Yamaha Montage In-Depth Demo

At the 2016 NAMM Show, Yamaha introduced its new Montage synth keyboard line – a new flagship full-size synth line that features advanced versions of two of the company’s iconic synth lines – Motif and DX.

In this video, Yamaha’s Blake Angelos takes an in-depth look at the capabilities of the Montage line, demos a variety of sounds and also shows how you can morph between sounds in realtime. 

The Montage keyboards offer twice the power of the Motif line, plus an advanced FM synthesis engine:

  • AWM2 is the evolution of the Motif synth engine. It offers 128-note, stereo polyphony, with nearly 10 times the waveform capacity of the Yamaha Motif XF, allowing for more samples per instrument. It also offers 1.75 GB of user Flash memory, with high-speed reading/writing, for your own custom samples or synth libraries.
  • FM-X is a sophisticated FM synthesizer engine, with an 8-operator FM architecture and 128-note polyphony, allowing for a wide array of sound design options.

The Yamaha Montage is expected to be available in May, with 61-, 76- and 88-key configurations. See the Yamaha site for more info. 

49 thoughts on “Yamaha Montage In-Depth Demo

  1. If I was Yamaha I would follow in Roland’s footsteps and think of a new buzzword for their sampling technology every few years. What I mean by this is that from a marketing perspective, I don’t think seeing ‘AWM’ on a product in 2016 will help sell many units..

  2. It’s incredibly frustrating how little is said on the Yamaha site about FM-X.

    “An amazingly sophisticated pure synthesizer engine capable of producing classic ‘80s or cutting-edge EDM sound with incredible dynamic range, power and fidelity. MONTAGE features an 8-operator FM architecture and 128-note polyphony, allowing for a massive array of sound design options.”

    And it says we’ll be able to load DX-7 sounds. Hmm. You have a new 8op architecture. SO WHAT IS IT?

    1. An unfortunate fact of NAMM is that the product specialists get the new gear three days before the show, and usually the product and documentation isn’t really done yet.

      I’d like to know more about the synth engine, too, because I’ve never heard of an 8-operator FM synth. They’ll probably have details closer to when it ships.

        1. The 8 op FM piece made by Yamaha many years ago, was the FS1R rack unit. It had some other interesting features like Formant Synthesis. It, like the Montage, also has 88 algorithms.

      1. Years before the FS1r there has been the FVX1, another 8op FMsynth with limited onboard editfeatures. But it could be programmed via sysex. Unfortunately the editor Yamaha brought out and the sysex implementation documentation got lost.. So no chance ever to deeply program an FVX1, if you can get hands on the rare beast.

        1. I have an fvx1. You can do simple editing onboard but someone has apparently made an editor for it now. Hope so, but even without, just editing what you can and layering 4 parts is lush.

      2. the 8-operator synth engine was introduced only once in the very cool FS1r… which also had formant filtering & killer onboard effects. IMO still one of the best FM synths on the planet!

  3. That was a helpful and relatively informative demo. The piano sounds, strings, brass, etc are gorgeous. I also thought the FM synth was nicely showcased.

    The “motion control” though well executed is really nothing more than “realtime control”. Perhaps the addition of curves and depths could be rebranded as “MegaMatrix” or some other dumb marketing speak. It’s funny because they could have said something like: “This is ultra-high resolution realtime control, with no aliasing or stair-stepping, individual curve/depths per parameter, and advanced depth control and secondary depth for you tweakers.” No such claims. Just realtime CCs. Yawn. But nicely preprogrammed in the presets. Ok.

    I do like the combination of the ROMpler and FM engines. The FM with multiple wave shapes seems like the right way to get a very powerful palette of sounds. 1.75 GB of user sample flash is nothing to sneeze at either.

    As others have mentioned, it’s not clear how good the built-in sequencer is. Kurzweil’s K-series onboard sequencer is still the best-in-class workstation sequencer. But Yamaha could do better if it put the resources into it.

    Before people drop a bunch of hate about the sounds, they should know that a synth like this is what you make of it. If you like certain kinds of sounds, you might have to make your own. Everything I’m seeing here seems like it has the muscle to do lots of different things well.

    The price is a bit steep, but not really, if the engines deliver as promised, AND the built-in sequencer is advanced enough, AND the build quality is there; then this is a solid entry into this year’s market.

    Have you Motif users been happy with yamaha’s build quality & keyboard feel/response?

    1. I’m a Yamaha owner and have been impressed with their build quality since the DX synths of the 80’s.

      There are really very few synths that offer similar power and build quality to this, especially ones that are designed for players. The Roland JDXA is kind of a cool axe, but I wouldn’t want to gig with a synth that has that much plastic in the construction, and the red type on black color scheme.

      Dave Smith’s keyboards are built pretty well, but 6-voice polyphony doesn’t come close to cutting it for most live players. How do you do sustained pads, bell tones, etc, with six voices?

      The Montage has 20 times the polyphony as DSI’s synths, for about the same price. A better comparison might be one of Nord’s boards.

      I wish there were more options for well-made performance-oriented synths. It’s hard to get excited about mini keys, and most companies seem to be focusing on the entry-level market.

    2. Do you know if the sequencer on Kurzweil K-series is better or different than sequencer on the PC-series? I have a PC3K. I LOVE the way it sounds, & it’s KDFX effects processors are w/o question, the best there are on ANY keyboard/synthesizer. (including the Access Virus TI2, which I also own) But I don’t much care for the sequencer. I prefer the sequencer on my Korg Kronos X, or even my Triton. (then again, the sequencer interface is virtually identical on the Kronos/Triton)

    1. Oh my God, Brendan.
      You sadly did not even invent the flashy, uninformed reply, nor does it appear that you grasped the concept of the Montage.

      1. In all fairness to Brendan, with respect to the “glory knob”, his response is spot on. There isn’t anything new about assigning parameters to a knob or wheel, or having lights that flash around a wheel. The presenter does a pretty nice job of hiding his embarrassment about it.

        But yea, clearly there is more to this synth than an unfortunately underwhelming knob.

        The synthesis sure sounds good.

        1. I wouldn’t call a freely assignable controller for up to 32 parameters with individual neg/pos values, depth, and variable scales for each part underwhelming. If the blinking annoys, turn it off. The ease of use of how to assign the parameters to the super knob is nice as well. No need for an external controller, or loosing the modwheel to do that job. And the Montage has still a ribbon controller. That’s a lot of live controls for instant performance/soundscaping.

          1. If Yamaha wants to brag about a good mod-matrix, they should do that. The ability to assign multiple parameters to a single control should be a given.

            The innovation isn’t the knob, it’s a versatile & powerful mod-matrix– and those qualities should just apply to the all those controllers. It was revolutionary when Kurzweil did it in 1990.

          2. multiple parameters on each controller (even with their own depths and ranges) is a common feature in 90s and 2000s synths… nice to see it on a full featured synth tho.

            XY pads or joysticks could take the concept MUCH farther, or a multi-touch surface.

  4. Yamaha need to come up with something refreshingly new rather than a new Las Vegas choir pad and grand piano machine. Yamaha! put some young blood into your products, everyone.

    Nice Vegas Jazz

  5. The presenter clearly has his particular musical strengths, but that doesn’t mean that having good piano & orch samples is a bad thing.

    I’d say that if Yamaha has done the acoustic instruments well, it will be welcome. Up to now, orchestral & acoustic instrument sounds on workstations has been compromised either by limited memory or mediocre samples.

    The older blood will probably have the budgets to buy this, and to understand what it can do. (As older blood, myself, I’m interested in it, but I’ve got a young budget).

  6. Nice to see a NAMM video, for a change, that has good sound and doesn’t look like it was filmed during an earthquake.

    I’m interested in more info on FM-X. The info and demos they have on their site don’t tell you anything more than what the Yamaha guy covers in this video.

  7. I hope they will introduce a FM-X (only) synth with a 5 octave keyboard for all of us who are waiting for that “next DX7” …

    1. Anybody remember the FM synth mockups that were making the rounds about a year ago?

      They were just 3D models – but they showed how a modern DX7 might be a cool keyboard.

  8. Yeah, it all seems like the marketing power that Yamaha has is in full swing. In order to compete with the Korg Kronos the best thing they could think of was a one knob-change-all parameters. The SY-99 from 1991 had AWM an FM. So this is really a souped up SY-99? The Wavesequencing is old hat too, taken from the Korg Wavestation, which at some point Yamaha owned as well.
    There is already so much going on inside one preset, that musically it will be very challanging to fit it into a production. Seems like fun at first, but will tire pretty soon.

    1. “There is already so much going on inside one preset, that musically it will be very challanging to fit it into a production.”

      Haven’t you learned how to make your own synth presets yet? Keyboard presets are always designed to make the synth sound massive, usually with liberal concert hall reverb.

      Don’t judge a synth by its presets, but by how much power it gives you to make your own sounds!

  9. Im going to sound cruel and maybe controversial but I think these: “These demos are elegant talented pianist/performers using concepts like “EDM”.. “DJ” or “modern” trying to target older traditional buyers than don’t know how to create those styles and genres so with “words” they trying to sell an instrument that doesn’t sound “modern” or “DJ”.”

    what is the target market of these product???
    Looks that is for people that never use a ROMpler synth and loves colourful led lights. Its an expensive instrument so we can’t be soft with it.

    MONTAGE is a collection of presets with massive layers…. All those sounds can be found in synths from Korg or Kurzweil from the last decade or can be buy in ROMpler libraries.

    The FM is the only interesting element in these product but is obvious that the demos don’t want to show the interface or the way to edit those 8op. Im sure the FM part of the synth is the typical display of numbers like an EXCEL sheet. (Yamaha rigid interface style).

    I use to have one Motif in my arsenal of synths… it was a “preset synth” for cases I need to access “preset sounds in a hurry”,. MONTAGE is the same.

    1. These strengths might not appeal to you specifically, but that doesn’t make them worthless:

      First, all those GBs of sample ROM means that the orchestral and acoustic samples could begin to approach those from desktop VI’s. Those pianos sounded quite good, and I’m sure it is because they could sample them pretty extravagantly, likewise with the orchestral sounds.

      Second, if the synth engine with the ROMpler part is as capable as the FM part, it should be capable of getting close to where you want to get, and if not, load your own 1.75 GB of samples for the rest.

      Third, having a good quality built-in keyboard is a strong selling point, and I think Yamaha makes good ones.

      You can’t expect one demo to appeal to everyone– that is rare. It would make sense for them to give one to someone with more modern experience to appeal to the EDM nerds.

      It is profoundly lazy to refer to a synth as a “preset synth” unless the synth capabilities really aren’t there, or it is a nightmare to edit on.

    2. Romplers and preset synths are one thing.
      Sample and synthesis is another.
      And this has a FM synth engine as well.

      Calling this a rompler or preset synth is not fair, even if some people might use it as such, it is not what it is.

      To me it sounds overpriced.
      I would rather invest that money in the computer (you will still need a computer with this, but you can get a better one for the money you save) and softsynths and libraries.

      A multi parameter knob is nice, but if you use computers, you can have that already. And giving it a gimmicky name makes it sound so cheap.

      It feels like the only reason to get one of theese is that you dont trust your computer on a gig. But why dont yamaha and steinberg instead design a virtual instrument host hardware, that can be used for giging?
      Most dont use these to build their full arrangement in the studio. So on gigs they will have to make sound compromises cause they cant use the sounds they had in their computer.

  10. Not everyone wants a modular, or (yet another) analog subtractive synth. As a former synth guy, the real money is with the entertainers, cover bands, people who perform on weddings, etc.
    This instrument caters to this market.

  11. Everyone on here is a critic, huh?

    Frankly, in no way am I interested in Yamaha or in a new workstation, but this is a very impressive synth. The pianos were awesome, but those choirs sounded absolutely fantastic.

    The price seems right, this is a hell of a lot of workstation. If anything, it’s overwhelming.

  12. I think if the superknob had been a ribbon instead, then the reaction to this synth would be entirely different. An up-to-date version of the CS-80/GX-1 is what most people still crave, and I honestly believe this is it. I think the demos are only scratching the surface to what this monster is probably capable of and I’d love to hear what someone like Boris Blank or maybe even Vangelis would come up with using this instrument.

  13. after reading all of the negative comments on this thread and then reading the negative comments on other keyboard articles, it seems we can’t have it both ways…
    > It is refreshing to see a keyboard / synth demo from NAMM featuring someone who can actually play songs / music on the instrument, and I happen to know Blake is an excellent musician, and well respected in the MI industry.
    That said: I’d like to see Blake demonstrate the Korg Minilouge! 😉

    1. Not sure why you’d think that.

      Yamaha hasn’t said anything like that, and they’ve got some classic synths in their history that have synth engines that are even harder to wrap your brain around than FM synthesis.

      Yamaha is just saying this is the most advanced FM & AWM synth engines that they’ve made. And that’s saying a lot, because both can be extremely powerful synthesis tools.

      Devine clearly knows a lot about synthesis, so if he says something is ‘out there’, it’s out there. It sounds like he’s seen a prototype of something that hasn’t even been announced yet.

  14. Wow. It is $3500 for the 61 Key version ?

    Does it seem to have filters on par or close to Access Virus or Nord ?

    Romplers don’t usually.

    It won’t be a big seller at
    $3500. will it ?

    If it had 8 audio tracks and sampling so you could work without a Computer on extensive preproduction then
    go to Computer for Mix mastering and possibly other synths etc..-maybe this price might work …but it does not so…

  15. I’m with the last enquirer Robert, when he suggests where’s the 8 audio track recorder & the sampler?, this is puzzling, cos on the yamahasynth.com site & on YouTube, there’s absolutely No mention of the above!? Yet the demonstrations suggest that the Montage is a direct replacement for the XS & XF Workstations!? How can this be when there’s No audio recorder or sampler on Montage!?
    Here in the UK the cheapest price for the 61 key version is £2169.00 just in case anyone from the states wanted to know.

  16. Looking forward to user reviews. I bought an ES8 new and been waiting for something beyond the Motif line to move on. Would be nice to get away from the little editing screen on the ES8.

    Also have an SY99 and FS1R for the FM side of things, so considering the Montage as a replacement for all three. Would be great to pare down the gear count, although the filter in the FS1R is really wonderful so I might have to hang on to that.

    So I plan on getting one and maybe selling the others if the Montage provides the necessary punch. With two tone generators of 128 voices each, polyphony should be great. And 12 years since the ES for Yamaha to work on new AWM samples sounds about right to me.

  17. By the way folks, there is no sequencer on board. Just a simple performance recorder with no editing. The motion control sequencer is something separate.

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