Sonic LAB: Yamaha MOX6 Review PT1

US Synth engine, audio in and USB      17/06/11
    MP4 11:0 mins    

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Yamaha’s latest MOX Music Production Workstation borrows heavily from the Motif synth engine - actually it IS the same engine as the  Motif XS, but with reduced polyphony and no sampling.
We’re looking at the Yamaha MOX6, the 61 key version - its got a nice solid synth action key-bed - though no aftertouch. The build is not super hardcore solid, but its plenty sturdy enough  - Yamaha's thinking was to cut the weight down and make it something you could move around quite easily (MOX6 weighs around 6kg) - as the MOX is definitely a performance machine - as well as a workstation.

In this part of the review , I’m looking at the synth engine, effects and the USB interface - as there is just too much to fit into a YouTube -friendly time. The synth engine is  AWM2 with XA - eXpanded Articulation - essentially its got a wave ROM (355MB) for oscillator source,  plus Yamaha’s subtractive synth engine with five DSP effects to dial in. You do need to install the MOX editor as part of the Studio Manager 2 package - this is free (mac/pc)which will give you access to all the synth parameters - these are not accessible via the front panel.

The starting point is the Voice - this is like a single program mode - although we can have up to 8 Elements (Oscillators) which can be split and layered and mixed and routed to the effects in a variety of ways. Each Element has a single wave with pitch envelope, multimode VCF (18 types) VCF envelope,VCA and envelope plus a single LFO. There's a second LFO at the common voice level - with some interesting user defined waves as well as all the usual.

You have plenty of waves to select from - covering pianos, orchestral, drums, synths and more - a  total of 2,670 waveforms, many are multi-sampled and sound pretty decent.

Next we have the Performance mode where up to four Voices can be combined  - good for live playing and arpeggio setups. Finally, there’s the Song  mode gives you up to 16 multi-timbral parts for use either with the on board 226,000 note capacity sequencer or via your DAW using MIDI either from the USB interface or MIDI ports.

There’s a good selection of sounds here it definitely has a Yamaha character - I think it has something to do with the quality of the waves and digital to analog convertors on the stereo audio outputs, but to my ears plenty to browse with the Category and Favourite system - as well as enough synthesis for  creating your own unique patches.

USB or Not To B
Built in to the MOX is a USB audio and MIDI interface - in fact there’s a dedicated VU meter showing the signal level of the A/D input (stereo jack only) or mixed synth and A/D. You also get a dedicated DAW return fader and A/D gain knob on the top panel.
Sample rate is fixed at 44.1kHz 24-bit which is a shame, but as I said, they do sound pretty decent to my ears - would have been nice to see Combi connectors for plugging a mic directly in mind..
The audio interface can function as a stereo IO or a 4 in two out - 2 from the Synth engine and 2 from the A/D input which can have  its own two insert effects independent from the synth parts.

Speaking of effects, you get up to four insert effects - A and B on the synth and A/B on the input, these can be routed series or parallel, plus two System effects on sends plus a Master effect - which is applied at the end of the synth engine chainand is useful for mastering and finishing type effects. There’s a good selection of Yamaha’s algorithms, including some from their VCM library which we’ve seen in their  digital consoles. They sound pretty good and there’s quite a selection - with the insert effects providing an integral part of the sound of the synth engine. You can also modulate and route a number of the parameters from various synth elements.
One criticism I had was that there is limited hardware control - from the 8 roatary encoders you only get to assign two to parameters of your choice, and not all at that. I wasnt unable to find a way to control the FX send on the A/D input for instance - useful if you want to control the effects level on a mic input...

Part 1 End
The Yamaha MOX 6  has a lot of features to get through, so I have decided to split the review into a couple of parts - initial impressions are extremely favourable - initially i was a bit overwhelmed - but as I have become familiar with Yamaha’s way - its become fairly straighforward to use. I think the synth engine is actually fairly powerful, albeit you need the MOX editor to get in deep but there’s plenty to keep you occupied once your inside.

So any further questions, please leave in the comments below.
coming up in Part 2 - performance and song modes, and DAW control.

Yamaha MOX 6 - £1051, $1499 RRP - you will find it cheaper if you shop around.


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