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.

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

Mega Voice in PSR/Tyros styles

Yes, this site still answers questions and doesn’t just publish rumors and FUD. 🙂

Recently, a member of the PSR Tutorial Forum needed help using a Megavoice in a custom Tyros style. My answer seemed to be useful to a broader audience, so I decided to post my answer here. The information applies to PSR arrangers, too, because the Tyros and PSR share the same SFF1 and SFF2 (SFF GE) style formats.

Megavoice guitars are very different than regular guitar voices.

Regular voices are the usual MIDI voice: 128 velocity levels and only one basic sound. For example, nylon guitar is just the pitched, melodic sound of the notes either louder or softer depending on note velocity.

Megavoice guitars (and other Megavoices) are different. Please look at the Megavoice Map starting on page 16 of the Tyros Data List PDF.

Let’s take a look at the Mega NylonGuitar voice. For MIDI notes B5 and below, the MIDI velocity is broken into eight (8) ranges:

    1- 20 Open soft
   21- 40 Open med
   41- 60 Open hard
   61- 75 Dead
   76- 90 Mute
   91-105 Hammer
  106-120 Slide
  121-127 Harmonics

Each range plays a different kind of sound. So, the MIDI velocity determines which guitar sound. Then, the velocity within that limited range determines how loud it will be.

Example 1: MIDI note A4, velocity 38 makes an Open Med guitar sound which is loud.

Example 2: MIDI note A4, velocity 2 makes an Open Med guitar sound which is quiet.

Example 3: MIDI note A4, velocity 110, makes a Slide guitar sound.

Now, let’s look at the last two columns in the Megavoice map, again, Mega NylonGuitar voice. For MIDI notes between C6 and B7, the Tyros plays a Strum noise. The velocity in this case determines the Strum noise loudness over the full range 1-127.

For MIDI notes above C8, the Tyros plays a Fret noise. The velocity determines the fret noise volume and is full range 1-127.

Example 4: MIDI note D8, velocity 127 plays a very loud fret noise.

The Megavoice mapping makes it more difficult to program (sequence) guitar parts than regular voices. The user needs to make sure that the MIDI note is in the desired range (B5 and under, above C6, etc.) and that the MIDI velocity controls what you want.

Yamaha’s proprietary CASM has a few settings to control Mega Voices. The bad news — you can’t change some of these settings.

When I program Megavoice into a style, I use two parts for each Megavoice:

    Part 1: Pitched notes -- all note B5 and below
            NTR: ROOT TRANS or GUITAR
            NTT: MELODY or CHORD
    Part 2: Noise notes -- all notes above C6
            NTR: ROOT FIXED
            NTT: BYPASS

You want the pitched notes to transpose. You don’t want the noise notes to transpose. (Please think of the noise notes like drum notes/sounds.)

I wrote a three part series of articles about capturing Motif/MOX arpeggios and converting them to PSR/Tyros styles:

If you don’t care about Motif/MOX, then skip part one. Parts two and three are more generally useful and describe the conversion of a MIDI file to a style. Part three concentrates on Megavoice conversion.

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

This is the place(ment)

Alex Christensen & the Berlin Orchestra, Classical remake of “Snap! Rhythm Is a Dancer.”

Now that’s what a big production budget and product placement will buy you!

Wot? It’s not an ad for Yamaha headphones?

This is the second teaser video for the new Yamaha GENOS™ Digital Workstation.

I found three video clips showing the GENOS. If you found more, congratulations! You have less of a life than I do. 🙂 [Please click images to enlarge.]

At least we know where the “Direct Access” button is.

A nice, clean, flat user interface. Too bad recent research shows that users navigate a flat interface 22% slower than an interface with shadows, etc.

Yep, looks like the knobs adjust parameters and the display shows the current value.

The second video does not reveal much more than the first “pixie dust” teaser video. However, you can rest assured that Yamaha means and sanctions these video snippets. Yes, it has sliders, knobs, a color touch panel, and a parameter display above the knobs.

The main editorial question, however, is what role did the Yamaha GENOS™ play in the actual musical production of Mr. Christensen’s album? Or, vice versa?

Back to the crass business of marketing, Yamaha clearly want to reach a younger customer base without offending the old folks. (I am an old folk, by the way.) That’s perfectly fine by me as the Yamaha innovation engine needs fuel from many sources. If indeed the GENOS has styles combining MIDI and audio phrases, the development cost of that content alone must be staggering. (Do not think GENOS will come cheaply.)

We await more. Always more.

Related posts:

Original material Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

A hoax image?

An unverified image of the Genos™ surfaced on the Web overnight. I will not publish this image here until I’m sure of its veracity.

If this image is genuine, it confirms features seen in the teaser video. Although the image depicts familiar PSR/Tyros features (e.g., style/section control buttons, registration buttons, One Touch Setting buttons, and multi-pad buttons), it has many new features over the current Tyros:

  • Color touch panel
  • Six control knobs
  • Display above the knobs (showing parameters?)
  • Nine drawbars
  • Six assignable buttons

The Tyros voice select buttons (far right just above the keyboard) indicate RIGHT1, RIGHT2, RIGHT3 and LEFT voices — typical for Tyros. A USB host port is above and to right of the voice select section. That’s a lot of unused real estate between the six assignable buttons and the USB bay by the way.

Current PSR/Tyros models provide a matrix of style selection buttons and a matrix of voice selection buttons. The image does not show these button groups. This would imply that all voice and style selection is made through the touch panel.

The Montage user interface supports user actions through both the touch panel and physical front panel buttons. This “duality” accommodates musicians with certain perceptual disabilities; Yamaha were lauded for this accommodation. Judging from this image, the Genos would not support this kind of “duality.”

The lower left corner of the keyboard does not appear to have pitch bend or modulation wheels. It looks more like a joystick.

The keyboard has 76 keys. Given the layout of the panel buttons, the space used by the panel buttons, etc. would preclude a 61-key version. This would be a break with current Tyros and Montage product lines that always provide a 61-key model.

Well, folks, there’s the image. A well done hoax? I’d like to believe, but I strongly recommend waiting for Yamaha’s verification on this one. We’ll know for sure, soon. Three more teaser videos are due over the next few weeks.

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

Genos is coming soon

Well, it’s official. Yamaha have created a special web site for Genos™ related announcements. The first posting is the teaser video which was accidentally released over the weekend. New videos will appear on September 15, 22 and 29. Dealer previews are scheduled during the last two weeks of September. Of course, we’re all dying to see the manuals and the data list PDF!

There’s one key graphic in the Yamaha annual report with the goal: Develop Products with Distinctive Individuality: Add original value to excellent basic functions and develop products others cannot imitate.

That’s a direct quote.

So, please review my summaries of recent Yamaha patents:

This is Yamaha staking out its claim in synth and arranger technology. Patents are expensive and Yamaha do not seek patent protection frivolously.

Hey, hey, serious stuff, but exciting!

Yamaha have filed several patents on styles and style playback using both MIDI data and digital audio. Not just audio drums, but pitched, melodic instrument parts.

When you hear a cello in the demo, that may very well be a recording of a real human being playing a real cello.

The playback engine tracks left hand chords. With respect to audio parts, the engine selects the most appropriate audio phrase from its library of audio recordings according to chord type. Time-stretching (etc.) adjusts for tempo and pitch-shifting adjusts for transposition. Thus, the recorded audio phrase is pitch- and tempo-matched against the musical clock and MIDI. Sounds easy, but try to do it right and do it in real-time!

I’m making a leap from patent filings to product, but my gut feeling as an engineer is strong about this one. (Feel the force, Luke.)

Or, we’ll all have a good laugh.

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

Flash dance?

So, is someone having a good laugh at us or is someone in trouble for accidentally releasing the Yamaha Genos teaser video? Or, is this a planned flash dance to get the fan base stirred up?

Debate is already raging on the PSR Tutorial Forum about the authenticity of the video. If it’s a fake, then hat’s are off to someone with brilliant production skills.

If you’ve seen the video, the instrument is not shown definitely. Rather, two hands conjure pixie dust into a stylized, 3-Dish instrument. There are one or two brief flashes of the rear view. (Not meaning to be crude, here.) The hands are disconnected from any meaningful musical gestures except for one deliberate gesture at roughly 46 seconds. A hand moves a slider in sync with an sforzando sweep in the soundtrack. Shades of Montage’s “Music in Motion” theme.

Observations include: six knobs, nine sliders, ten registration buttons, (probable) touch screen. Yamaha seem to have cornered the market on red and blue LED given this video and the Montage! Special thanks to Marcus, Maarten and Vinciane on the PSR Tutorial Forum for their keen eyes and steady disposition.

Here are a few captures from the unverified teaser video for the new Yamaha Genos arranger workstation. First up, the Genos logo. [Click on images for higher resolution.]

Next, is a close view of the knobs and faders. Mid-range PSR and Tyros models have a drawbar mode. Perhaps Yamaha have now given the drawbars proper faders? If true, Genos could be a terrific stage gig machine for the non-EDM types who crave quality acoustic piano, electric piano and B-3 organ. A shame that Montage didn’t fully nail drawbar control.

Finally, not so delicately put, is the rear view, presumably with all of the usual connectors provided for.

We’ll know for sure, soon. Dealer preview dates are September 18 (Europe) and September 28 (North America).

If you’re curious about what a new Yamaha arranger might do, then please read my blog posts about recent Yamaha R&D patents:

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

Inside Reface YC and CP

Like the Yamaha Reface DX and CS, the Reface YC and CP are brother and sister.

The Reface DX and CS use the Yamaha proprietary SSP2 integrated circuit (IC) for sound synthesis. A few minor hardware differences and the front panel aside, the main difference between DX and CS is software. The YC and CP designs are analogous although the tone generation method and hardware are different.

Sample playback and memory bandwidth

Many people focus on the computational aspects of tone generation and wave memory size, not realizing that memory bandwidth is just as important, if not critical, for sample playback. Waveform samples need to flow from wave memory to the tone generation apparatus whether tone generation is performed on a CPU or a proprietary tone generator IC like Yamaha’s previous generation SWP51L and the now current SWP70.

Sustainable polyphony depends on memory bandwidth. If available bandwidth is low, then polyphony is low. Raise bandwidth and you can raise polyphony, too, provided adequate computational resources (e.g., tone generation channels or CPU cycles) are available.

Several factors affect memory bandwidth.

  • The most obvious factor is the raw speed of the memory technology. Fast memory means high bandwidth.
  • Next is the kind of memory communication channel: shared or dedicated. If waveform samples and CPU code reside in the same physical memory component, then bandwidth must be shared between the CPU and the tone generator, lowering tone generation bandwidth and polyphony. Bandwidth is higher when the CPU and tone generator each have their own memory channel and component. Concurrency wins!
  • Bandwidth sometimes depends on the read access mode or pattern of the memory component. Concerns here include random vs. sequential access, word vs. paged, etc. This subject is a little too deep for this short note.
  • Finally, bandwidth depends on the bus organization: serial or parallel. Parallel buses move each bit in a word on a dedicated wire. Serial buses move moves sequentially on one or a few wires. Parallel is fast; serial is slower.

Of course, there are further factors and choices like the necessity for read-write access, non-volatile data storage, and so forth.

The instrument designer faces the challenge of supplying sufficient memory bandwidth, tone generation channels and polyphony at a particular price point. Polyphony and price point are market-driven requirements. Memory bandwidth and tone generation resources are technological. The designer must work within both kinds of requirements and constraints.

Internet discussions tend to dwell on memory speed and component cost alone, neglecting system-level design costs like board complexity, wiring and testing. A simple rule of thumb is, “More IC pins and wires means higher system cost.” Serial communication decreases pins and wires, but it compromises bandwidth. Shared buses also decrease the number of pins and wires, again, penalizing bandwidth. One expects to find serial communication and/or shared buses in low price products, while higher price products can reap the benefits of dedicated, parallel communication.

I must note that commodity bulk flash memory uses a serialized memory bus, but it does so by sequential paged reads and data caching. The SWP70 is compatible with commodity flash and uses a dedicated RAM cache to achieve high sample bandwidth. This scheme is cheaper than the SWP51L with its parallel dedicated wave bus.

Processor primer

Yamaha have several different processors at their disposal for main CPU, tone generation and effect processing (DSP) chores:

  • SWLxx: SWL processors, like the SWL01U, have integrated CPU, tone generation and DSP resources in the same IC. CPU instructions, data and waveform samples travel on the same shared bus. SWL processors are typically designed into value (i.e., entry-level) products. SWLs are also low power and ready for battery operation.
  • SWXxx: SWX processors have integrated CPU, tone generation and DSP resources on the same IC. CPU, tone generation and DSP each have a dedicated memory channel. SWX processors often appear in mid-range products.
  • SWPxx: SWP processors have a large number of tone generation and DSP elements, and no main CPU. The SWPs must be controlled by a separate main CPU.
  • SSP2: The SSP2 has an integrated CPU and DSP elements. The SSP2 is not used in AWM2 applications, appearing instead in computationally intensive synthesis engines (Reface CS and DX), vocal harmony processors, and digital mixers.

The SWL, SWX and SSP2 series processors are true “system on a chip (SOC)” designs with analog-to-digital conversion, bit-serial data (UART), USB, SPI and other interfaces. The CPU core is usually a variant of the Renesas SH architecture family. Architectural commonality facilitates code reuse across products. Yamaha have damned good engineers.

There are two different types of SWX processor: SWX02/SWX03 and the SWX08. The 02/03 variants appear in lower priced mid-range products. Examples include the MOX6 (SWX02), PSR-S650 (SWX02) and Piaggero NP-32 (SWX03). The SWX08 appear in the upper mid-range: PSR-S770, Reface YC and Reface CP.

Sometimes an SWX processor is used as the main computer controlling an SWP. For example, the SWX02 is the main computer in the MOX6/MOX8, controlling an SWP51L. Similarly, the SWX08 is the main computer in the PSR-S750, controlling an SWP51L. In both cases, the SWP51L handles all tone generation duties. Yamaha increases fabrication volume when it uses an SWX in this way.

At this point, semiconductor folks might ask if Yamaha fuses off TG or DSP deficient SWX08s and assigns them to main computer duty only. This strategy cuts waste as it deploys SWX08s with perfectly good CPUs and faulty, fused off TG and/or DSP circuitry. This is standard practice throughout the industry, so please don’t freak out.

Reface YC and Reface CP

The Yamaha Reface YC and the CP share the same digital logic board design. The main large-scale integrated (LSI) components are:

IC CPU (SWX08)   Yamaha R8A02042BG         SH-2A CPU core
Work SDRAM       Winbond W9812G6JH-6       8M x 16-bit word, 166MHz
DSP SDRAM        Winbond W9864G6KH-6       4M x 16-bit word, 166MHz
Program/Wave YC  Cypress S29GL256S90TFI020 16M x 16-bit word NOR flash
DAC              Asaki Kasei AK4396VF-E2   192kHz, 24-bit stereo DAC
Panel scan CPU   MB9AF141LAPMC1            ARM Cortex-M3 (32-bit core)
ADC              TI PCM1803ADBR            96kHz, 24-bit stereo ADC

The same ARM Cortex-M3 (32-bit core) processor is used in the Reface CS and Reface DX for panel and keyboard scan. Potentiometers and so forth are sensed by the ARM’s 12-bit analog to digital converter (ADC). Key scanning is performed through GPIO lines. (I don’t see any way to expand beyond 37 keys, unfortunately.)

The SWX08 is the main control computer. It handles the 5-pin MIDI interface and the USB interface. The ARM communicates with the SWX08 over a serial link (UART). Integral tone generation and DSP elements synthesize digital audio and effects.

The AK4396VF-E2 digital to analog converter (DAC) is also used in the PSR-S770 and PSR-S970 arranger workstations (among other Yamaha products.) The Montage employs the AK4393VM-E2 DAC by way of comparison. Digital audio for the internal speakers is converted by the Yamaha YDA176 digital amplifier.

The PCM1803ADBR ADC sends serial digital audio (24-bit I2S format) to the SWX08 where it is mixed with the synthesized tones.

DSP processors on the SWX08 have their own dedicated 16-bit data channel to DSP SDRAM (i.e., working memory for effects). The wave memory (NOR flash ROM) has a dedicated 16-bit parallel channel for samples. Wave memory is labelled “E:64MB / O:32MB”. Presumably, this means that the CP needs 64MBytes for electric piano waveforms and the YC needs 32MBytes for organ waveforms. I wonder if Yamaha substitute a larger, pin-compatible flash ROM in the Reface CP? I don’t have the Reface CP service manual in order to resolve this conjecture.

Summary

So, there you have it. Yamaha wisely designed the CS and DX as a pair and designed the CP and YC as a pair. I’m sure that shared board designs reduced their manufacturing costs.

Reface sales seem to be coming to an end. Nearly all Reface models have sold through in North America. Yamaha has either decided to cancel the Reface after the first production run or they will launch Reface 2.0, perhaps with full-size keyboards. They could easily design the guts of the YC and/or CP into the Piaggero NP-12 chassis. That would make for one killer, battery-powered stage machine!

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

Vocaloid keyboard announced

At long last, Yamaha have announced their Vocaloid™ keyboard, the VKB-100. The VKB-100 is a keytar design similar to the prototype shown at the “Two Yamahas, One Passion” exhibition at Roppongi Hills, Tokyo, July 3-5, 2015.

More details will be released in December 2017. However, this much is known:

  • Lyrics are entered using a dedicated application for smart phones and tablets via Bluetooth.
  • VY1 is the built-in default singing voice.
  • Up to 4 Vocaloid singers can be added using the application.
  • Four Vocaloid voices will be available: Hatsune Miku, Megpoid (GUMI), Aria on the Planets (IA), and Yuzuki Yukari.
  • Melody is played by the right hand while the left hand adds expression and navigates through the lyrics.
  • A speaker is built-in making the VKB-100 a self-contained instrument.

The VKB-100 was demonstrated at the Yamaha exhibition booth at the “Magical Mirai” conference held at the Makuhari Messe, September 1-3, 2017. Price is TBD.

VY1 is a female Japanese voice developed by Yamaha for its own products. VY1 does not have an avatar or character like other Vocaloid singers. This makes sense for Yamaha as they can freely incorporate VY1 in products without playing royalties or other intellectual property (IP) concerns.

The Vocaloid keyboard has had a long evolution, going through five iterations. The first three models did not use preloaded lyrics. Instead, the musician entered katakana with the left hand while playing the melody with the right hand. This proved to be too awkward and Yamaha moved to preloaded lyrics. The left hand controls on the neck add expression using pitch and mod wheels. The left hand also navigates through the lyrics as the musician “sings” via the instrument. The current lyrics are shown in a display just to the left of the keyboard where the musician can see them.

Yamaha will release more information on the Vocaloid keyboard site.

If you want to get started with Vocaloid and don’t want to spend a lot of Yen (or dollars), check out the Gakken NSX-39 Pocket Miku. Pocket Miku is a stylophone that plays preloaded Japanese lyrics. The NSX-39 also functions as a USB MIDI module with a General MIDI sound set within a Yamaha XG voice and effects architecture.

Be sure to read my Pocket Miku review and browse the resource links available at the bottom of the review page.

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski

Vox VX50KB keyboard amplifier

With all of the new Korg keyboards, I missed the announcement of the Vox VX50KB keyboard amplifier. The VX50KB is part of the new Vox VX50 series of amplifiers. All the amps in the series have a street price of $229.99 and are currently shipping.

The VX50KB is a three channel keyboard amplifier that drives 50 Watts into an 8 inch, two-way coaxial speaker. Like the new Continental, the VX50KB warms up the sound with Nutube. Weight is an easy to wrangle 9 pounds (4.1 kg).

In the keyboard realm especially, sound quality depends upon the speaker and cabinet as a system. The VX50KB design is a bass reflex structure.

I’ll defer any judgement about sound quality until I hear one in action. Fat, deep organ tones quickly reveal any bass flatulence as well as the speaker’s ability to move air in the low frequency range. Oddly enough, mid-rangy French horns reveal flatulence, too. Strings are good for testing “boxiness” or “graniness.” If you want to hear grain, just listen to any amplifier in Roland’s KC series. The KC tweeters are inadequate.