Andy Jones continues his in-depth review of Yamaha’s Reface series with a look at the CP…
In retrospect there was always going to be more to say on the reface DX than any of the other three keyboards in the range (bar maybe the CS) as that unit has presets, touch strips and FM to explain. CP is a lot easier – no need to worry about me going off on a synthesis tangent or a rant about sounds. In fact there’s little of any complicated stuff to explain and I can pretty much get straight into it…
At the launch this was the surprise package when I auditioned the range – I wasn’t expecting to be that impressed with ‘just a bunch of piano sounds’ but was instantly drawn in. I’m happy to report that, after testing the unit properly, my relationship with it is not only still on, but blossoming. You may even have to buy a hat for the wedding…
CP has just six piano sounds to choose from. They’re not presets, as such, more voice types but effectively act as starting points. The clue to each sound type is in the names: RDI and II cover 70s electric pianos, the former being a more rounded sound, the latter introducing brighter overtones; WR gives a 60s variant, a more mellow sound; Clv is the more distinctive, rasping 70s electric keyboard sound; Toy a bright vintage toy piano; and CP, based on a Yamaha CP80 from the late 70s.
This last sound is most piano-like of all of those and a beautiful rendition. As we’ll see, though, where this instrument really succeeds is when it gets more atmospheric utilising all of the effects on offer.
On the top panel starting at the left, as with the DX, you get Volume and Octave sliders. Then there’s the dial to select one of the six sounds and a Drive dial that introduces the first of eight effects, a pleasing overdrive sound adding mild distortion to the selected preset and very much more effective on the 70s sounds.
Next you get six effects split over three sections. First up is Tremolo and Wah; then Chorus and Phaser; then Digital or Analogue Delay. You can choose either effect (or neither) and each pairing has Depth and Rate/Speed/Time dials to increase the effect. Finally a simple Reverb dial adds a lovely sustaining spacious effect to the overall sound.
I absolutely love the simplicity of what you get here – the ease of dialling, the 70s feel of the knobs and the stark fascia – but it’s what everything does and the combined effect that drew me in originally and I think this keyboard, more than any in the range, excels at the reface thing’ of being both hands on and playable. It was stated several times at the launch that these are machines to jam away with or simply noodle on while sitting on the sofa and I reckon this is the most apt one to do that with.
You can lose yourself for a long while playing sounds and changing them dramatically with the effects. I’m not sure that in two decades of doing this I have ever played anything that allows you to change a sound so quickly, dramatically, and pleasingly without having a bloody great big synthesiser behind it. With this you are doing it all with effects and I love it. It must be how a guitarist feels – now I understand!
And while we’re on the subject, you even end up with some guitar-like sounds –push that clavinet through the wah and overdrive and you get a very organic electric guitar sound. As for the Toy piano, you might not like it to start with but combine it with some delays and Phaser and you suddenly have percussive beats on your hands, so while this is a very good electric piano at heart, it can create some great and very different sonic atmospheres.
a: Main Controls – No pitch bend but Volume and Octave Up/Down sliders are here to the left of the dial to select one of six ‘preset-ish’ electric piano sounds.
b: Drive – Push this for a little overdrive on your sounds, more prominently on the 70s electrics. It adds a touch of warmth and distortion.
c: Main Effects – Select between two effects over three sections (or none) and each section has a Depth and Rate, Speed or Time dial as well.
d: Reverb – Simple but effective, like everything on the CP, the Reverb dial just adds glorious space to the whole CP electric sound.
e: Playable Keyboard? – Give it a try. You might be surprised at how these mini keys perform. Small does not always equal bad and big does not always mean good when it comes to keys…
The wow factor is strong in this one but I guess you can always have more building blocks to start with and six might seem mean to some. I could also have done with a few slots to save some of my creations so good were they.
Which brings us neatly to the reface Capture app which is an essential (free) download for the range none, bar the DX, have on-board presets. With it you can save presets and set-lists, useful for live performances. It would be nice to have on board slots, as with DX, but the app is very welcome nonetheless.