Synth Site: Yamaha: MU-10: User reviews Add review
Average rating: 4.0 out of 5
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MICKEY MOUSE a part-time user writes:

posted Monday-Oct-21-2002 at 09:07
Alex Fedida a hobbyist user from England writes:
Oops, that should be four out of five, not two!

Rating: 4 out of 5 posted Sunday-May-16-1999 at 11:57
Alex Fedida a hobbyist user from England writes:
The MU10 is a pretty remarkable module at the price - the XG sounds are quite something.

I found that this module's greatest let-down in terms of the patches were the strings, specifically when played in the upper-octaves. The violin/viola patches sadly sound nothing like the instruments that they are supposed to represent, with an almost rubbery quality to them. The string ensembles - although reasonably good - just sound a tad too synthesized when used liberally or as a lead.

Things get better with the strings as you move to the lower notes though - some of the XG string ensembles (Velo Strings, for instance) and the solo instrument patches (Cello, Contrabass) perform very well when played between the 1st and 3rd octaves.

Although the sax patches were quite bad I've not yet heard a synth that can do a good saxaphone, and the horns more than compensate - I was blown away by the XG "Trumpet2" patch, which sounds so realistic, it was hard to tell it wasn't a real trumpet. The GM "Trumpet" patch on the same unit pales in comparison. The french-horn patches also sound highly realistic, although not quite as much when used up-front - try pushing them further back in the mix, harmonising the lead. When used in this way I was very pleased with the results.

The synth pads are first-rate, and the drum kits are very good too, with plenty of bite and thump. The piano patches are acceptable and very realistic, but don't have the weight or depth of an acoustic piano. I also found that, in extensive piano sessions with the MU10, I tired of the sound after a while. This was in trying to perform acoustic/solo piano pieces however - for dance/techno the piano on this synth would be ideal.

I like the XG "Dream" piano patch a lot (the piano part is strangely preferable to the Acoustic Grand), the background ambience is just subtle enough as to not interfere with the piano, yet adds space and colour to slow tracks and ballads.

The synth bass sounds can rumble the floor, and the acoustic/electric bass guitars are clean and funky. Both nylon and steel-strung GM acoustic guitars definitely cut the mustard - with the right effects, they can sound highly authentic and I would have no problems recommending them as leads.

Which leads me onto the digital effects processors, which are nothing short of stunning. Try plugging a microphone into one of the two analogue jack inputs on the back and run some of the effects over the top of it (Yamaha's XG Edit tool is perfect for this). You can sit there for hours happily making your voice sound like Darth Vader, or pretending you're addressing an auditorium or stadium, or changing the pitch and imagining you're doing a movie trailer voice-over.

As the effects are MIDI-controllable, you can use the analogue inputs to mix in dry samples from a seperate sampler unit, or your computer's sound card, and control their sound via a MIDI channel with your sequencer. I found this to be very effective with percussion samples where I could control the amount of reverb and the volume using the MU10, as opposed to having my computer process the sound in real-time, eating up processing power.

I wouldn't have any hesitation using some of the sounds from the MU10 in a professional environment, if it were not for the ridiculous noise level on its only output. A headphone jack on the side, with a worryingly plasticky analogue volume control slider, sits the other side of the internal headphone pre-amp. When recording to Minidisc, the noise level sometimes sets off the sync-record!

I wouldn't mind betting that it's the pre-amp that adds most of the noise. It's my intention at some stage to take my MU10 apart and attempt to solder another output onto the circuit board before the pre-amp stage in order to get a cleaner signal out of the unit, and also to run a better quality cable from it as the quality of most standard headphone-jack Y-adapters is dubious.

Apart from the noise level, though, the general quality of the sound in audiophile terms is really quite good. When used with decent cables, recorders, and an offboard compressor it has the potential to deliver a very acceptable sound. At the price, it's stunning.

The MU10 is also a very practical piece of equipment - not only does it have standard DIN-plug MIDI inputs, but it can be connected to a Windows-based computer via a serial cable, using Yamaha's supplied serial-port MIDI drivers. This has worked very well for me. Although sometimes it has trouble keeping up, timekeeping is perfectly acceptable. This serial interface means that the MU10 could be used with a laptop that doesn't have a MIDI interface. It will also run off 6xAA batteries, and the headphone jack means you can run a pair of regular in-the-ear headphones from it. It is just about pocket-sized so you can slip it into your jacket, and - yes, you guessed it - you can sequence your favourite tracks on the move, or perform where there is no power, or limited electrical outlets.

The MU10 is a triumph of technology at the price. Although some sounds aren't so good, and some XG sounds are missing completely, when programmed properly Yamaha's baby can produce some incredible results. Personally I think that this technology is wasted on the market Yamaha seem to be targeting it at (the gamer and .MID file player) - it definitely has a place in any MIDI-based home studio on a budget.

Rating: 2 out of 5 posted Sunday-May-16-1999 at 11:56
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