Yamaha MX88 vs Roland Juno DS88

Yamaha MX88 vs Roland Juno DS88

Now that Yamaha have added the 88 key version to the MX range I figured it might be worth doing a quick comparison between it and it’s main rival the Roland Juno DS88.

Roland loaned me the DS88 for a few weeks so I am pretty familiar with it and Yamaha let me test the MX49 MK2 for a similar amount of time and given that the only difference between the MX49, 61 and 88 is the keys I think a fair comparison can be made.

So, a quick spec check :

Yamaha MX88

  • 88-note, GHS weighted action keybed. Heavier in the low keys and lighter in the high keys, just like an acoustic piano.
  • Class-compliant USB audio/MIDI, no drivers needed.
  • Motif sound engine: layer, zone, switch, cycle, randomize and control up to 8 elements within a single voice.
  • Virtual circuitry Modeling (vcm) re-creates the sound and behavior of vintage effects and signal processors.
  • 128 notes of polyphony ensures dropout-free performance playing live or with full 16-track sequences.
  • Audio/Midi interface
  • Weight = 13.87kg/30.6lbs


Roland Juno DS88

  • 88 keys Progressive hammer action (Ivory Feel-G Keyboard with Escapement)
  • Includes all the sounds from the popular JUNO-Di.
  • Wave expansion slot enables users to download new sound waveforms, available for free at Roland’s Axial website.
  • Sample import function for playing user WAV files on the JUNO-DS88’s keyboard
  • Phrase Pads for enhancing your performances
  • 8-track sequencer
  • LCD 256 x 80 dots Screen
  • Audio/Midi Interface
  • Can be battery powered
  • Weight = 17kg/37.47lbs

So just going by that very brief comparison, in theory the Yamaha MX88 “should” have the better keys but time will tell. I loved the keys on the Juno DS88 so they would have to be REALLY good to beat that!.

The MX88 has a smaller wave rom at 166mb vs the DS88’s 256mb but of course numbers don’t tell the whole story. We know from experience that great things can be had from very small amounts of wave memory.

The MX88 unfortunately keeps that incredibly tiny screen.
The DS88 has a nice clear 256×80 screen with white text on a dark blue background. It is not massive by today’s standards but does make navigation and editing a lot easier than on the MX.

Both keyboards have a number of real time controllers and both make good master keyboards for your DAW. I think if I remember correctly the DS88 has more DAW presets than the MX but there’s not much between them here.

The MX will come bundled with Cubase Ai9 where the Juno DS88 comes with….nothing! Yes folks, a big fat zero in the software dept. Roland really need to up their game on that one. Still there are plenty of free options out there that easily match or surpass Cubase Ai. Mackie Traktion 5 being one of them

Price is going to be roughly the same for the Juno DS88 (£849) and the Yamaha MX88 but right now, were I buying I would have to come down on the side of the Roland. I was never overly enamoured with the sounds of the MX but I found the DS88 quite inspiring both in the sounds coming out of it and the feel of the keys. Having said that, I did only try the MX49 with it’s synth type keys and I know from experience that adding a weighted hammer action keybed into the mix changes your playing style which in turn can lift the mediocre into the realms of something special.

Would love to hear your thoughts and comments. Do you think this was a good move by Yamaha or should they have perhaps invested the money elsewhere? Let us know in the comments section below or join the discussion on the forum here


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