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 YC is the combo organ in the Reface line. Like the other Reface keyboards, it differs from most mini keyboards in focusing on doing one thing well – in this case, vintage organ emulation – vs being a jack-of-all-trades keyboard.
Here is the official intro video:
The Reface YC sound engine recalls classic combo organs and its interface design is tailored to organ performance:
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 YC Organ Features:
- Reface YC is inspired by the the YC Yamaha Combo organ series, introduced in the 60s
- The YC offers controls tailored to organ performance, including drawbars, rotary speaker, percussion and effects
- It includes five retro organ sounds — ranging from tonewheel to transistor to the original Yamaha Combo organ.
- Full 128-note polyphony
Around the back, it’s got connections for a foot pedal volume 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.
Like the rest of the Reface line, the YC feels very solidly built, as mini keyboards go.
The Yamaha Reface YC Sound Engine & Controls
The Reface YC is combo organ, with a collection of five vintage organ sound options:
- H, American tonewheel organ
- V, British transistor organ
- F, Italian transistor organ
- A, Japanese transistor organ
- Y, Yamaha YC-45D
The controls on the left hand side of the YC let you do high-level tweaking – things like changing the organ emulation type and range of the keyboard. Yamaha also puts the rotary speaker controls at the far left, which makes sense for people that like to change these settings s they play.
The remainder of the controls are clearly laid out and tailored to working with organ sounds, including a drawbar section:
And controls for effects, including Vibrato/Chorus, Percussion and Distortion and Reverb:
While the control section is compact and straightforward, it allows for a surprisingly wide range of sounds. And the Yamaha Reface YC’s organ sounds are about as iconic as they come.
Here’s a sound demo, via Doctor Mix, that explores the range of sounds available with the YC:
As a mini keyboard – the YC can never replace the feel of playing a full-size organ.
Instead, the Reface YC offers solution for people that want to add the sound of vintage organs to their palette, but don’t have the space for a vintage organ or want an instrument that takes two people to move.
In our Reface CS review, we noted that keyboard’s lack of patch memory as a potential concern for some users. The Reface YC does not have onboard patch memory either, but with a combo organ, this seems completely natural. You select the organ ‘Wave’ type that you want to play, and then shape the organ sounds with front panel controls, just like you would with a vintage organ.
Of much bigger concern to organists will be the YC’s reduced physicality – a single manual with a reduced key range and mini keys, vs the wide range of controls on many traditional organs.
Bottom line: The Yamaha Reface YC is the most compact combo organ that we’ve ever seen. The Reface YC isn’t a replacement for a vintage organ or a stage organ – it’s a new option, for situations where a vintage organ or stage organ just isn’t practical.
The Reface YC includes a couple of other unique features:
- Audio input – this lets you route the output of mobile devices and other keyboards through the keyboard. 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 of the nature of controls on a combo organ, 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.
There are three main audiences for mini keyboards. The Reface YC may be a good option for you, if you’re in one of these groups:
- Users that want a mobile keyboard for portability or compactness – the YC delivers vintage organ sounds in a tiny package, with very good usability.
- Users that need a starter keyboard – the YC is an inexpensive, compact alternative to both vintage Hammonds and stage organs.
- Users that want a sound module – the YC isn’t going to be an alternative to a rack sound module, because of its lack of presets. It could be a good option for users that want to add organ sounds to their rig as a MIDI slave, because it delivers vintage organ emulation and hands-on control in a minimal package.
- Good vintage organ emulation, capable of a wide range of classic organ sounds
- The most compact hardware organ keyboard that we’ve seen
- Better build quality than most mini keyboards
- Battery power, built-in speakers and audio in make it a fun mobile synth
- Can’t replace the physicality of a vintage organ
The Yamaha Reface YC is available now, with a street price around US $500. See the Yamaha site for more detailed specs and audio demos.