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As many of you will know, both Chris Miller (Parametric) and myself were invited to the Yamaha Artist Day back in Feb 2016 where Yamaha had all versions of Montage on demo and we got to spend a little time trying the presets etc. My impression then was that Montage was a fantastic instrument but a little too expensive for me so there was very little prospect of ever owning one but I could certainly see it being on the shopping list of many pro musicians looking to add to or move on from the XF.

Fast forward to March 2017 and I have had the Montage 7 on loan from Yamaha for about two months which has allowed me to experience what it would be like if I could afford one. A quick play around in a music store or even a couple of hours hands-on with Yamaha doesn’t let you explore an instrument fully. The only way to tell if it would be the keyboard for you is to play it day in and day out over a period of weeks to determine if all the bells and whistles on offer are what you “need” or perhaps something less functional and less expensive might be the order of the day.


So, what’s it like to live and work with Montage? Well, not surprisingly it’s rather nice! Beginning with the keys, both the Montage 6 and Montage 7 come with semi-weighted keys and the Montage 8 is fitted with a weighted balanced hammer action keybed. Happily, I can report that the keys on the Montage 7 are of excellent quality and have just that little bit of resistance you need on a semi-weighted keybed. I found it a pleasure to play at the Artist Day and having used it now for over two months my opinion has not changed.

Next up is that large colour touchscreen display. Good to see that Yamaha finally rolled out a touch screen for their flagship synth (They did have it on the Electone Stagea back in 2004), after all, Korg has been providing this for years so Yamaha comes late to the party but is very welcome just the same. On the whole, I like it, I’m a big fan of touch screens, however, this implementation is a bit of an oddball. Unlike say a Korg Kronos or Krome where you can do absolutely everything on the screen itself, with Yamaha’s version you can’t manipulate the virtual knobs and sliders “on-screen” You must tap to highlight the control and then use the traditional hardware knobs and sliders to adjust the parameters. This seems a bit counterintuitive and in many ways, devalues having a touch screen in the first place. Would have been far better to add a few cm to the screen size and include touch editing of parameters. You can however call up a calculator-type display for some functions where you can punch in values but that has never quite appealed to me.

Yamaha Montage 7 Rear Panel

Another rather odd thing about the touch screen is that if you tap ‘Home’ it doesn’t take you to the start page but instead to the root page for the sound you are using at the time. I can’t think of any other device that uses a touch screen and has a ‘home’ function that doesn’t take you to the start page, but then Yamaha has always done things in their own way and I guess in their minds it seemed perfectly logical…it isn’t guys so please sort it out. I should mention there is a sort of traditional ‘home’ function although it’s not labelled and you might miss it at first. Along the top of the screen toward the right there is a ‘grid’ icon and if you click that it takes you back to what I would consider to be the home screen. Anyway, it’s not a massively big deal and I am sure it is something that can be changed in a software update if enough people want it.

Before talking about the sounds there is one very important thing that needs to be said. Montage is not a replacement for Motif and it is not a workstation. It doesn’t have sampling and it has only a limited song recorder on board (no audio recording). I would describe Montage as a ‘Performance Synth’ as does Yamaha and in that role, it excels. If you need an all-in-one workstation however you will need to be looking at the Korg Kronos…which by the way is cheaper so that may also be a factor in your buying decisions or perhaps you could pick up the previous flagship Yamaha XF which can be had at a very good price now. Talking of the Korg Kronos you may be asking why someone would pay 3 grand for a Montage when you can buy a Kronos for less. Well simply because it’s not ALL about the spec. Many buyers will just prefer that ‘Yamaha’ sound and you won’t get that with anything else, no matter what price it is. And no one does FM like Yamaha.

Yamaha Montage 7 Front


So, to the sounds and it will come as absolutely no surprise that in terms of acoustic instruments Yamaha nails it. All the orchestral, wind and pianos are good although personally I tend to find Yamaha’s acoustic pianos a bit too bright and prefer the warmer more organic sounds that come from Korg and Roland. Funny enough the Bösendorfer Imperial Grand which you can load in via USB sounds much better than any of Yamaha’s included piano sounds but then it is all down to personal taste so in truth I can only say what sounds better “for me” not what definitively sounds better for everyone else.

There is a fair amount of EDM sounds on board Montage, which of course lend themselves very well to the use of the ‘super knob’ and ‘motion control’ engine. That Super Knob can control many parameters at once and can also be controlled via a foot pedal (FC7) which Yamaha kindly supplied with the test model but is a separate purchase when buying from a store. It’s worth buying the pedal though because you don’t then have to take your hands off the keyboard to operate that Super Knob. Makes for some very interesting soundscapes :)

That  FC7 foot pedal by the way is sturdily built and very comfortable to use. It’s also adjustable for angle so it’s not “just a pedal” if you see what I mean.

In terms of the quality of those EDM sounds I would say they are good but not spectacular. I think Roland and Korg are pretty much kings of electronic dance music at the moment and there is nothing in Montage that would make me change that opinion right now…. although with a few tweaks, some adjustment of the super knob and a few software updates there is definitely some magic to be worked here! ;)

All the other sounds are pretty much the same fair as the previous Motif line, which considering Montage contains nearly all the sounds from Motif XF/XS is hardly surprising. Now this is not necessarily a bad thing but we are in 2017 and players these days have moved on…at least I have anyway. Montage is supposed to be a break from Motif so perhaps filling it with Motif sounds was not quite the way to go? But hey I’m nitpicking. It’s still a superb instrument no matter what is in it.

So, apart from the price, niggles about the touch screen, possible issues with MIDI implementation and some not-so-great EDM sounds…what has Yamaha done for us?



  • Great keybed, and very high quality on all models.
  • Lots of real-time controls
  • Super Knob – change a large number of parameters at the same time from one control
  • Large colour touchscreen
  • Sample import – faster internal flash memory than XF and MOXF
  • Acoustic Sounds – Mostly excellent
  • FM-X – Good to see FM back and in an enhanced form. Extremely powerful.


  • Touch Screen – Nice to have at last but need to be able to adjust ALL controls from the screen itself
  • MIDI – implementation is problematic for some. Perhaps a fix via software?
  • Only 2 Synth engines.
  • AWM + FM Again – It’s a nice combo but SY77 anyone? FM-X is more powerful but it is still FM


Overall what do I think of Montage? It’s a fantastic keyboard with a lot of potential and it’s a massive amount of fun to play. The addition of a VA engine would be good but we don’t yet know if that is possible. Build quality is second to none and the presets are the usual great Yamaha quality.

Since this review was first published, Yamaha has updated the Montage several times and added a host of new features, including a sequencer.

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