Genos voice editing: XML Notepad

In my previous post about Yamaha Genos™ voice editing, I introduced the voice editing features provided by Yamaha Expansion Manager (YEM). This post describes a way to work around the shortcomings in YEM.

YEM stores low-level voice programming information in XML files with the “UVF” file name extension. In case you’re not familiar with XML, it’s a mark-up language that captures document formating and structure. HTML is the well-known predecessor to XML. XML is quite general and is used to represent structured data files as well as regular ole text documents.

YEM ships with a few hundred UVF files that describe the Genos (and separately, Tyros 5) factory voices. There are files for Regular, Sweet and Live voices. UVF files are not provided for Super Articulation (1 and 2) voices because YEM does not support SA voice editing.

The UVF files are stored in the directory:

    C:\Program Files (x86)\YAMAHA\Expansion\Manager\voices\genos

The UVF directories and files are both hidden and read-only. You need to configure Windows Explorer to display hidden files. On Windows 7, you need to do something like:

  1. Select the Start button, then select Control Panel > Appearance and Personalization.
  2. Select Folder Options, then select the View tab.
  3. Under Advanced settings, select Show hidden files, folders, and drives, and then select OK.

Just to be safe, I make a complete copy of the genos directory in my own working directory elsewhere on disk. That way, I leave the original files alone. I also change the directory and file properties to remove the read-only restriction. Don’t mess with the files in the YAMAHA subdirectories!

There are two subdirectories under “genos“:

    DRUM_KIT            Drums kit definitions
    EKB_LEGACY          Electronic Keyboard (EKB) legacy voices

The EKB_LEGACY subdirectory has the UVF files for the Normal, Sweet and Live voices. The files are organized by category (e.g., “A.Guitar,” “Accordion,” and so forth).

UVF (Universal Voice Format?) contains XML markers and attributes to represent and store voice parameters. If you’ve ever browsed a Yamaha Motif reference manual, you realize the great number and scope of voice parameters. Yes, a typical UVF file is a difficult to navigate jungle of voice information! You can open a UVF file with a text editor, but be prepared to get lost.

Since you can open a UVF file with a text editor, you can change the file, of course. Just be darned sure you know what you’re doing. Tweaking a single parameter here or there is possible, but I wouldn’t make any large scale edits with a text editor.

XML Notepad is a keener way to browse complex XML documents like UVF. XML Notepad was written by Chris Lovett and is distributed by Microsoft. It’s open source and free.

XML Notepad displays an XML document as a tree. The screenshot below shows the top level view of the UVF file named “SeattleStrings p.uvf”. [Click on a screenshot to enlarge.] The tree view on the left side displays the file tree in expandable/collapsible form. The panel on the right side displays the value corresponding to the XML attributes, etc. in the file tree. There are four important subtrees in a UVF document:

  1. voiceCommon: Detailed programming information
  2. voiceSet: Parameters accessible through Genos Voice Set
  3. effectSet: FX sends and insertion effect parameters
  4. information: Voice info such as name, MSB, LSB, etc.

The five subtrees marked “voiceElement” should immediately catch your eye. This is where the element-level voice programming data is stored.

There are five elements in the “SeattleStrings p” voice. Click on the expansion square (i.e., the little plus sign) of the first voiceElement to view its contents. [See the next screenshot below.] Notable element parameters are:

  • name: 1st_Violins p [the waveform name]
  • volume: -2.6 [the element’s volume level]
  • pan: 0 [the element’s pan position, 0 is center]
  • noteShift: 0 [note transposition]
  • noteLimitHi: G8 [highest note for which the element sounds]
  • noteLimitLo: C#4 [lowest note for which the element sounds]
  • velocityLimitHi: 127 [highest velocity level]
  • velocityLimitLo: 1 [lowest velocity level]

This information is essential for understanding the purpose and scope of each individual voice element. You’ll also see nine elementBank entities which represent the nine key banks within the voice element. You shouldn’t really need to mess with the key banks for factory voices.

I put the basic information for all five voice elements into a table for you:

Element Name Note lo Note hi Vel lo Vel hi Pan
0 1st_Violins p C#4 G8 1 127 0
1 2nd Violins p G2 G8 1 127 0
2 Violas mp C2 E5 1 127 0
3 Celli p C1 C4 1 127 0
4 Contrabasses p C-2 E2 1 127 0

A summary table like this reveals the overall voice structure. The “SeattleStrings p” voice consists of five elements, one element for each of the string sections. Each section sounds in a different region of the MIDI keyboard. All voice elements respond for velocities between 1 and 127, so there aren’t any velocity levels. All elements are center-panned (0). Legacy stereo voices have pairs of elements that are panned left (-1) and right (+1).

YEM provides the means to copy an element from a different existing voice. First, select the destination element by clicking on its button. Then, click on the “>” box above the element buttons. [See screenshots below.]

YEM displays a dialog box from which you can choose the element to be copied.

Unfortunately, one really needs to have the basic information as seen in the table above in order to “comp together” new voices from existing elements. It comes down to the question, “How do I know which element in a factory voice to choose and copy?” Yamaha need to display more basic voice information in YEM. For now, one can browse UVF files using XML Notepad and keep personal notes.

XML Notepad is an XML editor as well as a a browser. Let’s say that you want element 1 to sound in the note range C3 to G7. Simply change noteLimitLo to “C3” and change noteLimitHi to “G7”. Then save the UVF. I don’t recommend modifying the factory files, but what about a UVF file of your own creation? That’s the subject of my next post in this series.

Other tools to consider

XML Notepad is one of many tools to try.

If you only want to browse XML without making any changes, most Web browsers can open and display an XML file. Simply open the UVF file in your regular browser.

  • Internet Explorer: Choose File > Open in the menu bar.
  • Mozilla Firefox: Choose File > Open in the menu bar.
  • Google Chrome: Type Control-O to open a file.

Navigate to the UVF file that you want to view using the file selection dialog box, etc. Firefox and Chrome format the XML and use color to enhance keywords.

Another editing tool to try is Notepad++ with its XML plug-in installed. Notepad++ is a source code editor and needs the XML plug-in, which must be separately downloaded and installed. Plug-in installation is a little baroque, so be sure to read the “install.txt” file. You need to copy the plug-in files to the correct Notepad++ program directories.

The Notepad++ plug-in has many options including XML syntax check and pretty printing (formating). If you’re comfortable with XML code, then Notepad++ is a good alternative to XML Notepad.

Copyright © 2018 Paul J. Drongowski

NAMM 2018: Montage 2.0

Check out the obligatory Yamaha video which summarizes the OS 2.0 update. Also, catch Yamaha’s Blake Angelos in the Sonicstate video. [Hold that camera steady, dude!] Catch Blake (again) in the Ask.Audio video — wormholes in the sonic universe. Gratefully, there isn’t too much background noise behind either interview and Blake is still fresh!

Sample Robot Pro Montage Edition is a tool to capture the sounds of your vintage keyboards. (Check the Sample Robot site, too.) It sends MIDI notes to the vintage board and captures an audio sample for each note. Of course, it does this at different velocities making it easy to build velocity-switched voices. Hmmm, I’ll be looking at Sample Robot closely (once it’s released) to see if I can apply it to Genos™ and Yamaha Expansion Manager (YEM). Available in April 2018.

Another big addition to the Montage software ecosystem is the John Melas tool suite for Montage.

Read more about everything in the latest Yamaha/Easy Sounds Music Production Guide (PDF).

Quoting the Yamaha press release:

Yamaha today released MONTAGE OS version 2.0, the fourth free firmware update to its flagship synthesizer line. Yamaha has continuously updated MONTAGE with new content as well as sound, control and workflow enhancements. Now, MONTAGE OS v2.0 adds full Voice and Performance compatibility with recent MOTIF series instruments, additional control and workflow improvements.

MONTAGE adds full Voice and Performance compatibility with the Yamaha MOTIF XF, MOTIF XS and MOXF music production synthesizers. The MOTIF family dominated the music production synthesizer world for over 15 years. Now, MOTIF users can have confidence that their favorite sounds will load seamlessly into MONTAGE and perform without a hitch.

MONTAGE users have always been able to employ the free FM Converter web app at yamahasynth.com/fmconverter to convert DX7, DX7II, TX816 and TX802 Voices and Performances to MONTAGE Performances. Coupled with the Advanced Wave Memory 2 sound engine in MONTAGE and compatibility with legacy MOTIF content, musicians now have access to the largest and most established hardware synthesizer sound library in the world – a sonic palette that has been expanding and developing for over 35 years.

User-friendliness is essential in both modern studio and live-gig rigs, and MONTAGE OS v2.0 makes it easier to assign synth parameters to controllers such as the knobs, faders and Super Knob. For example, moving any physical controller now immediately shows destinations on the Controller Overview page. Several other workflow enhancements make it easier for musicians to interact with the vast MONTAGE Motion Control Synthesis.

Additional new features include a global setting for the A/D (external audio) input, which overrides the setting at the Performance level. This is useful for gigs or sessions where the player is using the input for the same purpose across all Performances. MONTAGE OS v2.0 also adds 87 new Performances, further expanding the amazing onboard content.

Yamaha MONTAGE OS v2.0 is a free update that will become available to all MONTAGE users on February 7.

This is big news for Montage folks!

NAMM 2018: Rainin’ tonewheels

In addition to the Dexibell S9 flagship stage piano and the Studiologic Numa Compact 2x, Nord have announced the Electro 6.

The NE6 continues the Nord tradition by adding more memory (512MB sample memory) and functionality: Seamless transitions, 3-part multi-timbral, extended synth voice polyphony, two pipe organ models, and dual organ mode. Up to six split points with split point crossfade capability.

The Nord Electro 6 will be available in three (familiar) models: Electro 6D 61, Electro 6D 73 and Electro 6 HP.

It’s still red. No pricing yet.

A few quick Genos links

Just wanted to offer a few quick Yamaha Genos™ links.

If you haven’t seen the Genos demo by Martin Harris, please don’t wait any longer. Martin is one of the key Genos developers. Pay close attention! His demonstrations always hit the sweet spots in a new Yamaha keyboard. There is a no talking, all playing demonstration, too.

I also would like to draw your attention to Frank Ventresca’s blog post about the Yamaha Genos. Frank attended the Genos demo in New York City.

Full disclosure: I bought my Yamaha PSR-S950 from Frank at Audioworks CT. I met Frank when I tested the Tyros 5 at his store. He is a knowledgeable, solid guy who gigs with this gear. A good dude.

Played a Montage, again, yesterday. The Genos vs. Montage battle is alive in my mind. I’m not in a big hurry to buy, so please expect this comparison to drag out — possibly until NAMM 2018 when the “Half Monty”, MOXF successor might be announced. Oh, yeah, that one is in the works. Sometime.

GENOS unverified image

The following unverified image has appeared on the Web. It seems to have been taken at a presentation.

Physical features are similar to other leaked images of GENOS™ and the teaser videos (one and two). The keyboard in this unverified image very much looks like a prototype — or at best, pre-production — model. Remember, sound developers need functional mock-ups for their work and even dealer demo units will not be available until October.

A huge warning. We are now in a phase when images and “specifications” are ricochetting around the Web. The Internet echo chamber is ringing like a bell! Plus, we have a number of individuals who are desperate and are trying to draw attention to their sites (advertising revenue, ca-ching) and Youtube videos (ca-ching). This site is independent and I do not receive money from advertising.

Beware while awaiting Yamaha’s official announcement on October 2nd! We still have two more teaser videos to survive on September 22nd and 29th.

A jaunt into Cold War history

This started out as a simple investigation. Then …

Folks who usually visit this site will wonder if their browser landed in the right place. Fear not. In addition to music and computation, I dabble occasionally as an amateur historian — computation and communications, mainly, early Cold War.

First, two book recommendations:

  • Garrett M. Graff, “Raven Rock,” Simon & Schuster, 2017.
  • Sharon Weinberger, “The Imagineers of War,” Alfred A. Knopf, 2017.

Both books are extensively researched, well-written and good reads.

Mr. Graff covers the vast scope of American efforts to provide continuity of government (COG) in the face of a national emergency, nuclear war in particular. This topic is difficult enounh due to its scope, but he also thoroughly manages to cover six decades post World War II.

Ms. Weinberger tells the story of the Department of Defense (DoD) Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). Many people simply associate ARPA with “The Internet,” but ARPA’s history and contributions are much broader than that. Her description of ARPA’s role in the Vietnam War is especially enlightening, further showing how wrong things went.

ARPA held the charter for America’s first attempt at ballistic missile defense: Project DEFENDER. Reading about Project DEFENDER reminded me about a series of National Security Action Memoranda (NSAM) written during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. These memoranda document key decisions and directives made by the president and the national security staff. Several of these memoranda assign the “highest national priority,” DX, to certain defense-related projects. Project DEFENDER is one of those assignees (NSAM-191).

DX priority (also known as “BRICK-BAT”) was created by the Defense Production Act (DPA) of 1955. David Bell, directory of the Bureau of the Budget in the Kennedy administration, wrote an excellent, concise summary of the importance and practical significance of DX priority:

“This national priority rating system was established in 1955 primarily for the purpose of alleviating development and production bottlenecks for major national projects of the greatest urgency. … This indication aids any project which is assigned the DX rating in matters such as: The assignment of the most highly quality personnel by contractors and government agencies; the scheduling of effort on the National Test Ranges; and in the competition for the allocation of all resources including financial support.” [David E. Bell, Memorandum for Mr. Bundy, “Request for DX Priority Rating for Project DEFENDER,” September 25, 1962.]

At the time, ten programs had DX priority:

  1. ATLAS weapon system and required construction
  2. TITAN weapon system and required construction
  3. MINUTEMAN (ICBM) weapon system and required construction
  4. POLARIS fleet ballistic missile weapon system (including Mariners I & II and submarines, submarine tenders and surveys)
  5. NIKE-ZEUS guided missile weapon system and required construction (research and development only)
  6. Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS) including Project DEW DROP
  7. SAMOS (satellite-borne visual and ferret reconnaissance system)
  8. DISCOVERER (satellite guidance and recovery)
  9. MERCURY (manned satellite)
  10. SATURN booster vehicle (1,500,00 pound-thrust, clustered rocket engine)

All ten programs were key to the Cold War effort at that time: ICBMs, reconnaissance, and manned space flight. Taken together, these projects represented roughly 25 percent of the defense budget, leading Secretary of Defense McNamara to caution against overuse of the DX priority.

On September 23, 1963, President Kennedy signed NSAM-261 giving highest national priority (DX) to Project FOUR LEAVES. The White House diary for that day indicates that Project FOUR LEAVES is a military communication system. One of the enduring mysteries to this day is the exact system to which “Project FOUR LEAVES” refers.

One investigator, Robert Howard, claims that the White House Diary on the JFK library site describes FOUR LEAVES as a “military communication system.” (See “September 23, 1963,” if you can.) I have not been able to verify this personally due to a technical issue with the diary finding aid.

Reading Mr. Garrett’s book encouraged me to return to this mystery. We know from many different sources that the Kennedy administration was highly concerned about the vulnerability and survivability of the federal government under nuclear attack. I recommend the following resources about this subject as its scope is well beyond a blog post:

  • L. Wainstein, et al., “Study S-467 The Evolution of U.S. Strategic Command and Control and Warning, 1945-1972”, Institute for Defense Analyses, June 1975.
  • Thomas A. Sturm, “The Air Force and the Worldwide Military Command and Control System,” USAF Historical Division Liaison Office, August 1966.
  • David E. Pearson, “The World Wide Military Command and Control System: Evolution and Effectiveness,” Air University Press, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, June 2000.
  • Bruce G. Blair, “Strategic Command and Control,” The Brookings Institution, 1985.

Given the nature of the projects with DX priority at that time, it is plausible to assert that Project FOUR LEAVES is a military communication system for command and control of nuclear war.

At first, I was inclined to think of the four leaves as the four major components of the National Military Command System. In February 1962, Secretary of Defense McNamara approved a National Military Command System (NMCS) consisting of four elements:

  1. The National Military Command Center (NMCC)
  2. The Alternate National Military Command Center (ANMCC) Site R
  3. The National Emergency Command Post Afloat (NECPA)
  4. The National Emergency Airborne Command Post (NEACP)

In October 1962, he issued a DoD directive on the World-Wide Military Command and Control System (WWMCCS) that included these elements. According to DoD Directive 5100.30, “Concept of Operations of the World-Wide Military Command and Control System”, 16 October 1962:

The NMCS is the priority component of the WWMCCS designed to support the National Command Authorities (NCA) in the exercise of their responsibilities. It also supports the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the exercise of their responsibilities.

The NCA consists only of the President and the Secretary of Defense or their duly deputized alternates or successors. The chain of command runs through the President to the Secretary of Defense and through the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the commanders of the Unified and Specified Commands.

By October 1962, these elements were well-established and the development of AUTOVON with its hardened sites was underway. The list omits the (then) highly secret government Mount Weather relocation site (also called “HIGH POINT” or euphemistically, the “Special Facility.”) There is a big difference in the secrecy attached to AUTOVON vs. HIGH POINT. The latter is rarely mentioned or discussed in Kennedy era memoranda even by its euphemistic name.

One needs to consider the strategic situation at the time. American assets were increasingly threatened by land- and submarine-based Soviet ICBMs. Warning time and reaction time was, at best, fifteen minutes, making it unlikely that the president could make it safely to the most survivable NMCS element, NEACP. The leadership also feared pre-placement of nuclear devices cutting warning and reaction time to zero. Given the small number of leadership nodes and short warning time, I cannot overemphasize the acute danger and probability of a successful decapitation strike against the highest levels of the American govenment (the NCA). The American leadership was aware of this vulnerability and feared it.

The only practical recourse was to increase redundancy, to preposition successors and delegates, and to make targeting more difficult for the Soviets. (Compounding the problem was the inadequacy of laws governing succession. This was before the 25th Amendment and makes for an interesting analysis including constitutionality.) The government needed to increase the number of relocation sites, to provide communication between sites and established command nodes, to provide the means to identify a lawful presidential successor, and to provide the means of issuing an emergency war order (EWO).

Thus, I’ve come to believe that FOUR LEAVES refers to the AT&T “Project Offices” as described in Mr. Grass’s book. In addition to AUTOVON, AT&T were contracted to design and construct five highly secret, hardened bunkers:

  • A site to support the ANMCC (Site R).
  • A site to support HIGH POINT.
  • A relocation site in Virginia, south of the D.C. relocation arc.
  • A deep relocation site in North Carolina.
  • A relay station between the relocation site in Virginia and the deep site in North Carolina.

The sites were linked by a troposcatter radio system. AUTOVON, by way of comparison, was interconnected by coaxial cable and microwave communications. The Project Office sites are often conflated with AUTOVON, but this confusion is likely intentional in order to provide cover for the Project Office construction and locations.

As a system, an important likely goal was continuing communication with the most survivable element of NMCS, NEACP. NEACP’s duty was to orbit at the eastern end of the Post Attack Command and Control System (PACCS). The EWO issued by the NCA aboard NEACP would be sent via multiple air-to-air and ground channels to bases and missile fields in the American mid-west. NEACP’s orbital area is determined by its ability to inject the EWO via air-to-air and air-to-ground links, and by its ability to avoid and survive a Soviet barrage attack. Thus, NEACP needs a large area well-outside of the D.C. relocation arc which, quite frankly, would be an unimaginable thermonuclear horror during an attack.

The relocation site in North Carolina was the southern terminus of the chain. Local folklore describes the buried structure as several stories tall — much bigger than the one- or two-story cut and cover bunkers used by AUTOVON. Very likely, this site, known by locals as “Big Hole,” was a major emergency leadership node. Survival of this site and its peers depended upon absolute secrecy.

Is this analysis proof that Project FOUR LEAVES is the AT&T relocation project? No, but it does point in that direction. If FOUR LEAVES is the construction of the five Project Office sites, DX priority would compel AT&T to give highest priority to personnel, equipment, material and schedule above AUTOVON. Given the acute danger of nuclear decapitation, time was of the essence.

What of the five Project Office sites today? The relay station (Spears Mountain 5, Virginia) has been shut down. It is now the private property of its homeowner. (You Tube video) Troposcatter radio is no longer needed, supplanted by the redundancy and higher bandwidth of fiber optic networks and satellite communication. “Big Hole” has been mothballed.

The site in Virginia near Mount Weather is now a site of controversy. AT&T applied for a permit to construct a “data center” on the site. The permit was publicly contested and AT&T stopped the project (Project Aurelia) when publicity became too great. See the Loudoun County Council and Loudoun Now for additional information.

Peters Mountain remains in operation.

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

Pocket Miku pictures

Thanks very much to our friends at japan24net on eBay! They did a superb job of packing and Pocket Miku arrived at our house in record time. どうもありがとうございました

Now, the obligatory pictures! Please click on the images for higher resolution. Front:

The back:

With the rear cover off:

And finally, the money shot:

That looks like a 12.000 MHz crystal. Sorry, I didn’t have time to work through the data sheet and compute the CPU clock frequency. (96MHz maximum)

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

THAT Corporation

No, not the pronoun.

Just want to give a shout out to a local company which makes audio ICs for the professional equipment market: THAT Corporation of Milford, MA. They manufacture a line of integrated circuits including:

  • Balanced Line Receivers
  • Preamplifiers
  • Digital Microphone Preamplifier Sets
  • Digitally Programmable Gain Controllers
  • OutSmarts® Balanced Line Drivers
  • Analog Engine® Dynamics Processors
  • Blackmer® Voltage Controlled Amplifiers

ICs are available through Mouser Electronics.

Sparkfun has just announced balanced line input and output breakout boards using THAT ICs: balanced audio input and balanced audio output. Gotta keep these in mind for future projects!

If you’re a pedal DIY’er, be sure to check out THAT’s Pedal Page, too.

Round and round they go

Here’s a couple of new products to be announced at NAMM 2017.

The first product is a rotary speaker system that doesn’t use any rotating elements. It’s the Moon Amplification Skamp®.

moon_amp_skamp

The Skamp® has nine transducers in total: six speakers and four horns. There are two speakers and one horn per side. The DSP models a the physical movement of sound around a room by shooting the audio out each side in a round-robin fashion.

moon_amp_sound_paths

This design is a real head-slapper. Why didn’t someone think of it before? Kudos. I haven’t seen a retail price as yet.

If you want more info, you can check out the U.S. Patent:

Apparatus and Method for a Celeste in an Electronically-Orbited Speaker
US patent number: 9,286,863
Publication date: March 15, 2016
Inventor: Nancy Diane Moon

BTW, if you live in the USA, patent law does not allow “personal use.” So, forget about building this one in your backyard!

In the Something Red category, check out the Rock’N’Rolla junior briefcase turntable. You can get these guys in black, white, and teal, too. All set to spin your 33s, 45s and 78s.

rock_n_rolla_red

The Rock’N’Rolla drew out a moment of nostalgia — the first time I ever heard Jimi Hendrix’ Purple Haze. In 1967, I was playing in a Motown, Soul, Top 40s garage band. The guy who was our erstwhile manager came rushing in and, breathing hard, said, “You’ve got to hear this!”

Being dirt poor teens, nobody had a working record player. The only player that could spin a record had a busted amplifier. So, we put the 45 on the player, turned it on, put our ears next to the tone arm, and listened to the needle scratch out “Purple Haze” unamplified.

I didn’t get a chance to cover “Purple Haze” until I moved on to the psychedelic band — which still covered a few Motown tunes lest we got our butts kicked. Cleveland, 1967.

Won’t be long, yeah!

Winter NAMM 2017 starts in two weeks (January 19). As usual, we gear freaks can’t wait to get our annual new product fix!

Roland jumped the field and announced a few new products at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). They appear to be rolling out a new consumer-oriented product line, “GO:”, for amateur musicians and music makers.

Roland announced two new keyboards for beginning players: the GO:KEYS (G-61K and G-61KL) and the GO:PIANO. Both products target the entry-level market currently dominated by Yamaha and Casio. This is a smart business move as the entry-level segment moves a lot of units and offerings in this segment have been getting stale. Here are estimated USA sales statistics for 2014 in the “portable keyboard” segments:

    Category                       Units            Retail value
    -----------------------------  ---------------  -------------
    Portable keyboards under $199    656,000 units  $ 64,000,000
    Portable keyboards over $199     350,000 units  $123,000,000
    Total portable keyboards       1,006,000 units  $187,000,000

    (Source: NAMM)

Unit volume is high, but price and margins are razor thin. Keyboards in the “under $199” category are sold mainly in big box stores, not musical instrument retailers. So, it will be interesting to see where the new Roland keyboards are sold.

The GO:KEYS is most similar to an entry-level arranger keyboard. Estimated street price is $299. Roland is selling two models: a model with Bluetooth support and a model without. Probably depends on their ability to get RF type acceptance in a country or region. The GO:KEYS claims General MIDI 2 (GM2) support among 500 “pro-quality” sounds. The GM2 tone set consists of 256 melodic instruments and nine drum kits. I produced quite a few decent backing tracks using the Roland GM2 sound set on its RD-300GX stage piano. If Roland adopted this set, then the GO:KEYS should sound pretty decent (at least through external monitors rather than its internal speakers). No manual yet so it’s hard to say specifically what other sounds are included. Even if they recycled some chestnuts from the old JV/XP/XV, there is hope.

roland-go_keys

The Roland GO:PIANO is, ta-da, a portable piano. This product has the Yamaha Piaggero line in its cross-hairs. The estimated street price is $329. Again, no manual, so it’s hard to assess the feature set. Pricing on both products places them at the higher end of the entry-level market. The inclusion of Bluetooth support at this price point is a significant differentiator.

roland_go_piano

Both the GO:KEYS and GO:PIANO are battery powered (six AA batteries) in addition to an AC adapter. Both products use one-off fixed field LCD text and graphics like the lower cost Yamaha and Casio models. The key beds look decent, but we will have to play them in order to assess feel and quality. At least the keys are full size — not mini-keys, thank you.

If the Roland sounds are indeed up to snuff, Roland may be able to take sales away from Yamaha and Casio. Yamaha has been coasting with its entry-level sound set for over a decade and the recent PSR-E453 refresh did little to rejuvenate the entry-level segment. It will be interesting to see if Roland can win sales and spur innovation at the low end.

The GO:MIXER is positioned as an audio mixer for your mobile phone. It is USB powered, however, with no battery option. The GO:MIXER has guitar, microphone, instrument and media player inputs with associated mixing level control. There is a stereo monitor output as well as a “center cancel” feature. The estimated street price is $99USD.

roland_gomixer

Although Roland promote it for video production, I could see musicians using the GO:MIXER for a quick mix in the field. It certainly has enough inputs that a small group of pals could plug in and jam away.