Published November 3rd, 2017 by John G.
Keyboard, synthesizer, workstation, arranger: each of us may have different ideas about what these words mean, about each category's intended or ideal audience or even about whether such terms retain their meanings as the once-distinct lines between them are further blurred and individual functions further modularized in both hardware and software.
Computer-based digital audio workstation devotees and software instrument enthusiasts may question the ongoing relevance or utility of traditional all-in-one keyboard workstations while promoting the flexibility and updatability of their software setups, but professional gigging and studio musicians may prefer to have all that functionality rolled up into a single, unifying user interface and, perhaps more importantly, may need the whole setup to be rock-solid reliable, with no multi-vendor compatibility issues that could result in a gig- or session-wrecking crash. Both points of view are equally valid and reflect different priorities, preferences and proclivities.
As the largest manufacturer across all categories of keyboard products by just about any measure, Yamaha deserves some benefit of the doubt in terms of understanding these shifting demographics based on data and feedback it has about how its customers use their existing products and what they want out of new ones; certainly with some of its recent product introductions Yamaha has shown a desire to update or even redefine the long-standing keyboard categories that have for many years defined its keyboard lineup and its customers' understanding of same.
Witness, for example, the mild category-related consternation from some quarters that greeted last year's introduction of the Yamaha Montage Music Synthesizer. Conceptually, is Montage a slimmed-down MOTIF or a beefed-up FS1R? Yes. Is Montage a synthesizer or a workstation? Sure! Montage seems like a potential upgrade path for a MOTIF owner, but there's no onboard sampler or sequencer? Yes, to both.
What may have seemed like surprising design choices in Montage should make much more sense with the introduction of the Yamaha Genos Digital Workstation, which is aimed not only at Tyros performers but clearly also at studio-based songwriters and producers who might have previously preferred MOTIF. Clearly, Yamaha saw greater overlap in needs between users of MOTIF and users of Tyros that it did, say, between users of MOTIF and users who wanted to delve deeper into sound design and synthesis or gigging musicians who just wanted a solid, versatile performance keyboard without any sampling, sequencing or multi-tracking capabilities.
While many keyboard products purposely limit their scopes and feature lists in order to hit certain price points, to be portable, to offload some functions to computers or companion products, etc., Genos represents arguably the closest we've seen to a 'say no to nothing,' everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach – check out our in-depth overview video for the full rundown on all its multitudinous sounds and styles, its massive polyphony and multi-tracking audio/MIDI sequencer, and its wealth of connectivity and computer integration options.
More generally, if you're in the market for a new high-end keyboard, we encourage you to put aside any long-standing category preconceptions you may harbor and take a good look at Yamaha's recent moves to overhaul and modernize its product lineup in keeping with the ever-evolving use cases and customer requests to which it's obviously been paying close attention. You may not find the iterative updates you might expect from familiar families, with nary a Tyros 6 or MOTIF XY to be found, but with Montage and now Genos you might find something even better focused on your particular needs and capabilities. If the only constant is change, give Yamaha credit for embracing it!
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