The Yamaha Reface CS hit the market with 3 others (CP, YC and the DX) in the line up of newly reintroduced and re imagined synths brought back from the storied Yamaha history of synths. The Reface CS is described as “Analog Physical Modeling Engine with multiple synthesis and oscillator types.”
The Yamaha Reface CS unit is at first glance made in a sort of unassuming and almost toy-like way. The white plastic casing reminded me of one of the inexpensive smaller form factor 80’s synths. But I feel its my obligation to say that the sound is anything but toy-like and the build pretty solid after-all.
Back to the build… The Yamaha Reface CS is approximately 21 inches wide, 7 inches deep and weighs in at a little less than 5 lbs without batteries. Oh that’s right… it takes batteries. Six “AA” size batteries or Ni-MH rechargeable batteries to be exact. Also, from what I can tell there is no loss in sound quality when on battery.
The unit is flanked with two small speakers for use all on its own with no PA or speaker connections needed. Conversely, the CS has the following connections on the back… DC power, headphones, midi in and out,AUX IN (3.5 mm, mini stereo phone jack), L/MONO, R (6.3 mm, TS phone jack, unbalanced), USB host and foot controller. You can pretty much hook the CS up to your lab or rig in the same ways a you would a full-sized keyboard.
The CS and the rest of the Refaces are based on Yamaha’s AN (Analog Physical Modeling) technology. This is Yamaha’s way of recreating the analog and older digital sound as accurately as possible within this small form factor. So, that said, be clear that the CS is not an analog synth. It is a digital recreation of the original complete with 8 voices of polyphony.
|Multi-saw||Adds sub-oscillator||Layers multiple sawtooth waves|
|Pulse||Changes pitch of second pulse wave||Changes pulse width|
|Oscillator Sync||Changes pitch and tone of second oscillator||Sets pitch change amount|
|Ring Modulation||Changes pitch of first oscillator||Changes pitch of second oscillator|
|FM||Sets modulation amount||Changes pitch of the modulator|
The front panel also houses the pitch / bend, octave control, volume and a simple sequence recorder that allows you to play, stop, pause, record and clear the sequence.
The sequencer is perfect for capturing the inspiration when it strikes. It’s pretty simple and basic with controls to play, record and clear all in one switch.
One note about the resonant filter. It steps when the resonance is high but that’s sort of typical of digital synths. For those that don’t know, stepping is when you sweep the cut-off frequency and you can hear it incrementally moving from one value to another and the sweep across frequencies is not as smooth. If you don’t really do crazy resonance and fast sweeps combined, you wont have much to worry about here. Still, it is worth mentioning.
Similar to the other Refaces it has the typical build. The plastic body with mini keys is flanked to the left and right with small “2W 3cm stereo speaker system.” The DX’s flat matte dark gray color distinguishes it from the pack.
The key bed of 37 mini-keys is said to be “Based on the FS action found on the flagship Motif XF, HQ (High Quality) Mini Keys provide premium feel and response for fast, accurate and natural playing.” I can attest to the comfortably key bed action. It’s not a bad keyboard by far. It’s certainly one of the better smaller form factor keybeds. I’d even say that of all the keyboards I’ve used the Reface mini keys are the best bar none. Still, I do realize that it doesn’t matter how fresh the action, if mini keys aren’t your thing these are definitely mini keys and so that may not change your outlook.
Overall, at the new price of $399 (despite the Yamaha site listing it at $649, it is available all of the internet at $399 as of the publishing of this article .) the CS is a much better value than it was at $599 when it was released. The build is plastic but sturdy and attractive. Compared to some other analog modeled digital reissues of classic synths reimagined the Reface line of synths kill the game with polyphony. Where most of the competition yield 4 voice polyphony, the Reface CS doubles up at 8 voice polyphony. In addition to the 8 voices, there is an actual key bed with great action (that is if one can get into mini-keys). However, if the mini keys are a problem, midi controller to the rescue. It works fantastically.
For the mobile musicians, the built-in speakers and battery power options make the Reface CS a no brainer. However I don’t recall if there was a way to turn the speaker off when using the left and right outputs. As I demonstrated and mentioned in the video review, the filter does step a bit at high resonance but this is familiar to most digital synths. Pulling back on the resonance during sweeps helps to remedy that rather well.
Would I recommend it? Yes indeed. The Yamaha Reface CS is a small wonder of big sound. The possibilities are seemingly endless once you get to know the front panel controls. I am stamping this one BBoyTechReport Certified DOPE!
For more info, head over to the Yamaha Reface CS product page.