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Yamaha Reface VL - Rumour

Remember? A while ago, Yamaha unveiled the Reface series: a line of portable synthesizers with built-in speakers. Now some other information has leaked - a picture, to be exact. Whether this is a concept rendering or a prototype remains unclear, but it seems to portray a Reface VL - a machine that could plug one of the last remaining gaps in Yamaha's long history of sound generation.

For a closer look at the VL, we'll have to travel back in time a bit to the early '90s. Not surprisingly, people had gotten tired of the static samples that were available at the time. Whereas virtual instruments nowadays have different articulations, transitions and variations, that was not the case back then. It was in the days of just 1, 2 or 4MB wave ROM capacity, which had to store everything, including the bird tweet and helicopter samples that nobody needed But that changed with the Yamaha VL series. 'Physical Modelling' became the new magic word. No longer would virtual instruments simply play back static samples; they would calculate the eventual sound using various complex formulas. These formulas would take into account various aspects that were entirely new for traditional synthesizers, but quite common for acoustic instruments. Embouchure, growl, tube length and the like suddenly became very important. In other words, synthesizers had to account for technique and an instrument's physical properties.

The VL Series - Classy Look and Vibrant Sound

Now, the VL series wasn't what you'd call affordable, especially as they were either monophonic or duophonic. Of course, they did look quite good - they weren't your average synthesizers with simple buttons and knobs, they were beautiful instruments in their own right. However, that came at a price, and as a result, the series was quite expensive. Was that the case for the entire range, though? No. One model offered the same modelling (monophonic) at a price that was well in range for even casual synth players: the VL-70m. It was a 1U half-rack module that was comparable in size to the old Roland Sound Canvas. It even allowed you to connect a breath controller, allowing people to play wind instruments within the digital world of VL synthesis. The difference was immediately apparent - no more static tones and similar timbres. The VL series allowed for vibrant tones because factors like breath pressure or pitch bend on other types of controllers kept changing the simulated physical properties. Later, a few VL boards were released for certain Yamaha synthesizers, so it's not like the VL ever really disappeared.


That was a short overview of the VL's history. The image, to get back on track, speaks for itself, really. It looks like there's a Reface model with a VL engine on its way. If that's indeed the case, it's virtually certain that you will be able to connect a breath controller. With that, the Reface VL might very well turn into one of the most fun instruments to use in live performances. If we're lucky, the VL will also be easy to program - at least, the large display and various buttons to seem to indicate that it will be.

However, this is all speculation, as all we've seen so far is this one leaked picture. Interestingly, though, Bax-shop did mention the idea of a VL to the original designer of the Reface series, when that line of synths was being presented on the S.S. Rotterdam. Regardless, we'll keep you updated with the latest developments.

Check out the video below to get an idea of the VL-70m - the Reface VL will likely strive to achieve something similar.

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