Yamaha S90 is an 88keys weighted keyboard with high-quality piano samples and Motif sounds, playback sequence, arpeggiator, and master-keyboard facilities. it adds a brand-new, three-layer stereo piano sample set, plus a variety of acoustic and electric keyboard samples.
FEATURES SUMMARY OF YAMAHA S90
- Balanced Hammer Effect
- 88 Weighted Keys – emulates feel of an Acoustic Piano Keyboard and provides more even response and playability from Lower to Higher Registers; supports Half Damper pedal response for greater performance expression
- Huge Sound Library – 640 voices, 3-velocity-layer S700 stereo grand piano, 64-note polyphony, 128 performances,50 mix templates, 128 master programs
- 115MB of AWM2 sample ROM
- Synthesis expansion via PLG boards
- SmartMedia slot for storage
- Audio input perfect for mic -Includes SQ01 audio/midi sequencing software and voice editor
- 228 MB of Wave ROM, 53 MB S700 Piano with soundboard simulation modelers
- Unique Arpeggiator – Selection of 1787 Preset Arpeggios from both Acoustic and Synth-Based sources, accommodates all styles and genres of music
- Full Featured Master Controller
- Master Keyboard functionality with 4 Assignable Sliders and Rotary Switch; doubles as Remote Control surface for large selection of DAW software
- USB, Driver Support
- USB Connectivity for Computer Integration and DATA storage
- Logic Audio and Digital Performer supported on MAC OS
- Sonar and Cubase SX supported on Windows
- SmartMedia Card Support
- Convenient and plentiful Storage Option for Sounds and Sequences,up to 128 mb Capacity Supported
Yamaha S90 keyboard action is a well-balanced hammer mechanism with aftertouch. The design of this keyboard i.e its sleek response gives musician a broad dynamic selections. The 88-key synth/digital piano, is incredibly light weighing only 22.5kg (49lbs, 10oz) making the S90ES a fantastic keyboard for traveling musicians. Lastly, It’s supplied with plenty of buttons and sliders, which enable the synth’s operating system to be comprehensively accessed in conjunction with the large (240 x 64-dot) LCD.
The Yamaha S90 comes with various connectivity. The Rear-panel connectivity is a high point i.e the main stereo audio out is joined by a pair of assignable outputs and the headphone socket.
Bn Four footswitch sockets and breath controller input, an audio input, MIDI In/Out/Thru connections, and a USB port, for linking to a Mac or PC. A blanking panel can also be removed to allow an mLAN high-speed audio and MIDI interface card to be installed. While currently a little expensive, this option is now more of a going concern since more third parties, and Yamaha themselves, are finally supporting the protocol with compatible products.
As a performance keyboard, there are two pairs of sockets for attaching footswitches and pedals, plus a breath-controller input. As well as the headphones socket and dual pair of analogue outputs, there’s also an audio input and associated gain control. The right side of the rear panel is where you interface with your computer, either via a Smart Media card, or the USB connection. MIDI interfacing is possible with the usual five-pin trio of MIDI sockets, but also via the blanking panel on the left where the optional mLAN card may be fitted.
Synth & Synthesis
The S90’s synth sound engine is based on Yamaha’s S&S (sample and synthesis) standard, AWM2. The S90 is structured in the usual hierarchical fashion. Synthesis starts with an Element, which contains all the basics for electronic sound production; an oscillator with one of 1347 sampled waveforms at its heart, tuning and pitch-envelope parameters, a resonant filter (available in no fewer than 21 types) with filter envelope, level and pan controls, and an amplitude EG and LFO that can be routed to the pitch envelope, filter envelope and amplitude envelope.
Up to four Elements make up an S90 Voice, and those Elements can be given their own key and velocity ranges, making for a mini ‘Performance’. However, if you use more than one Element in a Voice, the total polyphony drops accordingly.
In addition to standard Voices, there are Drum Voices, which are broadly similar in synthesis features, though a different waveform/synthesis pairing can be set for every key of the S90’s 88-note range. In practice, the synthesis features are a little simpler, but filtering, pitch, tuning, the LFO and so on are all available.
On the yamah s90 we have the Performance, whereby up to four Voices are layered, with or without velocity switching, and/or split across the keyboard. Performance creation is related somewhat to the S90’s master-keyboard functions, which I’ll address in a moment.
S90 editing is via the standard combination of function and soft keys used in conjunction with the LCD, data wheel and Inc/Dec buttons (centre) therefore, Offsets can also be applied to significant parameters for Voices within a Performance so you don’t have to keep creating new Voices every time you’d like a Performance part to be just a little different.
Sounds are selected using the buttons on the right, while real-time control is via the assignable sliders on the left.
N:B This standard structure becomes a little more complicated if you install one or more of Yamaha’s optional PLG synth boards — the S90 can accommodate three — but only in that you’ll have to become used to a given board’s synth-editing system, and that an S90 Performance can include one Voice from each of up to three boards in addition to the four Voices sourced onboard (there’s more on the PLG boards in the box above).
The S90 is generously provisioned with factory settings; 384 Preset Voices and 48 Drum Kits, 128 General MIDI Voices and one GM drum kit, and for the user, 128 Voice and 16 Drum Kit memories. Factory preset Voices are sensibly assigned to different categories on the S90 (for example ‘Acoustic Piano’, ‘Keyboard’, ‘Synth Lead’, ‘Drum/Percussion’ and so on), and this is a habit you should consider forming as you program your own Voices.
The S90 has a sophisticated search facility that lumps similar Voices together, and clearly labelled buttons allow you to access and audition related Voices via the display. Finally, there are 128 factory Performance memories, but these too can be overwritten by the user. More memories, preset and user, become available if you install PLG boards.
Optional PLG Boards
Up to three PLG ‘modular synthesis’ boards can be mounted inside the S90, adding extra sound-making facities, increasing polyphony and upping the multitimbrality of the Seq Play Mix mode, not to mention expanding a Performance to up to seven parts. The current range is as follows:
The The PLG150DR: a stereo drum board.
The PLG150AN: an analogue-modelling board.
The PLG150PF: a 64-voice polyphonic piano board.
The PLG100XG: a 16-part multitimbral XG (extended General MIDI) board.
The PLG150PC: a Latin percussion board.
The PLG150DX: a six-operator FM synthesis board.
The PLG150VL: an acoustic-modelling board.
The PLG100VH: a three-part vocal harmony board. This isn’t a synth as such, but can be used with a vocalist singing into a mic plugged into the S90’s audio input for real-time harmony generation.
Sounds & Effects
The sound set of the S90 is essentially that of an original Motif, although over 30MB of extra wave ROM is given over to new acoustic and electric piano waveforms. Consequently, the factory sound set is slightly different to allow for the many piano and keyboard sounds.
Yamaha have made a big deal out of the new stereo piano samples supplied with the S90. On first examination, the deal is worth making: the pianos have presence and a lively feel, and play well from the keyboard. The samples are also free from annoying artefacts such as buzzy loops. On closer examination, however, the situation is less clear-cut. There don’t appear to be enough multisamples for a start, and so an artificial edge appears where some samples have been keygrouped a bit further than they should. I occasionally found some of the solo preset piano Voices to be a bit plummy, but tweaking edit settings did help here; in any case, not all suffer from this problem.
And how do effects fit into this equation? Again, these are largely the same as those on the original Motif. First of all, there are the Reverb and Chorus send effects, available in all modes. Reverb offers 12 types, including all manner of rooms and halls, plus ‘Basement’, ‘Plate’ and ‘Canyon’ amongst others. Chorus offers 25 effects, with the usual suspects (chorus, flange, and phasing) joined by a number of straight (and not so straight) delay effects.
In Performance and sequencer-playback mode, a third send effect, Variation, is added; the options here number 25, ranging from more chorus, flanging and phasing effects to distortion, auto-pan, amp simulation, compression, EQs and enhancers.
In addition, there are two insert effects that can be freely assigned in parallel or serially to one or more Elements within a Voice. One insert duplicates the 25 effects offered by the Variation effect, whilst the other offers 104 effects that really do cover all the bases, including off-the-wall treatments such as ‘Digital Turntable’, ‘Attack Lo-Fi’, ‘Low Resolution’, ‘Digital Scratch’, and ‘Talking Modulator’. Lastly, there’s a five-band Master EQ section across the S90’s main output.
The Arpeggiation Station
It’s a bit of a surprise to see the Motif’s arpeggiator making the crossing to the S90, though the surprise is entirely pleasant! I like arpeggiators, and this one is about as good as they get. In fact, it’s so sophisticated that it moves rather too far from classic arpeggiation to ‘instant-gratification’ auto-accompaniment.
There are 256 preset arpeggio patterns, and the standard broken-chord patterns are joined by a huge number of what can only be dubbed phrases. These suit different musical styles and instrument types, so you have trills, flute flutters, guitar picking and strums, dance bass grooves and drum patterns.
There is unfortunately no way of creating your own arpeggiation patterns, although those created on the Motif can apparently be imported into the S90 if they’ve been saved to a Smart Media card first. But the response of the arpeggiation can be tweaked a little. It can be restricted to a given note or velocity range, for example, and the velocity response and gate time can be altered. A global tempo can also be set, and the arpeggiator can, of course, be sync’ed to incoming MIDI Clock.
In Performance mode, the arpeggiator can be switched in or out for each part, but it’s not possible to have a different pattern for each part.
Multitimbrality & Sequencing
The S90 offers a playback sequencer, and it’s in this mode that you find the instrument’s multitimbral setup. And it’s here that you also play the S90 multitimbrally from an external sequencer. Also note that the S90 doesnt have a fully featured sequencer therefore doesnt have what might be dubbed a ‘Song’ mode on a workstation synth.
A button labelled ‘Seq Play’ takes you into the sequencer-playback mode, which is where you can load and play MIDI files from Smart Media cards located in the S90’s rear-panel card slot.
Function key 6 in this window is labelled ‘Mix’ and accesses a pretty fully featured set of mixer pages. On the basic S90 this equates to 16 channels of level and pan controls on one window. You can navigate to the channels via the S90’s standard Edit arrows, or via the lower two rows of buttons labelled 1-16 to the right of the front panel.
Other sub-windows of the Mix page allow you to tweak the sends to the reverb, chorus and variation effects, set up the audio input, and select Voices for each part to play. The S90’s Category search facility can also be used here.
Initially, it appears that there are no memories for Seq Play Mix setups, but closer examination reveals a Template window where you cant only select from a handful of factory mix templates aimed at various musical styles, but you can save your own Templates.
There are 50 locations, and all can be named and overwritten by the user. Usefully, it’s also possible to quickly send all the settings of a Template as a bulk dump to an external sequencer, so that they can be recorded at the beginning of a MIDI file for instant reconfiguration of the S90 whenever that Song is selected.
Smart Media card
When using the playback-sequencer function, it’s possible to create chains of MIDI Files from an inserted Smart Media card, and transmit individual sequence tracks to external MIDI devices via the S90’s MIDI Out. MIDI Files are beamed to a Smart Media card installed in the S90 via a piece of bundled software which works on both Macs and PCs. In addition, your custom Voices and Performances can be saved to Smart Media card without you having to bother with the computer.
Yamaha are nothing if not generous with the freebies they supply with their instruments these days, and the S90 is no exception. Yamaha S90 comes with a voice Editor for S90 for both Mac and Windows, which provides detailed and graphical access to all Voice parameters, plus easy computer-based offlining of banks of your custom Voices.
File Utility is also cross-platform, allowing files to be sent to and extracted from a Smart Media card slotted in the S90. USB drivers for both platforms are also supplied, as are setup files that allow various mix parameters and transports of some popular MIDI sequencers, such as Cubase, Logic and Sonar, to be controlled from the S90.
There is more for PC users, though: they gain SQ01, a full sequencing software package, and the matching Auto Arranger utility that works in tandem with SQ01. Finally, an additional CD provides demo songs of, and editors for, Yamaha’s family of PLG boards.
The S90 As Controller
The Yamaha S90 is flexible enough to let you program the controllers to affect one or a number of parameters of your programs simultaneously. For instance, you could designate the mod wheel to master panning and LFO pitch depth, thus letting you simultaneously perform panning and control pitch depth with one controller.
Quite independently of its synthesis facilities and effects, a lot of people will be looking at an instrument like the S90 just for the quality of its keyboard and the potential offered by its control set and master-keyboard functions. It’s perhaps a little lighter than the real thing, but allows you to access the maximum expressiveness from the new piano sample set.
The keyboard is great for playing all manner of piano Voices. As a source of real-time control, the S90 scores well, starting with velocity and aftertouch sensitivity, pitch-bend and mod wheels, a pair each of footswitch and footpedal sockets, breath-controller input, and four control sliders. The latter can address up to 20 parameters between them, courtesy of a handy ‘Control Function’ button.
Beyond this, the S90 functions as a four-zone master keyboard, capable of addressing onboard Voices or sounds from external instruments, depending on what you wish to achieve. Up to four zones can be layered, velocity-crossfaded and/or split across the keyboard, on different MIDI channels when routed outside the synth.
There are 128 memories in which to save master-keyboard setups, though a Master Mode memory could be something as simple as just one Voice assigned to the whole keyboard. Used in this way, you can create your own little sub-set of the onboard Voice library for even easier access than when using the Category search option.
Yamaha S90 has the nicest 88 weighted key actions we have seen on Yamaha keyboards. The piano sounds are strikingly gorgeous and playable.Besides the pianos, the other sounds are just what you would expect from Motifs without the Motif price tag. The Yamaha S90 is great for professional musicians who need a piano and synth controller that they can use as their main instrument in their studio while being portable enough to be placed on the backseat of a Honda when necessary. The S90 is an ideal balance between digital piano and synthesizer.
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