Yamaha was showing their new 128 voice polyphonic Motif-Rack, a single rack space unit with two Modular Synthesis Plug-in System slots that let you add more voices, effects, and polyphony. The Motif-Rack ships with 84 MB of sounds standard (when converted to 16-bit linear format). The synthesis method is AWM2, and the unit is 16 part multi-timbral. There are 896 patches, 59 drum kits, and 128 multis. The user memory area allows for 256 user patches and 128 user multis.
The front panel of the Motif-Rack sports the usual headphone jack with volume control, a fairly large and informative LCD display, and alpha dial, and two rows of buttons giving access to the various menus fro programming the Motif-Rack. In my short time demoing the unit I found it logically laid out and easy to navigate. For example, there are dedicated multi, voice, effect, edit, utility, and arpeggio buttons. there are also dedicated bank switch, page, and increment/decrement buttons, audition, among others.
On the rear panel of the Motif-Rack is a USB port, SPDIf and Optical digital outputs, MIDI In/Out/Through, analog Output L/R, plus four assignable analog outputs. The unit has no word clock input, so the usefulness of the digital outputs is somewhat compromised in my opinion, but that is common on synths.
The Motif-Rack includes and all-new reverb, plus up to 4 simultaneous-use insert effects, along with 3-band equalization for each part.
In demoing the unit on headphones I noticed how clean and clear it sounded, and that the quality of the onboard effects was good. There is a wide variety of sounds onboard, and I particularily noticed the range and quality of the ethic "world" type sounds. The standards like EP's, organs, and basses were well represented too. I was surprised to notice that the Motif-Rack doesn't have an internal power supply, but instead requires an external wall wart. Not my favorite configuration, but it certainly didn't affect the sound in any negative way.
All told, this is a rack unit that is somewhat comparable to and holds its own against the likes of the Roland XV series, and is worthy of consideration for anyone considering a new ROMpler rack synth. The expansion cards allowing other forms of synthesis are a big plus. Also of note is how deep the unit is. There's a lot of electronics in there!