The Yamaha Montage 6 – The Workstation Debate

Before I drop my Montage 6 review I’d like to share some thoughts on the workstation.

My questions? Is a workstation relevant in today’s market? Is it really a workstation if it doesn’t have a proper sampler  and fully implemented sampler?

Montage 6 is Yamaha’s new flagship synth workstation. As workstations go the Montage is heralded by some as the 2000 lb gorilla in the realm of synth workstations.

The Yamaha Montage is introduced on Yamaha’s website with the following statement, “Welcome to the new era from the company that brought you the DX and the Motif. Montage sets the next milestone with sophisticated dynamic control, massive sound creation and streamlined workflow.” When I read that I knew exactly what sort of deep waters the Montage represented for both the player and the programmer / synth nerd.

The Yamaha DX7 and the Yamaha Motif are two of the most popular keyboards ever.

I’ve always grimaced at the thought of the DX7 personally. Not because of FM synthesis, I’ve come to love FM synthesis. But the fact (or theory depending on who you talk to) that the DX7 FM synthesizer played a huge part in the death of analog synths has always been a sore spot for me. I mean, analog synths represent a certain era of soul, funk and jazz music that is near and dear to my heart. Certainly being a vinyl collector of sorts and coming up chopping samples full of analog synthesizer goodness, it’s easy to see how I’d feel this way. The DX7 killed analog and birthed the weird 80’s. I’m sure some will disagree but thats my personal perspective. But anyway I digress.

So, then there is the Motif. From a hip-hop, R&B or general urban music perspective there has always been a couple of things that you can expect in the studio. Those are an MPC and a workstation such as the Fantom, Triton or Motif. You were either a Motif guy, a Fantom guy or a Triton guy in those times. None the less, Motif being the powerhouse that it is has been linked to the likes of Stevie Wonder, Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins and Ryan Leslie to name a few. But that was then.

From my perspective, it seems that the behemoth workstation with thousands of sounds has become uncool and at minimum less popular. Why? Software synths, software emulators and huge sample libraries like Native Instruments Komplete and Arturia’s V Collection have filled that gap rather nicely at a much smaller price point. Not to mention it brings that major part of our production into the box.

Further driving the wedge between producer and workstation seems to be the Analog resurgence as of late. Who would have thought that vintage analog would become so popular that synth makers would start to make new runs and reiterations of their classics. Also adding to the party is the advent and popularity of the niche market synth nerdery of Eurorack Modular Synthesis.

So what is the appeal of the workstation in a soft synth cluttered, analog synth flooded, modular synth crazed market in 2017? I think there are a few answers. Just like anything, there are the die-hard fans of the workstation.

Players will always love a good workstation at the foundation of their rig.Gigging musicians always need a good workstation’s flexibility and reliability on stage. The studio dweller will always find a need for the workstation in a days work. And perhaps, it can be considered a great economical value if you primarily play the keys considering what a computer with a massive soft synth library and a modular synth rack on the side might cost.

From that perspective, the Yamaha Montage dives into the deep end on several fronts.  The sound engines AWM2 (high-quality waveform and subtractive synthesis) and FM-X (modern, pure Frequency Modulation synthesis) present a wealth of sounds and synthesis at your fingertips. Couple that with all of the modulation in the form of motion sequencing, the Super knob aka the macro knob and the envelope follower and you have a very deep instrument all neatly wrapped up in the form of a synth.

So, from my perspective it seems that the Montage gives you the super sought after FM synthesis with deeper program-ability. It stays true to its Motif lineage by providing the wide palette of beautiful bread and butter sounds that all players love. It also provides loads of modulation for the tinkerer, patcher or modulation crazed types that typically go for modular synths.

My charge over the last few months has been to dig in and explore the sound engines and all of its fancy sound manipulation. All the while keeping it hiphop. But I’m still not convinced that it is indeed a workstation.

Stay tuned for the Montage 6 Review here on

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