Jul 23

INTRODUCTION

How do you fancy having a professional Yamaha Motif in a very lightweight and affordable package? Well Yamaha have just released two new synths – the MOX 6 (61 semi-weighted keys) and the MOX 8 (88 note graded hammer action keyboard). The new MOX has 1217 voices as well as 6720 Arpeggiator patterns taken from the Yamaha Motif XS range. The MOX 6 weighs an incredible 7.0 kg (15.4 lbs.), whilst the MOX 8 only 14.8 kg (32.6 lbs.) despite its full size keyboard. The prices are such that there is nothing on the market that provides this much by way of price, portability and professional sounds. This sounds like an idea home studio keyboard workstation synth which has a sequencer but its weight obviously lends itself to the live situation as does some of the new layout and controls. Well it all sounds good but I need to put this through its paces and determine whether this light weight keyboard can stand the rigours of the road. Perhaps only time will tell, but it certainly appears to provide the ideal carrying weight for someone who needs 88 hammer-action keys.


PLAYING THE KEYS

I must say I am not a great lover of Yamaha key beds but to be fair, everyone to a large extent has their own idea about what feels right for them. Whilst the MOX 6’s semi-weighted-action clearly did not feel right for me, after a few hours of playing it, my fingers settled down to its ways. It is very light and fast and in my opinion it seemed to be far more at home with other sounds that were not acoustic piano sounds. The MOX 8’s graded hammer action on the other hand did a much better job, providing me with much better dynamics to my pianistic performance. I would add that that the graded action is OK, but the keys coming back at you feel a little slow but it can be improved slightly by using different velocity curves.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE MOX AND THE MOTIF XS

Well there are some good and some bad points. The price has got to be the best point as you are looking at less than half the price of a motif XS equivalent. There is no longer a Linux based operating system and the boot-up time is very fast. The new layout and design is all about speed with their new searchable interface for selecting sounds. The weight of the MOX is approximately half of the Motif. Probably one of the best parts of the MOX is that it is also a USB Audio interface providing four-track recording and two-track playback. There is also a dedicated and handy DAW Master fader on the MOX for you to adjust DAW playback. These keyboards ship with the usual Cubase AI but also include Yamaha’s YC-B3 soft organ and Prologue soft synth to get you started.

On the negative side, the MOX’s light weight means that its construction is far less solid and feels more plastic-like, however the controls are fine. There is a reduction in the polyphony – the MOX is only 64 note max, whereas the Motif XS is 128 note max. There is no aftertouch on the MOX and gone is the 5.7 inch graphic colour backlit LCD (320 x 240 dot) which has been replaced by a simple smaller 240 x 64 dot, backlit LCD. Lastly, there is no Sampling facility on the MOX and the eight real-time sliders have gone which will disappoint the Organ players.

VOICES, PERFORMANCES, SPLITS AND LAYERS

If you are familiar with the Motif XS then you will be aware of the great range of sounds and performances ranging from very versatile pianos to almost a complete backing sound with drums and bass riffs instantly providing you with song-writing inspiration. Each voice can have up to eight elements or waves that build its sound. String slides, brass falls and guitar harmonics can easily be triggered by use of the AF1 and AF2 switches, adding that extra something to make it real. The Performances allow you to layer and split up to four voices. There are also quick layer and split buttons which are very useful when playing live.

You have 1217 voices at your fingertips which are made up of 8 banks of 128 giving you 1024 voices plus 128 GM voices and 64 drum voices and one GM drum voice. Then you have 3 Banks of 128 User presets which are currently filled with copies from the preset bank. On top of this in performance mode there are 2 user banks of 128. I think it is fair to say that although you may think so, there is no loss of sound quality as a result of this budget version of a Motif. The only aspect that I noticed was that the output was low and I found I had my volume control very high all of the time.

KNOBS AND BUTTONS


There are two banks of four knobs that each has a function button. These function buttons allow live editing of 24 parameters which include:- Cutoff, Resonance, FEG Depth, Portamento, ADSR, Volume, Pan, EQ, Effects and Arpeggiator controls. On top of this I found two very useful assignable function buttons. If you press these during your keyboard performance, (depending on what the Expanded Articulation settings are in the Voice Element mode), you can call up the specific element of your selected voice. You can of course also assign other functions to these buttons.

As well as this, Yamaha also supply dedicated buttons. I personally like to see (as a minimum) three dedicated buttons on a keyboard for Transpose, Octave Transpose and Tempo. The MOX keyboards have transpose up to 11 semitones, Octave Transpose -3 to +3 and Tempo a very generous 5 – 300 bpm, with the Tempo control available in the second group of four knobs under the Arpeggiator line.

MASTER KEYBOARD FUNCTION

It is good to see that consideration is now being made to the Live Performer in that with many keyboards you have Voices and Performances and more often or not, you need to change from a Voice to a performance but what you would like to do is to perform this in one operation with one key press. The new Korg Kronos seems to do this the best with its Set List mode whereby it has a grid of 16 so that you can easily select with one-touch, a Performance and then a Voice and then a Sample and a Song if you wish without the need to go into different screens or menus.

The MOX has something called Master Keyboard Function. This has a dual function that as well as letting you use the keyboard as a master keyboard controller, it can be used to switch easily between Voice, Performance, Song or Pattern Play.

MODES

There are 13 operation modes in this instrument, and they can be selected by using either the ten Mode buttons ( Voice, Performance, Master, Song, Pattern, Mixing, File, Utility, Quick Setup and Daw remote) or the three “global” modes (Edit, Job and Store). With Song and Pattern mode you can Record, Play or Edit Songs or Patterns you have created with the Mixing mode there for use with the Song and Pattern Mode. File Mode allows you to save the data you have created on the MOX to a USB flash memory device, and visa- versa. Quick setup is there so that you can register up to six settings for MIDI connection and Audio connection between the MOX and your PC as “Quick Setups,” for instant recall.

SEQUENCER, ARPEGGIATOR AND PERFORMANCE CONTROL

The 16-Track sequencer features real-time recording which I just love. There is nothing worse than coming up with a song idea and not having a quick means available at that moment to record it and this records your whole performance data as you play it and also has Replace, Overdub and Punch In/Out. It also has a Step recorder so you can record your phrases or other difficult passages. You can also record a performance into a song again great for quick ideas. You simply hit RECORD select SONG and start playing and all of your performance, sounds and arpeggiators are recorded into the Song Mode that you can then edit or add other tracks etc.

The MOX features a staggering 6,720 types of arpeggiator patterns. This will give you something to listen to in your spare time. What is outstanding on both the Motif and the MOX is using the Arpeggiators in conjunction with Performance mode where you can have four Arpeggiators running simultaneously. Here you could have say Drums, Synth Bass and two other synth sounds and you can filter these individually rather than globally. You can also assign up to six Arpeggiators to each voice, so whilst you are playing you just switch to another Arpeggiator .You could set up the performance so that if you wanted a bit more dynamics from Verse to Chorus for example you could switch Arpeggiator and have say a stronger Drum Part where the snare drum cuts through the mix more and use this for the Chorus. Again you can do this in real time by just pressing one button.

EFFECTS

When you are in a preset, if you just press the Common button, you will see a tab named EFFECT on the LCD. Here you have access to all of the effects including Yamaha’s excellent VCM effects. There are :- 9 Reverbs, 8 Delays, 5 Chorus effects, 4 Flanger, 4 Phaser, 3 Tremolo / Rotary, 4 Distortion, 3 Compressor, 3 Wah, 3 Low-Fi, 7 Tech and 8 Miscellaneous (which give you a VCM EQ 501, a HARMONIC ENHANCER a TALKING MODULATOR, DAMPER RESONANCE, PITCH CHANGE, EARLY REFLECTION, a VOCODER and a NOISE GATE+COMP+EQ). There are also 9 Master Effects, Master EQ (5 bands), Part EQ (3 bands, stereo). What else could you ask for?

USB AUDIO AND MIDI INTERFACE

Another useful feature is having an on-board audio and Midi interface allowing you to record audio straight into your DAW with no additional hardware necessary which is amazing considering the low cost of this keyboard. You just connect with one USB cable and install Cubase A1 and the USB Midi and Audio drivers and the Software Editor. The Editor opens up in your Cubase Project and editor everything in real time. To get there you simply press the “DAW Remote” button and the whole MOX keyboard becomes a remote for Cubase. For example, if you press “Play” on the MOX, Cubase starts running. You can also then call up the editor from the MOX. Here you can select sounds to edit all the different parameters for example effects and filters. You are then not looking at a small screen to do this work and have total integration as Yamaha call it with Cubase.

Because you have an Audio and Midi interface here you can also start to use the Soft Synths in the Cubase software provided. Just go to Devices and VST instruments within Cubase and you will find the included Prologue Soft Synth. A message comes up saying “Do you wish to create a MIDI track” and you simply say “Yes” and you can then play all the interesting sounds on the Soft Synth. On top of this because you are in Remote mode on your MOX, you can control the Soft Synth from there and filter the sounds in real time for example. This is a very easy and quick setup. You can also do the same for the other soft synth YC3B organ. With the remote you can control the drawbars with use of the main knobs and you will see actual drawbars and the adjustments on your PC.

CONNECTIONS

Going from Left to Right , after the Power connections there are two types of USB connections – a “USB to Host” (to transfer MIDI and Audio Data between MOX and PC) and a “USB to Device” to connect to a Flash Memory Device to backup data. Next is the MIDI section with IN, Out ant Thru. Then you have the assignable foot switch and foot controller jacks, Left and Right Main Outputs, Headphones and Left and Right Audio Ins.

CONCLUSION

This is Yamaha’s sales pitch “The new MOX series combines a MOTIF XS sound engine, a MIDI keyboard controller with extensive DAW and VST control, multi-channel USB audio interfacing, on-board sequencing, and an extensive DAW / VST software bundle. The MOX6 and MOX8 are the most powerful, mobile and affordable Yamaha music workstations ever. I don’t normally take much notice of these types of statements but in this case I totally agree and think despite Yamaha blowing their own trumpet, they have got it spot-on in this case and these keyboards are simply great value for the money.

5 Responses

  1. rakm Says:

    you didnt mention about the bitrate of audio interface whether it is 16 bit or 24 bit

  2. tonylongmusic Says:

    I do believe it is 24 bit but I cannot be sure. Yamaha’s manual does not confirm.
    Thanks Tony. Can anyone else throw any light on this please?

  3. Mbam Says:

    it is 24 bit 44.1 khz

  4. tonylongmusic Says:

    Hi Mbam,

    The Sound on Sound article states “The Yamaha MOX’s audio sample rate and bit depth, incidentally, is fixed at 44.1kHz, 24-bit. Tests with varying ASIO buffer sizes showed that 256 samples gives a fairly respectable 5.8ms latency for running other plug-in synths without clicks or drop-outs. The workstation can monitor its own audio directly with zero latency”.
    Thanks Tony

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