NAMM 2018: Half Monty, Full Monty

Winter NAMM 2018 is January 25 to 28 in Anaheim, California. Get your ear protectors ready!

Even though I’ve been concentrating on the Yamaha Genos™, two Yamaha promotions have not escaped my attention.

Back in October, Yamaha began offering a MOXF promotion: Buy a MOXF and get an FL512M flash memory expansion board and the MOXF Premium Content Pack. Not bad. The MOX6 is my gig workhorse and I still enjoy playing it even though I have often pined for flash expansion memory. If you like the Motif XF sound or miss built-in sequencing, then now is a good time to find a good deal on the MOXF and buy one.

This is one of those rare times when a promotion is a harbinger of a future product release. The MOXF uses the previous generation AWM2 tone generation chip, SWP51L. The SWP51L has been superceded by the SWP70 family now deployed in the Montage, PSR-S770/S970 and Genos. The MOXF is the only current product in the synth and arranger product lines based on the SWP51L. Once Yamaha uses up its internal supply of SWP51Ls, that’s it.

So, the MOXF is due to be refreshed (like the MX line) or updated. If you’re OK with the MOXF as it is — and it is a fine machine — then make your move now or wait a little longer for close-out.

Be sure to take advantage of the free flash offer or get you dealer to kick in an expansion board. Yamaha have moved to built-in flash expansion memory and this is definitely the end of the line for the Yamaha flash expansion boards. The boards do not “speak” with the new tone generator and you won’t need them for future Yamaha products.

What would the MOXF replacement look and sound like? Would the MOXF be a “half-Monty?” Tough question.

I’ve spent a lot of time researching both the Montage and Genos as my next instrument for the long-term. Due to the widespread availability of Montage, I’ve had more seat time with Montage (several hours over several days) than the Genos (a two hour go at Audioworks CT). I play an MOX6 and/or PSR-S950 on a daily basis.

Given this experience, Yamaha’s top-of-the-line (TOTL) instruments are more than an incremental cut above middle-of-the-line instruments. In terms of control (knobs, sliders and such) and sound, the TOTL is way above the mid-range.

Hope springs eternal. People are hoping that the next mid-range arranger workstation will be a “mini-Genos.” Similarly, synth people may be hoping for a “half-Monty.”

I think these people will be disappointed. Montage and Genos command a premium price and they both need the feature set and sound to justify the TOTL value proposition. I think the big gap between TOTL and mid-range will persist. In the case of the MOXF replacement, Yamaha aren’t under much pressure to make and sell a half-Monty (e.g., a synth with the Montage’s AWM2 sound set, no FM). The recently refreshed MX, at the low end, has the Motif XS sound set, now ten years old. The MOXF has the very respectable seven year old Motif XF sound set and the sequencing capability that so many people miss in Montage. Thus, Yamaha could give the MOXF a minor spiff and still have a very marketable product in the mid-range.

The same reasoning applies to the next mid-range arranger workstations.

Hey, so I mentioned two promotions. The second promotion is “Buy a Montage and get a pair of HS5 studio monitors for free.” Until the Yamaha promotion came along, Sweetwater was giving away a free Yamaha Reface CS with the purchase of a Montage. The Montage (AKA “the full Monty”) is just turning two years old. I’m a little surprised that the Montage needs a promotion at this point to spur sales.

Might we expect a Montage 2.0 at NAMM? Yamaha have issued a series of successful, substantive updates for the Montage and a major software update might give the full Monty a bit of a shove and a boost.

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

Genos: First contact (snap review)

Before I dive into Yamaha Genos™, I need to send a big shoutout to Frank Ventresca of Audioworks CT. I tested and bought my PSR-S950 from Audioworks CT. I’m ba-ack, having had a good experience the first time — largely due to Frank’s customer service. If you’re interested in trying and buying an arranger keyboard, I recommend visiting Audioworks CT and/or giving Frank a call.

For me, it’s about 140 miles one way from home to Audioworks CT. Preparations are similar to getting ready for a long day hike — only with sheet music instead of boots. The long car trip means that testing time is limited. I try to hit the driving sweet spot between morning rush on I-495/I-290 near Boston and the afternoon rush from New Haven and Hartford, leaving me about two hours to play.

After arriving at Audioworks CT, I found a three tiered stack: Yamaha Montage, Korg Pa4x and Yamaha Genos, from top to bottom. Thanks to a tip from Stephen on the PSR Tutorial Forum, I expected to see the Pa4x. With that foreknowledge, do I A/B the Genos and the Pa4x? I chose to focus solely on the Genos given the two hour window for testing. Frank, BTW, invited me to stay longer, but I knew that I needed to avoid traffic Hell later in the day.

I warmed up while Frank finished a business meeting. No music stand, so I used the Pa4x as a very expensive music rest. Once Frank was available, he quickly installed the Genos music stand.

I decided to listen through headphones rather than use Audioworks’ house system. It’s a good system, but I decided to go with my usual, lightweight headphones (Roland RH-7A). Headphones also freed up the LINE OUT which I connected to a Roland MicroBR digital recorder. This setup let me hit record, play and forget.

At the time of this writing, I pulled a few snippets among the noodling and posted them here. I’m trying to get my first impressions down fast and don’t want audio production to get in the way of my initial thoughts.

Before recording, I set the Genos EQ to flat and turned off the master compression. Audio is recorded direct to MP3 (192 kbit/sec). Not the best quality, but I was afraid of overrunning the rather small SD card in the MicroBR. After setting initial levels, I tried to forget that the MicroBR was there and that the red light was ON.

It’s humbling to listen to my noodling. Hats off to everyone’s main man Katsunori UJIIE, who seems to rip this stuff effortlessly!

Genos is an instrument

One shouldn’t have to say this, but the Genos is an instrument in the same league as Montage or Kronos. With the limited time available, I concentrated on Genos as a performance instrument first and as an arranger keyboard second. This approach is consistent with my musical priorities: church gig first, fun and possibly one man band (OMB) second.

As a liturgical musician, I play with a pianist on acoustic piano and a 12-string guitar. That’s a lot of rhythmic content right there. Much of what I play complements piano and 12-string guitar. Subconsciously, I fill in and hear these missing parts when practicing. Hopefully, you will fill in this context, too. If and when you hear the audio snippets, I’m playing fuller than I would with the group. There is always a tendency to “be the whole band” when playing alone. Apologies in advance.

The focus is on emulation of acoustic instruments, orchestra and pop. You won’t hear any synth and given the short trial time, you won’t hear many styles (unfortunately).

The FSX keyboard is a more robust keybed than the PSR-S950. The FSX action is heavier. You do get what you pay for. The FSX affords aftertouch; the S950 does not.

The Genos has three front panel articulation buttons to trigger voice articulations. The voice display shows the available articulations for each selected voice. (Nice.) The voice display also shows a drawbar icon for organ flute voices. Touching the drawbar icon brings up the drawbar display. (Extra nice.) I made extensive use of the voice DEMO touch button in order to play and sort through voices quickly.

The user interface is responsive. I didn’t get a sense of lag as reported by other players. I discovered that the MENU front panel button is your special friend. It brings up two pages filled with touch buttons leading to all internal settings. It’s kind of a “site map” for the Genos.

Strings

The Genos is like having a compact orchestral sample library in a portable, immediately playable keyboard. Think Garritan Personal Orchestra.

There are two major options for strings in addition to legacy voices: Kino strings and Seattle strings. The Seattle strings first appeared in the Tyros 5 before they were explicitly identified and advertised in the Montage. The Kino strings have a different character and the violin sections are panned separately left and right. Both options have multiple bowing and playing techniques (legato, spiccato, pizzicato) plus articulations. The options are also broken out into sections as well as the standard ensemble voices.

The Kino strings have more power and are more in your face than the Seattle strings. Dare I say, more bow? Where is Dave Stewart when you need him? (This review would be wittier if written by Dave Stewart, too.)

The voice DEMO feature is really handy when approaching a deep keyboard like Genos for the first time. I quickly settled on the “warm” variation of the Kino strings and Seattle strings. Either choice (Kino Seattle) would work as a bread and butter ensemble patch. I give the edge to Seattle because, well, they would sit better with piano and acoustic guitar, given our repertoire. Tyros 5 people, hold up your heads with pride.

With the loss of our group’s flutist, I’m play a lot of exposed solo lines using violin, oboe and flute. The Genos offers four Super Articulation 2 solo voices: Celtic Violin, Jazz Violin, Classical Cello and Pop Cello. The Celtic Violin is a good fit with our liturgical repertoire. The Genos cellos are quite good, definitely a big cut above the MOX6 that I currently play. I wish that I had more time to check out the cellos.

Meta-comment: Exploiting the Genos, especially its articulations and ensembles — will require practice, practice, practice.

Woodwinds

In the case of woodwinds, I need both ensemble voices (or layers) and solo voices (mainly oboe and flute). The Genos does not disappoint in either category.

I quite easily built and tried a few layers. It wasn’t difficult to create a workable reed plus horn layer — another bread and butter, every Sunday patch. Less is often more. It isn’t necessary to layer up a preset woodwind ensemble with French horn; sometimes a mellow oboe or clarinet will do.

The Genos has two SArt2 oboes (classical and pop) and an SArt “MOR Oboe.” The Classic Oboe is bright and thin, able to cut through strings. For exposed lines, I would prefer the Pop Oboe or MOR Oboe voices that have a warmer, fuller sound.

The SArt2 Classical Bassoon and Pop Bassoon are quite pleasant without moving into comedic territory. (Peter and the Wolf.)

Brass

The Genos has a mess’o’horns and classical brass. Symphony horns are quite useful in liturgy as pads and mid-range filler. Fanfare brass is too much except for the obvious holidays when all sorts of sonic mayhem can be let loose. The Genos has a wide range of horns from mellow to a brighter more open tone.

The brasher instruments (trumpet and trombone) are available solo and in sections. All quite good. Trombones are especially useful due to their wider range and deeper timbre.

The demo phrases for certain brass voices are way hotter level-wise than the strings or woodwinds. I had to adjust the audio record level way down to prevent clipping. Unfortunately, this affected the level for everything else that I recorded during the day. Sorry, I just spaced out and didn’t reset the level. (Argh!) So, you may need to adjust the audio volume at your end.

Drawbar organ

Huh? That’s not classical. Our church means gospel and a little Hispanic music, too.

I enjoyed getting into the Genos drawbar organ. There’s no undiscovered clone killer here, but Yamaha’s drawbar emulation will work in a lot of churches (and stages, too). I’m already quite familiar with Yamaha’s emulation having played both the MOX and PSR-S950.

The physical drawbars are a treat. The knobs are shaped like, er, classic drawbar knobs. The bars can be changed and played in real time, something that I miss on the MOX and to a large extent, the S950. If you select a preset, the physical position of the sliders does not directly relate to the sound, of course. The sliders are not motorized. When a slider is moved, it won’t change the sound until the slider “catches” the current internal bar value. That’s why Martin Harris “warms up” the sliders before playing the bars in his demo videos.

The new rotary speaker simulation is an improvement, but won’t knock the Neo Ventilator from its perch. Here, Yamaha have some work to do immediately:

  • The Drive parameter doesn’t seem to have any effect on the sound. (Thanks to Uli from the PSR Tutorial Forum for pointing this out.) Pushing the Drive to 10 doesn’t add any overdrive.
  • As mentioned in an earlier post, the rotor slow/fast and fast/slow times cannot be adjusted; only the horn (de)acceleration times can be adjusted.

Yamaha needs to fix these divots.

The rotary speaker sim is set too fast out of the box. This gave me a chance to dive into the DSP effect editing menus. I made the changes without too much difficulty and without a manual. Good job. I just wish that I could change the rotor (de)acceleration times, too.

This seems to be a good place to mention that sound programmers universally tend to set the times too fast, especially the ramp times. Players love it when it takes a while for those old, vintage belts and pulleys to spin the rotor/horn up and down. A lot of real B-players habitually hit the half-moon switch to keep the Leslie in its intermediate, changing state. Watching Gregg Allman do this in 1971 was a revelation that stuck with me for a lifetime!

Wot? No pipe organ? Genos carries over the quite excellent handful of pipe organ voices from Tyros 5. They’re good. Move along.

Pop instruments

Now that the main job is done, it’s time for the funk and blues.

You probably noticed by now that I haven’t said anything about the CFX and C7 acoustic pianos. You’re right and you won’t hear another word about them from me. They’re covered elsewhere, everywhere.

I did try the Suitcase Rhodes (oh, why this charade about names?), the Wurlitzer and the Clav. All will do the business. The Suitcase is still waaaay too polite for my taste in fusion. Think the fuzzed out bliss of “Mahavishnu.” That’s a 70’s Rhodes.

The SArt2 Funk Alto Sax and Funk Baritone Sax are welcome additions. I look forward to exploring those. The Jazz Flute sounds good to my ears and has interesting articulations. The Classical Flute can jam, too.

I took a listen to the new Active Bass (Music Man Stingray?) Sweet. Should provide new options when sequencing.

Then there’s the mess’o’guitars. I presume that 50’s is Telecaster and 60’s is Stratocaster? With all the DSP at hand, the electric guitars are instant “tone” with all of the right pedal-board effects dialed in. The jazz guitar sounds good. I often reach for jazz guitar when playing pop. (Need more technique, though. Practice, practice, practice.)

The sax and brass demos start out with the new funk saxes. The rhythm section demo includes Suitcase Rhodes, Wurli, Clav, CP80, Active Bass, electric guitars and jazz guitar.

Styles

At this point in the day, my ears and hands were getting trashed. I was hoping to try the styles that have been getting short shrift in on-line videos. Given the time that was left, all I could hit was “Mr. Soul” and “Soul Supreme” with the old chestnut “Acoustic Jazz” thrown in. All good for a fun-time jam.

Neither style was harmed by playing over them. I did jam quite a bit and got a decent Fishbelly Black organ tone out of the drawbar organ and rotary sim. Oh, happy day!

Workflow

You should be able to sense my time urgency at this point because my comments are getting shorter and shorter.

I played along with a few MIDI and WAV audio songs in order to assess the workflow for OMB. Even without playlists and registrations, the Genos has a much smoother workflow than the Montage in this regard. Montage designers should take note because many Montage players incorporate audio and MIDI tracks into their performances, too.

I botched a chance to try Revo drums with a MIDI file. I brought the USB drive that contains my WAV audio and MIDI backing tracks. I played along with “Just My Imagination,” a track that suffers from extreme “machine gun” drum rolls. Darn, with time pressing, I forgot to re-voice the file with a Revo drums kit! Bummer.

Summary

Genos is waaaaaay too much for two hours. Two weeks, two months, maybe.

There you have it. Genos? Yes, I played one. As you can tell from this quick review, I’m more enthusiastic than ever about Genos.

Need more information about Super Articulation voices? Please look here.

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

Genos: Position and promotion

The first public European demos started over the weekend. I’ve been watching Peter Baartmans and Sander Tournier put the Genos through its paces.

The whole experience has me thinking about how the Genos is being positioned in regional markets, mainly, western Europe versus North America.

First off, the arranger keyboard culture is completely different in Europe than the United States. Arranger demonstrations are big public events. One recent demo had over 500 attendees in the audience. In some venues, audience members buy tickets! This is unimaginable in the United States (except iPhone).

The European demos show off a broader range of styles. In this aspect, I’m comparing the European demos with videos made for American retailers (Guitar Center, Sweetwater, and Kraft Music). The European demos cover everything from jazz to rock to EDM to classical to traditional European pop. For the latter, think outdoor cafes and biergartens where you can spend hours with a few hundred like-minded souls. Not to mention that acquired taste, Schlager. (And that’s not a beer!)

The American demos concentrate on contemporary musical genres and styles. The Genos has new acoustic and pedal steel guitars, so Nashville and country get special emphasis. Martin Harris highlights the Kino strings coming more from a cinematic or singer-songwriter perspective. These are customers that Yamaha hopes to hook in North America. With all of its articulated sounds, the Genos is a mini-library of sampled instruments both pop and orchestral.

The American videos avoid any whiff of cheese. Unfortunately, many American listeners regard (too) many musical styles as “cheese” and the typical Guitar Center clientele are the worst offenders. Thus, you won’t hear traditional European pop in a video targeted for American retailers. In the U.S., arranger keyboards are regarded as the evil spawn of the cha-cha home organ. After playing Montage and hearing the Genos demos, a lot of folks need to adjust their thinking.

Yamaha run a risk, here, because on-line media is world-wide. I’m thinking about the videos for the Dexibell drawbar organ. A few people saw one video which didn’t fit their musical taste and bad-mouthed the Dexibell to high Heaven. They never moved on to the other videos which had some very tasty jazz.

At this point in the Genos launch, it’s a little difficult to dig out the deeper jazz, soul, R&B, and funk possibilities of the Genos. You need to wade through a lot of video to even get a sniff.

The customer base for high-end arranger keyboards is aging. Even the European audiences have a lot of “gray heads.” (I’m getting grayer by the day, too. 🙂 ) Yamaha and its dealers want to entice a younger crowd with arranger keyboards. But, they have a dilemma. A young person today does not have the disposable income for a $5,500 (USD street) keyboard, especially when they can make music with their smart phone, tablet or laptop. The entry price to EDM, for example, is much lower than the price of a Genos.


[Source: Yamaha Easy Product Guide, 2017; Click to enlarge.]

Yamaha led the Genos campaign with EDM. This gave the Genos a youthful cachet, but alienated many people in the historical customer base for high-end arranger product. Folks wondered, “Did they drop the big band styles?” However, let’s say that Yamaha did put a schmaltzy big band tune into the Guitar Center video. Instant turn off. Personally, I wouldn’t mind a big band tune. I grew up listening to Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman, but that was my father’s music. (BTW, I respect that music; I just don’t play it.) Most people can’t look beyond the end of their own musical nose.

So, where do Yamaha find customers with sufficient disposable income and maybe the time and interest? Back to the 80s! The Genos has some excellent styles that allow note-for-note covers of famous 1980s pop and rock, including synth-heavy 80s pop. We all tend to relate emotionally to the music of our teen years and early 20s. Let’s take 1985 as the midpoint, subtract 20 years and look to people born around 1965 or so. They were teens when 80s music was happening. Thus, Yamaha are targeting people in their late 40s and early 50s — old enough to have the disposable income for a high-end arranger while young enough to rebuild the aging customer base.

Well, I hope this ramble has given you a different perspective on Genos and arranger keyboard marketing. The Yamaha demos are carefully designed and scripted to appeal to target market segments. Where do you fit?

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

First look at new Genos effects

New Genos effect algorithms

To my way of thinking, Genos/Tyros/PSR DSP effects consist of two parts: an effect algorithm and sets of preset parameters for the algorithm. That’s my mental model. Genos adds a number of new effect algorithms and effect presets versus Tyros 5. Here is a terse summary of the additions:

  • Reverb block
    • New presets with enhanced mid-range
  • Chorus block
    • Tempo delay, tempo echo and tempo cross delay added
  • Insertion/variation blocks
    • New distortion effects (not included in Montage)
      • Tweed Guy: Vintage bass amp simulator
      • Boutique DC: Boutique made overdrive amp simulator
      • Y-Amp: Preamp & amp simulator for Guitar
      • Distomp: Preamp & parametric EQ simulator for Guitar
      • 80s Small Box: 80s distortion pedal simulator
    • New EQ & compressor effects
      • Uni Comp: Compressor using “downward” algorithm for making loud sounds quieter
    • New modulation effects
      • Real Rotary (Same as Montage minus horn acceleration parameters)
    • New miscellaneous effects
      • Damper Resonance:Simulates a damper resonance effect for grand piano (same as Montage)
      • Presence: Brings out the hidden presence of the input signal
      • Tyros 5 Loop Fx and Lo-Fi Drum effects moved to “Misc” category

BTW, it’s not clear if the Genos does half-pedal like the Montage. I’m thinking, “No.” Yamaha have reserved Virtual Resonance Modeling (VRM) for the Clavinova series. Genos and Montage get the DAMPER RESONANCE DSP algorithm instead.

I’ve been trying to decode the names of the guitar effect algorithms. Yamaha seem incredibly paranoid about stepping on someone’s trademark or copyright. Here’s my current guesses:

  • Tweed guy: Fender Bassman (’59 vintage)
  • Boutique DC: Cornell by DC Developments
  • Y-Amp: Yamaha Y-Amp
  • Distcomp: Yamaha stomp pedal
  • 80s Small Box: MXR fuzz pedal simulator

I wonder if we’ll see these algorithms ported to the Montage in an update? Just after the Tyros 5 was released, the T5’s “Real Distortion” effect algorithms were added to the Motif XF (version 1.5).

Yamaha needs to fix this divot

I did a quick compare of Montage effects vs. Genos effects. As mentioned above, Genos adds the new rotary speaker effect algorithm first released in Montage. Here is a correspondence table:

Montage           Genos             MSB LSB Genos preset name
----------------  ----------------  --- --- --------------------------
ROTARY SPEAKER 1  ROTARY SPEAKER 1  99  16  Dual Rotary Speaker Bright
                                    99  17  Dual Rotary Speaker Warm
ROTARY SPEAKER 2  REAL ROTARY       69  32

“ROTARY SPEAKER 1” is the former, go-to rotary speaker effect algorithm (WARM and BRIGHT).

At this level, all looks great. Except, the Genos Data List PDF shows 16 parameters for the REAL ROTARY algorithm while the Montage Data List shows 18 parameters. The Genos leaves out:

No. Parameter               Range                 Value      Tbl No.
--- ----------------------- --------------------- ---------- -------
17  Slow-Fast Time of Rotor x0.21 - x1.00 - x2.00 (14 - 127) 49
18  Fast-Slow Time of Rotor x0.21 - x1.00 - x2.00 (14 - 127) 49

Either the Genos cannot store more than 16 DSP parameters or it cannot display/edit more than 16 DSP parameters.

Whatever the reason, this stinks and Yamaha need to fix this divot. People need to set the (de)acceleration times for both the horn and rotor. They have sinned in the eyes of B-3 purists and must atone.

Genos Firmware V1.10

All is not bleak, however. Genos Firmware version 1.10 has been announced. Yamaha’s quick summary:

  • What’s new?
    • Audio Multi Recording function is available
    • Search function while adding the Playlist
    • Supports use with the Yamaha Expansion Manager (V2.5.0 or later)
    • Supports Expansion Audio Style
    • Wireless LAN status can be checked on the Time display
    • Improved the performance of the instrument
    • Fixed other minor problems
  • Registration Memory can additionally save following parameters
    • Arpeggio Velocity
    • Arpeggio Gate Time
    • Arpeggio Unit Multiply
    • Style Retrigger Rate
    • Style Retrigger On/Off
    • Style Retrigger On/Off & Rate

The update adds support for Yamaha Expansion Manager (YEM) voice editing and pack installation.

The update is scheduled for release on 1 November 2017. The Genos Reference Manual and Data List were pulled pending the release of the update. The fact that a quick update was in the works might explain why the V1.0 Reference Manual and Data List were delayed. Big corporations move with leviathan speed. [No real news, there.]

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

First glance at Genos voices

The Yamaha Genos™ Reference Manual and Data List PDF files are now available. Please see your local Yamaha support site.

When I check out a new keyboard, I ask, “What’s truly new and what’s recycled?” The Genos breaks new territory and draws heavily on new Montage waveforms, as well as recycling the good stuff from Tyros 5. Now that the waveform memory barrier is broken, Genos includes all of the Tyros 5 legacy stuff, adopts many waveforms from Montage, and gives many voices a major boost to Super Articulation 2 (SArt2).

Many of the T5 voices are renamed in Genos. One needs to compare the MSB, LSB and program change numbers across models. Renaming drives me crazy! The Telecaster guitar voices now begin with the prefix “50s,” and presumably, the new Stratocaster guitar begins with the prefix “60s.” I guess the Gibson SG is next to be sampled. 🙂

I have to warn you that my analysis reflects my own musical interests and needs: mainly liturgical music and funk. If you’re looking for pads, synths, etc., there aren’t the droids you’re looking for.

First, the major stuff recycled from Tyros 5:

  • Seattle strings (now explicitly identified as such)
  • Electric piano “body” waveforms.
  • Flamenco guitar
  • Telecaster guitar (now renamed “50s”)
  • Celtic violin
  • Orchestra horns, trumpets and trombones (sections)
  • Classical flute and clarinet

Please don’t consider “recycled” as a negative criticism. These instruments are all quite good.

Now the stuff from Montage:

  • CFX acoustic grand
  • CP80 electric grand
  • Electric piano ambient noises
  • Scottish accordeon
  • Steel acoustic guitar (Gibson)
  • D folk guitar (Martin D45)
  • Bass trombone
  • Oboe and bassoon

Voices that did not make the jump to hyperspace are: euphonium, piccolo trumpet, contra bassoon, Celtic harp. I’m still trying to sort out solo French horn. If these voices are critical to you, I guess you’re buying a Montage.

The Wurlitzer electric piano might have gotten a touch up. I won’t know until I play the Genos. The Montage Wurli included ambient noises. For some reason, The Yamaha euphemism for “Wurlitzer” is “70sVintage”. Arg, I hate this naming nonsense.

Let’s move on the totally new stuff:

  • C7 acoustic grand
  • Kino strings (sections, spicatto, tremolo)
  • Stratocaster guitar (prefix “60s”)
  • Resonator guitar
  • Ukelele
  • Mandolin
  • Pedal steel guitar
  • Active bass fingered and picked (Stringray bass)

There are other new voices like accordions and such.

Woodwinds, in general, appear to have gotten a major update. Many of the voices are now SArt2. I’m very happy to see SArt2 oboes since I use oboe (and flute) in many exposed lines. I’m also glad to see SArt2 funk alto sax and baritone sax.

If you are a songwriter or composer and need strings, look no further. You have choice between two very able and tricked out string “packages:” Seattle and Kino. The Seattle strings first appeared in Tyros 5 and then were heavily promoted during the Montage launch. Kino strings are an all new addition. Genos offers solo cello voices, too. Yeah!

That’s my preliminary analysis. Genos is checking off a lot of my boxes and criteria for a new ax. More to come as I dig deeper.

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

Motif XF          Montage             Genos
----------------  ----------------    ----------------  
CF3               CFX                 CFX
S6                S700
                                      C7
EP 1-3            EP 4
                  Rd                  70sSuitcase
                  Rd73
                  Rd78
                  Rd Noise            70sSuitcase
Wurli EP          Wr 1-3              70sVintageEP
                  Wr Noise
Clav 1-4          Clav 5              Clavi/ClaviFunk T5
                  Clav Noise
                  Upright             UprightPiano
CP70              CP80                CP80 ElectricGrand
                  CP80 KeyOff
Vibraphone 1-2    Vibraphone 3        Vibraphone T5
                  Motor Vibes
Pipe Organ 1-5
                  Tone Wheel 1-6
                  SctAcc Musette      ScottishAccordeon
Nylon 1           Nylon 2
                  Flamenco            FlamencoGuitar T5
                  Steel 2-3           SteelAcoustic, D-FolkGuitar
                  Telecaster (TC)     50sVintageStage T5
Acoustic Bass 1   Acoustic Bass 2
Violin 1          Violin 2 1st        Orchestral 1stVln T5
                  Violin 2 2nd        Orchestral 2ndVln T5
Viola 1           Viola 2             OchestralViola T5
Cello 1           Cello 2             OrchestralCello T5
Contrabass 1
                  US Strings          SeattleStrings T5
                  Violins 1st         Seattle1stViolins T5
                  Violins 2nd         Seattle2ndViolins T5
                  Violas              SeatleViolas T5
                  Cellos              SeattleCellos T5
                  ContBasses          SeattleBasses T5
                  CelticHarp
                  Celtic Violin       CelticViolin SArt2 T5
Trumpet 1-2       Trumpet 3           ClassicTrumpet SArt2 T5
                  Piccolo Tp
Trumpet Mute                          MuteTrumpet SArt2 T5
Soft Trumpet                          SoftTrumpet SArt2
Trombone 1-2      Trombone 3          ClassicTrombone T5
                  Bass Trombone       BassTromTenuto
                  Euphonium
French Horn 1     French Horn 2
French Horns 1    French Horns 2-3    OrchHorns T5
                  Trumpets 1-2        OrchTrumpets T5
                  Trombones 1-2       OrchTrombones T5
Soprano Sax 1-3                       BalladSopranoSax T5
Alto Sax 1-3                          AltoSax SArt2
Tenor Sax 1-2                         TenorSax SArt2
Clarinet 1        Clarinet 2-3        Clarinet SArt2
Oboe 1-2          Oboe 3-4            Oboe SArt2
Bassoon 1         Bassoon 2-3         Bassoon SArt2
Flute 1-2         Flute 3-4           ClassicalFlute SArt2 T5
                  CBassoon 1-2
Piccolo 1-2       Piccolo 3-4

Note :T5" means "Added in T5 and included in Genos"

Genos and the future of Montage

A member of the Yamaha Synth forum asked me for some thoughts about the future of Montage given what we know about Yamaha Genos™. Here is my reply with a few additions.

What’s in the future?

I tend to think about the Genos and Montage as brother and sister in the same way that Tyros and Motif are brother and sister. Different, but they share the same technological DNA and a lot of the same musical DNA (waveforms and voices).

Since the two flagship products are on different development schedules, they tend to leap frog each other with respect to new waveforms and voices. This was certainly true over the 10+ year history of the Motif and Tyros product lines.

I’m now calling this my “Leapfrog hypothesis.” It’s a hypothesis because I don’t have any privileged knowledge of Yamaha’s development process. (I wish I did, but then, I’d be under NDA and couldn’t tell you. 🙂 ) I started thinking about this last year and if you’re interested, please read about it here.

The hypothesis is based on clues from Martin Harris, one of Yamaha’s key developers. The Montage, for example, adopted the much-promoted Seattle strings and Telecaster guitar from the Tyros 5. In return, the Genos has adopted the CFX acoustic piano, electric piano ambient noises and other waveforms from the Montage. Other examples of lateral DNA transfer are VCM effects and Real Distortion guitar effects.

Sound development is so expensive that Yamaha must reuse sonic DNA. It simply cannot afford to fund two independent lines of sound development. As long as the waveform quality is high — and it is — sharing is good for all of us. It spreads out the cost of sound development over a larger number of units and customers. I honestly don’t begrudge the inclusion of some musical style or instrument voice which I will likely never use. If someone else’s purchase helps me to make my kind of music, then I don’t mind paying it forward a little bit.

I don’t have any inside knowledge, but sound development at Yamaha seems to be a continual process. The next top-of-the-line (TOTL) taps into the latest results. Expect larger, detailed waveforms and more articulations in future Montage voices. Also, stereo doesn’t rob polyphony anymore and there will be wider use of stereo waveforms.

So, yes, I would expect the newest voices from Genos to eventually appear in the Montage series: C7 acoustic piano, resonator guitar, Strat, Revo drums, Mega Voices, etc. We haven’t seen the Data List for the Genos as yet, so it’s hard to do a detailed analysis of what’s new in Genos above Montage. Would Montage voices be programmed differently? Sure, Montage and Genos are different platforms serving different needs.

I think it’s safe to say that there will be a re-spin of the Montage hardware sometime. When? That’s on Yamaha’s secret road map. Like the Genos, the Montage sound engine is scalable and can grow into new shoes, so to speak. Everything else in the crystal ball is vapor.

Beyond all that, I see a revenue opportunity for Yamaha by providing new waveforms, voices and related content through Yamaha Musicsoft. If I had a TOTL synth with expansion memory, I would be willing to pay for a sonic upgrade. I currently play a “lowly” MOX6 without expansion memory, so I’m looking for a new platform — either Montage or Genos — based on my musical needs, goals and process.

A most useful paragraph

Here is the most useful paragraph that I’ve read all week. It’s taken from the October 2017 issue of Sound On Sound magazine. Hope it helps you, too.

“These days, many studio engineers create their mixes with a compressor and an EQ sitting across the master stereo bus, whether in their console or DAW software. With the compressor set up to deliver maybe 2-3 dB of low-ratio compression and the EQ adding a gentle boost to the low and high frequencies (and/or slightly scooping the mid-range), the intended result is an enhancement of a mix’s energy and excitement that approximates the effect of that part of the mastering process.”

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski
Except the excerpt from Sound On Sound magazine

The future looks bright

After reading the owner’s manual and watching the first demonstrations, it’s clear that the Yamaha Genos™ is a beautiful face-lift over the Tyros series, but where is the sonic breakthrough?

As usual, the answer was right in front of my face all along. First, a few facts and figures:

    Feature                        Tyros 5    Genos
    ---------------------------    -------    -----
    Mega Voices                       54        82
    Super Articulation voices        288       390
    Super Articulation 2 voices       44        75
    Live voices                      138       160
    Articulation buttons               2         3

Back before the specifications were officially announced, I saw a leaked version of these specs. Given the big leap in Mega Voice (MV), Super Articulation (SA) and Super Articulation 2 (SA2) voices, I didn’t think the leaked specifications were credible. Now, I believe.

In short, the new tone generation hardware in Genos enables a very large SSD-sized waveform memory capable of holding all of the waveforms needs for the boost in MV, SA and SA2 voices. The end result is greater musical expression, detail and realism for both the Genos player and audiences.

This blog takes a focused look at Mega Voice, Super Articulation (1 and 2), and why the “great leap forward” is possible in Genos. For PSR/Tyros purists, I hope that you don’t mind my shortened abbreviations for Mega Voice, etc. The short abbreviations are much easier to type without extra punctuation marks.

Background information

MV, SA and SA2 are the trinity of highly detailed, expressive Yamaha voices. All three kinds of voices are based on Yamaha’s sample playback technology AWM2 (Advanced Wave Memory). Super Articulation 2 is based on Articulation Element Modeling (AEM). Both AWM2 and AEM are covered by many Yamaha patents.

Yamaha did not introduce these voices in one fell swoop. Mega Voices were the first to appear. A Mega Voice divides a voice into two or more velocity ranges and assigns a different waveform to each range. A trumpet voice, for example, is divided into:

    Velocity range    Waveform
    --------------    ----------------------
         1 - 20       mf trumpet
        21 - 40       f trumpet
        41 - 60       ff trumpet
        61 - 90       Legato
        81 - 100      Straight
       101 - 110      Shake
       111 - 120      Falls
       121 - 127      Glissando up

MIDI notes above C6 and above C8 are mapped to valve noise and breath noise, respectively. For other examples of Mega Voices, see the Mega Voice mapping table in the Tyros 5 Data List file for details. (Also, learn how to create a Mega Voice using Yamaha Expansion Manager.)

The first three ranges and waveforms correspond to velocity switching as we know it. The second five ranges correspond to articulations as we know and love them in software instruments. The articulations and noises are the sonic sweeteners that make sequenced music sound more human and natural.

Mega Voices are intended for sequencing. They are used in arranger keyboard styles to make them sound less MIDI-ish. Unless you have the finger control of a god, you cannot reasonably play a Mega Voice through the keyboard.

But, wait a minute! What if you put some smart software between the keyboard and the tone generator? The smart software watches and analyzes your gestures (i.e., key presses, releases, button pushes, etc.), and plays either a regular note or an articulated note. This is the basic idea behind Super Articulation.

In the case of the trumpet, for example, the SA software watches the notes that you play and if you push the right articulation button while playing a note, the software selects and plays a shake instead of a regular trumpet sound. The SA software also analyzes note timing and plays a legato waveform when you strike a second key while holding the first key. SA software even responds to note intervals such as playing a glissando when the interval between two notes is big enough.

In the end, Super Articulation makes Mega Voice articulations intuitively playable. I thoroughly enjoy playing the SA voices on my PSR-S950. I don’t have too think to hard at all — just let it rip as I hear it in my head.

Montage and late model Motif- and MOX-series synthesizers implement Expanded Articulation (XA). Take a look at my deconstruction of the Tenor To The Max voice.

Super Articulation 2 takes SA up another notch. Real musical tones are not discrete sonic events. Tones tend to blend together due to the characteristics of the musical instrument itself and/or playing technique (e.g., legato). SA2 performs a digital blending between notes by analyzing gestures and selecting the appropriate waveform from a very large database of waveform segments. Broadly speaking, these segments belong to three categories:

  1. Head: Attack portion of the sound
  2. Body: Main body of the sound
  3. Tail: Release portion of the sound

Consider two notes where the first note is detached and the second note is legato. SA2 plays the head segment for the first note, sounding the attack. This is followed by the body of the first note. SA2 does not play a head for the second note. It blends the body of the first note into the body of the second note. When the second note is released, SA2 selects and plays a tail for the second note.

All of this blending is computation heavy and is very sensitive to timing and latency. The technology behind SA2 is Articulation Element Modeling (AEM). AEM is actually a deep subject and is patented. (See my related post about Real Acoustic Sound.)

Technical breakthrough, sonic breakthrough

Folks who are familiar with software instruments and sound libraries know that all of this comes with a cost. Sample libraries for orchestral instruments are enormous because there are so many different ways to bow, pluck, strike and generally mess with acoustic instruments. Tens and even hundreds of gigabytes are needed to store the highest quality sample libraries. Then, one needs to have a fast streaming device like an SSD and a computationally husky CPU to play the samples without a glitch or hiccup.

Before Montage and Genos, Yamaha’s mainstay tone generator (TG) integrated circuit (IC) was the SWP51L. This venerable chip carried the load in Motif, MOX, CP, Clavinova, and other mid- to high-end Yamaha products.

Like all things electronic, the SWP51L’s time eventually came and went. The SWP51L communicates to waveform memory over a CPU-like bus with a fixed width address. The SWP51L is limited in three ways. First, the fixed width address is not big enough to address the very large sample library needed to support today’s articulation-heavy voices. Second, the address bus cannot be (easily) made wider. Third, the bus protocol is not directly compatible with relatively inexpensive commodity NAND flash memory. Conclusion, the SWP51L does not scale to a big waveform memory.

The Montage and the Genos deploy the new generation SWP70 tone generator. Unlike the SWP51L, the SWP70 is compatible with commodity NAND flash memory — the same kind of memory used in solid state drives (SSD). The Open NAND Flash Interface (ONFI) bus protocol — and the Genos — is scalable.

Thus, Yamaha is finally free to expand waveform memory to sample library scale.

People make much of “SSD, SSD, SSD!” SSDs use a SATA bus for communication, a bus that can become a bottleneck in itself. Yamaha have found a way to integrate SSD functionality into the SWP70 without the need for a SATA bus. The integration promises greater speed (i.e., memory bandwidth) without the cost and latency of a SATA bus. This design approach is patented. Please read one of my earlier posts about the SWP70 for the gory technical details. Hope you know a bit about computer architecture before diving in!

I’ve also speculated about the role of the SWP70 in the implementation of the Genos file system. This post is highly speculative and has not been verified by reading the Genos service manual.

What does this mean for the player?

The bottom line for the player and audiences is rich sound filled with detail and realism, thanks to big waveform memory, AWM2/AEM synthesis and Yamaha’s sound development expertise. Big waveform capacity and the new mono/stereo tone generation channels in the SWP70 also mean greater use of stereo samples (“Live voices” in PSR/Tyros-speak.)

Please look at the chart at the beginning of this article. No previous generation-to-generation Tyros upgrade has had such a big jump in the number of Mega Voice, Super Articulation and Super Articulation 2 voices. It can only get better from here as the SWP70 is the Yamaha platform for the next 8 to 10 years.

The Genos promises to be an expressive instrument which will be fun to play. The knobs, sliders and articulation buttons afford a great deal of real time control. I can’t wait to play one of these!

Longer term, what do the technical breakthroughs hold for the Montage series? You ain’t seen or heard nothin’ yet.

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

Genos: After the fireworks

So, how do I feel about Genos now that the Genos manuals are rolling out and emotions have cooled down?

The Yamaha Genos™ is a significant update on the Tyros 5. The brand new user interface (UI) should be easy to navigate through the brand-spanking new touch screen. The assignable knobs and sliders are very welcome, and probably give some Montage owners FOMO (fear of missing out). The sound set has gotten the usual and expected boost: CFX piano, C7 piano, electric pianos on par with Montage, new acoustic guitars, and so on.

Scratch the surface of the new UI, however, one finds few feature enhancements. The new Playlist capability replaces the Music Finder Database (MFD). Yamaha are in competition with Korg’s Songbook and only real hands-on experience will determine who has the edge.

The lighter weight is definitely appreciated as well as the modern stage styling. Yamaha have chosen to offer Genos in a single 76-key model. The 76-er weighs less than the previous 61-key Tyros 5 and that’s all to the good.

Before I discuss a few specific points, I want to describe how I feel: methodically enthusiastic. Huh?

When I buy a new keyboard, I think carefully about need — what would improve my experience and skills as a musician and what would improve the experience of those for whom I play. I do not currently perform with my Yamaha PSR-S950 arranger. Gig-wise, I can cover what I need to cover with a sample-playback synthesizer. I need section/solo orchestra strings, woodwinds and horns. I need B-3 organ and pipe organ. The Yamaha MOX6 — my main gig instrument — is sufficient in this regard.

I do play the S950 as a practice instrument. I also have aspirations of performing as a one man band (OMB). I would be very happy to have a single instrument that fulfills gigging, practice and OMB situations.

In terms of sound, I’m ready for a major update. The MOX6 and the S950 sounds are roughly the same vintage as the Motif XS, first released in 2007. That’s ten years. As a car owner, I tend to hold and drive the same car for ten years. Then I realize how far the technology has progressed and update. My attitude is the same for instruments. I prefer to hold and play an instrument for five years or longer, learning it in depth. I make an exception if the front panel buttons are worn and broken. 🙂

At this point, I know for sure that I want a better keyboard action such as the FSX action in Montage and Genos. This is similar to moving from a “student model” sax to a “pro” sax. I think the better action will help me as a player.

If you stuck with me this far, you probably realizing that I’m considering either the Montage or the Genos as my next gig and home ax. Even though I respect the Kronos, its orchestra instruments are not as expressive as Yamaha’s. Roland seems to have given up on orchestral instruments. After a quality/reliability issue with Kurweil, I’m off of them for life.

So, I am methodically enthusiastic about the Genos. It’s Genos vs. Montage; Godzilla vs. Mothra. Is the Genos value proposition sufficiently atractive that I will pay its premium price? That comes down to the playing experience and workflow. To be decided over the coming months.

I’m reluctant to give anyone advice. Every musician must carefully weigh their needs, the Genos value proposition and the Genos price. I will say that the Montage, Kronos, Tyros 5 and PA4x remain very fine, capable instruments. The PSR-S970 is no slouch, either. I tend to skip a generation before updating. Should you? Can’t say.

Drawbar organ

The Genos drawbar organ engine is substantially the same as Tyros 5, and S950, for that matter. The drawbar organ page is a skeuomorphic representation of the drawbars, rotary speed switch, etc. When Yamaha adopted a touch screen, thank heavens they added real sliders for drawbar control. This is doing it right.

I play the bars constantly. When I test drove a CVP-709 touch screen piano, the virtual, on-screen drawbars were impossible to play. Kudos for adding real physical controls to the Genos.

Also, thank you for porting the new Montage rotary speaker effect to the Genos.

Speaking of DSP and control, I have another suggestion for Genos 1.1. Many DSP effect algorithms have a parameter which can be controlled from an assignable controller (e.g., AC1). The Genos is too limited in this regard. Any physical controller — including a foot pedal — should be able to tweak a controllable DSP parameter in real time. Currently, for example, a foot pedal can only control the WAH effect. One should be able to control any DSP algorithm with a controllable parameter.

Ready for the studio?

Quite a few pros immediately noted the lack of balanced outputs and asked “Is Yamaha serious about attracting pros to the Genos?” Another question often raised is, “What happened to PAC?” The S/PDIF digital output is good enough to connect to home audio equipment, but the professional studio (and stage) expects balanced outputs.

Another missing feature is audio over USB and/or DAW integration. Fortunately, these features can be added through a software update; balanced outputs cannot.

Really ready for EDM?

Now, I’m not really an EDM person. I like down-tempo and I’m hoping to compose down-tempo tracks once the snow flies and the weather keeps me in. A few common themes recur in on-line forums.

The Genos adopts arpeggios and arpeggio control features from the PSR-S970. True EDM people are expecting more, however. At the very least, Yamaha need to add user-defined arpeggios, maybe in release 1.1. User-defined arps were a much-requested item for the Montage punch-list; Genos is no different.

Yamaha, if you’re listening, there is an active thread about arpeggios in the Genos section of the PSR Tutorial Forum. Please read through it.

If you want to attract younger composers and players to Genos, Yamaha need to be bolder and faster.

Built-in expansion memory

Yamaha are committed to built-in flash expansion memory which cannot be expanded by the end user. Not to put too fine a point on it, the flash memory expansion modules are dead. If you’re getting rid of your Tyros, Motif, or MOXF, get rid of the modules, too. If you’re looking for a bargain Tyros 5, Motif XF or MOXF, be sure to get flash expansion modules thrown into the deal. (If you’re buying a MOXF, keep an eye on the Yamaha promotions web page.)

As I explained in another post, I believe that the Genos internal file system resides in the same physical memory unit as the user expansion waveform memory. The total capacity of this memory is 64GB and is partitioned into the 58GB internal file system and the 1.8GB voice expansion memory. If 1.8GB is too small, I wonder if Yamaha could be persuaded to repartition the memory and make the voice expansion memory bigger (at the expense of file system size)? This is all speculative, of course.

Audio styles

Audio styles have not disappeared — just deemphasized. Audio styles were not universally popular. So, audio styles have been dropped from initial factory content and will be provided at a later date. Users will be able to load audio styles, if they so desire.

I still believe that Yamaha will introduce full audio styles, that is, styles with melodic parts that follow the current chord type and root. When Yamaha re-launch audio styles, they will be “audio styles done right.” I think they learned a lot from the S950, S770, S970 and Tyros 5 in this regard. Release date? Who knows?

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

Genos genesis

After fits and starts due to early leaks, Yamaha have launched the Yamaha Genos™ digital workstation. You can check out Yamaha’s content through the Genos concept site or the Genos product pages. [Click images to enlarge.]

There’s no point in regurgitating Yamaha’s on-line content, so I will just summarize highlights here.

  • Size: 48-9/16″W x 5-7/16″H x 17-15/16″D
  • Weight: 28lb, 11oz (13.0kg)
  • 9″ color touch screen (TFT color WVGA 800 x 480 pixels)
  • Live Control display (OLED 589 x 48 pixels)
  • 9 sliders and 6 knobs that are fully assignable
  • 76-key FSX keyboard
  • Joystick with modulation and joystick HOLD
  • Synthesis: AWM2 and Articulation Element Modeling (AEM)
  • Polyphony: 256 (128 for preset voice + 128 for expansion voice)
  • 550 styles total (punchy drums and DSP effects)
  • 1,652 voices + 58 drum/SFX kits
  • 216 arpeggios: instrument arps, e.g., strums and control arps automate Live Control
  • 28 insert effects including VCM effects
  • Vocal Harmony and Synth Vocoder
  • Audio recording: Audio (WAV 44.1kHz, 16-bit, stereo) and MIDI SMF
  • Audio playback: WAV (44.1kHz, 16-bit, stereo) and MP3
  • MultiPads (both audio and MIDI)
  • Internal memory: 58GBytes (approximately)
  • Connectivity
    • S/PDIF digital audio output
    • Three USB TO DEVICE ports (front panel, back panel, bottom)
    • Wireless LAN (IEEE 802.11b/g/n) depending on regional type acceptance
  • 32-bit digital-to-analog converter (DAC)
  • 1.8GBytes user voice expansion memory built-in

The Genos looks to be a nice overhaul of the now staid Tyros product line. If you’re familiar with Tyros — and I’m assuming that you are — then you are not super surprised at some of the features while being pleased (or not) to have a color touch screen, lots of assignable knobs, sliders and buttons, a secondary OLED display to show parameters, doubled polyphony, S/PDIF, wireless LAN (maybe, in your region), and a 32-bit DAC.

Yamaha have chosen to issue only a single 76-key model; no 61, no 88. This gives them interesting options for line extension. Go small and save weight, or feed the world’s almost insatiable hunger for 88-key piano-like objects?

You might also be surprised to not see audio styles. I think the original audio styles confused most users. Can I save them to USB drive? No. Did they fit many tunes other than the “reference” song? No. Handling REX format via the Yamaha Expansion Manager (YEM) should resolve these issues for advanced users. Yamaha punched up the drums to improve the live feel. (Hey, don’t Yamaha actually make drums? Just kidding.)

Featured instruments include:

  • CFX piano
  • C7 grand piano (newly sampled)
  • Kino strings
    • Newly sampled movie orchestra
    • Violins hard-panned left and right
    • Violas, cellos and contrabass center
  • Revo drums (waveform cycling)

If rumors hold true, there should be a new Strat in there somewhere as well as Gibson and Martin steel guitars and a pedal steel guitar. The electric pianos have gotten the ambient noises from the Montage EPs.

The Live Control view is nicely done. Change a knob and the display shows the new assigned parameter value. Change a slide next and the display switches to the slider settings. Good, no button needed to switch displays while playing. The knobs and sliders are integrated with drawbar settings, making the Genos could be a worthy clone competition or a close substitute for a clone. The new rotary speaker effect (from the Montage?) sounds good. But, Yamaha, you left out the chorus (vibrato only). Don’t chuck your Reface YC.

The playlist feature looks to be a very useful addition. The playlist organizes registration banks for quick access. The PSR/Tyros registration concept is a very powerful one and I wish that Montage had a similar capability. I love registrations because, bang, in one button press, I have a song ready to play. (More about this another day.)

Having a USB device port hidden under the unit is a great idea. Ever have a drunken chucklehead at a bar try to pull out your USB drive? Ever be a chucklehead yourself? 🙂 More manufacturers should do this.

A new release of Yamaha Expansion Manager (version 2.5) is planned for November 2017, roughly in sync with first deliveries. YEM will have support for WAV, AIFF, SoundFont and REX formats.

A new release of MegaEnhancer (version 1.5) will be available in November, also. MegaEnhancer changes the MIDI data in a Standard MIDI File (SMF) to use Yamaha’s MegaVoices.

The iPad app SongBook+ is also on the way. SongBook+ organizes songs with lyrics, notation, and other information. A song may also be linked to a registration — a very handy feature for performers who need to home in on the complete set-up for a song during performance. I play with charts; I like this.

The USA manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) is $6,799 and MAP is expected to be $5499.

From a hardware guy’s point of view, there are a few things to think about. The 32-bit DAC is a first for Yamaha. Even Montage does not sport S/PDIF. No mention of Pure Analog Circuit, so the audio back-end must be new, new, new.

The polyphony spec is très intéressant: 128 for preset voices and 128 for expansion voices. Hmmm, how did Yamaha arrange (pun intended) the SWP70 tone generators and NAND flash memory?

So, Yamaha have 1.8GBytes of flash left over for voice expansion. There simply is not enough information to infer waveform memory size, so we’ll all be waiting for the service manual.

Speaking of manuals, there aren’t any available at the time of this writing. No owner’s manual, reference manual or data list. Nada. The early leaks forced Yamaha’s hand to launch the Genos two weeks early and now we will wait. First deliveries are anticipated for November. Déjà vu all over again.

I am literally weighing the Genos (13kg) versus the Montage (15kg) as my next ax. There is still a huge amount to learn about the Genos as it is revealed. Has the sequencer gotten an overhaul? Does the Genos support deep voice editing? The user interface does look inviting and I look forward to seeing more.

Sometimes a little bit of information just leads to more questions.

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

It’s a matter of timing

I want to expand on some remarks that I made in the Genos section of the PSR Tutorial Forum. The GENOS section, by the way, is currently accessible only to forum members. Please join; it’s a great community!

A few posters noted that a well-known UK retailer had viewed a “prototype model” of the new, and yet to be announced Yamaha GENOS™ digital workstation.

With respect to the term “prototype model”, here’s a few things to consider based on the history of the Montage launch.

Montage prototypes went to sound developers in roughly the January 2015 timeframe — one year before public announcement.

Media people were shown Montage prototypes in December 2015 — one to two months before public announcement. When these folks wrote and published their stories, they explicitly mentioned that they saw and heard a prototype model. That’s accurate and fair to Yamaha.

Montage was announced at the 2016 Winter NAMM, January 21-24, 2016.

One of the sound developers stated that the Montage sound set was not finalized as of January 2016 even though Yamaha demonstrated the Montage at NAMM. Other key features were still in development, too. Even to this day, Yamaha acknowledge that Montage is a work in progress. (Thanks for the updates and enhancements, Yamaha!)

Montage finally shipped to customers in May 2016, at least three months after announcement.

Folks, it’s not that strange to show dealers a “prototype model” under non-disclosure agreement (NDA). Dealers and journalists are expected to be fair-minded adults who understand the process of product roll-out and who make allowances for bug fixes, changes to features, and so forth to be made before final delivery to customers.

October 2nd may be called the “launch date,” but it’s really the public announcement date. It’s a “launch date” in the sense of “the launch of a public, dealer- and media-based advertising and promotional campaign.” As a manufacturer, you want to be truthful and direct with your customers, but you need to have your sales engine (i.e., dealers and media) primed and ready on the launch date. Hence, the need to show prototype models under NDA and/or media embargo. (You can bet that the GENOS print ads have already been placed or are about to be placed.)

Public dealer demo events seem to be scheduled for the November timeframe. This gives Yamaha time to get finished demo units to dealers. Consumers should note if the demonstrations are performed only by select personnel or if “the little people” (us!) are allowed to actually play the GENOS. Also important to customers, the GENOS announcement likely will give an estimated shipping date, just like the Montage announcement,

Please carefully regard legal disclaimers like:

  • The colors and finishes shown may vary from those on the actual products.
  • Specifications and descriptions in this owner’s manual are for information purposes only. Yamaha Corp. reserves the right to change or modify products or specifications at any time without prior notice. Since specifications, equipment or options may not be the same in every locale, please check with your Yamaha dealer.

Yamaha do their best — and do it very well — but things can and do change.

A world-wide product launch is not easy to pull off. There are a lot of moving parts.

The real deal?

Which brings me back to the subject of teaser videos and leaked images.

Ideally, on launch date, you want all of your advertising and promotional materials ready to go. In the case of print media, a late snap of a pre- or early-production model will often do. (See disclaimers above.)

However, the first teaser video and the second teaser clearly were not dashed off in a weekend. Production time and deadlines may be such that visuals cannot be produced from even pre-production models. In that case, producers must rely on “conceptual art” or mock-ups for inspiration. Therefore, one should not put too much stock into the size of the display (or whatever) in a teaser video.

Then there is the now widespread, split-image picture of the GENOS. One half of the image is in the studio and the other half is on stage. Yamaha have used similar visual composition in advertisements for other keyboards. The graininess of the image casts shade on it. Perhaps this image is a mock-up for a future print advertisement or brochure yet to be produced? Since the provenance of this image is somewhat questionable (at least to me), I still won’t publish it here.

Best of luck to our friends at Yamaha — pj

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski