Yamaha Reface CP vs Wurlitzer Electric Piano & Fender Rhodes, Mano a Mano

This pair of videos, via muzykujkropkacom, pits the new Yamaha Reface CP electric piano mini keyboard, head-to-head against a vintage Wurlitzer electric piano and a Fender Rhodes.

The first video, above, is a short and sweet, note-for-note comparison of the new Yamaha reface CP keyboard and a vintage Wurly.

The second video, below, compares the CP to a Fender Rhodes:

The Reface Reface CP was introduced by Yamaha earlier this month at the 2015 Summer NAMM Show in Nashville. It’s expected to have a street price of around US $500 and to be available in September. Details are available at the Yamaha site.

45 thoughts on “Yamaha Reface CP vs Wurlitzer Electric Piano & Fender Rhodes, Mano a Mano

  1. CP was similar but not as rich or full sounding. I listened to them with my eyes closed and only opened to check which was playing. Almost always could tell the difference. The CP although not bad is thinner and brighter and maybe a little too clean. In a mix it probably wouldn’t be very obvious.

  2. I don’t think anyone was expecting this to sound as good as a rhodes or a wurlitzer, but yeah that’s not a flattering comparison. First watch, I thought there was some voice stealing going on in the first video, but no… I think he’s just having trouble getting his hands in there -_-,

  3. Pretty dang close, if you disregard the slightly different volume levels.

    The problem with this sort of head to head comparison, though,is that without doing a blind comparison, people always think that expensive vintage gear sounds better. Always! And it’s complete BS.

    A couple of years ago, some researchers compared the sound of a Stradivarius to some modern violins. Everybody KNOWS that Stradivarius violins are the best – but when they did a blind comparison, trained violinists ranked a modern instrument as the best and the Stradivarius dead last.

    Check it out:

    http://www.thestrad.com/cpt-latests/blind-tested-soloists-unable-to-tell-stradivarius-violins-from-modern-instruments/

    Interesting stuff to consider before you blow a bunch of cash on your dream keyboard. Naturally, I STILL want the sweet vintage gear, in spite of reality…..

    1. “trained violinists ranked a modern instrument as the best and the Stradivarius dead last”

      That is not really what they found.

  4. To me, it sounds like the vintage boards have more ‘air’ to them and they definitely have more character. In some cases, the ‘character’ was just a muddy sound in some of those more complex chords. I wondered if they are tuned/stretched a bit differently, or have some more overtones coming out of them. The beating on those first chords on the Rhodes was nasty.

    I have to admit the Yamaha sounds good if a bit clean and sterile next to the real thing.

  5. When the single notes were playing I thought they were VERY close. The real differences I noticed when he started playing chords.

    Except in the example with the single bass notes under the chords. The real one sounded much fuller.

    1. hi, i had the same thought. i could tell the difference when the chords came in. But still this is very close. The original has a fizz, cuts and sounds fuller…all at the same time compared to the reface.

    1. They should make a desktop version that we can play with a nice 6, 7 or 8 octaves keyboard. Not that this tiny keyboard takes much room, but that would make it even more affordable.

    1. Daniel makes a fair point, which is true of most any keyboard that isn’t a super-mass item. Every Kronos will sound “the same” until you make it yours, but old EPs and analog synths will hold up *and* break down in their own individual ways. Its part of the vintage charm. Eno put notes on portions of his MiniMoog that told repair techs DON’T TOUCH THIS because those oddities were what made it a more real instrument for him. Billfusion nails the other side, because a weighted controller can make v-pianos FEEL as though they are speaking with more authority. That’s when you start playing more fluidly, especially if you were a doubter. I think Yamaha will laugh as they rake in the bucks. They’ll sell even faster when they drop to about $300 through various avenues, so you might see a v.2 at some point. Too bad I can’t snort at ReFace like an elitist, but I play an Xkey, so its not an option. 😀

  6. What the demo really needs is to have a semi or fully weighted midi controller play it, then the topuch feel of the player is no longer a factor and you will have a true sound test.
    You can see how the player kinda wimps out wehn trying play it

    1. Same thought. I guess this is more of an actual “the keyboard in front of you” comparison but if you really want to do a sonic comparison, use a similar keyboard (and turn off the video!). Especially with something like an electric piano—*how* you play it, physically, really matters. Especially, (2x now), when to get the most out of it you need to be an accomplished keyboard player which means you’ve spent a lot of time playing dynamic full-sized keys. You’re just not going to play as well on a such different keybed. Much different than a synth comparison.

      I’m not interested in this keyboard at all but for sure, a great rhodes or wurly player could make me cry with it. Doesn’t sound exactly the same but it sounds musical.

  7. Rhodes is a mechanical instrument and they’re all old and their keyboards are never in a great shape. Reface is a new instrument though and it has totally different way of generating notes. Perhaps if there would be some kind of random velocity generator in between the synth engine and the keyboard, then they’d sound more close to each other. Having notes tiny bit detuned would make it even closer to the real thing.

  8. Most old Wurlitzer’s and Fender Rhodes have some wonkiness, because of their age, mechanical design, and old analog circuitry.

    That stuff can give an instrument ‘character’, but I’d expect a new instrument to be designed to meet the ideal of what these keyboards are supposed to be, vs one that’s a bit wonky. From the sound examples, it sounds like that is what Yamaha has done

  9. While I could occasionally hear differences, I didn’t have a sense that one was superior to the other.

    With the Rhodes, there was a little bit of resonance/reverb that came from the box and other sympathetic tines (perhaps) that gave that sound a little more ambience, but it didn’t make it sound like a winner.

    I’d say this demo showed how close they got it. Pretty impressive to me. I also agree with the above comments about how difficult it is to compare with different key-actions– still, I’d say Yamaha should feel proud of the quality of their emulations.

  10. I’ve already got a great master keyboard, so a compact keyboard with dedicated knobs is the best of both worlds for me – a good sounding sound module for the studio that’s relatively cheap, and a nice little mobile keyboard, too.

    A lot of people don’t get what Yamaha’s doing with these. I don’t want a MicroKorg/MiniNova/JD-Xi that’s a synth workstation with a couple of knobs and a million menus. What’s the benefit of that over vst’s? I think Yamaha is trying to make keyboards that do one thing really well, with no menus or other bs. At least with this one, and maybe the DX, it seems like they were successful.

  11. The toy keybed is useless to me. If they make a rackmount or desktop unit, I’ll buy one to use with my Kurz MIDIBOARD….Sounds decent, but you really need some weighted action to dig into….

  12. I’ve owned 2 Rhodes a CP and a Wurlitzer- the only reason to get a Reface instead of an original is if you’re touring or gigging. If it’s gonna sit in your apartment or studio get a real one. Do what I did, find someone local that will fix it (surprisingly easy) and get one with one or 2 broken keys. With even 1 key down prices are way lower- sometimes 1/2 or more. Never paid more that $500 for one in total. When all is said and done what is better- to get a copy that’s “eh it’s ok” and buy another copy in 2 years when the hype wears off, or the real thing with all its flaws? I feel like people want to like Reface so much due to hype, they’re not really thinking straight. These are -$100 of kit being sold for $500- it’s just not worth it. Buying $100-200 gimmick boxes like these all the time kills your cash and makes you unable to get that Minimoog you always wanted… All 4 Refaces are mainly copying keyboards you can buy right now for $500-700 in gigable shape so these are tough to justify, especially when you know they should be 100-150 tops. They’re digital people. It’s using algorithms from older keyboards. It shouldn’t be more than an analog monosynth (and they sadly are.) it’s like Roland and COSM – you’re paying a premium for an old digital sound because musicians are stupid and big companies know we’re insecure and will try to buy new shiny things thinking it’s better than the real thing and it never is.

  13. the CP has a very short release on end notes, feels a bit sudden when the note stops, whereas the wurly has a bit of a natural tail at the end so sounds a bit softer. cp is a tiny bit brighter too. but pretty close in timbre, i don’t think you’d notice the difference if you weren’t listening to them side by side.

    cp is defiantly more portable.

    1. Yea, in that way the tester didn’t let us hear releases very carefully. The back & forth notes at the beginning would’ve been more helpful if there was a little more time for releases, and I didn’t need to hear every note.

  14. When playing the solo notes I noticed that the vintage rhodes loses high-frequency content faster than the synth.

    As for the chords sounding different: maybe the synth is missing some sympathetic resonance that would occur between the physical tines?

  15. Incidentally, I was absolutely blown-away by the physical sonic presence of the Rhodes the first time I played one with the huge speaker cabinet set up under the keyboard. There’s no way studio monitors are ever going to give you that!

  16. One thing to keep in mind is that any two rhodes will sound slightly (sometimes not so slightly) different from each other as well depending on condition and maintenance. Only true comparison would be the reface against the exact unit it was sampled from.

  17. still doesn’t beat the nord for me, but it’s not bad. it’ll never quite sound the same as the real deal, but it’s really not bad. i’d only get it for travelling, would fit in my backpack. saw it listed for 800 though, that’s way way way too much for 6 sounds.

  18. Play the Reface Cp through a proper controller and put it through an amp or amp sim and it would be hard to tell the difference, in the context of a mix. As is it is, the difference is not huge and this is perfectly useable for Funk,R and B Jazz, Prog, etc. Also if you’re serious about playing any of those genres you’re going to use an appropriately sized controller anyway, so…Being battery powered, the small keys are useable for composing on the fly, so I could imagine taking this to the park with a laptop and some headphones. Composing with a pleasant change of scenery. All of the latest Yamaha releases are cool, the DX especially, but still arguably a bit overpriced.

  19. Mixed in with other instruments it would be hard to tell but solo you can hear a big difference.

    For example listen to the bass notes on the Wurlitzer video at about 47 seconds.

    On the real keyboard there is a short pleasant release phase at the end of each note and some pickup noise character. On the mini-keys the sound is cut off immediately when he release each key, which gives it a dry digital feel.

  20. I think they are close enough for jazz (sorry), though they beg to be played with a weighted 88 key controller. I’m sure in a mix they will be virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. Unfortunately, the Wurly and the Rhodes are among the few keyboards that get played solo, but I doubt any listener will notice or care.

    The price feels a bit high to me (1/3rd the cost of a used vintage one in my area), but I guess if you count both keyboards, it’s 1/6th the price. Just not sure there is enough there to justify it not being a VST.

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