Yamaha MX88 vs Roland Juno DS88

The MX series combines Motif XS sounds, USB Audio/MIDI connectivity and advanced DAW/VST controller features at a ground breaking level of affordability.

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Yamaha MX88 vs Roland Juno DS88

Unread post by Saul » Tue Apr 18, 2017 4:16 pm

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.
Yamaha MX88 vs Roland DS88.png
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.

Yamaha MX88

88-note, GHS (Graded Hammer Standard) 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.
Cubase Ai included
FM Essential App
Audio/Midi interface
Weight = 13.87kg/30.6lbs
Price correct as of 25th Nov 2017 writing £849.00

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
Price correct as of 25th Nov 2017 £879

So just going by that very brief comparison, in theory the Yamaha MX88 should have the better keys but I would need to get a hands-on to be sure. I did love the keys on the Juno DS88 though. The “ivory feel” refers to the slightly textured nature of the keys. Not only do they feel great but they reduce the chances of your fingers slipping and accidentally hitting the wrong note…very handy for people like me!

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. Just look what Yamaha managed to do with the SY77!

Yamaha’s MX88 brings with it the sound engine from the very successful Yamaha XS which of course was Yamaha’s flagship synth just a few years ago. So the MX includes not only the sounds of the XS but also sounds from previous ‘Motif’ flagship keyboards. That’s quite some heritage and a LOT of very high quality sounds to play with.

The MX88 does unfortunately keep that incredibly tiny screen from the rest of the MX range. I had hoped that Yamaha would replace the screen with something larger. It’s not a deal breaker though and you can quickly navigate around the sounds without too much trouble. 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 very pleasant experience.

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 integrates very well with Cubase Ai which of course it comes with.

As mentioned the MX comes with Cubase Ai9 which brings massive added value to the package. Not only does it feature powerful recording and editing tools, it also includes a complete set of great-sounding VST 3 effects plug-ins covering everything from EQ to dynamics to reverb. You also get HALion Sonic SE and Groove Agent SE which provide a vast array of high-end sampled instruments and acoustic/electronic drums and grooves. Not only that but there is also the acclaimed AmpSimulator which gives you all the amps you need. In fact bundling Cubase Ai with the MX is like giving you a whole studio, FREE!

There is also another bonus with the MX and that is Yamaha’s free ‘FM Essential App‘ which gives you a 4 Op virtual FM synth that runs on your iPad or iPhone connected to the MX. Here’s how Yamaha describe it:

FM Essential is a synthesizer app which brings some of Yamaha’s legendary FM synthesizers to your iPhone and iPad. Connected with the MX BK/BU series, you can play 271 high-quality voices consisting of selected presets from classic FM synths such as the DX100, TX81Z and V50. (note: you do also need the Apple Camera Connection kit in order to use this app)

The Juno DS88 on the other hand comes with….nothing! Yes folks, a big fat zero in the software dept. Roland really need to up their game on that one. For now you can download one of the many free options out there such as Mackie Traktion 5 or Reaper

Price for the Juno DS88 is currently £879 and the Yamaha MX88 is £849 but obviously that fluctuates with the pound not being as stable as it was post Brexit.

Which one would I buy? That’s a hard question to answer simply because I have not had the opportunity yet to try the MX88’s keys and for me that is a massive part of the buying decision. The DS88 is quite inspiring both in the sounds coming out of it and the feel of the keys and as I have already lived with it for around 6 weeks I know I would be very happy with it, however one can’t ignore the fact that bundling Cubase Ai with the MX IS a big deal. That makes it not only a fantastic sounding keyboard but also a very powerful “workstation” and adds massive value to the package. Plus there is the FM Essential App to consider. That’s a LOT of keyboard for the money.

I don’t think you could go wrong with either of these keyboards and a lot will come down to whether you prefer the ‘Yamaha’ sound or the ‘Roland’ sound but taken as a whole package the MX wins out in the value for money stakes and is probably where my cash would go. Having said that, we are getting near to NAMM 2018 and the MOXF is due a replacement. Perhaps I will hold of just a little while longer…

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?
Saul
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Re: Yamaha MX88 vs Roland Juno DS88

Unread post by SeaGtGruff » Tue Apr 18, 2017 9:51 pm

I think it was probably a good move overall-- but as I said elsewhere, I'd prefer to get the MOXF6 over the MX88BK if the $700 price difference were not an issue. The person who happened across one in their local musical instrument store last week was able to play it for a while before the employees figured out that they were supposed to be keeping it under wraps until the 20th, and I believe he said he preferred the feel of the MX88BK's keybed over that of the competition-- but I forget it the competition he was referring to was Korg or Roland.
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Re: Yamaha MX88 vs Roland Juno DS88

Unread post by Saul » Tue Apr 18, 2017 10:52 pm

Would be interesting to get one in and test it. Really the only thing being tested would be the keys but I know from experience with the Roland FA06, which had a pretty awful keybed and the Roland Juno DS88 which has a wonderful set of keys that even though the sounds are the same the feel of a decent weighted keyboard can change something mediocre into something special.
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Re: Yamaha MX88 vs Roland Juno DS88

Unread post by Saul » Wed Apr 19, 2017 10:02 pm

Just seen the UK price and if that is not quite substantially discounted by the time it hits the stores in May I think the Roland Juno DS88 has no competition whatsoever!
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Re: Yamaha MX88 vs Roland Juno DS88

Unread post by SeaGtGruff » Thu Apr 20, 2017 10:38 am

Just found this, watching it now...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AT6bxnY4TRk

I think the piano and other instruments sound okay, but I'd prefer that the accompaniment parts weren't so loud. :)

EDIT: Also this one...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmEFfVPddqg
Michael Rideout
Current keyboards: Yamaha YPT-400, PSR-E433, PSR-E443, PSR-EW400, MX49 BK
Current controllers: M-Audio Axiom 61-II
Previous keyboards: Farfisa Matador 611; Casio CTK-710
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Re: Yamaha MX88 vs Roland Juno DS88

Unread post by Saul » Thu Apr 20, 2017 1:42 pm

Yeah thing is it's exactly the same as the original MX but with the addition of the weighted keybed. There is absolutely nothing else different.

The sounds inside the MX come from the Motif XS and Motif Classic so they are getting on a bit although Yamaha acoustic pianos have always been good. Pity they didn't include the Bösendorfer sample that is available for the MOXF, XF and Montage. That would have really made it a no brainer for me :)
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Re: Yamaha MX88 vs Roland Juno DS88

Unread post by Saul » Sat Nov 25, 2017 10:51 pm

Has anyone else bought or tried the MX88? Not hearing much about it lately. I have only had the opportunity to compare the MX49 with the Roland DS88 and FA-07 so would be good to get some opinions on how the MX88 keys feel vs those of the MOXF8, DS88 and Korg Krome 88.
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Re: Yamaha MX88 vs Roland Juno DS88

Unread post by anotherscott » Tue Jan 15, 2019 8:56 pm

Saul wrote:
Tue Apr 18, 2017 4:16 pm
The MX88 has a smaller wave rom at 166mb vs the DS88’s 256mb but of course numbers don’t tell the whole story.
Are you sure the DS has 256 mb? I haven't seen confirmation of this.

I know it has the Juno DI soundset, that's 64 mb; and a new bank of DS-specific sounds, maybe another 64 mb there? Or could it be more? But then there's the space into which you can load an SRX-based axial expansion, which I believe are 32 mb downloads but could equate to perhaps 64 mb uncompressed wavs. And then there's the space into which you can load your own custom samples, which I think was originally 32 mb, but expanded to a reported 55 mb with the release of the 2.0 update.

As for the comparison, I think you're right that the appeal can largely come down to whose sounds you prefer... i.e. essentially Yamaha's Motif XS era vs. Roland's Fantom era, which I think is where the sounds of these boards are largely derived from.

Other than that, though, the Roland appears to have a lot more functionality. Both have (within certain effects restrictions) seamless sound transitions within Performances (pre-defined sets of 16 sounds), but only the Roland also has seamless transition between Performances. Roland lets you load playable custom samples, Roland has pad functions (i.e. pattern sequencer, file player), Roland has full on-board sound editing, Roland has vocoder, Roland has better split/layer functions, Roland runs on batteries...

Yamaha's 88 is lighter and more compact, though.
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Re: Yamaha MX88 vs Roland Juno DS88

Unread post by Saul » Tue Jan 15, 2019 9:35 pm

Yes it is 256mb. I checked that with Roland at the time.

Prices of course have dropped since that initial review was written and the DS88 and MX88 are now roughly the same price. Given that and the fact that I no longer use Cubase or have any need for it plus I do REALLY like that keybed in the DS88 that is the one I would go for now...if I were looking to buy one or the other.

Other keyboards have hit the market now though so the choices are not as clear as they might have been back in 2017.
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Re: Yamaha MX88 vs Roland Juno DS88

Unread post by anotherscott » Wed Jan 16, 2019 12:35 am

Saul wrote:
Tue Jan 15, 2019 9:35 pm
Other keyboards have hit the market now though so the choices are not as clear as they might have been back in 2017.
My first choice in a budget, portable 88 would probably be the Kurzweil SP6, though it is a little pricier than the $1k 88s... DS88, MX88, Korg Kross 88, Casio PX5S. The first two have been discussed above... Korg has onboard sequencer and 16-zone MIDI... Casio weighs the least and arguably has the best action. My main issue with the DS88 personally is its weight.
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Re: Yamaha MX88 vs Roland Juno DS88

Unread post by Saul » Wed Jan 16, 2019 4:17 am

I didn't think the DS88 was that heavy when I had it but maybe my memory is a bit foggy. I would not have moved it around much anyway but I don't remember straining to lift it. I just checked and it is 16.2Kg so definitely not light but certainly manageable.

I have not tried the Kurzweil SP6 but would definitely be interested in seeing what that is all about. I had often toyed with buying a Kurzweil K2000 back in the early 90's but never got there. Will have to see where I can get my hands on one.
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