Tenori-On Review

Tenori On

EM’s Geary Yelton has an interesting review of the Tenori-On.

Their take:

You could easily argue that the Tenori-on is not suitable for professional music production. It has no filters, LFOs, envelope generators, nor any of the user-programmable parameters you’d expect in a real synthesizer. It has only one oscillator per voice, and it provides no access to its sound engine other than the ability to import user samples. In some ways, its sequencing capabilities are rudimentary; in most Modes, you can’t even vary individual note length or Velocity. On the other hand, the Tenori-on offers sequencing techniques you won’t find anywhere else.

Would I consider buying a Tenori-on? Despite its limitations and some aggravating quirks, the answer is absolutely yes. It’s a great catalyst for creativity that forces me to work outside of my usual compositional framework. It has a very strong personality that suggests musical directions I would never explore on my own. And its portable nature makes it a pleasant traveling companion: I’d be grateful to have one while killing time in an airport, relaxing on a beach, or even waiting out a rainstorm in my tent.

I have no doubt that soon you’ll be hearing the Tenori-on in television commercials, movie soundtracks, and the music of a wide range of artists — not to mention in parks, schools, and other public places. It simplifies and democratizes composition in new and exciting ways, and most of the time, it sounds quite good. It also points the way toward future, more-sophisticated instruments based on its design, which I hope Yamaha continues to develop with pro musicians in mind. In the meantime, if the company can bring down the cost of the Tenori-on and its future offspring, it may have produced its biggest hit since the DX7.

I’ve long been skeptical of the Tenori-On, because of its limited capabilities as both a synth and a sequencer. Yelton makes the case, though, that the Tenori-On’s limited capabilities are a feature, rather than a liability.

12 thoughts on “Tenori-On Review

  1. amoeba – it would be a lot more interesting if I had an extra $1,200 to spend.

    I’d be afraid to get one and then find that they cut the price in half a year later.

  2. the korg kaossilator is basically the same thing, but with less i/o and no sampling capabilities for like $280.

    imo the kaossilator is awesome for the bus, airplane, cab ride, etc. super small and really really fun. plus the price reflects exactly how much it can do.

  3. Todd – doesn’t the comparable Monome cost more and not have the Tenori-On’s built-in synth?

  4. monome 64 (includes tilt) $500
    monome 128 $800
    monome 256 $1400

    tenori on aprox $1200 USD

    There are obvious differences between the Tenori on and Monome, and these differences are detailed ad nauseam all over the net. Here is a short video of what random people are actually doing with both instruments.


  5. Nothing wrong w/ limitations that bring out the best creartive juices. I can def see the “bounce” mode supplying me w/ plenty of Eno-like loop structures. Will be hooking mine up to some real old HW (some would say vintage heh) and will be using note ouput as a r/t mod for my Lexicon PCM81 ambient patches. Plenty of good stuff will happen. The Monome IS interesting, but consider that one MUST always have some sort of CPU base in order to produce some sort of output – potential hassle. I can see a very social environment like a tabletop “pass it on” game where each participant adds his own thang to the kollektive output.

  6. I don’t think you have a real opinion until you use it. I have had one for 3 days and initially I was not impressed. I loaded some old wav files I had keep for years not knowing why. I now know why. This thing rocks with the right sounds loaded. I looked on eBay and could not find one under 800 dollars. So I bought one new online by pricing by competition. I was going to buy a iPad but I am glad I didn’t. I have not even tried the midi yet but I think I will be keeping and using this very cool tool for a long time. You have to learn how to use it by experimenting and there are many things to discover like advanced mode and more. It is the best tool I have seen for experimentation and discovery. The kaossilator pro I got bored with in less time even with the little one adding to it. Invest in a real future tool that will not lose value over time. The Tenori on is the bomb.

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