Jump to content

Yamaha Motif XS6 Synth - Now with Conclusions, and Motif XF "Coda"


Recommended Posts

  • Members

Hey! A synthesizer pro review...I've been waiting to do this for a while, what with the option to do audio examples and such. And this is quite a box to kick off the concept -- it's very, very deep, as we'll see.

 

Check out http://www.yamahasynth.com for some background info on the Motif XS; and note that there are already new drivers available for Vista as well as XP.

 

So...does that give you an idea of where this box is going? It's very computer-centric, and even ships with a copy of Cubase 4 AI ("Advanced Integration").

 

We'll start off with the customary photos, and spend the first few days of the review giving and overview, and going over specs. Next week we'll get into the sounds, then segue into the computer-controlled aspects.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 245
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

  • Members

Here's a picture of the keyboard; click on it to see the Big Picture. The left side is pretty much a control surface, not just for programming the XS6, but also for controlling sequencers. The integration with Cubase is particularly tight.

 

In the middle, there's a big, bright, colorful display. Further to the right are the usual navigation tools (buttons, increment/decrement, data wheel, etc.). Finally off to the right, there are buttons that do program selection, call up the database and search functions, and do part selects, mutes, etc. for the sequencer.

 

The case is metal with plastic ends, and the buttons have a really positive, sturdy feel. The faders have a tiny bit of side to side wiggle, as do the knobs, but they still feel very solid. And this is a small thing, I know, but I like the blue/green color. It's a nice change from Basic Black.

 

Overall, this has the vibe of being a serious workhorse. This is consistent with the Motif series, which Steve Fortner of Keyboard magazine termed a "workhorse" as well.

 

By the way, I understand these keyboards are in short supply -- apparently they're way backordered. We're pretty lucky to have one here.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

I thought you might like seeing a close-up of the eight knobs. Note that these have multiple banks (click on the picture), with control over all kinds of parameters. The top bank of three options contorls selected parts, a second bank of three options handles multi-part control with reverb, chorus, and pan. I suspect these interact with Cubase as well; we'll find out soon enough...

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

And equal time for the faders, too...these appear to have a 60 mm throw (where's my centimeter ruler? Anyway...), and probably not surprisingly, they're not motorized. What's cool is that between the faders and knobs, you have a pretty complete 8-channel control surface. Sure beats the days when synths had one fader...or just a couple of buttons for parameter control.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

And here's a picture of the display, which is 320 x 340 pixels and full color. Actually the picture doesn't really do the display justice, because of the moire patterns you get by using a digital camera on a pixelated source. Having a big color display is not only helpful when programming, but is also aesthetically pleasing. I consider that an important factor with any musical instrument; after all, you want an instrument to inspire you. The whole vibe of the XS6 is friendly (thanks to the color, the display, the rubberized feel of the fader buttons and knobs), and also, business-like due to the open, obvious layout.

 

Okay, I'm off to take more photos...

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

Another part of the control surface is the Sequencer Transport controls. These are bigger buttons than the other pushbuttons, so they make for a decent target. Also, note that you can store two locate points in the sequencer - once you're on the measure you want to set as a locate point, you press the rewind or fast forward button and store, and it's stored.

 

There's also another location function where you can enter a measure number and jump to it, but these aren't stored; you have to enter the measure number whenever you want to jump to it. The second picture shows the keys you use to enter the measure number - they're the lower row of numbers on the function keys.

 

And this is where I'm realizing that maybe trying to present this Pro Review as a series of "modules" might not be the best approach...I had planned on doing Cubase integration as a separate section, but then I run across things like the locate function, and wonder if it will also locate to Cubase. Well, I'll finish out the overview part, but then install Cubase ASAP so I can test as I go along.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

Of course, there are pitch bend and mod wheels, but check out the ribbon controller as well. I must say it's encouraging to see more and more keyboards, not just the XS6 series, go beyond just wheels. Control is good!

 

The keybed for all three keyboards (the XS6 with 61 keys, the XS7 with 76 keys, and the XS8 with 88 hammer-action keys) all have velocity and aftertouch. Unfortunately, in keeping with the current trend that seems to be trying to erase all memory that polyphonic aftertouch ever existed, the aftertouch is channel aftertouch only. (Come to think of it, are ANY keyboards being manufacturered with poly aftertouch? Guess I'll have to hold on to my Ensoniq TS-10 a while longer.) I don't want to go on a rant here, but poly aftertouch is so expressive, it's a shame there isn't more of a clamoring for it from end users. Yes, it adds to the cost...but at least as far as I'm concerned, it's worth it.

 

On the other hand, aftertouch of any kind seemed like an endangered species in recent years, so I'm grateful it's included. What's more, it has a good feel - it's not just what some people refer to as "afterswitch," as you can play quite expressively with it.

 

We already mentioned the faders as real-time controllers, but there are also two assignable switches.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

Maybe this isn't a big deal to some people, but there are two expression pedal ins and two footswitch ins (one assignable, one fixed to control sustain). Although I would guess not a lot of people use two footpedals, try it sometime.

 

To get philosophical for a bit, synthesizers of all kinds have traditionally been less nuanced than acoustic instruments. Think of a guitar: Just holding the pick differently changes the sound. The lineage of synth expressiveness is the organ, and although we do have velocity and aftertouch nowadays, the more parameters you can control, the better. Given that you'll have your hands on the keyboard a lot, having multiple foot control options is welcome...as Wendy Carlos said, "For every parameter you CAN control, you MUST control." Control is indeed the key to expressive synthesis.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

The Motif XS has an Ethernet connector (yes, real ethernet, not something that just uses a CAT 5 cable to connect to something non-Ethernet). So the Motif XS can be part of a local area network, and mount/access drives on that network.

 

There are also two USB connectors. One goes to a host computer (USB TO HOST) and carries MIDI data to and from the host. Note that the Motif XS is not an audio interface to your computer; this USB line does not carry audio. If you want the Motif XS to carry digital audio, you need to use an mLAN expansion card (this is standard on the Motif XS8, but optional on the XS6 and XS7). Note, however, that you're limited to 24 bit/44.1kHz audio.

 

The other USB connector goes to USB devices, like hard drives and (my favorite) USB memory sticks. You can save data to these USB devices, and load data from them as well. USB devices can be self-powered or bus-powered, but Yamaha makes no claims that the XS series supports all USB devices; the manual recommends you check http://www.yamahasynth.com for advice on what works and what doesn't. However, I couldn't find anything there about USB devices...I suppose the XS is just too new for this kind of information to be available yet.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

Not surprisingly, the Motif XS series has MIDI in, out, and thru. There's also a coax SPDIF out that outputs at 44.1kHz/24-bit. With respect to MIDI, the Motif XS can receive MIDI Time Code and send MIDI Machine Control from the transport, thus allowing for sync with a variety of devices.

 

Well it's Friday night, and I'm going to visit my mom for mother's day...but I won't be taking the Motif XS6 as carry-on baggage :) So there will be a brief pause in this Pro Review, and I'll resume on Tuesday when I get home.

 

While we're at it...happy mother's day to all the mothers out there! And by proxy, to all the kids who owe so much to their moms. It looks to me like being a mother is an even tougher gig than trying to make a living as a professional musician...

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

Not surprisingly, the Motif XS series has MIDI in, out, and thru. There's also a coax SPDIF out that outputs at 44.1kHz/24-bit. With respect to MIDI, the Motif XS can receive MIDI Time Code and send MIDI Machine Control from the transport, thus allowing for sync with a variety of devices.

 

Forgive me in case you have not arrived to this portion of the review yet.

I was under the impression that XS series had Firewire and Ethernet. Could you please give us some details as to the implementation of the Firewire ports?

Great job so far, as an owner of a MO6 I can see this why these boards are on back order. I am just trying to to decide when (not if) to buy this model.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

Forgive me in case you have not arrived to this portion of the review yet. I was under the impression that XS series had Firewire and Ethernet. Could you please give us some details as to the implementation of the Firewire ports?

 

Well the review is just starting, so welcome! Please feel free to keep asking questions, that's what makes these Pro Reviews interesting. I must say this is a pretty deep board...

 

Anyway, the XS series does not have general purpose Firewire. Rather, the XS8 has built-in mLAN, which means it can interface with IEEE-1394. The XS6 and XS7 have space for an mLAN expansion card, but this is optional at extra cost. For most computer communications, the USB port does the job.

 

However, all three machines have Ethernet connections as standard. In fact, although I had planned on covering Ethernet later, as you've expressed interest I think I'll plug the Ethernet from the XS6 into the Ethernet on my computer to see what happens...might as well cover it now!

 

Stand by...

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

Okay, I'm in over my head on this one...I know nothing, repeat nothing, about setting up a network except once when I did it with the Muse Receptor. So I'm following the instructions in the Motif manual, also it does have the "Refer to your computer's manual" for how I need to create a network on my computer...and of course, we all know about computer manuals...

 

Well, I've tried running the network wizard in Windows XP, and lets see if it creates a Shared Documents folder...that appears to be essential to the process. Reboot time...

 

Son of a gun! Right there on "My Computer," there's a shared documents folder! Let's see what happens next, I have no clue whether my computer is running a DHCP connection or not. But at least the computer's Network Connections shows that it's connected to the Motif XS6, although it also shows it's firewalled...hmmm...I wonder if that will cause problems.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

Well I'm really having a hard time believing this, but the Motif is communicating with my computer and found the Shared Documents folder...furthermore, I was able to create a new folder in Shared Documents from the XS6. Now, I don't exactly know what to do with this just yet, but it's clear that the Motif and my computer are getting along just fine, and able to exchange information.

 

Emboldened by this, I think I'll install Cubase AI4, hook up USB, and see if I can get the two to talk.

 

Apologies to those who are waiting to hear some sound examples. Hey, it's a Yamaha keyboard, the sounds are just fine. But let's put off posting examples just yet so we can check out some of the unique features of this keyboard, like the Cubase AI4 integration.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

Well, I just managed to save the entire synth contents (file with a .XOA file extension) to my computer. I was under the impression you had to save first to a USB device then access that from the computer, but apparently that's not the case.

 

None of the above should imply that I'm a Yamaha Motif network expert (yet), and truthfully, a little more documentation about how to actually use this feature would be helpful. But for now, one thing's for sure: It works! Cool.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

The final piece of the network puzzle is together: I'm now able to access the XS6 from my computer (or precisely, the USB memory stick connected to it; this is how it's supposed to work, you can't access the Flash memory directly). It shows up under My Network Places, you enter the File Server Account and password (heads-up - it's case-sensitive), and you're good to go.

 

Well, I definitely file this under Life's Little Victories, considering I'm a moron when it comes to network. I have to give the props to Yamaha, for making the setup instructions not too arcane, and Microsoft, for making it easy to set up a network under Windows XP. Very cool.

 

I'm signing off for now, but with a sense of accomplishment :)

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

thanks for the review..

 

Just reading the yamaha website at the moment.. it looks like its a very complete workstation.. Im mostly curious about the patch editing and the sampling..

 

is it easy to edit the existing patches?

is it a smooth process??

 

and can you use samples as waveforms to make instrument patches?

or does the sampler only let you do phrase sampling??

 

appologies if this is jumping ahead :)

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

Thanks for the review Craig. You are the perfect person to answer my question.

 

With the acquisition of Cubase by Yamaha I know they are working hard to integrate the Motif into Cubase while stating that they are not going to leave out other DAW's. What features of integration within Cubase are missing from users of Sonar and Logic.

 

Robert

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

Thanks for the review Craig. You are the perfect person to answer my question.


With the acquisition of Cubase by Yamaha I know they are working hard to integrate the Motif into Cubase while stating that they are not going to leave out other DAW's. What features of integration within Cubase are missing from users of Sonar and Logic.


Robert

 

We'll all find out soon :)

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

Hi, I'll jump in and answer this one.

 

"What features of integration within Cubase are missing from users of Sonar and Logic ? "

 

There are no features that are missing. Advanced Integration simply makes it easier to use Yamaha hardware with Steinberg software.

 

Here are a couple of examples from the Motif XS and AI extensions (which will install into Cubase AI that comes bundled with the Motif XS and also commercial versions of Steinberg products like Cubase 4 Studio and Cubase 4.

 

Motif XS Song Import into Cubase AI

 

You can save a song on a USB device (or as Craig did save a file via Ethernet to your computer). Then you can open Cubase AI , select import and Motif XS Song is a choice. You can then open that Motif XS file. For example if it's an All file you can view all the songs saved in the All files , select a song, select either all tracks or which tracks you want to import and then import the song into Cubase including both MIDI and Audio. Using the Motif XS Studio Manager multi part editor you can send the mix from the Motif Xs to the editor and save it. Now you ahve ported all the settings from your Motif song into your DAW.

 

Is this possible to do with Sonar, yes , but you need to do a lot more work.

Import the MIDI as SMF file, copy over the audio as wav files and make notes about where they went in the song, have the studio manager open as a stand alone program and manually sync Studio manager and the Motif XS. In fact , most people would probably just do it the old fashion way and re-record the parts into the computer sequencer by syncing them up. In fact in Sequencer setup we have given you a quick setup to do just that, so we really didn't forget about our shared customers with Sonar, DP and Logic.

 

Here is another example which is the AI peer to peer driver. Craig can't test this out because he has a Motif XS 6 and we haven't recieved mLAN16E2 yet.

 

However the Motif XS 8 comes with Firewire on board. When you install the driver and launch a version of Cubase with the AI extensions installed everything is automatically connected and your MIDI and Audio Ports in Cubase are all named. It's totally simple.

 

With other DAWs , it is possible to make the same connections and name all the ports but you have to do that yourself.

 

There may in the future be actual features that are only available between Yamaha and Steinberg products , but right now it more steamlining the workflow and interface that has been the focus.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

is it easy to edit the existing patches?

is it a smooth process??

 

You can edit Voices using the knobs and sliders and store those settings. If you wnat to dig deeper , press edit and all of the parameters are available on the LCD display. Once Craig gets his USb hooked up , we will let him talk about the Motif XS multi part editor ( downloadable from www.yamahasynth.com for free so you can check it out even if you don't own the keyboard by the way). Two cool things about the editor.

 

First, it's multi part so you can edit MIxes and all the voices in a mix as well as using it for singel voice editing.

 

Second, it has bi-driectional communication. That means you can twist a knob on the synth and it's reflected in the editor. Change a parameter in the editor and it's reflected in the display on the synth. This let's you just work and not think about whether you are editing in hardware or virtually.

 

and can you use samples as waveforms to make instrument patches?

 

Yes, you have complete mapping capabilities and many of the convertor programs like Chicken Systems will output Motif ES format ( they are wokring on XS format now) which can be read by XS. Also there are native XS format libraries in the works at www.motifator.com.

 

 

or does the sampler only let you do phrase sampling??

 

We won't hijack Craig's review, but only jump into answer specific end user questions as we normally do on motifator.com

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

Athan! Great to have you here. You have a bit of an advantage on me in terms of knowing the unit :) But one of the reasons I'm digging doing this review is there's SO MUCH to cover. It's kind of hard to know where to start sometimes...

 

Anyway, I'm about to install the USB...the network thing kind of hijacked me for a day but it was an experience well worth having, as I was very surprised I could get the system working without any hiccups. That bodes well for Cubase AI.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

I went to http://www.yamahasynth.com to download the USB driver, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that not only Vista and XP/x64 edition are supported, but support extends backward to Windows 98SE (the first version of Windows where USB worked reliably, IMHO), ME, and 2000. On the Mac side, of course there's support for OS X but also for systems 8.6 - 9.2.

 

In these days when manufacturers seem less and less inclined to support older operating systems, I think that's kinda cool.

 

I've downloaded the driver, time to install.....

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

Well, I was up until four in the morning try to get the XS6 to show up in any host sequencer, but it wouldn't. The Yamaha USB-MIDI configuration menu showed up in the computer's control panel, and as some of the port numbers were blinking, I assume it was receiving data (MIDI clock or active sensing, perhaps). The driver also showed up under device manager, in the Sound, Video, and Games controller section, and said it was working properly; no X or ! symbols. And the little USB system tray icon showed it the XS6 as something that could be removed.

 

I made sure the XS6 was set to USB as the MIDI I/O, checked channels, and so on...but it would not show up as a MIDI device under Cubase 4, Cubase AI, Sonar, or Acid Pro. It's like the Motif could talk to the computer, but the computer couldn't pass that information along to the host software.

 

I rebooted, disconnected and re-connected the USB cable, uninstalled and re-installed the driver, tried doing a driver update...nothing. I followed instructions to the letter, including removing all USB devices prior to installation.

 

The only thing I can think of is when I opened the Driver folder (which listed .INF files for seemingly every Yamaha product introduced since the Dawn of Time), there were INF files for the Motif and Motif ES, but not the Motif XS. Maybe it's just too new and there's no Windows driver yet?

 

Athan, any clues? Guess I'll try doing this with the Mac and see what happens there, but I'd really like to know why I can't get it to show up under Windows. I guess if all else fails I can just go from the XS6 MIDI hardware I/O to an interface's MIDI I/O.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.




×
×
  • Create New...