Yamaha Montage Hands On - First Impressions

Welcome to the new era from the company that brought you the DX and the Motif. Montage sets the next milestone with sophisticated dynamic control, massive sound creation and streamlined workflow.

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Yamaha Montage Hands On - First Impressions

Unread post by Saul » Wed Mar 02, 2016 10:45 am

Had the opportunity to spend some time with the Yamaha Montage yesterday so thought I would share my first impressions.

I spent most time on the Montage 8 as I wanted to see how those balanced hammer action keys felt.

So the keys first. This is Yamaha's own balanced hammer keybed and I have mixed feelings about it. Although it's obviously very good and of high quality it didn't initially feel as nice as the Ivory Feel balanced hammer action keys on the Roland Juno DS88 that I recently tested. Also if I am not mistaken this is exactly the same keybed used in the Motif XF8 so anyone familiar with that will know what to expect. It is very responsive and I am sure that given some time I would grow to like it more.

The touch screen is large, clear and quick to respond and going through many of the functions I could see you can pretty much do everything here from selecting sounds to creating your own FM patches from scratch. Talking of FM, Yamaha have taken some of the pain out of creating FM sounds and it's certainly a lot more intuitive than working with a DX7! I would not go as far as to say it's easy because FM is a complex form of synthesis that requires a little work to get the best out of but, certainly the Montage gives you a massive head start.

I found the touch screen to be a little less cluttered than that of the Korg Kronos but, then again the Montage is not having to support 9 synth engines!

You can of course use the controllers and buttons in a more 'Motif' way so if your not a fan of touch screens you can revert to good old hardware to get things done.

All the controls and buttons feel like quality, but on a £3k plus keyboard you would expect as much.

That flashing 'Super knob' is a wonderfully creative tool but who the hell thought to call it that? and why make it so it's constantly flashing? Yes you can turn the flashing lights off but it does feel just a little bit tacky on a keyboard in this price range. The only thing Yamaha could say about it is it flashes in time with the tempo of whatever your playing....nice try ;) It is however a lot of fun and given it can also be controlled from a pedal I think I would just pull the plug on the Blackpool Illuminations and go with the classier option.

It cannot be understated though on how much that 'Super Knob' can bring to the party. When active it can turn Montage into a beast of a keyboard, mixing and merging sounds and bringing them to life in a way I have not heard before. The video demo's really don't do it justice, you really need to try it for yourself. The super Knob can control a wide range of parameters simultaneously and the only limitations are your own imagination.

The sounds themselves are of course top notch. Obviously I didn't have time to go through everything but pianos, strings, brass and synth sounds are all excellent. Montage is backwardly compatible with Motif XF so you also have that massive sound palette to draw from and it can also use Motif XS sounds via software conversion. Also available through a software converter..yet to be released will be all the Yamaha DX7 and TX sounds so that should keep you busy for a while :)

Unlike Motif XF and the MOXF there are no flash card slots in Montage. In fact there are no add-ons at all. There will be updates via software although how far these will go remains to be seen but I would guess there are more sound sculpting options and functionality yet to come that can easily be implemented in software. Yamaha would not comment on possible future synth engines.

Although there is no potential for additional flash cards, Montage does have a massive wave rom already (approx 5.5Gb) plus 1.75Gb of available user flash memory so that is already massively more than the Motif XF and in fact more than any keyboard from Korg or Roland that is available at the moment. The Korg Kronos though does have the advantage of a built in SSD from which you can stream samples so it's still ahead in terms of total volume of sounds and user storage.

Just a quick word about the Montage 7, obviously it's identical to the Montage 8 in terms of functionality the only difference being the keybed. Both the Montage 6 and 7 use Yamaha's FSX synth action keybed. No semi-weighted keys here however, it is of very high quality and I found it very pleasant to play on. Odd though how Yamaha's specs for these two versions of Montage list it as having semi-weighted keys. I can absolutely confirm they do not!

For those who think that the style of Montage is a bit odd, especially the curved back it is actually quite functional. That curve allows you to see what is plugged in where just by leaning over the keyboard. Everything is labelled so you can see it from the top instead of having to fiddle around at the back of the keyboard like you normally would. It's not a big thing but it does go to emphasize that a lot of thought has gone into the design.

Although Montage will be in stores from May, Yamaha did say there is going to be a shortage and they don't expect supplies to reach normal levels until much later in the year.

Yamaha will be touring the UK with Montage sometime in April. Dates and venues are yet to be confirmed.

Would I buy a Montage? I'm not sure. In my opinion It is without doubt the best keyboard to come out of Yamaha in the last 10 years and I have no doubt at all that it will be a runaway success but, it's a lot of money and for me and how I use keyboards I would probably go for something like a Native Instruments S88 or even the Roland Juno DS88. If however money were no object I think I might just be persuaded down the Montage path ;)

This video by Steve from Yamaha probably explains Montage a whole lot better than I can

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Re: Yamaha Montage Hands On - First Impressions

Unread post by zpink » Wed Mar 02, 2016 12:00 pm

A very good writeup! ((i))
Thanks Saul.
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Re: Yamaha Montage Hands On - First Impressions

Unread post by Saul » Wed Mar 02, 2016 12:23 pm

Thanks Jorgen.

I think I would need a lot more time with Montage to give it a proper review but, there's plenty of reviews out there already so it's just my initial impressions here.

Montage is without doubt a fantastic keyboard and from my perspective would be a great compositional tool but If I ever get one it will probably have to be the Montage 6 and have it hooked up to a weighted master keyboard. The cost of the Montage 8 is just something I can neither afford nor justify.

Oh by the way, almost forgot. There WILL be a replacement for the MOXF ;)
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Re: Yamaha Montage Hands On - First Impressions

Unread post by parametric » Wed Mar 02, 2016 4:24 pm

Just thought I'd add my thoughts to Saul's deliberation above on a first "Hands -on" with the Montage, yesterday . . . . .

It was a delight to play. 88 notes would always be my first choice as I am (primarily) a Piano player . . . .

The Yamaha-designed keybed is excellent (as would be expected) and conveys as much expression as the player's own technique can demand. IMO.

My own preference is still with my Fusion's Fatar keybed, but this is PURELY personal and probably a result of greater familiarity with it. Indeed, this preference could be easily ignored, with prolonged use of the Montage, to be sure - and should in no way detract from the fact that the Montage is EXCELLENT . . . .

Whilst I did not explore the vast range of Voices/Performances available, I have to say that the Sound quality is excellent to the point of being un-nervingly REAL.

I spent quite some time playing through THREE of my Piano-oriented compositions, to get the "feel" of the instrument, and have to say that I was immersed, and comfortable with it VERY quickly.

REALLY IMPRESSIVE, was the motion knob (The flashing one), ESPECIALLY when linked to the Control Pedal.

It has always been a bugbear of Synths with players, that they need to stop playing to make adjustments during performance . . .

The Piano/Strings combination is justly popular - and fits MANY situations SO WELL that it is a natural (and popular) choice . . .in many situations.

The use of the control pedal, to "bring in" strings, at certain points is a real + and was very satisfying.

It DID take me while to get used to using the control with my left foot, whilst continuing the normal sustain activity demanded by the Music, with my right foot.

Like all such things - practice makes perfect - and in the short time I had, I did see my ability to control this, improve . . . .

Rather like a new (or different) car. It takes a while to determine how "twitchy" the throttle is.

I would suggest that this feature alone, places the Montage in a league of its own in Performers' eyes, as it allows the versatility WITHOUT interrupting the Playing . . . .

Adding to this the Myriad of other features/possibilities that are on offer, the Montage is indeed a ground-breaking instrument that is difficult NOT to be interested in.

A fine achievement, Yamaha . . . . .

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Re: Yamaha Montage Hands On - First Impressions

Unread post by zpink » Wed Mar 02, 2016 5:06 pm

And that bumps up the count of great writeups today to two! (Y)
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Re: Yamaha Montage Hands On - First Impressions

Unread post by tux » Wed Mar 02, 2016 6:07 pm

Saul wrote: There WILL be a replacement for the MOXF ;)
I hope they keep the FM part, ideally 6op FM to place it inbetween the 4op of the Refarce and the 8op of the Montage.
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Re: Yamaha Montage Hands On - First Impressions

Unread post by Saul » Wed Mar 02, 2016 6:34 pm

tux wrote:
Saul wrote: There WILL be a replacement for the MOXF ;)
I hope they keep the FM part, ideally 6op FM to place it inbetween the 4op of the Refarce and the 8op of the Montage.
I'm trying to think what they would cut to get the price down yet differentiate it enough from the MOXF to make people want to buy it instead of a the MOXF or even a used XF. Hope they don't cut the FM down to 4op :(
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Re: Yamaha Montage Hands On - First Impressions

Unread post by zpink » Wed Mar 02, 2016 7:00 pm

Saul wrote: I'm trying to think what they would cut to get the price down yet differentiate it enough from the MOXF to make people want to buy it instead of a the MOXF or even a used XF. Hope they don't cut the FM down to 4op :(
I was thinking that too when I saw your other post and mention in this thread.
What could they possibly put in the MOXF replacement that would make me trade up, at the same time as they can't kill the Montage market?

What I have here in front of me is basically a Motif XF for £680, well all the parts from the Motif that I care about bar the aftertouch...

EDIT: What they DO put in, must of course also make up for the sequencer that they've taken away.
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Re: Yamaha Montage Hands On - First Impressions

Unread post by Derek » Wed Mar 02, 2016 8:34 pm

Thanks, Saul.

A few comments.

Not sure about your comment about the Kronos Touch screen being busier because it needs to support 9 sound engines. Each sound engine has its own screen layout. The screens are busy (IMO) due to the number of options available on each tab, but it's easy to find your way about once you get used to it!

The 61/76 note keyboards not being semi-weighted? That could be big a turn off for me. The action of the keybed is one of the reasons why I still use the EX5 as my main controller. As I am not a piano man (i.e. brought up on on), and of course learnt on the Yamaha semi-weighted bed, I have no real need for 88 keys and not really keen on a fully weighted action (but maybe I don't try hard enough). 76 notes is a good compromise for a master bottom tier board, which is why I went for a 61 key Kronos on my top tier.

Chris, re your comments about
The use of the control pedal, to "bring in" strings, at certain points is a real + and was very satisfying.
I would argue that that is not a USP of the Montage. I've been doing that for years on my synths using a Roland FC300 foot controller - I make full use of the two built in pedals and I also have an external one into the FC300.

Usually I have pedals allocated for (1) organ volume, (2) other volume, fade or crossfade, and (3) Leslie speed (easier to pedal it on/off than hit a foot switch), and as well as patch selection whilst playing with both hands, I also have external switches into the FC300 for DMX Light Show stepping (when I need to do it manually) and DMX control of our Hazer machine. You can do quite a lot with two feet, whilst keeping both hands on the keyboard! :D
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Re: Yamaha Montage Hands On - First Impressions

Unread post by parametric » Wed Mar 02, 2016 9:57 pm

tux wrote:
I hope they keep the FM part, ideally 6op FM to place it inbetween the 4op of the Refarce and the 8op of the Montage.
Ooops Tux me ol' mate (I KNOW its a typo) I wouldn't be calling it a "Refarce" if I were you . . . . (loss of "face" etc . . . )

Or Yamaha 'll be sending the Samurais round . . . . . :lol: :lol: :lol:

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Re: Yamaha Montage Hands On - First Impressions

Unread post by Saul » Wed Mar 02, 2016 10:48 pm

The Super knob does a lot more than simply bring in things like strings. It controls a whole host of parameters and options you set up which can then be brought into play in one simple action. Plus of course there are 4 pedal inputs in total so it's all quite flexible.

Outputs are balanced by the way, which they weren't on the XF
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Re: Yamaha Montage Hands On - First Impressions

Unread post by EXer » Wed Mar 02, 2016 10:52 pm

Derek wrote:The 61/76 note keyboards not being semi-weighted? That could be big a turn off for me. The action of the keybed is one of the reasons why I still use the EX5 as my main controller.
From what I've read the keyboard on the Montage 61/76 is the same as on the Motif XS/XF, i.e. the Yamaha FSX, which is a lead free version of the FS keyboard you can find on the EX5, SY99, Motif/ES and Korg Trinity, Triton, Oasys76 (unfortunately not on the Kronos).

I fully understand why you like the keyboard of the EX5. I really like the feeling of that keyboard too: when you depress a key you have to overcome a certain resistance first, then it becomes lighter, giving the sensation of "throwing" the key, a bit like on a piano. That's a very pleasant sensation, very different from the "springy" sensation of ordinary synth keyboards on which the resistance is simply proportional to the depressing of the key.
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Re: Yamaha Montage Hands On - First Impressions

Unread post by Saul » Wed Mar 02, 2016 11:07 pm

The keys on the Montage 6 & 7 although not weighted do feel really nice but of course it's subjective. The only way to find out is test it for yourself :)
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Re: Yamaha Montage Hands On - First Impressions

Unread post by tux » Thu Mar 03, 2016 1:13 am

parametric wrote:I KNOW its a typo
I never mak typos.
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Re: Yamaha Montage Hands On - First Impressions

Unread post by Derek » Thu Mar 03, 2016 5:46 pm

Saul wrote:The keys on the Montage 6 & 7 although not weighted do feel really nice but of course it's subjective. The only way to find out is test it for yourself :)
Yes, it's a very personal thing, so will need to try.

I forgot to say, that I'm also not a fan of fully weighted keys as they are not as good for organ or synth playing. So the semi-weighted feel is a nice compromise.
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