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Hello folks â welcome to my first time in the batter"s box here in the GearLab. I"m going to be taking a deep dive into the Yamaha MODX synthesizer. You may wonder why we"ve chosen to cover an instrument that was released back in 2018, but with multiple OS revisions that have been released, Yamaha has further developed the MODX beyond what most of the magazines and websites covered during the roll-out time. So I can cover a lot of cool new functions and features that have not been given as much exposure.

 

With an instrument as feature-rich as the MODX I have no problem lining up what I want to cover, but what"s important to me is to know what YOU would like to know about, and get my 'take' on. So please let me know what you want me to cover, or just to check out for you.

 

I have the MODX-6 here, so I can"t speak to the key feel of the weighted action 8, but beyond that everything is fair game. And I"m really looking forward to delving into this instrument!

 

Last point for this first post â repeat after me:

 

Mo-Dee-Ex.

 

That"s the approved pronunciation I"ve heard every Yamaha representative say. Is there some subliminal messaging going on here? Mo=more. Dee-Ex harkens back to the DX range of FM synthesizers. So there"s some strong referencing, and perhaps pride in FM synthesis that coarses through the digital veins of this instrument, and its big, elder sibling, the Montage. We shall see.

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Motif XF owner here. I would be interested in whether you can work around the midi channel assignment issue, so if a person wanted to use a single-zone midi controller, they could assign multiple sounds to it from the MODX. I.e. have multiple sounds on one midi channel triggered by an external keyboard. I know Yamaha has made some updates since the initial Montage and MODX launches, and maybe something's changed there.

 

I would also be curious as to how it is for electronic music, primarily "pluck" type sounds ala Inna and Hillsong Young and Free (for a few examples). I'm sure the FM engine helps.

Yamaha: Motif XF8, YS200, MX61, CVP-305, CLP-130, YPG-235, PSR-295, PSS-470 | Roland: Fantom 7, JV-1000

Kurzweil: PC3-76, PC4 (88) | Korg: N1R, X5DR | Emu: Proteus/1 | Casio: CT-370 | Novation: Launchkey 37 MK3

Former: Emu Proformance Plus & Mo'Phatt, Korg Krome 61, Roland Fantom XR & JV-1010, Behringer CAT

Yamaha Pacifica 112V & APX600 | Washburn WI64 | Ibanez BTB-675 | Alesis SamplePad Pro | Assorted organs, accordions, other instruments

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Let me start by sharing my personal perspective of the history leading up to the MODX. And that has to encompass the Montage, since these two instruments are significantly related.

 

As the era of digital synthesis began to wane, and PCM/sampling came to first fruition in synthesizers/workstations, Yamaha had to move beyond their wildly successful FM synth range. They did so with some really interesting keyboards, first the SY-77 (released in 1989) and later its big brother the SY-99 (1991). These synths combined sampling (Yamaha called it AWM2) and 6 operator FM synthesis with more algorithms (45 versus 32 on DX-style), 15 waveforms (not just sine waves) and some more features they called AFM â Advanced FM, into a system they dubbed Realtime Convolution and Modulation Synthesis (RCM). Whew⦠acronym overload already!

 

Without going into great detail on these models, they were a bold rethinking of Yamaha"s approach synthesis, and they stood out from both the current landscape, and Yamaha"s previous history. Remember, this was the time of the Roland D-50 and other D-Series offshoots, the Korg M1 and then T Series, the Ensoniq VFX lineage and just leading into the launch of the Kurzweil K2000. It was the rise of the PCM synths, and perhaps the public was tiring of FM, or just thought it was only capable of the cliché sounds that it became known for, which was an unfair but all-too-common rap against the brand and technology.

 

At any rate, those two models did OK, but not great, and Yamaha ventured into a variety of approaches to synthesizers, with some PCM-only models, some vector-synthesis, some bold physical modeling adventures and some early virtual analog. I"m not going to keep naming names, it"s not critically important to the discussion. There were a number of good instruments released during these years (1991 â 1998), but none were runaway hits. I would like to name check the EX5/7, released in 1998, which were the boldest of Yamaha"s approaches, combining Sampling (AWM2), virtual analog modeling (AN), physical modeling (VL) and a DSP technique they called FDSP (Formulated Digital Sound Processing), which processed AWM or AN sound sources on a per-note basis for some very interactive and 'alive' modulation possibilities. It sounds like a very powerful system, and it was capable of a lot, but it didn"t catch on with the public. In general I would say that during this time Yamaha synths didn't excite the public like other brands did.

 

So Yamaha needed to do a deep rethink about what the market wanted from a synthesizer, and how to exploit their many strengths as a company.

 

As they entered Y2K (does anyone still use that term?), the market-leading brand was certainly Korg, and their Triton range of music workstations.

 

Full disclosure if you didn't know already - I worked for Korg as a Product Manager/Brand Manager/Product developer for almost 15 years.

 

Korg had a mega-hit with the M1, and kept that model alive for years, as they expanded on the platform with the T-Series, then the O1/W, culminating in the Trinity. The Trinity technology was stunning, but very expensive, and lacking in polyphony. They migrated the technology to a more affordable platform, and the Triton struck gold for the company. Yamaha was certainly paying attention and worked hard to address Korg"s success (and potential weaknesses), and the answer was the Motif.

 

Interestingly, the Motif was basically a PCM-based instrument, although they did offer some plug-in boards for it (FM, AN, VL and such), but they were complicated to integrate in it. But as a sample-playback instrument the Motif excelled, and became very popular for its piano, electric piano, strings, guitars, and other emulative sounds. To counter the KARMA® technology Korg licensed to create varying and interactive arpeggios, phrases and such, Yamaha included an arpeggiator, with data licensed from Twiddly-Bits and their own creation to offer more easily deterministic phrases, with various advanced types of data playback to help simulate performance gestures and MIDI effects, not just up and down note repetitions. The Motif was a hit, and you began seeing the Yamaha logo back on stages and such. Yamaha released multiple iterations of the Motif, adding more and more sample ROM (growing from 84 MB in the Motif to 741 MB in the Motif XF), polyphony, effects processors, number of simultaneous arpeggiators and variations for each pattern, and other features. With each model their stature rose, and they were once again one of the top 2-3 synthesizer companies.

 

By the time of the Motif XF (2010 - 2016), while they were still very successful, many other products had come to market that were combing various technologies, like the Nord Electro and Stage (combining sample-playback for pianos and electric pianos, modeled organ and virtual analog technologies), Roland has modeled piano, SuperNatural ®technology, and virtual analog in their arsenal, Kurzweil had their very deep VAST technology (refined over decades of use and development), plus modeled organ and virtual analog, and Korg had their OASYS and then Kronos keyboards, which offered 9 different synthesis and modeling engines. Looking back through the hindsight of today, it would seem that Yamaha"s next move would have been to revisit their multi-technology toolbag and revisit concepts from models such as the SY and EX, brought up to date with all they had developed. So their next move caught a number of tech-following nerds (like myself) by surprise.

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I'm mostly curious about the quality of AP/EP sounds, auxiliary-type sounds like strings and brass, and VA stuff (and how deep it can get, modulators, interactive playing etc). I'm sure these are all already covered in most reviews but I've been trying to avoid the GAS cause this board seems like it has so much bang in so reasonable a buck. I could see myself pairing it with the NS3 for a super versatile rig. Maybe when more cover band work comes back... :snax:
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Last point for this first post â repeat after me:

 

Mo-Dee-Ex.

 

That"s the approved pronunciation I"ve heard every Yamaha representative say. Is there some subliminal messaging going on here? Mo=more. Dee-Ex harkens back to the DX range of FM synthesizers. So there"s some strong referencing, and perhaps pride in FM synthesis that coarses through the digital veins of this instrument, and its big, elder sibling, the Montage. We shall see.

 

Well, dang. I've been calling it MOD-EX for years. Feel like a total amateur, but it's this guy's fault:

<<- He pronounces it as mod-ex, and I think that's the only video I've [partially] watched about the MODX series.

 

Right. I dunno if this is a question or a complaint... but I see that the mod and pitch wheels are placed high on the front panel instead of to the side of the keyboard. Is this intended to reduce the length of the keyboard? I've always preferred my controllers to be to the left of the board. So is it reasonably comfortable to rest your hand along the side of the chassis when performing? Is there some other rationale for placing those controllers there? Even the Korg Wavestate has its controllers up on the front panel instead of the side, and I suppose I'm less than keen on this configuration...

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Last point for this first post â repeat after me:

 

Mo-Dee-Ex.

 

That"s the approved pronunciation I"ve heard every Yamaha representative say. Is there some subliminal messaging going on here? Mo=more. Dee-Ex harkens back to the DX range of FM synthesizers. So there"s some strong referencing, and perhaps pride in FM synthesis that coarses through the digital veins of this instrument, and its big, elder sibling, the Montage. We shall see.

 

Well, dang. I've been calling it MOD-EX for years. Feel like a total amateur, but it's this guy's fault:

<<- He pronounces it as mod-ex, and I think that's the only video I've [partially] watched about the MODX series.

 

No doubt, I've seen/heard it pronounced a variety of ways. But all the "official" Yamaha folks call it as I wrote. I don't think Bonner's should lose the franchise over this...

 

:lolol:

 

Right. I dunno if this is a question or a complaint... but I see that the mod and pitch wheels are placed high on the front panel instead of to the side of the keyboard. Is this intended to reduce the length of the keyboard? I've always preferred my controllers to be to the left of the board. So is it reasonably comfortable to rest your hand along the side of the chassis when performing? Is there some other rationale for placing those controllers there? Even the Korg Wavestate has its controllers up on the front panel instead of the side, and I suppose I'm less than keen on this configuration...

 

In general, decisions like this come from trying to keep the case design smaller. Also, there needs to be electronics beneath the wheels and that involves more design space/costs. I didn't ask Yamaha for an answer, as I've been involved in these types of design issues for over 30 years, so my educated guess is probably right.

 

It depends on the design whether it is comfortable or not - I've played some that moved them to the front panel that I found uncomfortable. In this case, for me, it's not an issue. The edge of the case is close enough that my hand can rest just fine as I work the wheels, using either of the likely techniques. See the attached pics. It is true that this hand position might cover up a few of the bottom-most notes, so it could be a problem when I wanted to play funky bass lines in C and use the controllers. In those instances I'd have to be sure to be sitting/standing towards the left of the keyboard, or have to adjust the octave of the sound i was using to not need those lower keys (raise the sound up an octave), which is regrettable, but not the end of the world. Hope this helps/answers your questions.

 

Jerry

1446.thumb.jpg.f660b246e97864aef926fc252c30eec7.jpg

1447.thumb.jpg.b938dcc7e23126930b79b55b0f2618a3.jpg

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Motif XF owner here. I would be interested in whether you can work around the midi channel assignment issue, so if a person wanted to use a single-zone midi controller, they could assign multiple sounds to it from the MODX. I.e. have multiple sounds on one midi channel triggered by an external keyboard. I know Yamaha has made some updates since the initial Montage and MODX launches, and maybe something's changed there.

 

Yes, I'm well aware of that issue. The newest OS release seems to have some settings to deal with that, I'll be sure to check it out and report back to you.

 

I would also be curious as to how it is for electronic music, primarily "pluck" type sounds ala Inna and Hillsong Young and Free (for a few examples). I'm sure the FM engine helps.

 

No doubt it would work fine, there's plenty of good-sounding dance material in it. By their nature, pluck sounds don't tell all that much about their underlying technology used, so between the ample PCM choices, and the FMX engine, you can get plenty of that type of sound. And while I haven't started the full review, the MODX is fully compatible with all Montage sounds, all Motif-series sounds, and DX FM sounds. You can go shopping for sounds for weeks even before you tweak or roll your own.

 

Jerry

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Let me start by sharing my personal perspective of the history leading up to the MODX. And that has to encompass the Montage, since these two instruments are significantly related.

 

As the era of digital synthesis began to wane, and PCM/sampling came to first fruition in synthesizers/workstations, Yamaha had to move beyond their wildly successful FM synth range....(SNIP)...

 

By the time of the Motif XF (2010 - 2016), while they were still very successful, many other products had come to market that were combing various technologies, like the Nord Electro and Stage (combining sample-playback for pianos and electric pianos, modeled organ and virtual analog technologies), Roland has modeled piano, SuperNatural ®technology, and virtual analog in their arsenal, Kurzweil had their very deep VAST technology (refined over decades of use and development), plus modeled organ and virtual analog, and Korg had their OASYS and then Kronos keyboards, which offered 9 different synthesis and modeling engines. Looking back through the hindsight of today, it would seem that Yamaha"s next move would have been to revisit their multi-technology toolbag and revisit concepts from models such as the SY and EX, brought up to date with all they had developed. So their next move caught a number of tech-following nerds (like myself) by surprise.

 

Jerry,

 

For those that might be interested in some of irony along that EX -> Motif transition, IIRC the one of the hard pushes in getting the Motif concept going came from Athan Billias (ex Korg).

 

RE: for you the 'surprise' re: Montage -- was it more what they did or what they didn't do that was surprising? I know in my immediate circle of uber-nerds is was about what they didn't do in such as having such a rich history to draw from & given today's cheap computational power that would have allowed for a modern EX5 type platform to "out-Kronos the Kronos" -- after all, in a way the EX5 was the original Kronos, hamstrung by the technology of the times...

 

But that said, after spending time with FM-X and getting over what it didn't do and mastering what it does, I understand the path Yamaha took. Massive realtime control of FM is A Good Thing, and gives a big differentiation from the other 'flagships' in the market.

 

That is brought home even more with the latest 2.5/3.5 OS update with the SmartMorph AI. Many will see it as a functionally productive 'random' patch generator and gerate for them cool, useful sounds without needing to learn FM.

 

For geeks like me it's more powerful using in a deterministic way for creating the 'morphs' that aren't necessarily possible with the exising Mod Matrix and/or extremely time consuming and difficult to construct.

 

Manny

People assume timbre is a strict progression of input to harmonics, but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timbrally-wimbrally... stuff

 

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Hi Manny:

 

Let me start by sharing my personal perspective of the history leading up to the MODX. And that has to encompass the Montage, since these two instruments are significantly related.

 

As the era of digital synthesis began to wane, and PCM/sampling came to first fruition in synthesizers/workstations, Yamaha had to move beyond their wildly successful FM synth range....(SNIP)...

 

By the time of the Motif XF (2010 - 2016), while they were still very successful, many other products had come to market that were combing various technologies, like the Nord Electro and Stage (combining sample-playback for pianos and electric pianos, modeled organ and virtual analog technologies), Roland has modeled piano, SuperNatural ®technology, and virtual analog in their arsenal, Kurzweil had their very deep VAST technology (refined over decades of use and development), plus modeled organ and virtual analog, and Korg had their OASYS and then Kronos keyboards, which offered 9 different synthesis and modeling engines. Looking back through the hindsight of today, it would seem that Yamaha"s next move would have been to revisit their multi-technology toolbag and revisit concepts from models such as the SY and EX, brought up to date with all they had developed. So their next move caught a number of tech-following nerds (like myself) by surprise.

 

Jerry,

 

For those that might be interested in some of irony along that EX -> Motif transition, IIRC the one of the hard pushes in getting the Motif concept going came from Athan Billias (ex Korg).

 

Yes, I know that very well. I've known Athan for many, many years, basically since he left Korg (in Japan) and came to the US looking for a new job. I believe he made it his mission to show Yamaha that he could help them to create a product that could compete with the Triton, and he did his homework very well. He's a smart and talented guy, for sure. Interestingly, there were more than a few trade show booth moments when he came to visit Korg with a group of Yamaha engineers to watch our product demos, and they would all chat in Japanese (Athan is very conversant in the language) about something. At least one time I was demoing and answering questions, while thinking to myself, "why am I helping them?" :doh:

 

But we all know each other (the product people in the US for the various companies), and we all love the technology and music, so we share and love to discuss things. I've asked plenty of questions of my friends at the other companies, why would I be any less gracious than they were?

 

 

RE: for you the 'surprise' re: Montage -- was it more what they did or what they didn't do that was surprising? I know in my immediate circle of uber-nerds is was about what they didn't do in such as having such a rich history to draw from & given today's cheap computational power that would have allowed for a modern EX5 type platform to "out-Kronos the Kronos" -- after all, in a way the EX5 was the original Kronos, hamstrung by the technology of the times...Manny

 

Well... that's what I'll be discussing next, so you'll have to wait for my next installment!

 

:2thu:

 

 

But that said, after spending time with FM-X and getting over what it didn't do and mastering what it does, I understand the path Yamaha took. Massive realtime control of FM is A Good Thing, and gives a big differentiation from the other 'flagships' in the market.

 

That is brought home even more with the latest 2.5/3.5 OS update with the SmartMorph AI. Many will see it as a functionally productive 'random' patch generator and generate for them cool, useful sounds without needing to learn FM.

 

For geeks like me it's more powerful using in a deterministic way for creating the 'morphs' that aren't necessarily possible with the existing Mod Matrix and/or extremely time consuming and difficult to construct.

 

Manny

 

I will admit that my talking about FM-X (and FM in general) with you in the audience is a bit intimidating, knowing how much you know about the technology. But I'll just plow ahead and hope that you will be there with me to explain deeper/better, just comment, and correct me if needed. That's the beauty of this review format - the interaction. I look forward to your involvement!

 

:cheers:

 

Jerry

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Hi Manny:

 

I will admit that my talking about FM-X (and FM in general) with you in the audience is a bit intimidating, know how much you know about the technology. But I'll just plow ahead and hope that you will be there with me to explain deeper/better, just comment, and correct me if needed. That's the beauty of this review format - the interaction. I look forward to your involvement!

 

:cheers:

 

Jerry

 

Jerry,

 

No need to be intimidated, you know your stuff! If opportunity for some useful expansion arises, I'll chime in.

 

Manny

People assume timbre is a strict progression of input to harmonics, but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timbrally-wimbrally... stuff

 

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At the Winter 2016 NAMM Show, Yamaha revealed the successor to the Motif line (the current model being the Motif-XF) â the Montage. A stunning-looking instrument, the Montage had a front panel filled with sexy hardware: A color touchscreen, knobs and sliders with concentric LED"s around them to show current status/value, plenty of buttons and switches to access needed things without menu diving, and specs galore. Their central marketing message was all about the sound, the realtime control over the sound, and the focus on sounds and performance, not as an all-in-one music production environment. Which meant it didn"t have a complete sequencer (more of a capture performances, or parts with little to no editing), but instead had excellent connectivity to your computer to do further work. This approach was perhaps not surprising, since Yamaha had bought Steinberg Media Technologies back in 2004. No company was better positioned to leverage a tight connection between hardware and a DAW (no I haven"t forgotten that Roland bought a controlling interest in Cakewalk back in 2008, but they weren"t as focused on computer integration as Yamaha had been in the years leading up to and following the acquisition).

 

But what struck me (and others), as a surprise was that Yamaha chose to use 'only' two technologies for their sound engines. What they did to enhance their PCM playback engine (AWM2) was powerful, but not surprising: each iteration of Motif had added things to AWM2. The biggest part of the surprise was that the other technology was FM. No modeled organ, no virtual analog, no physical modeling, no 'new thing', but doubling-down (again) on FM? I didn"t see that coming. But as you"ll soon read, this new version of FM (FM-X) was not the FM of yesteryear.

 

I"m not going to go into greater detail on the Montage as part of a timeline, because in 2018 when Yamaha introduced the MODX we all found out that it shared a LOT in common with the Montage, so it"s better to stop here and tell the rest of the tale within the MODX review itself.

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I have a MODX7, and I reviewed the Montage for Keyboard in 2016. I'll just throw in that the MODX is so capable that for 90 percent of gigs where I'd need an all-in-one workstation-y keyboard, I'd take it instead of the Montage. The synth action keyboard on the 6 and 7 feels cheap but not terribly so. If you can live with that the weight and cost savings is pretty significant.

Stephen Fortner

Principal, Fortner Media

Senior Editor, Music Player Network

Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine

Digital Piano Consultant, Piano Buyer Magazine

 

Industry affiliations: Antares, Arturia, Giles Communications, MS Media, Polyverse

 

 

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The MODX (and Montage) platform includes the following basic specs:

 

Dual synthesis systems, which Yamaha calls Motions Control Synthesis Engine

AMW2 â sample playback engine with 5.67 GB of data (when converted to 16-bit linear format) providing 6,347 multisamples/waveforms/whatever you want to call them, true 128-note polyphony (meaning it can play up to 128 notes using stereo waveforms), 18 filter types (Low-pass, high-pass, band-pass, notch of varying slopes), etc. Compatible with Montage and Motif libraries.

 

FM-X â 8-operator FM synthesis with 88 algorithms, 7 'waveforms' which Yamaha calls Spectral Forms (other than the sine wave, all the others are sweepable objects not unlike wavetables in the sense that they can morph, or be swept to provide a range of harmonics and characteristics â more on this later), 18 filter types (Low-pass, high-pass, band-pass, notch of varying slopes), 64-note polyphony, compatible with DX libraries.

 

General Architecture

A Performance is comprised of 16 Parts, which each hold either an AWM2 or FM-X 'sound'. The first 8 Parts can be played live from the keyboard as splits, layers, velocity splits/whatever; the other 8 can be played back from a computer or external MIDI device. [update: Parts 9-16 can be selected from the touchscreen and played live, but can't be used to make more complex stored sounds in conjunction with Parts 1-8.]

 

Effects

Each Part in a Performance can have 2 Insert effects (76 types), and then can be routed (or not) to a Variation Effect (76 types), Reverb (12 types) and a Master Effect (15 types), followed by a final Master EQ. Some effects can be side-chained, and there"s an Envelope Follower so external audio can be used as a modulation source.

 

Arpeggiators

8 individual arpeggiators with 10,239 patterns, covering instrument types and musical styles/genres, rhythm patterns (drum and percussion grooves), as well as controller gestures and effects like filter cutoff manipulation, pitch bend, expression and others.

 

Motion Sequencer

A 16-step step sequencer that can be used to modulate parameter values. There are a total of 8 lanes (sequences) in a Performance, and up to 4 Lanes can be used per part.

 

The Super Knob

A large sexy/intrusive knob (depend on your viewpoint) that can have umpteen parameters assigned to it to modulate and morph sound and effect parameters. Yamaha makes a big deal about this (Motion Control Synthesis, remember?), and the results of their programming are pretty darn compelling. It can be sequenced to playback, or used manually (even controlled by a foot pedal).

 

Performance Recorder

MODX offers three type of recording:

 

- Song, which is a basic 16-track 'capture' MIDI recorder. It can record what you do (and the arpeggiators do) in a live context. You cannot build up songs track by track as in a regular sequencer.

 

Audio â you can record your full performance on the keyboard (including Song backing tracks) as a 24-bit, 44.1 kHz stereo WAV file to an attached USB memory stick.

 

Pattern â Added in the 2.0 update, Patterns are also MIDI data (same 16-track design), but are intended to be used as building blocks, or sections of songs, although there is no hard rule saying that. In general Pattern recording is for looping sections, and then they can be chained, or placed to tracks to build up a larger song form. Even cooler, they can be converted into User arpeggio patterns!

 

Scenes

A Scene captures a snapshot of the current state of a Performance, including which Arp pattern is playing (with some parameter offsets), what Motion Sequence playing (with some parameter offsets), the Keyboard Control status of each part, the current value of the Super Knob, mix and effect levels for each Part, Amp Envelope offsets and more. There are 8 Scenes per Performance.

 

Live Sets

A way of bringing your Performances, Patterns, Songs up into a list (onscreen grid) so you can have the sounds/whatever you need available for easy recall on a gig.

 

Computer Connectivity/Functionality

Via USB you have three MIDI ports available: Port 1 sends/receives 16-channels of MIDI data from the keyboard/front panel. Port 2 is used for front panel remote control over DAW software. Port 3 routes MIDI between the computer and the MODX"s 5-pin MIDI ports (DIN, or legacy MIDI ports). The MODX can communicate audio with 4 inputs/10 outputs at 24-bit 44.1 kHz. Yamaha has drivers for these functions, plus they offer librarian/data transfer software, as well as a website for sharing sounds, and another for buying/downloading additional soundsets and PCM expansions.

 

Flash Memory

MODX has 1 GB of non-volatile memory for storing user waveforms (WAV or AIF files loaded from a USB stick), expansion libraries and such.

 

 

Three Models

MODX-6 is 61-synth actions keys, and lists for $1,799, and streets for around $1,399

 

MODX-7 is 76-synth actions keys, and lists for $1,999, and streets for around $1,599

 

MODX-8 is 88-weighted action keys and lists for $2,499 and streets for around $1,999

 

(Note: it seems they each went up $100 since their introduction, I"m not sure exactly when.)

 

Next I"ll start to dig into the instrument in detail.

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I have a MODX7, and I reviewed the Montage for Keyboard in 2016. I'll just throw in that the MODX is so capable that for 90 percent of gigs where I'd need an all-in-one workstation-y keyboard, I'd take it instead of the Montage. The synth action keyboard on the 6 and 7 feels cheap but not terribly so. If you can live with that the weight and cost savings is pretty significant.

 

For sure... I'll be discussing that further when I get there.

 

Jerry

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I have a MODX7, and I reviewed the Montage for Keyboard in 2016. I'll just throw in that the MODX is so capable that for 90 percent of gigs where I'd need an all-in-one workstation-y keyboard, I'd take it instead of the Montage. The synth action keyboard on the 6 and 7 feels cheap but not terribly so. If you can live with that the weight and cost savings is pretty significant.

 

 

This is exactly my experience as well. It's essentially made my Kronos a home-based board now as the keys are good enough and sounds great enough to make it not worth lugging the extra weight of the Kronos.

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The Front Panel

 

 

io2ykrm.jpg

 

Right away let me acknowledge that the case is all plastic, which does help to make the MODX very light:

 

MODX8: 30 lbs 7 oz

MODX7: 16 lbs 5 oz

MODX6: 14 lbs 9 oz

 

Nice! No doubt this also makes them a bit delicate, and I would be very careful moving it around, leaving it standing on end, and I would want a thickly padded bag or better to transport it in.

 

bhhaqNF.jpg

 

Touring the front panel on the left side we have Pitch Bend and Mod Wheels, and yes, they"re located up on the front panel, not to the left of the keys, on what would commonly called a cheek block They are pretty cheap plastic feeling/looking, and I think they look a bit large, and from the sides kind of crude plastic. But they do the job they"re supposed to, and I didn"t have any problems playing with them â they felt comfortable.

 

Just above and to the right is a Master Volume Knob and interestingly, to the right of that is a USB Volume Knob â a really nice touch. Below those are controls for the A/D input, both an On/Off switch and a gain control. It"s great to have all this on the front panel. Below those are 2 Assignable switches, which are often used to introduce sound articulation variations (I"ll cover that when I discuss AWM2), but can be routed to control many other things. The next row of switches are for control over Motion Sequence On/Off, and a hold function for it, and an Arp On/Off. Below those is a Motion Seq Trigger switch, so you can manually start a Motion Sequence, or retrigger one when you want. Finally two switches serve double duty, either Octave +/â or Transpose. As is true for operating most of the front panel controls, when you change something information pops up at the top of screen to show you the value. Press Octave + the first time and it lights up solid, press it again (+ 2 octaves) and it starts to blink. Press it once more (+3 octaves) and it blinks rapidly. Press both switches at the same time and your pitch returns to normal. Exactly how you want them to work. If you want to operate the Transpose function screened below the switch you need to hold the Shift button located on the right side of the panel while you set your Transpose value.

 

The next block of controls located to the right of all this offers a number of realtime controllers. Starting at the top you have 4 knobs that are asked to do a lot. The switch to the left of the knobs toggles between 4 rows of functions. They are:

 

Tone: Filter Cutoff, Resonance, Pan and Portamento

 

EG/FX: Attack, Decay and Release, plus Reverb Depth

 

EQ: Low Gain, Mid Frequency and Mid Gain, and Hi Gain

 

ARP/Motion Sequence: Swing, Arp Gate Time, MS Amplitude (or amount), and MS Shape

 

Another switch below those is Assign, and that is the fifth choice for the knobs, allowing you to set them to control a host of other functions/parameters.

 

Below that are 4 sliders, which once again have a number of modes of operation. If you are using a sound based on AWM2, the top switch determines whether you are controlling Part Level, (use the switch below it toggles between Parts 1-4 and Parts 5-8), or Element Level (with the same behavior of the lower switch choosing between Elements 1-4 and 5-8). Yes, I know, I haven"t described what an Element is yet, for now just know it"s a building block of an AWM2 sound.

 

If you"re working with an FM-X sound the top switch now chooses between Part Levels (as before, in conjunction with the lower switch), or to control Operator levels (of which there are 8).

 

Let me just say that this is asking a lot of these controllers, and while the whole systems works fine, it is one of the ways that Yamaha cut down on front panel hardware from the Montage to reduce the price of the MODX. It"s completely understandable, and I would have done the same, but it"s tricky if you want to take advantage of a lot of these possible control actions. More than once I had things set to something other than what I wanted to control, and in the heat of exploring/programming I ended up making a wrong move. But the more you live with the instrument I know you would get better at this.

 

Likewise, moving a controller and having the info pop up on screen works nicely, but there"s no way to know what the current setting is without touching/moving the controller. Thankfully they all seem to behave in Catch Mode, which means they don"t affect the sound until they reach the current value. Contrast this with the Montage, which has 8 knobs, and 8 sliders, and uses LED rings and ladders to show the current, or stored value of each one. You get what you pay for.

 

Back to the panel: below the sliders are 4 switches to select Scenes, and a toggle to the left to choose Scenes 1-4 and 5-8. We"ll cover Scenes later, suffice to say they are a powerful way to introduce sound, modulation, and groove variations while you perform.

 

To the right of the Scene switches is a button labeled Rhythm pattern. It is used to call up a screen where you choose a drum kit with an associated groove, powered by the arpeggiator. Doing this adds the sound needed to the next open Part in the Performance (remember, there are 8 Parts) and it"s a great way to quickly call up a groove for any sound you select. Next to it is a Control Assign switch, used to map controllers to destination parameters.

 

Above these are typical Transport controls, which are used in the Performance Recorder, or when using the MODX in DAW control mode.

 

Above those is the Super Knob, a wonderful-feeling controller that does have concentric LEDs to show its location, and will glow in varying colors as it is moved around. It does strobe/flash, and that can be disconcerting, if not downright seizure-inducing, but a quick trip to Utility, Settings, System allows you to control its brightness and speed of flashing, or turn off the flashing altogether. Above the knob are two more switches for letting the knob be controlled by the Motion Sequencer or you, and a Store function. And they can be used to immediately jump between two positions of the knob without having to turn it. More on the Super Knob later.

 

Dead center on the case is the 7" TFT Color Wide VGA LCD touch screen (Yamaha"s description), and it"s nice and crisp and colorful â a real surprise in a keyboard in this price range. But it makes sense when you think about what would be required to scale down the Montage to a cheaper model. Completely re-writing all the interface code is costly in man-hours, and so we, the consumer wins big time here. There"s no doubt that often the font or icons are small, and for persons such as I (mid-60"s, significantly near-sighted) things are certainly smaller than I"d like. But sitting here at my studio desk I could read everything I needed to. On stage, it might be tougher, but only if you need to interact with those 'smaller' parameters. The top of the screen has some icons for jumping to commonly need areas (back Home to the left, FX On/Off on a global basis, general settings for audio, MIDI and such, MIDI transmission (USB or DIN) tempo and clock settings, the Live Set mode, and more).

 

CLQDhnF.jpg

 

 

Moving to the right of the screen you have a Data dial, Inc/Yes and Dec/No switches, 4-way cursor controls for moving around the screen, and Enter and Exit buttons. The Enter switch can be used for Tap Tempo entry. To the right of those are what might be called some Mode switches, although the MODX does not have modes as we are used to thinking about in a workstation/ROMpler synth such as Program, Combi/Muti, Sequencer etc. Performance (Home) brings you to the main screen for playing and such, and would be used to leave other pages and get back toâ¦. Home. To its right is Live Set, for selecting your pre-arranged sounds for your gig.

 

Below that is a Category search button, and I really like how Yamaha has implemented this. Not only can you select by instrument 'family' and type of sound, but you have a secondary attribute including things like Moving, Ambient, Sweep, Hit and some genres of music as well. Along with these you can pick a Specific Bank if desired, and what I especially like (at least as part of reviewing, or learning the instrument) is what they call Attribute. Here you can limit your choices by the method of synthesis (AWM2, FM-X, or both) and other choices like Motion Control, SSS (Seamless Sound Switching â I"m not sure why this is needed as a choice â doesn"t everything seamlessly switch?), Single Part versus Multi Part (great to know when looking to build up your own multi-sound Performances), and the new Smart Morph function for FM-X.

 

Utility is like a Global, or System mode on other synths, but it also includes data Load/Save. Edit is self-explanatory, as is Store. Shift is used for many secondary function for switches on the panel, and you can always look up what is possible with it in the Utility Mode, Other Info.

 

The Part Select Mute/Solo switch brings up a dedicated (and larger) interface for⦠doing what its label says! It"s an easier way than trying to touch the smaller areas on the Performance Home Page touchscreen to do the same things. Here is the other aspect of the front panel functions that has been streamlined (a nicer way of saying 'cut'?) as compared to the Montage. On the Montage there is a grid of 38 switches to give the user direct access to a wealth of functionality, removing the need in most cases of having to touch the touchscreen at all. It gives button access to the fields in a Live Set, control over Category Search, individual Part Select with dedicated Mute and Solo buttons, direct select of any of the 8 Motion Sequences or any of the 8 Arpeggios. And some other stuff⦠it offers much more immediate access to and control of things, as befits the flagship version of the line.

 

Last, but far from least is the Audition button, which turns on pre-recorded phrases to play each sound (Performance). I"m sure I"ll say it again but there"s a lot of really nice playing to be found within this feature, and it does a great job of showing off each sound, with controllers involved, and Scene changes. It"s a wonderful way to get to hear each sound the way the programmer intended.

 

 

The Back Panel

 

sLPUK4J.jpg

 

A quick tour shows 1/4' stereo inputs for running audio/instruments into the MODX â again, I like having the level controls for this located handily on the front panel. Then 1/4' headphone and stereo outputs. What follows is pretty generous for an instrument in this price range: dual foot pedal and footswitch jacks. So along with your sustain pedal you have another opportunity to use a switch-type pedal to control:

 

Arp On/Off

MS On/Off

Play Stop (Transport)

Increment/Decrement Live Set entries

Reset Octave Shift

Tap Tempo

 

Or use this footswitch as a controller within the synthesis voice architecture to control umpteen parameters.

 

Dual Foot Controllers means you can have a volume pedal while you also have a wah-wah, or a Super Knob controller, orâ¦. you get the picture.

 

You get DIN-based MIDI IN and Out, no Thru, but via USB MIDI there is a way to route incoming MIDI from the USB Port to the DIN MIDI Out.

 

2vWbFgI.jpg

 

Finally you get both USB To Host and To Device ports. The USB To Host connects to your computer and provides 16-channels of MIDI communication, the possibility for DAW Remote Control, and the fancy USB MIDI bridge to the DIN MIDI ports I mentioned. USB To Device is used to save/load data to Flash Memory sticks, and as of OS version 2.0 can be used to connect compatible MIDI gear to control the MODX remotely.

 

Update: I forgot to mention that there is no labeling for any of these back-panel connections, something I and many others appreciate when trying to make connections when you're sitting in front of the keyboard. So I've got to give Yamaha one demerit for not doing this. When you're trying to cut down the price of a product everything makes a difference. And the front panel design doesn't leave a lot of room for this labeling, but there is a sloped edge that could have been used. But that would require changes in the manufacturing process, and likely running the panels through a second time at a different angle to be able to print on that edge. More cost.

 

One thing I do like is that all the jacks are recessed beneath the back panel some, which provides a form of protection for them. YMMV.

 

OK, I feel like I"m starting to rewrite the Owner"s Manual, so let"s close this entry and get ready to actually talk about and use the synth.

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about the back panel, there is no diagram or '' schematic '' of all the inputs/outputs , no schematic on the top chassi,

 

kronos, for examle, has that back panel schematic - a convenient visual.

 

in addition , MODX has that '' shelving '' over the back panel input/outputs

 

I think the idea is to protect the connectors, but it also compounds access to all the back panel stuff.

 

a top schematic would solve the problem. I could do a home made template if push went to shove.

Why fit in, when you were born to stand out ?

My Soundcloud with many originals:

[70's Songwriter]

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Yamaha has drivers for these functions.

 

I thought USB audio and MIDI was pretty standard at this point--how necessary are the drivers?

 

(Where I'm coming from: does this mean my Linux laptop wouldn't recognize the MODX as an audio interface because Yamaha's doing some weird proprietary thing?)

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Yamaha has drivers for these functions.

 

I thought USB audio and MIDI was pretty standard at this point--how necessary are the drivers?

 

(Where I'm coming from: does this mean my Linux laptop wouldn't recognize the MODX as an audio interface because Yamaha's doing some weird proprietary thing?)

 

Hi Bfields:

 

Good question - let me explain better. What I would assume is that without any drivers the MODX will show up as an audio device, but a basic stereo in/out configuration. For you to get the multi-channel configuration of 4 inputs and 10 outputs you need the driver. This makes sense - a class compliant device isn't going to show up with all these options for who connects to who etc. That needs more info from the driver to describe, route and label these options. I haven't gotten into this level of detail yet, but with the driver you can send individual audio streams for each of the first 8 Parts in a Performance for better/more advanced mixing possibilities. Or just the main L/R stereo stream.

 

I'm not running Linux here (nor am I very conversant in it) so I'm not sure if it'll work plug-and-play under Linux, but I would imagine so.

 

Now, why did I say "I would assume?"

 

I was testing today to confirm this, and I had already installed the Steinberg Driver on my Mac, so I ran the uninstall routine. Then I rebooted and tried some tests. And the MODX was still showing up as a multi-channel audio interface, and I could assign all the individual settings even though the driver was not installed. To be honest that confuses me, and yes, I did try running un-install more than once.

 

Likewise, the 3 MIDI ports show up without the driver, and I could do DAW Remote control and such without it.

 

Yamaha is adamant and consistent about needing to install the driver, but I'm running OK without it. I don't know why. I'll keep trying to reach my Yamaha friends/contacts to see if I can clear up this confusion.

 

Regards,

 

Jerry

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Hi Greg:

 

You're absolutely right, and I had noted this and then forgot to write it up. So I've added it to the post - thanks for pointing it out! Don't know why you're using such complicated words.... it's neither a diagram or schematic, it's simple labels.

 

:idk:

 

Thanks again - happy to have you keep me in line!

 

Jerry

 

 

about the back panel, there is no diagram or '' schematic '' of all the inputs/outputs , no schematic on the top chassi,

 

kronos, for examle, has that back panel schematic - a convenient visual.

 

in addition , MODX has that '' shelving '' over the back panel input/outputs

 

I think the idea is to protect the connectors, but it also compounds access to all the back panel stuff.

 

a top schematic would solve the problem. I could do a home made template if push went to shove.

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Hi Greg:

 

You're absolutely right, and I had noted this and then forgot to write it up. So I've added it to the post - thanks for pointing it out! Don't know why you're using such complicated words.... it's neither a diagram or schematic, it's simple labels.

 

:idk:

 

Thanks again - happy to have you keep me in line!

 

Jerry

 

 

about the back panel, there is no diagram or '' schematic '' of all the inputs/outputs , no schematic on the top chassi,

 

kronos, for examle, has that back panel schematic - a convenient visual.

 

in addition , MODX has that '' shelving '' over the back panel input/outputs

 

I think the idea is to protect the connectors, but it also compounds access to all the back panel stuff.

 

a top schematic would solve the problem. I could do a home made template if push went to shove.

 

 

and MODX is missing a latch button for ' continuous ' ARP usage.

 

sure, using " Shift + holding the ARP on/off in part works for some performances , but not all.

 

I only have 2 weeks on MODX so some questions are open.

 

another small item. the Yamaha docs etc makes frequent reference to '' cursor '' buttons.

 

they are not labeled as such on the chassis or front . as a new owner I had 5 minutes

of ''' duhhh '' until I cracked the manual,, which illustrated the 4 directional ' cursor ' buttons.

 

FWIW, those cursor buttons don't have a 'lamp ' on my MODX

Why fit in, when you were born to stand out ?

My Soundcloud with many originals:

[70's Songwriter]

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I was testing today to confirm this, and I had already installed the Steinberg Driver on my Mac, so I ran the uninstall routine. Then I rebooted and tried some tests. And the MODX was still showing up as a multi-channel audio interface, and I could assign all the individual settings even though the driver was not installed. To be honest that confuses me, and yes, I did try running un-install more than once.

 

Likewise, the 3 MIDI ports show up without the driver, and I could do DAW Remote control and such without it.

 

Yamaha is adamant and consistent about needing to install the driver, but I'm running OK without it. I don't know why. I'll keep trying to reach my Yamaha friends/contacts to see if I can clear up this confusion.

 

Thanks for the answer!

 

I've got a digital mixer that works as an 18x18 usb audio interface, and they all show up on my laptop with no special configuration or driver install, so I assume the standard USB audio spec must be capable of handling that kind of thing at this point.

 

But it makes sense that the Yamaha drivers might expose some extra features. I'll be curious to hear if you find anything out.

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and MODX is missing a latch button for ' continuous ' ARP usage.

 

sure, using " Shift + holding the ARP on/off in part works for some performances , but not all.

 

 

Yup - that behavior is located within the Common Edit screen on the Arp tab... so you have to pre-program it.

 

 

another small item. the Yamaha docs etc makes frequent reference to '' cursor '' buttons.

 

they are not labeled as such on the chassis or front . as a new owner I had 5 minutes

of ''' duhhh '' until I cracked the manual,, which illustrated the 4 directional ' cursor ' buttons.

 

FWIW, those cursor buttons don't have a 'lamp ' on my MODX

 

Yamaha did screen (etch?) direction arrows around those 4 switches to indicate the direction they move the cursor in. I didn't see where their documentation says that the have a 'lamp"... where did you see that?

 

Jerry

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Well some more study results: I spoke to a highly knowledgeable friend about USB Class Compliant Audio specs and a class compliant device can certainly have more than 2-in, 2-out performance. So my assumption that you need a driver to determine that is wrong.

 

Likewise, I tried using the MODX with another DAW that had never run with the MODX attached and the Yamaha/Steinberg driver installed etc. and I could configure it for all 10-outputs to the DAW input without the driver installed, so that's another data point. It was Studio One, and I had to manually add the extra MODX buses, but when I did they were automatically named correctly as the USB stereo pairs, so it would seem that the MODX is "publishing" that info to the DAW as part of its class compliant nature. My friend and I are guessing that Yamaha's insistence on using their driver could be based not on issues of fundamentally defining these routing options, but it could be for timing, and overall performance reasons. So while it is working for me in a test scenario it doesn't mean it's going to be robust/accurate enough under heavier use. I don't really want to fall down the rabbit hole of trying to test that more.I will try to get an answer from Yamaha, but for now I'm going to move on to other activities.

 

Jerry

 

 

I was testing today to confirm this, and I had already installed the Steinberg Driver on my Mac, so I ran the uninstall routine. Then I rebooted and tried some tests. And the MODX was still showing up as a multi-channel audio interface, and I could assign all the individual settings even though the driver was not installed. To be honest that confuses me, and yes, I did try running un-install more than once.

 

Likewise, the 3 MIDI ports show up without the driver, and I could do DAW Remote control and such without it.

 

Yamaha is adamant and consistent about needing to install the driver, but I'm running OK without it. I don't know why. I'll keep trying to reach my Yamaha friends/contacts to see if I can clear up this confusion.

 

Thanks for the answer!

 

I've got a digital mixer that works as an 18x18 usb audio interface, and they all show up on my laptop with no special configuration or driver install, so I assume the standard USB audio spec must be capable of handling that kind of thing at this point.

 

But it makes sense that the Yamaha drivers might expose some extra features. I'll be curious to hear if you find anything out.

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Let"s explore the two sound-producing technologies, and then we"ll go into how they are used in a Performance, which is the main (only) mode for playing on the MODX. Up today is:

 

AWM2

This is Yamaha"s venerable PCM-playback engine, and it has grown over the years to include more and more features without changing the name. The first Yamaha keyboard to sport the moniker AWM2 was the SY77, released in 1989! So obviously the engine has progressed since then.

 

Update/correction: The SY-77 was still AWM, it was the subsequent W-Series (W-7 and W-5) that garnered the title of AWM2.

 

AWM2 in the Montage and MODX is the same as it was on the Motif-XF, with the addition of lots of control and modulation that exists outside of the basic synthesis. It"s a powerful design. In Motif-speak a basic sound structure was called a Voice. Now in the MODX, that would be called a Part that uses AWM2, which only exists as part of a Performance. This structure is comprised of up to 8 Elements, and an Element is a full synth voice that contains a multisampled waveform, a filter, Pitch, Filter and Amp EGs, an LFO, and an EQ. I"ll deal with effects shortly.

 

So an Element is a complete synthesized sound by itself. If you want to create a velocity-switched sound you use another Element, which can be hard switched or cross-faded. Same thing for layering waveforms/sounds. Need a split? Yup this can be done between 2 or more Elements as well. And of course you can blend the 8 Elements in combinations of both key range and velocity control. But wait, there"s more!

 

Yamaha has been developing a technology they call Xpanded Articulation for some time now, in both their arranger keyboards (Tyros2 and Genos but called Super Articulation) and starting in the Motif-XS. This allows you to call up different Elements (programmed samples) based on a variety of conditions. The most basic is setting an Element to only 'speak' when you release a key â we"re all familiar with that concept (Clav thwacks, Rhodes key release noises and so on). Elements can be turned on using the two Assign switches, either momentarily or latched. This is great for bring in performance gestures like a flute flutter, a guitar harmonic, and the like. But there"s nothing to say it can"t just be a different sound rather than an integrated 'gesture'. Legato playing can be detected to use a different sound, so detached notes have more attack, and legato notes only play the sustaining part. Elements can be alternated in a cycle approach or random, so each key strike brings up a slight variation in tuning or timbre, to make repeated notes sound less robotic (current sample libraries call this round-robin), or just cool timbral changes.

 

I could find some simple synth leads that only used 1 Element, and others that used 2-3 etc. but it"s more common to see 5+ Elements used to make up a sound (I don"t want to keep using Yamaha"s terms of a Part, or a single-Part Performance as it"s easier to use terms we all understand outside of Yamaha-speak). Let me dissect some of the Factory Performances to show just some of the ways this concept of multiple Elements and the XA is used to create a final sound.

 

Layering

This sound layers 3 sampled saw waves, each tuned to create a minor chord. Pressing Assign switch 1 adds a 4th Element, tuned a minor 7th higher. Assign switch 2 adds one more Element tuned to the minor 3rd above the octave. You can use either or both switches to build the chord voicing. Additional note: the Mod Wheel is used to both lower the filter cutoff of all Elements while bringing in a delay effect.

 

WS9daTQ.jpg

Detroit Stab

 

Detroit Stab Audio Example

 

Velocity Switching:

We all understand the idea of a multi-sampled instrument that takes samples at various velocity levels to create an expressive/playable result. Here"s is a single Part acoustic piano sound, using all 8 Elements:

 

VD2Psf7.png

Concert CFX

 

Notice how the waveforms for each Element are labeled with progressively higher dynamic markings. And to the right of their names are the MIDI velocity ranges they 'speak' within. The First 5 Elements cover the keyboard range up to G5, and then the next two Elements (6 and 7) are used for the high undampened range so they are programmed to ring out, with no damper behavior to silence them. The last Element is set to play upon key-off (using Expanded Articulation) to product the sound of the key releasing, the dampers hitting the string etc. So we have both velocity cross switching, a split to provide for the main piano range and the different envelope behavior needed for the top range, and a key-off element.

 

Concert CFX Audio Example with XA Key Off at end

 

Nerd Note: Notice that the lowest velocity is set to 2, so you could demonstrate how barely touching a key produces no sound, just like how a piano key can 'slip' and not throw the hammer if touched softly enough.

 

Here"s another example â an acoustic guitar that transitions from a muted sound at lower velocities, then crosses through two ranges of open sounds before finishing up at hardest velocities with an upward slide into the played note. Element 5 allocates some sampled guitar effects like palm mutes and squeaks at the top range of the keyboard. So all of your gestures are produced by your touch.

 

jGsqLBK.jpg

Mute & Slide Vel

 

Mute & Slide Vel Audio Example

 

Assign Switch Control

This Concert Flute uses a couple of cool programming techniques.

 

6zbACxR.jpg

Concert Flute

 

Element 1 is the basic Flute sound. When you move the Mod Wheel you cross-fade across the next two Elements to use naturally sampled vibrato rather than an LFO. Press and hold Assignable Switch 1 and you switch to a staccato articulation. Do the same with Assignable Switch 2 and you get flutter-tongued technique. The last 3 Elements are faded in using the Super Knob to create a chorused ensemble of flutes.

 

Concert Flute Audio Example

 

Random Playback

This Sitar sound has 5 Elements alternating in random fashion to produce a nicely varying and alive sound. Element 7 produces a key-off effect.

 

A6dkrYg.jpg

Sitar MW

 

Element 8 is tricky⦠it is faded in using the Mod Wheel to add a stronger plucked attribute when desired.

 

Sitar MW Audio Example

 

Here"s another approach that uses straight cycling between 4 synth tones so each key strike advances to the next waveform.

 

gnzmHvE.jpg

SY22 2007

 

What makes it cool is that the arpeggiator can be used to do the cycling without having to restrike the keys, so you"re getting a kind of smooth wavesequencing, or vector synthesis simulation (hence the reference to Yamaha"s SY22).

 

SY22 2007 Audio Example

 

Legato Triggering

Here"s a solo trumpet sound that uses the legato XA articulation function.

 

mRJcIhF.jpg

Tp SoftJazz Legato

 

Elements 1 and 2 are the main trumpet sound, using a 2-way velocity switch between differently programmed versions of the main trumpet sample to approximate soft and medium sounds. Element 3 is programmed as a short transient to add a little more 'impact' to the attack. Element 4 is basically the same as Element 3 but with slight changes to the filter cutoff and Amp EG curves (interesting attention to detail by the sound programmer!), but not critical to this analysis. Elements 5 and 6 are the samples triggered when you play legato (connecting your notes) and are velocity switched.

 

Tp SoftJazz Legato Audio Example

 

So the final Part is already a complex thing, even before you put together 8 of those (under your direct keyboard control), or up to 16 (including externally triggered Parts) in the Performance.

 

A few other observations about the AWM2 synthesis architecture.

 

Filters

It offers a whopping 18 types of filters:

 

Low-pass Filters

LPF24D: A dynamic -24 dB/oct Low-Pass Filter with a characteristic digital sound. Compared to the LPF24A type, this filter can produce a more pronounced Resonance effect.

LPF24A: A digital dynamic Low-Pass Filter with characteristics similar to a 4-pole analog synthesizer filter.

LPF18: 3-pole -18 dB/oct Low-Pass Filter.

â¨LPF18s: 3-pole -18 dB/oct Low-Pass Filter. This filter has a smoother cutoff slope than the LPF18 type.

 

High-pass Filters

LPF12+HPF12: A combination of a -12 dB/oct Low-Pass Filter and a -12 dB/oct High-Pass Filter connected in serial. When this Filter Type is selected, HPF Cutoff and HPF

LPF6+HPF12: A combination of a -6 dB/oct Low-Pass Filter and a -12 dB/oct High-Pass Filter connected in serial. When this Filter Type is selected, HPF Cutoff and HPF Key Follow Sensitivity can be set.

HPF24D: A dynamic -24 dB/oct High-Pass Filter with a characteristic digital sound. This filter can produce a pronounced Resonance effect.

HPF12: -12 dB/oct dynamic High-Pass Filter.

 

Band-pass Filters

BPF12D: The combination of a -12 dB/oct HPF and LPF with a characteristic digital sound.

BPFw: A -12 dB/oct BPF that combines HPF and LPF filters to allow wider bandwidth settings.

BPF6: The combination of a -6 dB/oct HPF and LPF.

 

Band Eliminate Filters (commonly called Band Reject)

BEF12: -12 dB/oct Band-Eliminate Filter.

BEF6: -6 dB/oct Band-Eliminate Filter.

 

Dual Filter Configurations

DualLPF: Two -12 dB/oct Low-Pass Filters connected in parallel. You can edit the distance between the two Cutoff Frequencies.

DualHPF: Two -12 dB/oct High-Pass Filters connected in parallel.

DualBPF: Two -6 dB/oct Band-Pass Filters connected in parallel.

DualBEF: Two -6 dB/oct Band-Eliminate Filters connected in serial.

LPF12+BPF6: A combination of a -12 dB/oct Low-Pass Filter and a -6 dB/oct Band-Pass Filter connected in parallel.

 

That"s a powerful toolkit. And in OS 2.0 for the MODX Yamaha added an emulation of the classic Moog ladder filter, although it is an effect, not a per-voice part of the voice architecture. Read up on it and hear it here.

 

LFO

At first I was surprised to see only 3 LFO shapes at the Element level: Saw, Triangle and Square. Really? Researching further I found that MODX has 12 LFO shapes, including bipolar and uni-polar options at the Part level. Digging even deeper I found that there is a User LFO option, where you can create your own. From 2 to 16 steps can be programmed, with templates to help get you started. Nice! But why aren"t they available per Element?

 

q6fxLE7.png

 

Even nicer, OS 2.0 extended the speed that the LFO can operate at, going from the previous limit of 42 Hz to now up to 1356.59 Hz.

 

EQ

Each Element in a sound/Part can have one of 5 types of EQ within the synthesis architecture. Then there is a 3-band EQ before the Elements go into the Insert effects structure, and another 2-band EQ after those before the sends into the Variations and Reverb. That"s a lot of control over your timbre-shaping.

 

AWM2 Wrap-Up

With an instrument as deep as the MODX I can"t possibly go over ever aspect of the PCM-playback synthesis engine. It"s very powerful, and my list of kudos would be way long. My wishlist features (after only a few days of use) would include:

- the ability to set an alternate sample start point for the waveforms. Yes, they offer a number of waveforms already set up for this for use with the Legato XA feature, but I"m used to having access to these from my years with Ensoniq samplers/synths and Korg stuff.

 

- an overview page of modulation routings, or a true Mod Matrix â it"s so much easier to see things in that sort of presentation.

 

- I could not find settings for Mono triggering (Yamaha calls it Single) for note priority â high, low etc.

 

- it would be desirable to be able to choose the curve type for each segment of the EGs (linear, convex, concave etc.). This really helps when shaping them. The only curve choice is related to velocity modulation of the envelopes, which is good. But not enough IMHO. FM-X does offer a little more in this regard.

 

On to FM-X!

 

P.S. Sorry about the different sized images... I'll get around to fixing that someday...

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Hey Jerry,

 

This is wonderful, and so far you are spot on to my experience with my MODX6 and now MODX8.

 

I'll save the following "how to" for if/when you get to this part:

It is possible to load a .wav or .aiff track into the MODX as a wave form, and assign one key to launch it, and not have to hold the key for the track to continue until it's done.

 

In my band I use this for our "walk-on" music, and a couple string sections that fly in during the chorus of a couple songs.

 

Anyway, great job on the review to this point!

David

Gig Rig:Roland Fantom-08| Arturia Keylab 61MK2 | MacBook Pro 14" M1| Mainstage

 

 

 

 

 

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Let"s explore the two sound-producing technologies, and then we"ll go into how they are used in a Performance, which is the main (only) mode for playing on the MODX. Up today is:

 

AWM2

This is Yamaha"s venerable PCM-playback engine, and it has grown over the years to include more and more features without changing the name. The first Yamaha keyboard to sport the moniker AWM2 was the SY77, released in 1989! So obviously the engine has progressed since then..

 

Jerry,

 

Tiny correction and not relevant to the MODX -- the SY series as Yamaha's first sample playback synths were AWM; AWM2 started with the W series.

 

(there's typos/error in their online 40th aniversary history pages and the various Wikipedia entries are incorrect)

 

Manny

People assume timbre is a strict progression of input to harmonics, but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timbrally-wimbrally... stuff

 

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Jerry,

 

Thanks a bunch for this! I'm greatly enjoying reading through this thread so far. I have a MODX 8, and it's worked out very well as an all-purpose gigging 88. Did have a Montage 8 from late 2016 to late 2018, but made the switch for weight/space saving for stage. Adjusting for the reduced front panel was a slight challenge at first, but the benefits have outweighed that.

 

I've experienced the MODX as a culmination of my return to Yamaha synths in 2001 - wihen I picked up a Motif 7 (actually there was somewhat of a 'pre-return' in 1998, when I dove into an EX5). Since then I've made use of various renditions of the technology - S series 88s, Motif XF 7, and an MX-61. I'd saved a bunch of my own Voices and Performances forward to an S90 XS, which was a gig mainstay until 2017, and now have them in the MODX. It was sometimes a convoluted path moving those sounds, but Yamaha's tutorials were very helpful. I give credit to all their clinicians, and especially Phil "BadMister" Clendeninn - who was able to rescue me from more than a few EX5 and Motif rabbit holes between 1998 and 2008.

 

I am especially looking forward to your dive into FM-X on the MODX, since most of my explorations and limited programming have been in the AWM-2 domain. Would like to learn more about FM-X and it's inner workings. The specs and sounds so far are impressive.

'Someday, we'll look back on these days and laugh; likely a maniacal laugh from our padded cells, but a laugh nonetheless' - Mr. Boffo.

 

We need a barfing cat emoticon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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