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.


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

MOX internal architecture

Curiosity finally overcame inertia and I ordered the service manual for the Yamaha MOX6 and MOX8 workstations. (The Yamaha 24×7 part number is “S M MOX6/MOX8”.)

If you remember from my previous discussion about workstation internal architecture, the Motif XS synthesizer is Linux-based and has a 400MHz Toshiba TX4939 RISC CPU as its main processor. The TX4939 uses the MIPS instruction set and controls two SWP51L tone generator integrated circuits. Since the MOX is advertised as descendent of the Motif XS, I fully expected a MIPS architecture processor with only one SWP51L.

Check out the Yamaha MOX block diagram.

Surprise! The main processor in the MOX is the Yamaha SWX02 with an internal clock speed of 135.4725MHz. The SWX02 has an SH-2A CPU core and probably does not run Linux. The SWX02 is also used in the Yamaha PSR-S650 arranger workstation where it is clocked at the same rate. This processor seems to be Yamaha’s choice for cost-sensitive, mid-range products.

The MOX has one SWP51L tone generator IC clocked at 90.3168MHz. The SWP51L is fed by two 64MByte wave ROM ICs. The wave ROM components are Lapis Semiconductor MR26V51252R 512Mbit P2ROM devices in 32Mx16-bit configuration. One device provides a 16-bit high (H) channel and the other device provides a 16-bit low (L) channel into the SWP51L. The high and low wave ROMs communicate with the SWP51L over a 32-bit wave memory bus. The SWP51L has a separate 16MByte SDRAM on a dedicated interface to support digital signal processing (DSP). The DAC and ADC are also connected directly to the SWP51L.

The SWX02 functions primarily as a control processor. This is quite different from the PSR-S650 where the SWX02 performs tone generation as well as performing control duties. The SWX02 has its own wave memory interface and this interface is not used in the MOX. The S650 has a separate LCD controller IC. The MOX does not have a separate LCD controller and the LCD is connected to the SWX02 through its parallel general purpose I/O (GPIO) pins.

The MOX specifications describe the wave capacity as “355MB (when converted to 16-bit linear format)”. The physical wave ROM is 128MBytes total. Thus, Yamaha achieve overall wave compression of 2.78 to 1, or better.

The most interesting thing about the MOX is what it does not have. The MOX main logic board (DM) has unpopulated positions for:

  • A second SWP51L tone generator IC
  • Two additional wave ROM ICs (size unspecified) on the wave memory bus
  • An interface for a flash expansion module
  • A second WM8740 digital-to-analog converter (DAC)

Yep, Yamaha laid the ground for the MOXF. These positions are labeled “For future model” in the detailed circuit diagrams. One way to feel about that is cheated. A more rational way to view this situation is that Yamaha tries to lower cost through volume production (eventually) giving us more product for less money.

The MOX polyphony is 64 notes. The MOXF polyphony is 128 notes due, presumably, to a second SWP51L. A Motif/MOX note may use up to eight voice elements. Therefore, I infer that an SWP51L has a total tone generation capacity of 512 voice elements. Switching context to workstation arrangers for a momemnt, both the PSR-S950 and Tyros3 have 128 note polyphony. The S950 has one SWP51L and the Tyros3 has two SWP51B integrated circuits. I now believe that the S950 is a four element per voice synthesizer while the Tyros3 is known to be an eight element per voice synthesizer. (The S950 is voice compatible with the A2000, which is known to be four elements per voice.) Thus, I don’t think Super Articulation 2 (SA2) voices based on Articulation Element Modeling (AEM) technology are coming to the S950 or a new mid-range arranger workstation. Not without a second SWP51L, anyway. I’m guessing that AEM requires an eight element per voice engine.

It’s interesting to see how and where Yamaha shaved cost in order to produce a value-oriented mid-range product. It also provides geater justification for the higher cost in the upper end Motif and Tyros products.

See this article for an architectural overview of the Yamaha arranger product families.

Finally, Yamaha releases the source code for GPL’ed parts of the Motif XS, Motif XF, and S90 XS/S70 XS. See the Yamaha source code page. The MOX and MOXF are not mentioned on this page, giving further evidence that these products are not Linux-based.