Yamaha’s Reface synth line are out now, with full details. You can dig through the site rather than have to do it here – but let’s look at what you might find surprising.
It has Web MIDI, not just MIDI. Yamaha promises the line will connect to Google Chrome via Web MIDI. Now, theoretically, that’s possible in the latest Chrome builds with any MIDI keyboard, not just the Yamaha. But it suggests that Yamaha are atypically embracing bleeding edge tech (previously seen only at hackdays and such) and making it a standard feature. And there’s more: “Soundmondo is a free sound sharing community that lets you discover, create and share reface Voices and Set Lists using Google Chrome any place, any time you’re online.” Okay, then.
Those mini keys don’t have a mini action. This is the best news. Yamaha says the action comes from their Motif XF flagship – and those feel great. So this may be the first mini keys that don’t make you say, at best, “meh,” and at worst, “$#(&*$.”
Each keyboard supports multiple sound models on the engine. 4-operator FM on the DX + 12 algorithms – limited to that (no 6-voice FM, sorry), but you get continuously variable feedback on every operator. The YC has five organ models – “American tonewheel,” British, Italian, and Japanese “transistor organs,” and the Yamaha YC-45D. The CS, which initially didn’t interest me so much, has selectable waves: Multi-saw, Pulse, Oscillator Sync, ring mod, and FM. And the CP (sorry for the acronym) covers everything a gigging keyboardist could want apart from the organs: Rhodes mk I, Rhodes Mk II, Whirly, Clav, CP80 electric gran=d (of course), and even a toy piano. (The tine pianos aren’t called by those names of course, but… well, you do the math.)
You get up to 128-note polyphony. Thank you, digital technology. That’s on the YC; there’s less on the other models.
They fit in a tote bag. Just watch this excellent artist video with Ingrid Michaelson. (I think it’s fine, anyway. YouTube viewers are voting it down, because YouTube commenters are mean. I’d like to put a tote bag over their head so I can’t hear them.)
They run on batteries, too. Six AA’s, so… uh, you probably want to buy rechargeable alkalines, as on the KORG volca series. Fortunately, USB power works, too. But it is great to be wireless.
You can route your iPad through them – and they’ve got speakers. There’s a minijack (3.5 mm) input. Plug in an iPad, an iPhone, or anything else, and the sound passes through the speakers and audio jacks. When it comes time to gig, though, the Reface series still have full-sized dual 1/4″ (unbalanced) mono jacks.
They list for US$799. That’s probably about twice what you expected. Two ways to read this: one, fluctuating currencies these days almost demand a higher list. But two, it could be good news: you’re finally getting a mobile product that’s premium. Who says small has to mean worse? Also – US$499 street we’re hearing, so this isn’t astronomical for a full-featured keyboard. It’s just that lately a lot of products have cut corners to hit a lower price point.
The packaging is really pretty. This may seem like a small thing. But this is some of the slickest packaging I’ve seen in our business – and that actually means something. It means Yamaha is breaking some old habits and behaving like a company that makes things that people buy, rather than a musical instruments company repeating what it has always done.
Unsurprising: it’s a relief when the industry stops listening to the same old customers again and again and again. I have no idea what’s going on in this video. But I do know what’s going on in this comment: “Give me five octaves or more of a full sized keyboard, 256 patch memories or more, and a FULL control panel, and you have my money. Polypressure keybeds while you’re at it.”
Um – no. You’ve had your turn. Also: what?! In fact, you can get effectively unlimited patch memories online – and 32 onboard, which ought to cover most gigs. Polypressure keybeds, well, buy a ROLI.
I stand by my prediction. These things are going to get a lot of hate online — and a lot of love in stores, including from people who don’t read any of our dull specialist websites, like this one. Though… please, read CDM. I’ll go skateboarding with you. And that’ll provide some comic relief.
Look, they’ve finally given us Web URLs that make sense, even.