Synth Site: Yamaha: EX-5: User reviews Add review
Average rating: 4.5 out of 5
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inagaki a hobbyist user from japan writes:

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Sunday-Jan-28-2001 at 22:01
Dahwoud a part-time user from France writes:
For people interested by what ex5 can produce ... check ....

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Wednesday-Nov-08-2000 at 12:48
Nathan Belomy a professional user from Usa writes:
Yamaha ex5 is a very nice tool. For one, once you learn the interface you just fall in love with it, I have tried everything that competes with it.... the roland jp 8000, the korg trinity, those synths suck ass. I feel sorry for the people that own them. Roland just now sucks, maybe they made good stuff in the past but now thier stuff is a joke from a musical standpoint, korg's older stuff is better then the trinity, I mean that thing seems easier to use then the ex5, but I am sorry, Yamaha knows what the hell is going on. They just made the keyboard with everything working together, down to how the buttons for choosing the sound, can turn off elements and be used for like everything, now that is one crazy engineer.

I don't get what is bad about the timing, I have made tons of different songs on the thing and I can't notice a probelm and I am like a rythum head

The price, and what it can do is insane. Get the scsi, make samples and edit on computer and load them into that sucker.... you will shit in your pants.

Its really funny, people say this synth isn't a beginers synth.... which is funny because this is my first keyboard, my mom noticed that I really liked techno music and she got me one when I was 16.... at first I would just turn it on and play the sounds... I mean I played piano as a kid and had to freshin up, It honestly took me to 18 to learn then thing, maybe because when I was 16 and 17 I smoked way to much weed.

Now I know the thing like 80% still working on sound programing.... that goes really complex....

If someone was to steal my ex5.... they would be dead!

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Monday-Oct-30-2000 at 02:37
Brian Smith a hobbyist user from Dallas, TX, USA writes:
I've had this thing for only a few days, but I'm more than satisfied. From what I understand, it's not all that huge in the US, but if you head east, you'll find that it's really popular (and they even seem to have a silver version).

In my various synthesis and MIDI classes, we used this synth (along with a K2500, MemoryMoog, DX7, and others), so I'm not a newbie to the machine. It's very, very deep, with a wider range of functionality (IMHO) than any other synth I've ever known.

I won't get all gushy over it, since Aaron has covered it quite well - I'll just mention a few things. While I don't have the breath controller I have to agree that the VL engine is AMAZING. Even just playing with the mod wheels, you can find a far eastern flute sound and create subtle trills and other effects with it. It's jaw dropping as well as inspiring.

No, it's not simple to program this synth (not overly obtuse either), but once you get over the learning curve, you'll find the OS is easy to navigate, and that you can create damned near any sound you can imagine. Bottom line is this: if you've got any background in programming synths, you'll find that the EX5 has boundaries that you'll never be likely to reach; if not, then you'll have to have a little patience in learning, but you'll be well rewarded.

I haven't used the sampler or sequencer much, so I can't comment on those. Others have mentioned faults in these, but you have to remember that no synths are "awesome" in this area... in each and every synth review, someone will comment that they would rather use a dedicated sampler or sequencer. WELL DUH. :-) No synth is going to get significantly better (the Triton being a case-in-point). If you had the capabilities of a full-fledged sampler and sequencer, you'd be paying 5x times as much as you did anyways. Besides, I would have to recommend your PC as a sampler/sequencer - it'll outperform anything. Pick up Gigasampler and you'll find a sampled Piano that has every key sampled at various velocities - not just transposed/whatever samples of a few different keys. Pick up Logic/Cubase/whatever, and you'll find a much more versatile sequencer than any piece of hardware.

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Saturday-Oct-21-2000 at 22:36
Aaron a professional user from Nashville writes:
The EX5R is a loaded machine. I like to think of it as a 747. It can take you far, but there sure are a lot of dials and switches on the dash.

This is not a beginner's synth. I say that because I am a beginner when it comes to actually using a board/module that has extensive sound design capabilities, much less sampling and sequencing. That said, I have been able to do quite a bit with this machine in a relatively short amount of time.

I am currently running OS Version 1.03, but was able to request the latest OS version (1.13) by contacting Yamaha on their website. The chips are supposed to arrive any day. They are free courtesy of Yamaha.

This synth is EXTREMELY deep. Therefore, editing the Patches (Voices in Yamaha's vocabulary) is as easy or as complex as you want it to be. Each Voice has up to Four layers of Waves which have their own Filters, Zones, Velocity settings, Effects settings, Envelopes, LFO settings, etc. Obviously, this leaves you with a mind numbing set of possibilities for sound design. On the other hand, you could create a simpler Voice with just one wave out of over 1000 in the built in ROM, or with a Sampled wave form. Fortunately, the six knobs plus the data dial make moving through the parameters and pages a cinch. Also, the screen size is unusually large for a rack module which makes edting easier as far as having visual readouts of the envelopes, filters, zones, and loop points in Sample mode.

As far as manuals go, I suppose the Yamaha manual isn't going to make the NY Times best seller's list, but I could understand most of it and I'm not an expert at this stuff. The problem with this manual (and most other manuals for that matter) is that they are organized by feature rather than by what you want to do with it. In order to use the manual to help you, you have to know which part of the machine will help you accomplish your goal. If you don't know that, you're stuck flipping pages. Fortunately, this synth has a large contigent of loyal users all over the web and there are folks at Yamaha that have put out tutorials that help tremendously. I was able to download 'The Joy of EX', 'EX Power Users Guide', and 'tEXtures' tutorials off of the net at These are much more fun to read and they tell you how to use the EX using examples. Also, the EX5 Tech website is a great place to pose questions to other users who usually provide an ingenius answer within a few hours. Here's the link Check it out.

Features: 10 Here are the standout features:

4 differnt synthesis methods--AWM, AN, VL, FDSP (SY's don't have last three synth engines) 126 note polyphony in AWM (SY's don't have this) 79 high quality, very cool effects (SY's don't have this) 8 track pattern sequencer 16 track song sequencer Sampling

The total list of features is long, so rather than duplicate it, here's the link to Yamaha's site which lists them out:

If you've researched this synth at all, you've probably heard a ton of disgruntled comments about the DSP limitations in Performance mode as well as the slow SCSI interface. If you haven't, then I'll fill you in. First off, here's the deal on DSP limitations in performance mode:

In addition to traditional PCM (Yamaha calls it AWM) synthesis, Yamaha provides 3 additional very cool and very unique synth engines--AN (analog modeling), VL (accoustic modeling made famous on the VL1), and FDSP (a per note effect modeling algorithm). Voices using these synth methods are not playing back waves from ROM, they're complex algorithms calculated in real time using the DSP in the EX. This is the same DSP that the EX uses for the Insert Effects. This isn't a issue in Voice mode, but when you want to creat a Multi-Timbral Performance you can only use one of these DSP Voices, and your use of effects is limited. Because of this, as you're scrolling through the Voices in your banks while setting up a Performance, you will run into a message that says 'DSP Resources Full. A differenct Voice has been selected.' This message can be headache, but it doesn't have to be. The simple workaround to avoiding this message popping up all the time is to separate the AWM voices from the 'Hot' DSP voices by using one Internal user bank for AWM and the other for the DSP Voices. That way you can freely select from your AWM bank without seeing the message. Then you can go to the other Internal bank to get a DSP Voice. Also, the EX has a built in Sampler. So you can Re-Sample DSP Voices or AWM Voices that use tons of effects and then use the resampled voice in the performance to cut down on your DSP usage.

The problem with Sampling is that you need to back up your Samples to external storage devices (either the built in floppy, or SCSI) since the RAM (expandable up to 72MB is volatile and clears out when you power down. Also, the SCSI is slow. This is not a "bug" as others have called it. It is just plain slow. It is due to a design in the motherboard and won't change with new OS releases. This could create severe inconveniences for players who use samples live since they would have to account for the slow SCSI time before their gigs.

The solution is in Flash RAM. You can get it in 16, 32 and 64 MB pieces. The 16 Meg is around $250.00 and you should really build that into the cost of the EX. Flash RAM is non-volatile memory so your Samples stay loaded even when you power off. So if you're using a lot of samples, just load them in at home and get everything the way you want. When you turn on the EX at your gig the samples will be ready and waiting for you--well worth the cost.

With the Flash Ram, the EX goes from a machine with tons of potential and some unfortunate shortcomings to a sound design/music production monster. There are some great EX format samples out there too, so having the Flash RAM in effect gives you a new bank of sounds with unlimited resources since you can constantly change the waves you are using.

The sequencer functions are great for laying down ideas. Sure, PC based sequencers are way better than hardware based ones, but this one still holds it's own and you can use it live. You can record patterns in the 8 track pattern sequencer, and then map them to a key and play them back in real time. You can also insert a pattern into a song sequence. It also has groove templates that will tweak your beats to fit a groove and make them sound more organic. Another cool thing about the sequencer is that you can overdub controller movements that are controlling parameters like filter frequency, panning, effect depth, etc in real time.

I haven't been through all the effects, but they are really ingenius. It has your standard reverbs, choruses, and delays, but it also comes with some great effects like jump wave, which cuts up the wave and plays it back in a different order, amp simulator, auto synth, compression, exciter, and vinyl record, which make your Voice sound like it's being played off an old record player (great for Motown songs).

It has plenty of MIDI capabilities that are way over my head, but the guy I bought this from used it in his studio with Pro Tools, Cubase, and about 5 other rack synths and it fit right in.

Expressiveness/Sounds: 10 The sounds are the real star of this machine. If you are buying this as a workstation, you will be moderately pleased with it and very pleased if you get the Flash RAM. But if you are buying this because you want to have unique sounds that you won't hear in every Pop song on the radio, then the EX will be thrilling you for a very long time.

The pads are constantly evolving. The organs are full of grit. The vintage keys like Rhodes, Wurli, Clav are great.

Sure, it can hold its own with Korg's Siver Beasts when it comes to generating the pristine sample based sounds that you find on quite a few of today's records, but it really shines when it comes to delivering sounds at the cutting edge. And heck, if there's a sound on the Trinity/Triton that you just have to have, find a friend with one and sample it. :-)

The guitar presets are pretty amazing for a synth. Especially using the FDSP guitar pickup algorithm and the Amp Modeling algorithm. With some clever playing techniques and appropriate mixing in a performance, you can fool your guitar player buddies into thinking you recorded someone playing a Telecastor running through a Fender Amp and somehow got that into your sequence.

The VL sounds are unbelievable in their realism, especially when you pick up a BC3 breath controller and plug it right into the front of the rack. You can edit parameters like embouchure, pressure, growl, scream, and other physical attributes of instruments and then control them in real time with BC, aftertouch, mod wheels, or the 6 Knobs on the rack itself.

I'm not a analog freak, but the AN section of the EX is turning me into one in a hurry. There are some pretty freaky sounds that can come out of this section. If you don't know where to start in programming them, just go to and download some. You'll learn what others have done and then take the sounds in other directions.

With so much control of the sounds, you can program in a great deal of randomness that makes your sounds come alive as opposed to just looping over and over again. They really do help spur your creativity.

Reliability: 9 I haven't used it live yet, but with the new OS, I wouldn't hesitate. The early OS versions had some hitches in them apparently, but the new ones are free and easy to install. I've heard others report that as soon as they upgraded the OS, the bugs went away, so I'm not worried.

Customer Support: 10 Yamaha works on a call back system. You call and give them your problem and they call you back within 12-24 hours with an answer. I had a problem getting the arpegiattor to work and they called me back within 4 hours with an answer. I'm sure that people's experiences will vary depending on who they get on the other end of the line.

Also, you can contact them at their service website and submit questions that way. They will respond via email with your answer within a day. That's how I ordered my OS chips.

Overall Rating: 10 My only wish is that it had additional DSP to handle the 'Hot' Voices, but at the price they are going at, I could buy another one just to give me the extra DSP and still come out under 2 Grand!

There are always new pieces of gear coming out that look so tempting. The Triton is very powerful and comes with Korg's patented touch screen and very intuitive user interface. It also happens to come with a heftier price tag. I just keep thinking about all of the potential in this box that I haven't even tapped into yet. It will keep me busy creating music for a long time. For the price I paid ($800.00 used, near mint from the Harmony Central classifieds) I got 4 synth engines, a sequencer, arpegiattor, studio effects unit, and a halfway decent sampler all in one box. You could have a better set up if you went out a bought each of these things separate, but you'd also be out about 3-4 Grand more. If you can afford that, more power to ya, but you'll still be hard pressed to find a more powerful, usable harware based synthesis tool anywhere.

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Wednesday-Sep-27-2000 at 14:04
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