Introduction to the Yamaha S90
When the Yamaha S90 was released in August 2005, it marked a huge step in digital piano and synthesis technology. Its Motif ES roots and its other capabilities aside, the Yamaha S90 is the better sounding and feeling digital piano/synth we’ve played so far.
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The piano keyboard runs on the new multi-velocity, the stereo grand piano sample with soundboard simulation and half dampening (when combined with the FC3 pedal) that’s rich and incredibly realistic. So far, it’ the best Yamaha has used in a synthesizer.
The studio connections compatibility, 128 note polyphony tone generator, PLG expandability, and mLAN expansion slot give it all the synthesis control and powerful functionality of Yamaha MOTIF ES.
Yamaha S90 Features
Firstly, Yamaha has publicized the keyboard as a “perfect balance between digital piano and synthesizer”. How’s that for an accurate statement. This piano offers one of the finest, best-feeling weighted keyboard actions we’ve ever experienced on a synth. The mod wheels, real-time sliders, and pitch bend flaunt S90 synth side. Additionally, the Yamaha S90 offers 128 notes of polyphony (excluding the extra polyphony one can add with any plug-in expansion boards), and well over 500 programs using the 228 MB high-quality waveforms driven from the AWM2 24 bit DSP chip. If you’re already experienced with the Yamaha Motif you will feel at home with S90ES. The S90ES keeps familiar menus, like, voice, master, and performance modes for modifying your sound settings. The S90ES sound banks are structured very much alike.
Yamaha S90 keyboard action is a well-balanced hammer mechanism with aftertouch. We loved the design of this keyboard; its sleek response gives the musician a broad dynamic selection of volume. On an 88-key synth/digital piano, the S90ES is incredibly light weighing only 22.5kg (49lbs, 10oz) making the S90ES a fantastic keyboard for traveling musicians.
S90ES’s sound banks are organized categorically, just like the Motif’s sound banks-A. Piano, Organ, Keyboard, etc. I was blown away by the Yamaha S90 sounds, especially, the S90ES’s brand-new piano samples. The piano samples are limited to the Yamaha S90 making up 53 MB of the 228 MB sample sound. The piano samples were recorded in the Yamaha S700 grand piano. (We performed research around the S700 and could not find any information and concluded the S700 is a piano Yamaha developed for sampling purposes only). Only a discerning ear will differentiate this piano from the real thing. S90ES synthesizes sympathetic resonance effects while allowing you to use half-damper pedaling with the optionally available Yamaha FC3 damper pedal. Yamaha S90 is compatible with BC3, FC4, FC5 and FC7 damper pedal, expression pedal & footswitch.
The other sounds that fascinated us were the electric pianos, pads, strings, synth leads and orchestral instruments. Yamaha even programmed controllers like the mod wheel, aftertouch and data sliders into most of the sound bank programs, building a wealth of playable sounds for creating new song ideas.
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.
The S90ES’s 4 sliders, pitch wheel, mod wheel, breath, foot controllers and switch are assignable with the touch of a button. Yamaha designed pre-assigned functions to the sliders. If you decided to touch the PAN/SEND button, the sliders would control reverb, tempo, pan and chorus. However, when you press the TONE button, the sliders will control attack, resonance, cutoff and release parameters. How cool?
Whether you desire to simply browse and have fun with the voices or control a whole MIDI rig, the S90 ES’s huge LCD screen and intuitive hands on user interface make it incredibly simple to use.
Smartmedia™ playback sequencer
The S90 ES’s playback sequencer allows you to play back MIDI files (format 0) right from a SmartMedia ™ card. Make use of this function to make a library of upto 100 songs, all of which can be promptly called up on the touch of a button-great for live shows! Chain playback is likewise possible. The provided File Utility software will make it easy and quick to transfer MIDI files out of your computer to a SmartMedia ™ card, so that you can leave your computer at home next time you have a gig.
For those who have an external sequencer, the S90ES could be used as a multitimbral tone generator. One feature we found came in handy is the REMOTE button. This lets you control sequencer software on your pc from th S90ES’s panel.
The Yamaha S90ES includes an arpeggiator with well over 1700 styles, 3 slots for enhancing the S90ES sounds using the optionally available modular synthesis plug in boards, and the mLAN16E board that effectively channels your MIDI and audio data to one IEEE 1394 connection eradicating the need for lots of cables.
- Over 500 Motif quality sounds.
- Offers great programmability–many filters, oscillators, LFO shapes, filter, velocity , DSPs and pitch envelopes.
- Unbelievably realistic pianos.
- Very smooth 88- key nicely balanced hammer keyboard action.
- Four programmable sliders, pitch wheel, mod, and aftertouch.
- Expandable with optional mLAN16E board and synthesis plug-in boards.
- Light weight for a 88 key keyboard (22.5 kg/49 lbs, 10oz).
- Lacks on board sequencer for recording.
- Does not come with a switch pedal.
Conclusion on the Yamaha S90
Yamaha S90 has the nicest 88 weighted key actions we have seen on Yamaha keyboards. The piano sounds are strikingly gorgeous and playable-we could not stop playing them! Besides the pianos, the other sounds are just what you would expect from Motifs without the Motif price tag. We loved the flexibility and expandability on the S90ES along with its light weight; even so, we expected it to at least include a footswitch pedal together with a built-in recording sequencer for those amongst us that aren’t using software sequencers. It could also be nice if Yamaha introduced an S90ES rack module in the future for those who have already got a dedicated 88 key controller.
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 S90ES is an ideal balance between digital piano and synthesizer.