Request for Help Deciding on Synths (also, new member!)

Yamaha Motif Classic/ES/XS Series

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rocknpop
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Request for Help Deciding on Synths (also, new member!)

Unread post by rocknpop »

Hi team, new member here. I actually live in Chicago but have really enjoyed the threads I read in my research, and I also like the respectful tone of the forum.

So here's my situation:
- I only play at home, in my recording studio; I'm looking for a board I can just flip on and play to get inspired (instead of waiting for the DAW to load and load the plugins)
- Used to own an EX7 and an EX5; regret selling them; currently in search of one in excellent condition
- I also owned a Motif ES6 - loved it
- Grew up in the late 80s and 90s in Latin America, so I'm a big fan of the cheesy pianos from the DX7, Korg 01W, Korg M1, and the Triton (think Alejandro Sanz, Luis Miguel, Laura Pausini, Nek)... so naturally would love to get those Dyna-Piano sounds, hopefully by loading samples.
- I also play guitar (I have several PRS, Gibson, Fender, etc running through my Kemper)
- I'm back on the market to get a synth for the reasons listed above

My options and questions:
- I am considering a 7-series Motif ES or newer. The Montage 7 series is not as appealing mainly because of 1) the interface - so many lights! and 2) the price differential is large
- One of the most important things for me is the keybed as I'm looking for it to be my master controller as I build out a rack in the future potentially (with Roland and Korg racks maybe). I loved the Yamaha EX7. I think I read that the keybed in the Motif XF was slightly shorter than the ones in prior Motifs? So my question is do all Motifs have the same keybed?
- I said before I want to recreate some dyna-pianos and some triton sounds, I am wondering how difficult it would be to have that available in the Motif or if I would really need to buy the rack Triton?

Lastly - I know most folks are from the UK but would love to know if there's a good site to buy these Motifs in good shape and what a fair price for one in excellent shape would be (ES7, SX7, or XF7)? From what I gather from eBay, price varies widely mostly on the condition from $800 to $1500. Is it still a sound purchase to buy used?



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Derek
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Re: Request for Help Deciding on Synths (also, new member!)

Unread post by Derek »

Quick reply for tonight if you want DX pianos but have ruled out a Montage, have you thought about the MODX (less buttons/lights) but the same sounds (less polyphony) as it gives you both AWM and FM-X (half an FS1r) and DX7 compatible.

Also, did you know that Korg now do a soft synth version of the Triton

Other than that then an EX5 or Motif (the later the better) would do you fine as well.

I cannot comment on the Motif keybeds over the years. I have always liked the Yamaha semi weighted keyboards like that found in the EX5 and I think Montages up to ES.

Unfortunately the weights in the semi weighted came from little lead weights in the keyboards, and later keybeds take a different approach. I am not sure if that was due to 'elf and safety and regulations like ROSHH, but the change has been made. My Montage 7 keybed is not as good as the EX5 I had (and the SY99 I still have), but you get used to it.

FInally in terms of keybed and model stakes, you need to consider whether or not after touch is essential for you, as a lot of models at the lower price points do not have it. That might influence you new or second-hand buying choices.
Regards
Derek Cook

http://www.carregddu.co.uk
http://www.echoes-music.co.uk
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Re: Request for Help Deciding on Synths (also, new member!)

Unread post by rocknpop »

Thanks for the input, Derek!

Yes, I was aware of the MODX7 and all the references to the MODX7 ... however, I have heard the keybed is less than desirable.

As for the soft synths, yes, I have the demo version of the triton and the M1 but unfortunately the triton is not compatible with ProTools. I also could benefit from buying a new computer to process all the synths and not get overloaded. I use an Arturia KeyLab MkII 61 Keyboard keyboard for that, allegedly one of the best keybeds for controllers, but it feels too light weight for me.

So, on that topic, I think you are on to something with the EX5 keys being constructed differently. That's the feel that I miss... not to mention the sounds. And, now that I know how to design a voice, I could play with it hours without end...

That leaves me with:
1- Yamaha EX5 + an FM rack + Triton rack --------------> Est. $1800- $2000
2- Yamaha Motif ES7 + PLG150 DX + Triton rack (maybe since I could load the samples into the ES7) --------------> $1800 - $2200
3- Montage 7 + Triton rack ? --------------> $3,000 if I get a good deal

My logic seems to say option 2... but would love to hear your thoughts

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Re: Request for Help Deciding on Synths (also, new member!)

Unread post by Derek »

My only caution on option 2 and the PLG route is that they were a great concept, but poorly implemented. (why the EX5 and its integrated engines was so much better). If the PLG150-DX is like the AN and VL cards I have in my Motif ES rack you can only send sounds to them, you cannot download them. You also have to setup the PLG voice via external software and a "native" ES voice which I found quite a faff on the ES Rack UI - it mught be easier on the keyboard....

And then you lose the PLG contents when you power down unless you use an option in the ES to save the PLG memory to dump it when the ES powers on, which slows boot time (probably not an issue in the studio)

So to program the PLG you need the host computer editor, which are all 15 years old now and there is a risk that the next windows upgrade might break them - but then there is the virtual machine option (or dual boot) to run a legacy OS like XP.

But you can see it all gets a bit of a faff.

For option 1 or 2 in terms of EX5 or Motif, I would question what you want from the EX that makes it special. Arguably the integrated engines of the EX can be put into the ES7 - AN, VL and the bonus of DX that the EX5 does not have, but with all of the faff mentioned above, which is where Yamaha really got it right by having the models integrated into synth. Also if you like the EX5 FDSP mode, well only the EX5 has ever had that.

One non Yamaha option I will throw your way is the Korg Kronos. I view it as a "super EX5" with 9 sound engines to the EX5's three. It has its MOD-7 engine which is DX7 compatible, but capable of so much more, and people have done ports of Triton sounds

The Kronos 61 is 5 octave synth action keybed (but I prefer that on my top tier) the 73 and 88 have Korg's RH3 long pivot balanced hammer action. I have never tried one myself, but it is probably heavier than an EX5 or ES7 action and closer to piano action if you wanted to go that way.

It's been on the market quite a while so the chance of finding a second hand one at a good price should be good.
Regards
Derek Cook

http://www.carregddu.co.uk
http://www.echoes-music.co.uk
http://www.xfactory-librarians.co.uk
http://www.ex5tech.co.uk

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rocknpop
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Re: Request for Help Deciding on Synths (also, new member!)

Unread post by rocknpop »

Thanks again, Derek. This is super helpful.

I think you have a good point... I'm more emotionally tied to the EX series, which have 20 year old technology than actually tied to them for the functionality.
The truth is I loved the keybed in the EX5 and EX7, that is the main driver for the synths. The other one is the simplicity (as ironic as that may seem) to program sounds in them. I realize today's technology beats that by a lot.

Your recommendation is a good one to consider, the Korg Kronos. I don't think I am after a weighted action keyboard (but I'm seriously considering a Korg Triton studio 88), I'm just looking for a high-quality keybed that will inspire me to play the amazing Yamaha/Korg/Roland sounds from the 80s and 90s. That, plus the engines that enable that best - I would say I probably play 80% default patches and customize 20%. So I am no sound designer by any means, but I like having that ceiling to grow into if I get into that.

All that said plus your input now makes me question which synth(s) I REALLY should be looking at! I'll do some research on the Kronos, I know there's a Kronos 2 out, I'll need to learn the differences and confirm that the 73 keys version is flexible enough for what I do (granted I do 80% piano sounds and 20% other)

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Re: Request for Help Deciding on Synths (also, new member!)

Unread post by Derek »

You are right about the quality of Yamaha keybeds

In the last gigging incarnation of Welsh Floyd, 95% of the sounds were coming from my Kronos, so I was mainly using the EX5 as a controller (but still using it for far more for sounds in the studio). I was still using the Ski Rhodes FSDP based Rhodes sound as that, one acoustic piano sound that just seemed to cut through better in a rock mix than anything I found in the Kronos for that song, and there was an AN sync lead I used in Run Like Hell, which I have yet to equal in the Kronos (I have a good Kronos sound now, but it is not quite the same).

I personally like the 76 key format. It is a good compromise - ( 88 can be too large in cramped places) and also I do not like fully weighted as I do not primarily play piano and was not brought up on it - try doing organ glissando techniques on an 88 key weighted keyboard. It is painful!

I didn't go for the Kronos 73 as I was not looking to replace the EX5, but to downsize my top tier MIDI controller board and a very heavy rack of modules that I was fed up of carrying about. So the Kronos 61 was the choice for me there.

When I came to replace the EX5 to retire it from gigging, I did consider a controller only keyboard as a lot of my sounds come from VST synths these days, but I could not find a 76 note MIDI controller. 25, 49, 61, 88 yes, but not 76. So I went to look at the Montage 7 as "a controller with a sound source" (itself useful as a backup if something else goes down in a gig!) and I was hooked after playing one. And I use the Montage sound engine quite a lot in my own compositions (as you can hear in the music corner)

BTW when I sold the EX5 (and its spare - I was doing gigs where the show had to go on even if something failed) to part fund the Montage purchase, I had to get an EX5R for the studio, so I still have access to its mighty sound!
Regards
Derek Cook

http://www.carregddu.co.uk
http://www.echoes-music.co.uk
http://www.xfactory-librarians.co.uk
http://www.ex5tech.co.uk

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rocknpop
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Re: Request for Help Deciding on Synths (also, new member!)

Unread post by rocknpop »

Oh man, I remember that ski piano! I used to use it as well with my band. Man, great memories. Thanks for the reminder... I almost forgot about that patch. And, I hear you on the midi controllers with 7x keys! I always find myself missing the Bb and A keys in 61-key boards.

So, I stood in line at Guitar Center for 45 minutes to try out the Montage and the MODX7. As I feared, the MODX keybed is, in my personal opinion, very underwhelming and very uninspiring. Such a shame because the sounds are great! Wow, those FM pianos are beautiful, the 80s tines and rhodes are pretty much what we listened to in the 80s/90s, really all the patches are great. And more interestingly, the bunch of lights didn't seem that bad in person in the Montage. I played the Montage 8 and the MODX7. So now I wonder if the keybed in the Montage 7 is closer to that of the EX7/EX5.

Unfortunately, they didn't have a Korg Kronos or Krome in stock, so I couldn't test drive those two. They did have a Fantom 6. It may just be me but the interface was not that intuitive and the piano sounds were not what I expected. The keybed was much better than the MOD7, but I wasn't inspired.

So what's next? Well, by process of elimination, the MODX7 is out, and the Roland Fantom series are out. That leaves me with these options:
New ($2500-$3000)
a) Montage 7 (but I need to test the keybed)
b) Korg Kronos 73 (still need to test keybed, capabilities seem to all be there)
c) Korg Krome 73 (might as well test it out)

Used ($1700 - $2100)
master controller listed first
a) Triton 88+ beaten up / cheap EX7 (there's one on eBay for under $300 USD) + some FM rack
b) EX5 + korg rack + FM synthesizer
c) Motif ES7 + Korg Rack + FM rack or the PLG150-DX

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Re: Request for Help Deciding on Synths (also, new member!)

Unread post by rocknpop »

Update. I ended up picking up a Triton Classic Studio 88 for $450 USD and an ES7 for $1,100.
Triton
- The Triton is HUGE, I didn't expect a keyboard this big, but love the weighted keys. The only thing I don't like is the damper/sustain pedal is not compatible with my Yamaha. I can only use my FC5 (square flat pedal), which is not ideal. My old Yamaha FC4 will not work, even when reversing the polarity
- The sequencer is SO EASY to use. I'm impressed... Yamaha could've taken a note on this a while back :) ; I love the fact that I can just quickly lay down an idea when it comes to me, and then I can later record into the DAW properly
- That said, this thing is so massive I may consider selling and buying something smaller with weighted keys and the triton rack. But at this price, I think it was a good deal. Did I mention it feels like it weighs 100lbs? :)

Yamaha ES7
- I'm looking forward to it, seems like the seller took good care of it, however, he doesn't have a case to ship it so fingers crossed that UPS packs it properly and safely. It will be insured

PLG150 boards
- now that the ES7 is on the way, I'm thinking I should buy the 3 PLG150 expansion boards so I cover the FM tones with the DX card, the VL voices, and eventually the AN. For high-quality piano sounds, I will record using Pianoteq (which is amazing btw); I can get inspired with the stock pianos as I don't recall them being bad at all

By the way - I tried to talk to a shop that had an EX5 for sale for $700 (too much in my opinion) and I can't believe how lousy salesmen can be. The guy said, "it will cost me $100 to replace the battery on the keyboard" 8O my gawd... :roll:

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