Synth Site: Yamaha: Motif: User reviews Add review
Average rating: 4.4 out of 5
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Jonathan a hobbyist user from USA writes:
I spent almost half a year (literally) researching online and talking to people before buying the Motif, and I'll try to convey some of my findings here. (Interestingly enough, I have read many, many posts on the Motif support board by new Motif owners that describe the time they spent researching before buying the board...)

At any rate, here are my thoughts, somewhat in the order I had them as I learned the board (I've had it around a month).

Looks/First Impression: The Motif is impressive just to look at, and looks like it's built very solidly (electricians who've taken it apart say it's well-built inside too). A huge majority of the board's surface is made of sturdy metal (not plastic!). I do wish they'd make the Motif in black, but I have to admit that the silverness and unique shape make the Motif the hottest-looking synth on the market right now, hands down. It doesn't look as toy-like as the pictures make it look, and the metal is also a darker, more professional shade than the pictures might lead you to believe. This synth makes even non-musicians drool.

The Action: I have a Motif 7. Everyone seems to like the weighted action of the Motif 8, but I wanted the "giggability" of the 7, so I chose it instead. The action is top-notch: lightly weighted and very responsive, making fast runs effortless and communicating expression well. However, I don't like the fact that the action makes a soft (but audible) 'click' as it bottoms out on higher-velocity strikes (also note that the action bottoms out well before you'd expect if you play a lot of real pianos). The action is also a bit 'springy'; it will push back on your fingers if you lift them slowly... combine that with the light weighting, and the psychoacoustic result is that the pianos feel a little bit thin -- an illusion that is very quickly removed when you play back a recording of whatever you've just played. And speaking of sounds...

Sounds: The Motif has sounds. Ohhh yes, it has sounds. I'll start with the piano sounds, since that's what I use most.

First off, Yamaha _makes_ pianos, so they know their stuff in the piano department. The Motif has the most beautiful Yamaha grand piano sounds I've ever heard, bar none. The A01 PowerGrand is good standalone, but its clear and sharp sound is excellent at cutting through mixes. They also threw a Steinway (B?) sample in the board, so you aren't limited to Yamaha sounds. (I personally would have liked some more generic grand sounds -- Yamaha and Steinway both have very distinctive sounds.) There are also a variety of effect-laden pianos (dance, house, 78rpm, more) that are well-done and useful.

Electric piano sounds -- same thing. Yamaha makes them, Yamaha knows them. On the E-piano (and keyboard sound group in general), the keyboard is especially expressive and responds to increased velocity with more than just increased volume: you can hear a little growl and power that grows as you hit the keys harder.

On string/woodwind/orchestral/other acoustic sounds, I was both pleasantly surprised and a bit disappointed. The strings are much more realistic than any other board I've tried, and they're quite gorgeous in isolation. However, the nuances of the strings makes them more difficult to hide in a mix: try out the cello, for instance, and you can almost feel the bow vibrating on the strings, but that realistic sound is hard to ignore in a track. This is true with most of the Motif's orchestra sounds: very realistic, acoustically accurate, but a little more challenging to integrate in a mix than your average synth voices. Chambers, trios, ensembles are especially nice; the Flute is amazing. The Background strings are okay, but I would have liked more variety in that category.

Pads are decent, if unremarkable, but choirs are disappointing: they sound nice, but the Motif lacks a realistic choir sample and has sythesized ooh's and ahh's instead.

Techno/dance sounds abound on the Motif, and since I don't do too much with those genres, I'll pretty much leave them alone, except to say that the sounds on the Motif are both plentiful and exploratory/cutting-edge. Lots of weird blips and beeps and swoops. Plentiful drumsets. No complaints, other than that I would have liked a lot more quantity/variety of preset rhythms.

One of the cool things about the Motif's sounds is the fact that they're actually organized by category. Look at a picture of the Motif: 16 of the buttons on the right of the keyboard are for sound groups. If you want a violin, look in the "Strings" section. Simple. I'm rather surprised that few other synth manufacters have caught on to this approach.

Functionality/UI: The Motif is advertised as an all-in-one synth, and I'd have to agree with that judgement. It samples. It can cut up samples into little bits so you can change the tempo without resampling. It sequences. It has lots of good effects, and writing songs on it is fairly easy. It integrates MIDI and audio effortlessly (one of its big selling points for me.)

The Motif suffers a little from a difficult UI (for those not used to Yamaha gear) and a screen that pales in comparison to those used in Korg's Triton and Roland's Fantom. I felt that the UI was reasonbly well-constructed and stable, and many UI complaints have more to do with the sheer complexity of this silver beast than any faults in the UI itself.

Cutting-edge features: The Motif designers deserve to be slapped around a bit and then given a huge party.

The Motif has a huge variety of features that are cutting-edge, and then a handful that makes you wonder what Yamaha was thinking.

Good stuff: Connectivity. The Motif connects via MIDI in/out/through. And USB. And has a Smart Media card reader. And like 5 1/4" jacks. And a digital out (using a laser). And SCSI. And mLAN (with expansion, supposedly coming). And a foot pedal and a sustain switch. The back of the Motif is completed coated with holes for plugging it into stuff -- look at the panel views on Yamaha's site! If you like plugging your keyboard into your computer, mixer, digital recorder, external MIDI device, etc, all at once -- this is the board for you!

The Motif also has some excellent software features. Patterns are a great way to make songs -- anyone who's ever used a tracker can attest to that. The Integrated Sampling Sequencer (sample slicer) is way cool.

The Motif also is perhaps one of the most expandable synths on the market. It can take up to 3 PLG boards, which add more than voices -- they actually add synth engines, so you can get analog boards, vocal harmonizers, piano emulators, you name it. (This also means that PLG voices don't steal the polyphony of the main synth!) The disadvantage of PLG is that the PLG boards' engines are not integrated too well with the Motif's: you can't use a PLG voice as part of layer with a Motif internal voice, and deep editing of stuff in the PLG through the Motif's UI is just not possible.There are some other aspects of the Motif that are absolutely lame.

One of them is the number of voices the Motif supports. 64 has been the standard for YEARS, and on a machine like the Motif, it gets limiting very quickly. Motif voices tend to be stereo and to use a lot of "elements" (Yamaha-speak for waveforms), so you can literally chew up all 64 voices with a single sustained piano in no time at all. Supposedly a new OS will help fix this (although it won't increase polyphony, just improve voice allocation.)

Another is the Motif's SCSI interface and SIMM memory. How many people use SCSI anymore? Circuit City didn't even HAVE SCSI stuff because it's so old, although I'll begrudgingly admit that there aren't a lot of other choices for external drive connection. Motif also requires SIMMs for its sampler memory (ships with 4MB, can expand to 64MB). Those are barely even manufactured anymore and cost an arm and a leg -- literally 10 times more than the DIMM stuff you can plug into your computer. And what's with the 64MB limit on sampler memory? A small instrument sample and a few minutes of vocals and it's gone.

Finally, keep in mind that, unlike the Triton, the wave ROM on the Motif isn't flash ROM -- the presets are there to stay. The preset sounds are great, but you cannot replace them with your own; if you want to use your own samples, you need to load them into the sample memory (discussed above). The Motif's got 85MB of wave ROM, which probably explains why they were able to make the preset sounds so realistic.

Anyhow, so, final take: The Motif is the best synth I have ever had the pleasure to play. Period. It's considerably ahead of almost anything else on the market right now, feature-wise, and is very attractively priced. It looks good. It feels good. It sounds better. It has some shortcomings, but they're minor compared to the raw power and potential this monster has. 5 out of 5. No reservations.

I wouldn't recommend it to anyone new to keyboards because of its complexity, but if you're in the market for a workstation-class synth and you're willing to invest the time to learn it, I encourage you to give the Motif a spin before buying a Triton, Fantom, K2600, or the like. I've heard probably a half-dozen stories about people going in to stores intending to buy Tritons and walking out with Motifs instead. This synth is worth the time it takes to try it out.

Finally, as always -- let your hands, ears, and mind do the deciding. I have also heard of people who have returned their Motifs because they decided they decided they were just too complicated, or they felt the UI got in the way of their creative process, or ... eh, you get the picture. The Motif fits my needs like a glove. It may or may not fit yours. Happy synthing. (-:

Oh, and do check out Yamaha's motifator.com site if you're interested in this thing. They have reps there answering questions left and right from owners and non-owners alike, FAQ's galore, message forums with more info about the Motif than you'll probably ever need to know. (-: It's a good place to chat with Mo owners if you have specific questions about the Mo.

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Tuesday-Nov-20-2001 at 20:18
Tim R a hobbyist user from Canada writes:
I am a Newbie to music making, sampling, sequencing, midi etc. I have no basis for comparison, but here is my review as a peron starting from square zero with this synth. The physical look size layout and key feel is top notch. The expandibility is second to none for the price.I did alot of research, probably 1 year prior to purchase and of all the samples of songs and sounds generated on different keyboards, the Motif sounded the best with the most diverse array of sound samples. The OS is easy to learn and is logical. I have never used any other audio gear and had no problem within 1 month of purchase to build great songs. The manual is very difficult to follow but there is on line support at motifator.com where Yamaha techs and other users will answer all your questions as you go through the learning curve. I CANNOT GIVE THIS SYNTH ENOUGH PRAISE SIMPLY AWSOME (MY KNEES STILL SHAKE)

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Wednesday-Oct-24-2001 at 14:00
Steve Ennis a part-time user from USA writes:
I had literally been wandering through the doldrums of "synthopia" for several years, uninspired - until Motif! My first five minutes of going through the sounds and never finding a bad one didn't just hook me - I was gaffed! All my other instruments are now in cases in a dark corner of the room.

This is the one!

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Monday-Oct-22-2001 at 11:56
SMH Predator a hobbyist user from CH writes:
After several years without being productive in music I decided to dig in again. With no gear at all I was looking for a real good first shot which holds for a decade. So, after months of reviews and tests I decided for a Motif 8 AN/DX. It had the best support and performance compared to the price.... way best. Almost all other brands will sell those features separately, like sampling, scsi, digital out, big wave roms, plugins.

The superb keyboard action of the Motif 8 is very important to me, the workflow is very intuitive and helps you really to concentrate on your creativity. Ease of use, good looking, solid built, stable OS? Yepp.

Inside there is a whole new modular architecture like never before - no way that this should be a derived EX-5, come on :-). The sonic qualities of the waveforms and the effects make my ears drop off (even though it's 16bit@44Khz... if it's used properly it still sounds cool!) although I am used to Wilson speakers on Meridian/Krell... Just panning an instrument and placing it precisely into the soundstage... no problemo! Transparent effects without side effects... Yepp! I am still investigating what else is cool concerning sonic quality.

The processing power and the innovative connectivity speak for themselves. SPDIF, USB, SCSI, SMedia default, as well as Firewire (!!) available, can't wait for the windoze drivers and software honestly said :-).

Looking forward to the nearer future, mLAN is the way to go - even in a studio. For me as a highend oriented hobbytype user this will definitely make sense, recording and mixing and sequencing and performing with one cable? Small digital mixers with broadcast quality analogue and digital inputs who fetch it all into the mLAN network? Hell YES! For all who want to unify their old equipment in one network it's also the way to go. And last but not least the open bandwith limits, the low latency, and the future mLAN controller chips with more features and protocols guarantee real high bandwidth multimedia (finally this worn out word will make sense) for the next decade - ever thought about recording in discrete surround formats and synchronizing this with digital video and ban it on a dvd without having to invest above 200'000$? Let's say for 15'000$? Have a look at mLAN in some years... :-) For now it's 16bit@44Khz audio, in the nearer future the bandwith will continue to grow.

Yamaha is a driving force of innovation and quality. Period. I solemnly bow to the YamahaSynth staff, good work, good ideas.

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Wednesday-Oct-17-2001 at 16:32
tommy soesmanto a part-time user from china writes:
I'm a partime music programmer based in aussie, who is currently takin a long breakin' china to study the language. Comin to beijing i brought only my favourite rode mic and tascam tmd 1000 mixer. Once, I made a local muso and he took me to beijing biggest musical instument shop. And there was this on yamaha keyboard called the motif 6 which was catching my attention straight away. Being a yamaha fan, I could not resist to try...holy molly...the pianosoundwas so great..the one that I have been after for such a long time...trying other preset sounds...I was so amazed...I left there, could not stop thinking about the keyboard. After searching the net on what the motif is capable of....two weeks later I bought it, the main reason for buyin is its sampling capability....I am not dissapointed...sounds are all state of the art (really kick ass), the working of the sequencers however require some individual research to make it work in such a way that I want, the sampler quality is good (its original memory a bit too short though),... till now I still haven't mastered all of its capabilities. Overall, I believe I could be a better muso with this new wife from yamaha....Put it this way...the motif has recently helped me in getting a recording project in beijing...

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Monday-Oct-15-2001 at 10:46
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