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More “MO” For The Money

By David Bryce

Over the last 10+ years, Yamaha’s MOTIF workstations have been a major staple in studios and live performance rigs around the world. With a combination of meticulously crafted samples, excellent programs and comprehensive interfaces, these instruments have inspired musicians everywhere in just about every genre – rock, jazz, funk, hip-hop, EDM, classical, New Age and more – you name it, Yamaha is there. I certainly use my MOTIF in just about every tune I record…

Their new MOXF synthesizer workstations claim to provide all the sounds and many of the best features that the current MOTIF line offers at a price point attractive enough for just about any keyboardist to be able to afford. Do they live up to this lofty billing?

MOXF6 top.jpg


What You Need To Know

  • 5 octave semi-weighted action keybed.  While the literature says it’s semi-weighted, it feels like synth action…but either way, it’s an extremely solid, fast and playable keybed.
  • Weighs just over 15 pounds – very portable.
  • 128 notes of polyphony – double the previous model (MOX).
  • Same sound engine found in Yamaha’s flagship MOTIF XF workstations.
  • 741 MB of wave ROM, with almost 4000 waveforms. More than double what’s in the MOX series.
  • Two separate acoustic piano sample sets taken from a couple of Yamaha’s finest grands - 9’ CFIIIS and 7’ S6.
  • Optional flash memory expansion board can be easily installed, adding up to 1 GB of additional samples that stay in memory even when the unit is powered down. Two sets (Inspiration In a Flash, CP1 Piano) are available for free on Yamaha’s web site. Flash memory can be loaded quickly from either a computer or USB thumb drive.
  • MOXF6 comes loaded with 1152 instrument Voices (stretch across the keyboard) and 72 drum Voices (different sound on each key). Each Voice can have up to eight separate Elements (layers). Each Element can have its own filter, envelopes, LFO and mod routings, insert effects, etc.
  • Category Search mode makes it easy to find Voices by type. 16 different categories are provided, each with sub-categories…so, for example, the Acoustic Pianos category has four sub-categories – Acoustic Piano, Layers, Modern, and Vintage.  You get the idea...
  • Frequently used sounds can be instantly added to Favorites category for speedy recall.
  • Compatible with MOTIF XF and MOX libraries and data.
  • Performance Mode allows any four Voices to be layered/split and triggered by a single MIDI channel. The instrument comes loaded with 256 Performances, all of which can be overwritten.
  • Performance Creator allows quick enabling of layers, splits and drum patterns with a single button press. Arpeggiated patterns automatically snap to the tempo of any drum patterns that are added.
  • Performance Control enables lightning fast switching or combining of Voices in real time.
  • Master Mode can control up to four Voices, Performances, Songs, Patterns or external zones.
  • Mixing mode allows real time control of all 16 sequencer channels and their Voices.
  • 18 types of filters include Low Pass, High Pass, Band Pass and Dual, with multiple slopes (1-pole, 2-pole, 3-pole, 4-pole) and preset combinations of filters.
  • Virtual Circuit Modeling (VCM) recreates effects at the circuit level, faithfully modeling the behavior of transistors, resistors, etc. used in classic effects processors.
  • 97 onboard effects culled directly from Yamaha’s vaunted digital mixers range from vintage compressors and EQs to Yamaha’s state of the art REV-X reverb taken directly from the SPX2000.  There’s even a vocoder mode.
  • Up to 8 insert effects can be used per Multi, up considerably from the 3 insert effects possible with the MOX.
  • Dedicated Chorus and Reverb affect entire Voice (System FX).
  • Master FX section consists of offerings like Delay, Compression (including Multi-band), Distortion, Lo-Fi (changes sample playback frequency and word length), Ring Mod, Dynamic Filter, Slicer and Master EQ.
  • Pitch bend range can be set separately for up (+24 semitones) and down (-48 semitones) for each Voice.
  • Eight control knobs are grouped into two sets of four. Knobs 1-4 handle tone shaping (including filter, envelope, volume and panning), while knobs 5-8 control effects, EQ and the arpeggiator section. Each set of knobs has three different rows of functions. Pushing both Function buttons simultaneously toggles all eight knobs to control volume of each of the eight Elements within a Voice, or each of the four Voices within a Performance.
  • Two assignable switches can be set to latching or momentary. These can be used to switch things like which Elements are being triggered, allowing for Expanded Articulation (XA) of instruments, such as bringing in bass slides, enabling fret noises, or changing from bowed strings to pizzicato strings while pedal holding the bowed strings. Many programs that use these switches in this manner indicate that in their names (i.e. GrooveAcoustic AF1&2).
  • 16 Voice select buttons have many different functions, from switching levels of editing (Common, Element, Zone, etc) to muting or soloing an Element or Performance part to track/part selection in Song/Pattern mode.
  • Onboard 16-track sequencer is capable of real time and step recording.  
  • Direct Performance mode allows the sequencer to capture all parts in a Performance being triggered in real time, either in Song mode (runs until stopped) or Pattern mode (predetermined number of measures, up to 256), separating each part to its own track.
  • 7981 (yes, you read that correctly) arpeggiator patterns are really more musical phrases than they are arpeggios. These are also divided up into categories (drums, bass, guitar, etc). Up to four arpeggiator parts can be triggered simultaneously. Arpeggio lines can play over sustained tones.
  • Powerful USB to host connectivity lets you integrate both MIDI and audio with Mac or PC via built in USB 4 in/2 out interface.

MOXF6 rear panel.jpg

 

  • Two unbalanced ¼” outputs.
  • Two unbalanced ¼” A/D audio inputs, which can be routed directly to USB output for recording to a DAW.
  • LED ladder next to volume slider can be toggled to reflect instrument output or incoming signal level from input jacks.
  • Pedal support includes one dedicated sustain footswitch jack, one assignable momentary switch jack, and one assignable continuous controller jack.
  • MIDI in, out and thru jacks.
  • A comprehensive selection of software comes with the MOXF6 – including editor/librarian for MOXF, Remote Editor for VST instruments, Cubase AI 7, Steinberg’s Prologue analog synthesizer, YC-3B organ emulator.
  • DAW Remote mode provides comprehensive control of DAW programs (not just Cubase) directly from the front panel of the instrument.
  • GM compatible.
  • Also available as MOXF8 with 88-key Graded Hammer Action keybed ($1,999 MSRP, $1,699 "street"), weighing in at a very respectable 33 pounds.  No 76 key version, though….

 

Limitations

  • Interface is somewhat complicated to navigate, and may be intimidating to less tech-savvy keyboardists.
  • Real time control of cutoff and resonance has audible steps.
  • No real time control sliders – especially noticeable when trying to set volume balance for Elements/Performance parts.
  • No aftertouch.
  • No sampling…but user-created .WAV files and samples can be imported to the Flash memory expansion.



Conclusions

With the MOXF, Yamaha has taken the things that made the MOX line so successful and added features and functions that make it even more powerful and flexible.  The most attractive of these is the addition of the ability to add up to 1GB of Flash memory.  Consequently, if there are sounds required that aren’t included in the almost 4000 waveforms that come with the unit, they can be added.  As new sounds are typically the main thing that sends the average keyboard player in search of new gear, this is obviously a very desirable attribute.

Without a doubt, the most attractive feature of the MOXF is the huge variety of the onboard Voices, and the quality of the programming of these sounds.  Everything from bread and butter acoustic and electric tones to the wide variety of classic and modern synthesizer sounds are exceptionally well crafted, and most players will probably not have to do a lot of tweaking (if any at all) to be able to use them.

Be advised – this is an incredibly deep instrument that (depending on the user) will probably take some time to fully explore and master…but that’s because there’s a ton of power under the hood.  If you’re looking for an instrument that will supply you with just about any sound you need, won’t break the bank or your back, and will integrate better with a computer recording setup than just about any workstation on the market, this may very well be just the ticket.


Resources

Musician's Friend Yamaha MOXF6 online catalog page ($1,499 MSRP, $1,199 "street")



Yamaha USA’s MOXF6 web page


Yamaha MOXF6 introduction video:

 


dB bio image.pngDavid Bryce is a composer/producer living in Thousand Oaks CA.  Specializing in keyboards and synthesizers, Bryce is also comfortable with guitar, bass, drums…and can sort of play some horns.  He operates his own state of the art professional recording studio, where he does music and audio production, and is also an accomplished voice-over artist, with credits ranging from radio and TV spots in markets across the USA through industrial presentations and computer video games.  He currently plays keyboards for a few LA based bands, and spends a large portion of his days consulting with a variety of professional audio and musical instrument manufacturers.

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