say, this format is *amazing* for digging into new gear. Mr. Fortner is a talent when it comes to 'splaining things.

Although I'm not in the market for the CP (using a Nord Stage 3 Compact as my main board these days), it's interesting to see how Yamaha is addressing this market. While I appreciate their limited library of great curated sounds, the Nord approach lets me load almost anything (including sample shots from popular songs) which turns out to be a very useful thing if you play across several bands.

I'm a big fan of this review format. I really hope it continues.
Thanks for the kind words, cphollis! More to come on this GearLab piece, and more gear threads coming very soon!
MIDI CONTROLLER FUNCTIONS

The CP73/CP88 can function as a four-zone master MIDI controller when its Master Keyboard mode is engaged. This is accessed by pressing the Settings button. Then, selecting the Master Keyboard item gives you a choice of three submenus:
- Mode SW: Turns Master Keyboard mode on or off.
- Advanced Zone SW: Decides, per zone, whether you have access to a basic or far more extended set of MIDI settings.
- Zone Settings: Per zone, lets you scroll through and adjust these MIDI settings.

The behavior of the internal sound engine and keyboard splits/layers is completely independent of whatever you’re doing with external zones. Presumably this is because the CP puts internal and external control on different ports. Activating splits on the CP didn’t affect the MIDI channel that was showing up in a simple monitor app I was running.

The upside of this is that you can have the full benefit of splitting and layering the CP’s internal sounds per the control panel, then work with four additional zones controlling a combination hardware and/or software sound sources connected via the USB-B or traditional 5-pin MIDI ports. The downside is that there doesn’t seem to be any way to address the internal Voices and sections with more advanced MIDI zoning than what the panel offers. Let’s say you wanted a three-way split, something pretty common at gigs where you’re covering multiple keyboard parts with minimal equipment. As far as I can tell, the CP doesn’t offer a way to make this happen. It’s odd and I feel like I must be missing something, because you can do this with external zones to your heart’s content.

Basic vs. Advanced Zone Modes

First things first: All of what I’m about to go over is saved at the Live Set level, so you can move between internal-Voices-only and hybrid setups with ease. The Advanced Zone switch is different from the Advanced Mode switch. As I wrote in a previous post, the latter lets you put any internal Voice in any section. The former enables a boatload more MIDI parameters per external zone.

Without the Advanced Zone SW, each zone has on/off, MIDI transmit channel, octave-shift, transpose, and low and high note limits.

Enable the parameter, and each zone can now transmit program changes, bank MSB and LSB, and MIDI volume (sent by the CP’s master volume knob) and panning. Then, you get a bunch of toggles for whether a given zone transmits controller messages. These cover note-on/off, volume, pan, program change, bank select, pitch-bend, modulation, and all four pedals (sustain, switch, and two continuous) independently.

Note that you can also decide whether internal Voice sections are affected by the “wheels” (those little silver levers) and pedals, but this happens in a different place: Settings > Controllers. In this submenu, you also can assign what CC message the continuous pedals send, but the switch pedal assignment is global to the instrument and accessed via the MENU button. (In general, MENU button stuff is global while SETTINGS button parameters are saved with Live Sets.)

In Use

I tested the CP’s abilities as a MIDI boss with a number of virtual instrument setups in Gig Performer, MainStage, and Logic Pro. There’s not a lot to comment on here, because everything worked as expected and reliably. Match transmit channels to receive channels and you’re off to the races. Of course, any sort of host software is smart enough that you could handle all the zoning and controller reception on the receiving end and just use the CP as a nice slab of keys. The advantage of making the CP the “brain,” though, is that you can make everything Live Set-centric and change your whole setup with the CP’s hardware buttons.

A cool advantage of controlling USB-connected instruments is that the CP also streams audio over USB. With one connection to my iPad and a multi-timbral iOS synth such as Korg Gadget, I can have one hell of a lot of sounds underneath my fingers and all coming out the CP’s tidy XLR outputs. I still wish the USB-B port would charge the darned iPad, though.

One unexpectedly cool bonus was that the CP can be set up so that when a Voice section is turned off, its knobs transmit MIDI. If whatever soft synth you’re controlling has a MIDI Learn function (and most things these days do), filter sweeps and envelope tweaks are easy to achieve. No, it’s not having a bank of assignable knobs and faders as you would on a dedicated MIDI controller or large synth workstation, but it’s something.
CONCLUSIONS

A term I like to use is “bottom keyboard.” Meaning, the instrument (often weighted and larger than 61 keys) that occupies the bottom tier on your keyboard stand and provides a ton of your go-to sounds including piano and electric piano. Depending on your gigs, the bottom keyboard can also be the only keyboard. The CP does one hell of a job being either. The sounds are premium if a bit limited in scope, but Yamaha’s focus with the CP seems to be “Do it well or don’t do it at all,” and again, you can view this as curation that actually makes your musical decisions easier.

The ¼-inch audio inputs and USB audio streaming make the CP particularly useful as the hub of a multi-keyboard or hardware-software hybrid rig. As I get older and crankier, I find that any piece of gear and associated setup time I can shave off my live gig setup makes a difference. With the CP, this includes a compact mixer and/or stereo direct box — two more things I don’t have to hook up or figure out where to put if I’m crammed into a corner space the size of a bistro two-top.

The CP73 in particular hits the sweet spot for me in terms of portability, size, and price ($1,999), even to the point of stealing a little thunder from its upmarket sibling. If you’re piano-centric enough that the upgraded action and full 88-note range are worth the extra $500 and about 15 pounds, you know who you are.

With this, I’d like to bring my official portion of the MPN GearLab discussion of the Yamaha CP73 and CP88 to a close. Of course, this thread will remain open for questions and I will try to answer them as quickly as possible. If I don’t know something, I’ll endeavor to get you answers from the horse’s mouth at Yamaha.

In short, the CP73 and CP88 are damned great stage pianos that pack just the right sounds and supporting features into the right form factor at what I think is a more-than-fair price. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’d do yourself a disservice not to get some hands-on time with one or the other before pulling the trigger on buying anything.
Thanks for all your work on this. 2thu
Originally Posted by davedoerfler
Thanks for all your work on this. 2thu

yeahthat cool thx

dB

Originally Posted by Stephen Fortner
Originally Posted by tfort
Stephen-

If you're in communication with Yamaha, maybe you could get their answers on some things. I'd like to hear your guesses as well, if they're not forthcoming:

1. What is the status of the CP88/73 with MIDI 2.0? They've been heavily involved with MIDI 2.0 through the AMEI and I'd like to know whether their current instruments were designed to incorporate it, or will need to be updated in some way to take advantage of it.
2. Does Yamaha intend to make an editor program of some sort (an iOS Universal app preferably) to allow you to configure lives sets easily, name things quickly, etc? If not now, will they if enough folks request it?
3. Any chance they can develop a sound library and sound librarian similar to what Nord does? If users could contribute to the available sounds, and if sounds could be moved on/off the board at will, it would relieve the problem that there are still so many sounds that the CP's just don't offer.


tfort, just a postscript to say I asked Blake Angelos of Yamaha these questions and he promised to hop on this thread and answer as soon as he’s able. I’ve been over there many times and know how busy they are, so give him some time. About question 3, Yamaha does have this online sound-sharing community called Soundmondo, with sections for various instruments (it launched at the same time as the Reface synths), and the CP is in there. But I think that’s for sharing patches (Live Sets) only, i.e. stuff you can program with existing sounds in the instrument. Now, that's plenty, but it's not the same thing as, say, the Nord Piano Library, where you can download sounds with new wave content. In terms of that, I’ll bet Yamaha prefers to keep it under tighter control and release new sounds with OS updates. They've already done a pretty good job of that, too. Upside: Since the sounds are all in ROM, there's no boot-up time, however many updates Yamaha makes. When I turn on the power switch, I can't even count to three before the CP is ready to play.

Hopefully we'll hear more from the Yamaha mothership soon re your questions.


Stephen-

Just a note that I'm still checking in hoping to see Blake answer my earlier questions. If he could either answer them himself or pass his answers on to you to post that would be much appreciated.
tfort, I'll ping Blake again. An editor-librarian is the biggest thing on my wish list for the CP. As for MIDI 2.0, great question as well. I would imagine there are some plans for compatibility, though. For hardware reasons it obviously won't implement every feature (e.g. MPE), but I'd love to see things like Property Exchange and profiling.
A belated thanks for this amazing in-depth review of the CP88/73. Just received my YC61 last week and have been in a deep dive figuring it out. I was looking for a place to cross check how I was setting it up and with no in-depth reviews on the YC yet I decided to look for CP reviews because the architecture is virtually identical....other than the organ section of course. The vast majority of the above is applicable to the YC as well. Looking forward to your getting your hands on a YC...will be very curious to see how you feel about the organ section. Compared to Nord at least, Yamaha has taken quite a different approach to creating the basic sounds of the underlying organ and the Leslie sims.
I really appreciated this review format. Nicely done. I'm on the cusp of picking up a master controller for which an 88-key hammer action is an absolute must. The CP88 is pretty much at the top of my current list because, while I really like the Kurzweil Forte I have at another location, it's now 6+ years old and seems due for a replacement. If a new Kurzweil flagship comes out, or the Montage gets a successor with the YC organs and a more responsive touchscreen interface then I can't imagine it would be hard to find someone who would like a discounted CP88 to make the switch. All good. I also expect I'd love the action of the CP88 based on everything I've read and playing related Yamaha actions, so no concerns there.

My sole concern is whether I'd like it enough as a source of piano while composing, something I can just flip on and play. I tend to find Yamaha acoustic pianos too bright for my taste, and as a stage piano they seem to be leaning heavily into that same style here. I tried and passed on a Yamaha C7 when I was searching for the perfect piano, and wound up buying a Shigeru Kawai SK7 that I absolutely adore. So questions I have for those who own a CP73/88:

Is the Bösendorfer Imperial mellow enough in this instrument to suit my taste?

Is there enough tone control to tame the other pianos? The manual seems to oddly suggest that the tone knob doesn't shift from bright to dark, but rather from mid-heavy to mid-light. That seems like an odd choice.

How good are the piano samples for long, exposed sustains? Is there audible looping? Nothing I've been able to find addresses the question of how large the sample set is, or how much storage there is for additional instruments.

Any thoughts would be appreciated. I won't be jumping on a purchase for another month or so when the desk is ready, but it's definitely time to establish a clear viewpoint (the height of the desk drawer is what makes the Kawai MP11SE or MP7SE a non-starter, and also rules out a current Montage, by the way.)
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