Life can be full of surprises, some good, some bad but right now Yamaha have just presented us with one of the best surprises of 2018 in the form of their new MODX range of keyboards.
I must admit I had almost given up hope of ever seeing this keyboard come to fruition. I along with one of our senior forum moderators, Chris Miller (parametric) had been invited to attend a Yamaha Focus Group back in the Summer of 2015 where we discussed what we thought was a replacement for the MOXF. Indeed, they had the MOXF there and the conversation centred around what we liked or disliked about that keyboard and what we would want to see in any replacement.
Fast forward to 2016 and Yamaha announced the Montage. A fantastic flagship performance synth which, strangely enough resembled many of the things we had discussed about the MOXF. So that came as something of a surprise because it very obviously was not a replacement for the MOXF!
Although Montage was and still is one of the best keyboards out there it was I am sad to say, well out of my price range and so I hoped that a cut down version would soon be announced and that it would realise my hopes of a new mid-range keyboard embodying the essence of Montage but at a more affordable price point. That didn’t happen and as time went on I wondered if our Focus Group session had in reality been all about Montage, not a replacement for the MOXF.
And now, here we are in the middle of September 2018, almost three years after Montage was announced and there is suddenly a flurry of activity. Rumours of a new keyboard are popping up all over the place and indeed we managed to confirm that there was indeed a new keyboard heading our way. Not only that but it promised to be everything we had hoped for when we discussed a replacement for MOXF three years ago.
Today I am happy to say it is finally here! The wonderful new Yamaha MODX (pronounced MO DX). It looks like a Montage and it sounds like a Montage, only it costs half the price! Not only that but it ticks all the boxes for many of things we talked about in the Focus Group on that hot Summer day back in 2015.
So, what is the MODX?
Simply put it is about two thirds of a Montage. It has the same AWM and FM-X sound engine, same large colour touch screen display, the same flashing “super knob” (you can turn the flashing off) and most of the features anyone familiar with Montage would instantly recognise.
As mentioned, most of the buttons have gone from the right side of the keyboard, with functions being transferred to the wonderfully responsive 7″ touch screen. Room for an iPhone or iPad there perhaps?
The screen itself is full colour and very easy to read. Navigation is simple, and fluid and you will soon find yourself wondering how you lived without a touch screen on a keyboard all this time. I won’t go as far as to say you can ditch the manual completely because this IS after all ‘Yamaha’ and where would we be without the ubiquitous hefty manual to while away the wee hours.
But, generally speaking you can whizz around pretty quickly unaided. The manual is not too hefty by the way but you get the point.
The other most notable thing as mentioned above is of course that “Super Knob” which again has been brought over from Montage. Most of you will know by now what this large twiddly flashing thing does. It gives you instant control over a large number of parameters through the turn of one knob. So, whereas on other keyboards you can assign parameters to individual controllers and manipulate those parameters individually, on the MODX you assign parameters to the individual control knobs, but you can then actually control all of them at once with the Super Knob. It’s a fantastic idea and works really well.
One thing the MODX does have that Montage doesn’t is a button labelled ‘Rhythm Pattern’. This gives you a seemingly endless array of drum kits and patterns all perfectly matched to the particular preset you have chosen. Of course, you can edit all these patterns yourself, so you are not tied into presets and it is an incredibly versatile and inspiring addition to the MODX’s creative arsenal.
Talking of presets, the MODX comes with an amazing selection. If you are thinking of buying this keyboard…and I highly recommend it, take a few days off work. You will need it! I spent hours going through the presets and didn’t even come close to checking all of them. The creative possibilities here are just as rich as on its more expensive sibling, the Montage.
I will of course be talking more about the MODX on our forum over the coming days. Yamaha have kindly loaned me the MODX7 and MODX8 so plenty to keep me occupied!
For now though, check out the video below where Dom Sigalas from Yamaha takes us through the features of the MODX and demonstrates some of the sounds on offer.
The MODX is in stores now. Yes you read that right. Yamaha have done an incredible job of not only keeping development of the MODX under wraps but have achieved a logistical coup by getting the keyboard to dealers ready for launch day.
For more discussion on the MODX why not drop by our forum? We would love to see you there!