Andy Jones turns his attention to the Yamaha Reface CS…
And so the second synth in the reface range, this time an analogue, albeit a physically-modelled one. With reface CS, unlike the DX you don’t get obvious preset sounds to start with – more guides in the form of oscillator structures, and all part of a very clever and fast synthesis engine which I quickly grew to like.
You start with one of these waveform combinations at the Osc section – as close as you’re going to get to a preset sound. Select one from five: FM, Ring Mod, Osc Sync, Pulse and Multi-Saw.
Each then has a Texture slider to increase a major parameter value within that wave structure, typically the pitch of a second oscillator or the sub osc level. Then the Mod slider does the same again with another parameter, say the pulse width or it adds more layers of sawtooth waves (in the is case to the Multi-Saw). Essentially what these three dials are doing is easy and dramatic sound synthesis.
You can then further refine things with an LFO which will either modulate the volume, pitch or filter cutoff of the oscillator or another parameter, again dependent on the source Osc Type. It’s very clever indeed and gives you a heck of a lot of control – and drama – over just a few faders.
There’s more in the form of a separate Filter and Resonance slider and pitch and amplitude envelope parameters to adjust – again, the big parts of an original CS synth, slightly distilled for a new generation of hands -on tweakers. Some knowledge of synthesis would help here but really it’s pretty easy stuff if you know your LFOs from your filters.
Finally on the features side of things we have, as you might expect by now, a very usable and dramatic effect sections (four to choose with Depth and Rate sliders) and a Looper. Rather than making use of a screen as with the DX, this phrase recorder is rather more mechanical, making use of a lever to switch between recording, playing, pausing and clearing so it’s a little clunkier to use at first but has the same levels of storage. Again, you lose any phrases on power down.
a: Main Controls – You know the score by now. Volume and Octave controls are present, as is a pitch bend.
b: Looper – More ‘mechanical’ than that found on DX, but a useful live performance tool nonetheless.
c: OSC – Where the action is. You choose your preset combi, and add Texture and Mod changing other parameters depending on your initial choice.
d: LFO – You can also modulate your Osc choice here and tweak one of four different parameters.
e: Other Controls and Effects – Some more big and dramatic synth controls plus very usable effects can be dialled in and out here.
Sound wise I love what you can get with the CS and also how quickly you can get it. Do be careful with the effects – you can quickly feedback on yourself if you push the Rate and Depth sliders – and do be careful switching Osc waves as they do pop between certain combinations.
I do think that these combinations might not be clearly ‘preset-y’ enough for some. Whereas DX has 32 named and descriptive presets, CS only has those five Osc waveforms to start with and I think that might put some people off.
You haven’t got an instant recognisable synth sound and even the YC and CP have distinctive organs and pianos as building block starters. I switched the CS on and got a blast of ‘squiggle’. Yes I turned it into a soaring SAW pad very quickly but, well, first impressions and all that…
CS, then, does suffer a little from not having discernible start points, proper presets, and it also suffers more than the piano and organ units by not having on-board preset locations to save to. And I only say that because the sounds you create will be amazing because, in terms of creativity, this is a beaut.
I very quickly had some fat sounds starting from very basic origins. I had worried that you might quickly flounder if you didn’t know about synths but you get some very good results – very quickly.
Basses, fat pads, string leads, they are all here as the synth is very versatile with those different Osc combinations as its primary ingredients. With the app you can save your efforts, and you will want to get into the app to do this (I only got into the app to save one particular sound I created!).
But having preset locations on board CS (and to a lesser extent CP and YC) would have been nice and, I think, more within the reface ‘sofa style’ remit. It is especially highlighted on CS as when you combine your creations with the effects and push the Mod and Texture sliders you will want to save straight away! And by showing that on-board synth presets can be done so well with DX – thus making it a truly standalone keyboard – you wonder why a similar method couldn’t have been applied to CS.