Yamaha Reface CP Review – Great Vintage Key Sounds In A Tiny Package

Yamaha Reface CP
Yamaha Reface CP

At the 2015 Summer NAMM Show: Yamaha introduced its new Reface Mobile Mini Keyboards line.

The Reface keyboard line was inspired by the form factor of the Yamaha CS-01, a mini synth that featured a built-in speaker. The new keyboards use a similar form factor, but have sound engines designed to recall four different Yamaha keyboard lines.

The Yamaha Reface CP is the combo piano in the Reface line. Of the four, it’s the least ‘synthy’, but also one of the most rewarding to play.

Here is the official intro video:

It’s a combo piano, in mini keyboard form, that lets you play the most iconic electric piano sounds.

yamaha-reface-cp

Design & Build Quality

The Reface CP shares several features with the rest of the reface line:

  • Compact size
  • Built-in speakers
  • Can be run from batteries
  • 37 keys with ‘HQ-Mini’ action
  • USB & MIDI connectivity
  • Yamaha Reface Capture – an iOS patch librarian app
  • Audio In

Reface CP Features:

  • Six electric piano sounds including tine, reed, clavinet, toy piano and CP80
  • Direct control of 1970s-style effects, including drive, chorus, phaser, wah, reverb and more
  • Sustain pedal input with a half-damper response
  • 128-note polyphony

yamaha-reface-cp-back

Around the back, it’s got connections for a foot pedal controller, L/R 1/4″ audio outputs, a 1/4″ headphone jack, an 1/8″ stereo audio input, MIDI In/Out (via an included adapter) and USB.

The CP feels very solidly built, as mini keyboards go, like the rest of the Reface line

The Yamaha Reface CP Sound Engine

yamaha-reface-cp-sound-engine

The Reface CP is combo electric piano, with a collection of six vintage sounds:

  • RdI, early ’70s tine electric piano
  • RdII, late ’70s tine electric piano
  • Wr, late ’60s reed electric piano
  • Clv, 70s struck string Clavinet
  • Toy, toy piano
  • CP, Yamaha CP80 electric grand piano

In other words Fender Rhodes, Wurly, Clavinet, CP & Toy piano – sounds that are about as iconic as they come. And Yamaha does a good job of nailing the sounds.

Here’s a video comparison, via muzykujkropkacom, of the Reface CP against a vintage Fender Rhodes:

The Reface CP doesn’t have the mechanical variations of a vintage keyboard that can affect the sound. As a result, the Reface CP’s sounds are more like an ideal ‘new old stock’ instrument than one that’s been around the block a bit.

Effects

yamaha-reface-cp-sound-effects

Once you’ve selected the keyboard type you want to play, you can add effects using the five effects sections:

  • Drive (adds harmonics and distortion)
  • Tremolo (Auto-Pan for Rd)/VCM Wah with adjustable depth and rate
  • Chorus with adjustable depth and speed/VCM Phaser with adjustable depth and speed
  • Digital or Analog-Type Delay with adjustable time and depth
  • Reverb with adjustable depth

The interface is all dedicated knobs and switches, so you just flip a toggle to enable/disable the effect that you want and then dial in the effects settings. The effects are tailored to the CP’s keyboard types and bring to mind some classic 70’s effects pedals and an early digital reverb.

Sound and Performance

The Yamaha Reface CP offers instant gratification – great sounds and effects, with everything very clearly laid out on the front panel.

It’s also has great playability. It’s a mini-keyboard, but it’s very sensitive and the CP’s sound engine responds beautifully to variations in how you play. Play the Rhodes 1 patch softly and the CP responds with delicate bell tones. Dig in a little, and the CP responds with brighter more metallic sounds.

The biggest downside is the mini keyboard – we frequently found ourselves wanting another octave or two of keys.

In our Reface CS review, we called out that keyboard’s lack of patch memory as potential issue for some users.

With the Reface CP, though, we don’t see the lack of patch memory as a concern. You tweak your sound just like you would on a vintage keyboard: you select the keyboard and then tweak the effects. This is faster than scrolling through a list of presets and has the benefit that the front panel settings always match your sound.

Bottom line: The Yamaha Reface CP delivers a great set of vintage keyboard sounds, plays wonderfully and evokes memories of a lot of classic recordings. We were sad to have to send this one back to Yamaha!

Other Features:

The Reface CP includes a couple of other unique features:

  • Audio input – this lets you route the output of mobile devices and other keyboards through the Reface CP. This could handy if you want to have a minimal mobile rig – just adjust the level of the external device using its controls.
  • Reface Capture – this is an iOS patch librarian. We could not test it, because it was not available in time for this review. Because the Reface CP has such a user-friendly front-panel, we don’t see much of a need for patch librarian.
  • Soundmondo – a planned patch sharing web site. This was also not available in time for this review.

Summary:

There are three main audiences for mini keyboards. The Reface CP is a pretty good fit for all three:

  • Users that want a mobile keyboard for portability or compactness – the CP offers great sounds in a mini keyboard that you can take anywhere.
  • Users that need a starter keyboard – the CP delivers five vintage electric piano sounds (plus the toy piano sound) for less than the cost of one of the originals.
  • Users that want a sound module – the CP isn’t going to be an alternative to a rack sound module, because of its lack of presets. But if you want to vintage keyboard sounds to your rig, slap this on top of your full-size MIDI keyboard and you’ll have a set of classic keyboard sounds, with great hands-on tweakability, without taking up a lot of space.

Pros:

  • Sounds great
  • Good build quality
  • What-you-see-is-what-you-get interface is fast and easy to use
  • Very responsive playability
  • Battery power, built-in speakers and audio in makes it a fun mobile keyboard
  • 128-voice polyphony

Cons:

  • The CP’s sounds, and the playability of those sounds, will have many users longing for a full-size keyboard

The Yamaha Reface CP is available now, with a street price around US $500. See the Yamaha site for more detailed specs and audio demos.

19 thoughts on “Yamaha Reface CP Review – Great Vintage Key Sounds In A Tiny Package

  1. The article is presented as completely original review content entirely written by staff at this independent site who received a review instrument. Are these articles entirely original review content or are they partially derived from text provided by Yamaha?

    Some of the language used doesn’t resemble independent third party reviewers and are closer to marketing material written by the company, or derived from such. This was a problem with Electronic Musician and Keyboard reviews towards the last years that anyone read them, the reviews stopped being critical except on trivial issues or ones everyone knew about that were just mentioned briefly in passing. The rest was gushery, to make sure the ad revenue kept coming in since it was an open secret that certain manufacturers made clear that they would not advertise in magazines that criticized their products, management complied, the public wasn’t fooled, and those magazines are hardly remembered any more.

    1. Exactly my thoughts. These 3 “reviews” seem very suspect and more like PR from Yamaha. What was the nature of the relationship here? Did you just receive review copies or were they given to you, gratis?
      If this is to be taken seriously this info should be made public or the impartiality of the site comes into question.

    2. Have you actually tried these yet?

      It seems like a lot of people have a kneejerk hate reaction to mini keyboards, rather than judging them for what they are – entry level synths, for people that can’t afford $2,000 Moog and Dave Smith keyboards.

      I’ve tried out the reface synths and actually came away impressed. The reface keyboards, along with the Arturia MicroBrute, sound much better to my ears than any of the other mini synths that are available and they even compare pretty well to some much more expensive keyboards, like the King Korg.

      1. There are a LOT of synths-including tons that would be considered “entry level”- between these and a $2000 Moog or DSI….
        Like so many others, I’d be interested in these as modules, but no way would I buy something with a keyboard I’ll never use accounting for 2/3 of the size of the whole instrument.

  2. Yawn. Very old sounding. I would take a rack version of the CP for CDN$199. Same for the YC and CS. Minikeys? Oh, Yamaha. Let me help you build a new CS-80 controller, at least 🙂

  3. Would somebody point me to a hardware equivalent to this keyboard, soundwise, that doesn’t cost more than 500 and doesn’t require a computer?
    Honest question

    1. It does not exist. The CP fills a void. For the price, you have to resort to software emulations, of which there are plenty and good. But no hardware for that price.

    2. I can see where you are going with that, however, everyone has a PC or a laptop these days and software emulations coupled with a full size controller keyboard will be far superior. I can certainly see the appeal of these for some but they are overpriced I feel. £200 would have been a more reasonable price, I wouldn’t be surprised if these dropped to £249 within a few months of being on sale.

      However these could pave the way for something larger and more interesting if they sell well…..

      1. I have a PC but I don’t like the idea of using one for music, although It would give me a better sound.
        I like hardware and I play live mostly. This apparatus is almost ideal because I love the sound of a Rhodes piano but:
        -the price is too high
        -there is no sound module (no keys) available.

        I can use my hardware workstation as a controller and get that e-piano sound my workstation doesn’t have.

        If this was just the top part of the device it would be small enough to put it on the workstation.

        I guess I don’t represent the musician demographic here.

  4. The way I see it it really doesn’t matter, lots of critics are paid in some way to review any product.
    Certainly in this case: Playing the rhodes or wurlitzer for the first time in the store (they didn’t have the roland boutique Ju-06, I owned a original Juno 6 once and it’s warmth never left my heart so I had time on my hands) was an experience not unlike the guy from this site discribes.
    The Logical Song, I Am The Walrus, just right on the spot. I also owned a small Fender Rhodes and the roar and the bells where there. The Piano is very expressive, I think Joe Zawinul used it on “Havona” (CD: Weather Report: “Heavy Weather).
    People, use your imagination, you can take this very small keyboard virtually everywhere and compose, dream away or even showing off.
    You can make these sounds talk, no matter what you play you instantly sound better.
    And the controls are great although the echoe’s tempo goes in (little) steps witch is not like the analogs.
    But come on, 128 notes simultaniously, battery fed, it’s just that it’s small but indeed, you can put it right on top of your big keys and bob’s your uncle.
    Had to have it.

  5. Saw and played Yamaha reface CP. The small keys render it unplayable. It has 5 average sounds. Who came up with this?
    Belongs in the toy aisle at WalMart. Not worth a hundred bucks.

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