Yamaha reface DX hands on first look

Yamaha reface CP/DX/CS/YC mini keyboards

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Yamaha reface DX hands on first look

Unread post by Saul » Thu Aug 20, 2015 2:21 pm

Have been playing around with the reface keyboards for a few days now and thought it about time I give my thoughts on them beginning with the reface dx.

As many of you will know, the whole concept of a small retro keyboard with mini-keys is not something that immediately got me excited, indeed I would go as far as to say I was totally against the idea and had to wonder what on earth Yamaha thought they were doing! Having now had the chance to use these keyboards rather than rely on specs and videos I have "slightly" changed my opinion.

So, to the reface dx. First thing I would say is don't draw comparisons with the Yamaha DX7, as it definitely is not in the same company as that illustrious instrument. If comparisons need to be drawn I would say you should be looking to the other 4op synths of the 80's such as the DX100 and DX11 but even then it might be short of the mark. Rather, look at the reface dx, as an instrument in it's own right. Sure it's FM, it has 4 operators and it does sport some classic DX sounds but, it's a lot easier to program, it has a really nice little LCD display to help guide you around and it has a touch panel with four virtual sliders for changing parameters.

The display is bright and clear and presents more than enough info to help you get around and edit sounds. The touch panel works really well and in combination with the display you can do anything you want to do without connecting to a computer. Likewise the speakers, although small are of high quality and surprisingly loud. If you run the reface dx off batteries, which last about 6 hrs then it really is a 'go anywhere' synth!

The sounds, well you all pretty much know what it sounds like. It has 32 presets on board in 4 banks of 8 covering the usual 80's FM favorites of sparkling bells, motion pads, popping basses and classic 'dx' type pianos. All in all the quality is good and especially if you put it through a pair of powered monitors or pa system. You can create your own sounds and store them but unfortunately there are no 'user' slots so you will have to overwrite whatever is there already.

There will be an online sound sharing service called Soundmondo which I think goes live on Sept 1st so not had a chance to try it yet but, it will enable reface users to connect and share sounds so I reckon before long there will be thousands of sounds out there to download and try out.

If anyone is worried about the min keys as I was, don't be. Small they may be but high quality is order of the day. This is no "toy" keybed in the reface. It feels quality and plays like it although having said that, I do still prefer full size keys and yes you can connect a master controller keyboard to any of the reface line using the midi lead adapter provided. You get midi in/out but no through. I tried the reface dx connected to my Novation Impulse 61 and it worked just fine including program and bank change. Also there is no mod wheel on the reface so the controller provides that function. I noticed none of the sounds responded to after touch but maybe have not been programmed that way. There is of course no aftertouch on the reface so perhaps it does not respond to it over midi.

You can map all the controls to a master keyboard..apparently although I have not tried that so potentially you could just use the reface as a sound module and do everything from the master controller.

I think the reface dx is definitely the most versatile of the bunch but I suppose the real question is, do I think it's worth the £289 asking price? For me probably not but then I am not the target market for such an instrument. If however you need a portable, versatile synth that really can go anywhere perhaps it's a price worth paying.
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Re: Yamaha reface DX hands on first look

Unread post by zpink » Thu Aug 20, 2015 2:40 pm

Good write-up Saul! ((i))

I'm quite glad to see that it exceeded your, admittedly low, expectations too!
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Re: Yamaha reface DX hands on first look

Unread post by tux » Thu Aug 20, 2015 3:40 pm

Thanks for the review, Saul.

32 patch memory locations? Now that's just ridiculous in 2015...

While it might sound good I think for the asking price it's underspecified, it should have had at least 128 preset + 128 user memories, mod and pitch wheels, and some more hand-on controllers.

With the current spec it should be priced below 200 Pounds to be fair value.
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Re: Yamaha reface DX hands on first look

Unread post by Saul » Thu Aug 20, 2015 3:51 pm

Oh and I forgot to mention, 8 note polyphony! The CP and YC are both 128 note so why the dx and cs are 8 note is a bit of mystery.
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Re: Yamaha reface DX hands on first look

Unread post by zpink » Thu Aug 20, 2015 4:15 pm

128 on a monotimbral synth is a bit overkill though! ;-)
zpink
Swedish chap hailing from Staines-Upon-Thames.
Noise-making gear: Cubase Elements 8, Korg Electribe 2, Yamaha MOXF6, Novation Mininova, two guitars run through a Boss GT10 and couple of jaw-harps.
Oh yeah, and the Novation KS4 is now hooked up again(even though it has to rest vertically when not used)!
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Re: Yamaha reface DX hands on first look

Unread post by Derek » Thu Aug 20, 2015 4:17 pm

Good write up. What I heard of the sound quality on the web was good, but the form factor is still just not for me. I don't want mini keys and I don't want something in that form factor. Full size keyboard or rack units for me :)
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Re: Yamaha reface DX hands on first look

Unread post by Saul » Thu Aug 20, 2015 4:37 pm

zpink wrote:128 on a monotimbral synth is a bit overkill though! ;-)
But that would apply to the CP & YC also?
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Re: Yamaha reface DX hands on first look

Unread post by zpink » Thu Aug 20, 2015 4:41 pm

Saul wrote:
zpink wrote:128 on a monotimbral synth is a bit overkill though! ;-)
But that would apply to the CP & YC also?
Yeah of course. They should have put all the voices in a pile and shared them equally. Still enough for very long release times, one would think.
zpink
Swedish chap hailing from Staines-Upon-Thames.
Noise-making gear: Cubase Elements 8, Korg Electribe 2, Yamaha MOXF6, Novation Mininova, two guitars run through a Boss GT10 and couple of jaw-harps.
Oh yeah, and the Novation KS4 is now hooked up again(even though it has to rest vertically when not used)!
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Re: Yamaha reface DX hands on first look

Unread post by Saul » Thu Aug 20, 2015 4:56 pm

Well not that it's actually a problem or certainly I have not found it to be. I have a feeling the 128 on the YC and CP is more to do with marketing than functionality.
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Re: Yamaha reface DX hands on first look

Unread post by zpink » Thu Aug 20, 2015 5:14 pm

I'm not an expert in any way, but I would probably given any extra voices to the CS.
Assuming that would be the most likely to be used for pads and other types of sounds with long release times.
Being even less of an expert on FM synths, I would still probably given that one extras as my 2nd choice.
zpink
Swedish chap hailing from Staines-Upon-Thames.
Noise-making gear: Cubase Elements 8, Korg Electribe 2, Yamaha MOXF6, Novation Mininova, two guitars run through a Boss GT10 and couple of jaw-harps.
Oh yeah, and the Novation KS4 is now hooked up again(even though it has to rest vertically when not used)!
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Re: Yamaha reface DX hands on first look

Unread post by ruscular3d » Sat Mar 07, 2020 12:11 am

As a beginner I love the reface for its portability to take it to bed with me relaxing, fast and easy to set up and play. I played with the looper function which allows me to set up the left hand chords and record it and then playback with the right hand for the rest. I wish it had more tracks to loop different voices. Most beginners keyboard have at least 2 track recording.
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