Yamaha Presents the Reface Series
Finally, there's an end to all rumours and speculation. With the Reface series, Yamaha has introduced four new products that are small in size, but deliver a grand performance.
Back in the day, music equipment was generally a tad larger than it is now. The first organs weren't instruments so much as structures, and the first synthesizers were basically entire laboratory walls filled with patch connectors. Fortunately, things have changed a bit since then. Yamaha offers proof of that by capturing the essence of four main trends in pop music history - electric pianos, organs, FM synthesizers and traditional subtractive synthesizers - in four lightweight instruments. There's a Reface model for each trend: modern synthesizers with a similar exterior, but specific interfaces and applications each.
Let's start off with electric pianos. Long before digital pianos (like the Yamaha Clavinovas) were introduced, many companies were already trying to manufacture decent portable pianos. An acoustic piano produces an amazing sound, but musicians can't be expected to lug around 30-stone instruments from stage to stage, after all. Various classic instruments, such as the Rhodes, the Wurlitzer and the Clavinet, first saw the light of day. Yamaha's very own CP80, too, boasted quite a remarkable sound. In the Reface CP, Yamaha has managed to capture all of these legendary pop icons, as well as a Toy Piano. In total, this compact little synth offers you a choice of six models.
Everyone knows that pianos are quite heavy, but organs aren't featherweights either. Bringing a large Hammond B3 with you on stage is certainly a daunting task. In search of a more portable solution, combo organs were developed. Yamaha even issued a couple themselves with the YC series. The Reface YC combines five popular organs from that heyday: a Hammond, a Vox, a Farfisa, an Ace Tone and Yamaha's own YC-45D. Ace Tone? That's right - this company was founded by the same man who founded Roland. The music industry is certainly a small world...
FM synthesis - which delivered a crushing blow to its analogue counterpart back in the 1980s - is a form of sound synthesis that allows for a plethora of possibilities. The Reface DX offers a choice of four operators and twelve algorithms that, with a little skill, can be used to create thousands, nay, ten thousands of exceptionally musical sounds. FM is versatile - its palette includes xylophones, marimbas, vibraphones, synthetic horns, synthetic sounds, sound effects and many others. It isn't the simplest form of synthesis, and definitely requires a lot of your time, but your efforts will be greatly rewarded.
Even though it isn't the CS80 some hoped for - which wouldn't have fitted inside such a compact housing anyway - the Reface CS is still quite an interesting device. Like many models from the 1980s, in essence it's a subtractive synthesizer, which means it has an oscillator that is controlled by a filter. The Reface CS is a virtual analogue synth that features a single oscillator with various waveforms and variations like PWM. An LFO with several waveforms, an LPF and an ADSR envelope are at your disposal. The LFO can be freely routed to various parameters and, rather remarkably, the ADSR can be proportionally routed to the amplitude and filter. These terms might not mean much to you right now, but once you have the Reface CS under your fingertips, you'll soon figure it out. Creating sounds is surprisingly simple, and you'll quickly know your way around this Yamaha synth.
The Reface series
All of the Reface models share a few common characteristics. Most importantly, they all feature an effects section, with specially selected effects for each model. The Reface YC (the organ model), for instance, has a rotary effect, while the Reface CP (the piano model) has a tremolo effect. All models are equipped with the same keyboard, which consists of 37 velocity-sensitive mini keys. On the back of the Refaces you'll find outputs, a headphone connector, a USB port and a small DIN-MIDI. A breakout cable is included, so you basically have a regular MIDI in/out at your disposal.
The Reface models have a compact design of approximately twenty inches wide, and weigh less than 4.5 pounds. Six AA batteries suffice as a power supply, although you can also use a power adapter. As they have built-in speakers, these portable instruments make great holiday companions. If you plan on taking yours with you on the road, a Yamaha SC-Reface gig bag, which has been specifically developed for the Reface series, will certainly come in handy.
Featuring the characteristics of legendary instruments in a compact housing, these Yamaha synthesizers are a fantastic investment. Decide for yourself which model suits your needs and preferences best. The DX caters to synth wizards in particular, while the CS is a decent basic synth that's great for prog rock leads, for instance. The YC and the CP are more conventional models, and represent the best of classic organs and pianos respectively. If you're a fan of the legendary Hammond sound, the Supertramp Wurly or the Stevie Wonder Clavi, these Reface models are the right choice for you. Pick your favourite, and enjoy your very own Yamaha Reface!