I always enjoy new product time from Yamaha when I get to discover yet another development in their keyboard and synthesiser family. This month is no exception with the new MX88BK landing in my office ready to be put through its paces. Having already seen and used the MX61, this was one keyboard I was looking forward to getting my hands on to see how the upgrade to a full 88 notes was going to work, making this a keyboard that would appeal to a greater audience then the previous two smaller models.
For those of you who have used the MX61 or the MX49, you’ll be very familiar with this unit already, but for many of you it may be a first look into a range of Yamaha keyboards that are very well priced and loaded with features. What this model excels with is the touch and feel of the 88-note grade hammer action that can be found in other Yamaha stage pianos. It’s lighter on the higher notes and has a little more weight on the lower notes, with a nice spring to the keys that feels like an acoustic piano. Yamaha have done really well to get this action into the unit along with all that is going on under the hood whilst still keeping the overall weight down to a manageable region. You’re not going to be too concerned when taking this baby to rehearsal, jams or gigs. It has certain size limitations in transport that cannot be helped, but the weight is ideal for what is on offer.
The key bed itself has a lovely responsive feel to it. Backed by a sound set that has been taken from the Motif XS and XF range, you get plenty of expressiveness from the weighted keys. A lighter touch doesn’t just denote a lower volume, but an expected change in the tone and attack as would be the case with a real piano. This goes for the organ and electric piano sounds too, with onboard effects adding to their versatility. And, as has been a stalwart of these lower price point Yamaha synthesisers for some time now, browsing the sounds is easy to do. You can simply select the type of sound from one of 16 category buttons on the right of the top panel and then the jog wheel allows you to scroll through all the sounds in that type and bank. There is no need to waste time scrolling though menus just to find a type of sound that you should be able to recall at the press of a button.
Now, this is a great tool for a performance musician but it can also be well utilised in the studio or at home for recording and rehearsal situations. There is USB connectivity for getting the MX88BK talking to your computer, and as it is a Yamaha Pro Audio device, you get a copy of Steinberg Cubase AI available as a download as part of the unit. When Cubase AI is launched, you can opt to use the MX88BK as your audio interface and take audio as well as MIDI information in and out via the USB connection, making this a very powerful composition and production tool. But it gets even better, as the MX88BK also has iOS connectivity for use with an iPad or similar device and includes integration with the free DX app for FM synthesis on a mobile device. So, in the classroom, bedroom, studio or stage, there are a host of possibilities available for performance and production with the MX88BK. Just be sure to make the most of all those keys.
Hits and Misses
Beautiful graded hammer action
Excellent range of sounds
Great dynamic control and variation in tones
The weighted keys aren’t going to work for many synth players looking for a lighter touch