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S90ES Musings


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Well, I've had my S90ES now for about 6 months and I thought I'd put down a few of my thoughts.


I should first state that I am a professional accordionist with a background in synths. Nobody would ever mistake me for a classical pianist and I would imagine most of you would immediately peg me as a rank amature on the piano, although the more enebriated could probably be fooled into thinking I know what I'm doing.


I've been getting deeper and deeper into Jazz the past five years and have progressed slowly but markedly.


I outgrew my Technics Digital Piano and put it up on eBay. I bought an S90ES new after trying several boards in several stores. I am a research-aholic, almost to the extent of enjoying the research more than the actual item under consideration (that's a whole other topic!).


I have had a Yamaha DX7 and Ensoniq Mirage in my youth and had a Fantom XR for about 6 months. I tired of all of them. The constant has been the Digital Piano. When I heard the S90ES with headphones I was SOLD! Wow, what a piano!


Here are some thoughts after 6 months. It seems that I always use these forums for my own benefit and rarely give back. I am not an everyday poster but am definitely and everyday reader. Your opinions help me tremendously and perhaps I can help someone on the fence with the S90ES.


1) It's big. I knew this going in but am still amazed by it's size. Mine is a studio board. I had a problem with it and had to take it in for repair. What a pain! I would certainly hate to move this thing on a regular, gigging basis. My acoustic accordion weighs 50 pounds in its case but it is totally manageable. I can put it in any trunk or backseat and be on my way. The S90ES is simply put, a beast. If I just needed some basic sounds I'd get a Nord Electro and be done. I can't imagine moving this thing daily, but to each his own.


2) The piano. The piano. The piano. This sample is just unreal. I have the half-damper sustain pedal and use it often. It is so incredibly realistic. I have not heard better in hardware. Period. I liked the Fantom XR Ultimate Grand a lot but much prefer the Natural S piano on the S90ES. When I compare it to the Motif ES series Full Grand it is simply unfair. The Full Grand sounds like a honky-tonk mono shell of what the Natural S sounds like. I can't help but think that the pianos coming out 5 years from now might make the Natural S sound obsolete. They probably will, though.


3) The keybed is fantastic. As an accordionist I've always dreaded full-weight action. Synth action is great but doesn't allow me to express myself on the piano side. The S90ES is the perfect compromise. I could (and do) play it all day. I never get tired, can put all the feeling I want into piano pieces, and yet have fun on the synth side. I've not experienced better. My Technics Digital Piano felt DEAD when I would go from one to the other, and the Technics was known for having great action! This keybed is great for me.


4) No onboard speakers. This is killing me. Don't laugh but I am listening through a Logitec System at the moment! A Z-3500 I believe! It seems to work best for me. The sub booms and the highs are fantastic once EQ'd. I tried monitors and hated them. But the speakers are sitting on the keyboard (they don't move a bit) and the sub takes up a lot of room, it's inelegant, wires show in spite of my attempts to conceal them. I hate it. Onboard speakers are a HUGE factor for me now. I never had thought about it. I have everything plugged into a surge protector and only have to hit one switch to get everything working but it's not the same as sitting down and just turning on the keyboard and playing. Sounds like it would be the same but it's not. The CP300 looks good with those built-in speakers.


5) No onboard sequencer. This is killing me too. I was using my AW16G DAW for awhile but got worn out using it. It took up a lot of room (large surface area), and again, separate power cables, separate 1/4" connections, more wires, etc. Just a simple 4-track sequencer would mean the world to me. I knew that the S90ES could play back SMFs and I have tons of SMFs for my accordion backing tracks and I never use them with the S90ES. And I mean never. I realize it's a performer's keyboard but I really would kill for a simple built-in sequencer. Like the CP300 (hmmm...I sense a theme!).


6) Realistic sounds. Just fantastic. What can I say? Flutes sound like flutes, clarinets sound like clarinets, snozzberries sound like snozzberries (heh heh). My only complaint is that I find the saxes unrealistic. That could just be me, though. My Ketron XD3 arranger I used with my accordion had a Soprano sax to die for. And I think it had 16Mb for the entire soundset!


7) Great synths. Great arps. Never use them! I play around with the performances here and there but I tired of them. I hate the procedure for setting up a performance and therefore don't do it much any more. Sometimes I'll set up a drum arp under a piano and bass and practice chords. Most of the time I dial up Natural S and just play.


8) Interface? Yeah, not the best. Like most things you can figure it out over time. It doesn't scare me nor entice me. It's just an interface - a method to a means.


9) The look. I love the look. I just hate these big old silver things with black endcaps and huge brands all over them. Not my thing. I'm not kidding that the look has a lot to do with my purchase. It was black, subdued, nice wood endcaps. I like it.


10) Useability. I use it every day. For hours. I practice and practice and practice. And I enjoy it. It's one of my better purchases. I have fun with it and enjoy looking at it. I know it's sturdy and will last forever. It's a killer controller. If someday I finally take the leap and go into software (I do computer stuff for a living - hate the damn things) I know I'll have a keybed I love and a controller to last quite awhile.


Well, that's about it. The lack of on-board speakers and a sequencer are much bigger than I ever thought they'd be. I sometimes work something out and just want to record some drums, a bassline and play the piano over it. It's amazing how many times I want to do that. Powering up the AW16G, loading a default template, trigger it to record, switching inputs, blah blah blah blah. Boy, just too much. I want to hit record on the same keyboard I'm playing and GO. Think about this if you're in the same boat as me. It's huge.


I love this board. I'm learning a lot.





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Ive had my S90ES for roughly the same amount of time and basically agree that it is an awesome keyboard. The two most important things that most people look for in a board it has, a great piano, and great action. I know the Motif ES8 and S90ES 'supposedly' have the same keybed, but for some resason the S90ES feels just a bit better, maybe its just all in my head.


In fact I had a heck of a time deciding between the S90ES and the MotifES8 at the time. GC had the ES8 on sale at the time and it wasnt all that much more then the S90ES. Like you, I really would of liked a sequencer, and even sampler for that matter. Though onboard speakers would be nice, I can live without those. I hardly ever play without singing into a mic at the same time anyways. I actually much prefer to sing, I just play piano/keys to accompany the singing actually. Im still trying to figure out the best PA for that. Im having trouble getting these studio monitors im using, M-Audio BX8a's, to sound the way I want them to with the piano and vocals.


I ended up going with the S90ES over the ES8 mainly because it was cheaper and had a much better piano. As far as recording, Im just starting to get into it and the computer method does seem to be a major pain so far. It really pissses me off that it seems you can never find one board with everything you want on it. I have complained many times that the ES8 should of at least had the P series level or better piano in it instead of the crappy one they put in it.


"let's offer a flagship workstation designed to create music and NOT put our best piano (everyone's main sound) in it" --- must of been what Yammy was thinking.....


Honestly, put a better piano on the ES8 and youd have quite the machine.


Anyways, I dont regret the S90ES, the piano and action alone were practically worth it.


I am a bit curious about the new GEM RP-X coming out though. Im wondering if it will be a significant improvment over the already very decent S90ES piano.

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Well i too love this thing for all of the above mentioned reasons but I have no interest in built in speakers or on board samplers (I never used these in any of the KBs that did have them).

I do however move mine 2-3 times a week in a hard shell flight case. Just slide it out of the pickup and onto the piano dolly and away I go. small price to pay for the pleasure of playing it.


1935 Mason & Hamlin Model A

Korg Kronos 2 73

Nord Electro 6D 61

Yam S90ES

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HomeAmature, you mentioned that you feel the S90ES key action feels better than the Motif ES even though they are the same. I have found, when running the keyboard as a controller that the handling of velocity layers make a difference to the response and feeling of the key action. So your statement may have some logic. If the S90ES handles the expressiveness a little better then it will feel better. I bet that if you run the same Grand voice as the one on the Motif ES, it will actually feel the same. Might want to try this experiment someday.


Tommyboy, hard to imagine a good sax emulation on a rompler. Haven't found one yet I can believe to be close to real. However, I have to say that the S90 and S90ES flute is just so realistic. I just love using that.


I too just use the Natural S most of the time. The rest is for play. I do lay a jazz drum arp over a bass split with the Natural S for practice. But that's about all I do on it 99% of the time.

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1


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"Don't laugh but I am listening through a Logitec System at the moment! A Z-3500 I believe! It seems to work best for me. The sub booms and the highs are fantastic once EQ'd. I tried monitors and hated them."


come on! a good set of speakers is a must. Don't you think it's fair to spend at least $600 for a sound system after spent $2100 on the fantastic S90ES.

Try Yamaha HS50 Studio monitor w/subwoofer pretty amazing sound,or m-audio bx8a monitors or simply a roland kc-550. Honestly, Comparison here is out of place, specially when you are using a toy as a sound system.

Regarding your bad experience with monitors, you should have done something wrong.

Overall it was a good review.

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I have a S90ES as well. If your using the S90ES in a home studio, I suggest getting a pair of monitors. Decent ones can be had at a fairly reasonable price. I run the S90 through a mixer and through a pair of Samson Resolv 65a's. They aren't the best out there but for $300 they are certainly a good deal. I found that they sound better than some of the higher priced monitors. They sound clear and I lose very, very little sound wise than when I hear the S90ES through headphones. YOu can also sequence through a computer sicne your using this primarirly at home. Just some food for thought.

Begin the day with a friendly voice A companion, unobtrusive

- Rush

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come on! a good set of speakers is a must. Don't you think it's fair to spend at least $600 for a sound system after spent $2100 on the fantastic S90ES.

Try Yamaha HS50 Studio monitor w/subwoofer pretty amazing sound,or m-audio bx8a monitors or simply a roland kc-550. Honestly, Comparison here is out of place, specially when you are using a toy as a sound system.

Regarding your bad experience with monitors, you should have done something wrong.



Well, you'd have to understand the source to understand my comment. I really love bass. When I was 16 in High School my brother owned the ONLY car stereo shop in the city. This was 1983. I had a camaro with 8 10" Becker Woofers and 600 watts - impressive numbers back in the day. A stock stereo system by today's standards. Well, it ruined me for life. I love bass. I love the thump. I'm used to it. I'm ruined.


I had Mackie HR824s - no slouches. They were a grand for the pair and I tried them. They were okay. And I mean for 1K they were just average. I would listen to CDs through them and it was kind of cool, but nothing I hadn't heard before in my Shure EC-3 earbuds. So I got rid of them.


I also have a Motion Sound KP200S stereo amp. I use this with my Midi Accordion rig. The S90ES sounds okay through it. Just okay. This is a $1000 amp. I've tweaked everything in the world and it still doesn't float my boat.


I bought the Logitech system on a whim. I think it's 200 Watts with small satellite speakers and a rather large sub. It was like $70 shipped on special. Well, it sound great to me! The bass really thumps and the highs are really clear to me. The S90ES has a lot of EQ control so I could taylor it to my needs. The bass notes of the piano are stunning. People that I play for notice it. I notice it and I love it.


To your point that I must be doing something wrong, well, maybe. I definitely don't have a professional studio with sound dampening. I have a home office. It's 10x10 and has a desk and my PC in it as well. It serves its purpose.


I guess what I'm really saying is that I realize my limitations and know what I like and the Logitech system works for me. Better than the Mackies.


I have this pool of money that I use to keep buying equipment. I sell an amp and a drum machine, I buy a rack module. I sell the rack module and a DAW, I buy a keyboard, etc. It's kind of like a very smooth pendulum - it will keep going for a very long time but eventually friction will get the better of it and it will stop. Each time I sell equipment I get a little less than I paid for it. But things like selling the Mackies and getting the Logitechs really expand that pool!!!


Good luck.



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As I learn more and more about the type of people who love the S90 ES and prefer it to the Motif series or the P-series and CP-series Digital Pianos, I begin to wonder why Yamaha dropped the additional differentiation from the earlier CS6/S80/S30 series.


I own the CS6x (wonderful synth controller!), and recently compared its waveform list and preset voices with the S80 and S30 as I am currently in the process of trying to consolidate a bunch of voice libraries that were not consistently targeted towards the same member of that family.


Much to my surprise, the S80 not only had a dedicated collection of more heavily layered piano waveforms vs. the CS6, but it ALSO had a large collection of additional choir and pad waveforms. A huge number of the preset voices use these waveforms and thus cannot be easily transferred to the CS6.


My recollection is that the S90 is only differentiated from the Motif Classic in that the S90 included an extra triple-strike piano.


With the S90 ES, they have begun to further differentiate the S-series from the workstation series by providing half-dampering support, string resonance, etc. But I wonder why they didn't revive the dedication to choirs and pads, considering that's what everyone seems to want and what people most criticise about the Motif to begin with. After all, the S-series seems more and more to be oriented towards Worship -- even though it of course appeals to many other market segments.


As for the action, I agree that the S90 ES action seems a bit more responsive than the Motif ES 8. I am fairly certain that Yamaha confirmed that the action was tweaked slightly. Sometimes, but rarely, they tweak a keybed during a production run of the same instrument (the P250 comes to mind).


If the S90 ES had graded hammer action, I would have bought it and would be using it as my main controller. Instead, I am waiting on the CME VX8 and am using the Motif-Rack ES.


But I can see why the balanced hammer action would be more appropriate for the market that the S90 ES goes after. And it also distinguihses it from the CP33 and CP300, the P140, etc.

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I think Jazzwee and Mark are both right about the action of the S90ES.


I swear theres times when I switch to an EP (or ??? ) and the keybed actually 'softens' or 'adjust' to suit the play-ability of that particular sound (far better than any other action in any other board Ive felt. I obviously know the action isnt actually changing but the way it handles the velocity (or whatever) could almost fool ya to believe a physical adjustment in the keys is happening.


Im very happy with the action. I had the 700sx for a bit and loved the piano (except for the annoying 'ringing' in a few keys that seemed to appear out of nowhere) but the action wasnt my favorite. With the 700sx action it seemed my fingers were tripping over themselves. I connected MUCH better to the S90ES action.


I know alot of people swear up and down that the Motif ES8 and S90ES aciton are identical.... Id have to put my money on what Mark said, that there was a bit of 'tweeking'/improving over the Motif either physical in nature or just in how it handles the sounds or BOTH maybe....

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"I actually much prefer to sing, I just play piano/keys to accompany the singing actually. Im still trying to figure out the best PA for that. Im having trouble getting these studio monitors im using, M-Audio BX8a's, to sound the way I want them to with the piano and vocals."


HomeAmature, I would recommen the Bose L1 (PAS). I've had mine for 2 years and it's the best thing I've ever heard for keys and vocals. I'm gigging with it about 3 times a week and loving it. Ewall

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I'm a relatively new s90es owner (of a year) also, and I play mine through Logitechs, too, the z2300, which sounds the same as tommyboy's (3 pieces, satellites and sub, 200W), and it sounds great. The bass is really deep, and it's fun just playing around with bass patches sometimes.
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thanks for the suggestion,... Ive peeked at those before but there a bit more then Id like to spend, they actually cost more then the S90ES. Im just a home hobbiest (for now...) and thats alot of cash to try and justify.


Im not as happy with these M-AudioBX8a's as I thought I would be, particularly on the vocals, it seems no matter how much I mess with the EQ there just a bit on the cold almost hollow-can-ish side. There pretty decent for cranking mp3s and cds through, but for live practicing ...not so much. --- and these are $500pr monitors; aparently Ill have to spend more though.... ughhh it never ends..

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