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 Forum index » Reviews, Editorials and Commentary » Reviews, Reports and Interviews
Review of Yamaha Reface DX
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A E J O T Z



Joined: Aug 14, 2011
Posts: 422
Location: Griffith, Indiana, USA
Audio files: 148

PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 1:34 pm    Post subject: Review of Yamaha Reface DX Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I was going to get one sooner or later. It's small, portable, has mini-keys, and it's the most easily programmable FM synth, yet. How could I resist? I resisted for awhile but I have a month of boring hospital time coming in August and the speakers on the DX pushed me over the edge. The DX will help me make it through the month.

Speaking of speakers, they actually sound pretty good, especially considering they're the size of those tinny speakers on the AM pocket transistor radios of the '60s. And they didn't try to hide them inside like in the Microkorg-S. They just stuck them out there in front of your ears where they belong.

The keyboard is the best mini keyboard I've ever played. The keys are small but otherwise remind me of the superb full-size keys on my Yamaha PSR-520. The action is amazing. I usually play all my little boards, via MIDI, from the keys on my Microkorg. I'm afraid that's about to change.

Reviewers almost always seem obliged to criticize the presets on any synth that has presets. I hate conforming, so I won't. While I'll never use most of the presets, they do a good job of demonstrating the impressive sonic range of the DX. So there.

The unit is very compact but hefty. I think they threw a handful of fishing weights inside, like they do with cheap headphones to make them seem more high-end. That's a joke. They didn't do that. They just gave it a metal chassis, or something. It feels comfortably solid. But the first time I carry it to the park in my backpack I'll wish they'd made it as plastic as a Casio.

Speaking of carrying it to the park, it can run on batteries!

The user interface rocks. Yes, there's lots of buttons and some menu diving. But it's well organized and you change settings with touch-sliders, sort of. It's a new idea and it's a good one. The sliders felt second-nature in no time. I hated the Micron because of its menu system. I forgot I was even using one on the DX. That's a hugely important difference. I'm here to play, not to work puzzles!

How does it sound? I love it! But then, I love my buzzy boingy Casio CZ-101 and I dig the sounds I can squeeze out of the Yamaha PSS-470/460. I seem to like digital synthesis. And the fact that I can easily program sounds on the DX without getting a headache is beyond groovy. As much as I love my CZ I've never gotten beyond superficial tweaking because deep programming a CZ is too much like work.

To me, that's the big selling point: FM without headaches. All the other cool things are icing. Speaking of cool things, I thought my "Looper" was broken. You'll think so, too if you try using it with a monophonic sound. Once I realized that's why it was stuttering I was on my way to loopy fun. It can only record and overdub the same voice, which sucks, but it's still fun to play with.

There's no PC editor as yet ERROR * and I haven't heard of any patch sharing via Sysex but Yamaha has a website (Soundmondo) that implements patch sharing.
*There is an online patch editor at Soundmondo.

They just dropped the price on these synths by about $100.00 USD. Most big retailers sell them for $299.99 now. A couple of places (B&H and Full Compass) have them a little cheaper... with free shipping!

So why am I writing all this instead of playing the synth? Because I have a cramp from playing it in one position for too long! I lost track of time and played it too long. That's the sure sign of a winner!!!
-----
P.S. One last weird-ass thing. I ordered a used DX, a floor demo. But I received a brand new sealed-in-the-box unit. Weird enough for you? How about that a week ago I ordered two used books from two different vendors in two different states and received two NEW books? You know what I think? I think I need to order a used car!!!

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AEJOTZ is pronounced "A-Jotz"
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Last edited by A E J O T Z on Wed Jul 26, 2017 6:49 am; edited 2 times in total
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AlanP



Joined: Mar 11, 2014
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 10:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Very cool! I was thinking of getting a reface YC -- I love those old B3 and leslie sounds.
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A E J O T Z



Joined: Aug 14, 2011
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Location: Griffith, Indiana, USA
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 26, 2017 6:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

UPDATE: One week later.

I still love the DX. I've downloaded a bunch of cool user-programmed sounds from Yamaha's Soundmondo site and I'm rapidly learning front panel editing. Sonically, things keep getting better.

About the only criticism I have concerns the octave control. It's a short-throw slider that must be precisely positioned, which sucks when you're concentrating on playing. Up and down buttons (Microbrute, Microkorg) are better. A spring-loaded toggle (Microkorg XL) is best.

[This is not a big issue with me since I tend to play two-octave parts, equivalent to different orchestral parts. I just need at least three octaves of keys to do that with, which the DX provides. But if you're Chick Corea you might get a little frustrated.]

Less a criticism than a disappointment is the "Looper" sequencer. I keep running into its limitations. But, to be fair, I'm spoiled by the sequencer on the Microsampler, which does everything I want it to.

Overall I'm quite happy with the DX. It's a good addition to my mini-synth collection.

_________________
AEJOTZ is pronounced "A-Jotz"
retro-futurism now
electronics = magic
free albums at http://aejotz.bandcamp.com
listen to genre-defying synthetic music at http://sat-5.com
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mosc
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Joined: Jan 31, 2003
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 26, 2017 11:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

A great review. Glad you found something you like so much. A lot of time is doesn't work out so well.

I always loved the DX sounds but could never get the knack of programming it. It's amazing how long the DX architecture has survived and kept current. John Chowning, rightfully credited with inventing the FM synth, deserves a chair among the illustrious pioneers like, Theremin, Moog, and Buchla.

Sorry you have to look forward to a long hospital stint. I hope everything goes perfectly for you.

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A E J O T Z



Joined: Aug 14, 2011
Posts: 422
Location: Griffith, Indiana, USA
Audio files: 148

PostPosted: Tue Aug 01, 2017 7:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Thank you, Mosc.

In what is likely the final update to this review, I must report that programming the DX is fun. This is very important because I don't continue very long to use synths that aren't fun.

[The CZ-101 is NOT fun to program but it's fun to tweak and I have a thousand patches to tweak. Besides, nothing boings like a CZ.]

All the classic FM synths are notoriously anti-fun to program. That reputation is what has kept me away from FM for so long.

The DX provides quick access to SETS of parameters that you can change in real time, not unlike the way the original Microkorg edits. That's a huge step up from menu-diving for every little setting.

Conclusion: I don't expect to break any important new sonic ground with the DX but it's capable, convenient and fun. I've played it every day since I got it and I still lose track of time.

P.S. I've seen complaints about the gig bags Yamaha sells for the Reface series. They have no pockets or dividers. And they look like they were made for something with a deeper case, like an original Microkorg. I have the Gator bag for the MK, which also accommodates the DX. It's tough, well padded, has carry handles, a broad shoulder strap with swivel fasteners, and a large zippered front pouch.

_________________
AEJOTZ is pronounced "A-Jotz"
retro-futurism now
electronics = magic
free albums at http://aejotz.bandcamp.com
listen to genre-defying synthetic music at http://sat-5.com
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