Hands-On Review:KX8 USB MIDI Keyboard Studio
Has Yamaha Gone Soft?
By Athan Billias
Yamaha Director of Marketing
Yamaha is the world’s largest musical instrument manufacturer and makes more acoustic and digital pianos than any other company. Imagine if you could get a USB MIDI controller with the same high-quality Graded Hammer Standard keyboard action used in our most successful digital pianos and the sound of a $250,000 handcrafted Yamaha acoustic piano as a VSTi instrument that you can record directly into your Cubase software. Well, for the first time, Yamaha has gone soft, and now you can too.
The heart of the KX8 is the fully weighted, 88-note graded hammer action keyboard like those found on our digital pianos. This action duplicates the feel and expressiveness of a grand piano all the way down to replicating the difference in resistance between the bottom and top end of the keyboard. Many people feel it’s the best-feeling MIDI keyboard controller on the market.
The KX8 also features a wide variety of hands-on controls for all of the popular DAWs (Cubase, Logic, Sonar, and Digital Performer). Four durable knobs with two different sets of assignments and a variety of buttons allow access to almost any software function. There are control templates for 30 of the most popular VSTs and you can also use the KX editor software to create your own. One of the exclusive and innovative Cubase AI integration features lets the KX8 automatically switch templates when switching tracks in Cubase, turning the four physical knobs into 240 instantly accessible virtual knobs.
Another KX exclusive is the inclusion of musical arpeggios and a sophisticated arpeggio engine based on the MOTIF series of synthesizers. Hundreds of arps were imported from Yamaha synths and customized for compatibility with the built-in HALion synthesizer. Grouped into categories and styles and with access to multiple arpeggios across the keyboard, this library of musical phrases responds to your playing, making it simple to put together complete backing arrangements.
Integration functions allow opening and closing of key windows and direct access to the most used software, giving you quick access to the tools you need. Transport controls allow you to record, rewind, and locate passages inside your song. In fact, with the advanced integration between the KX and Cubase AI, you’ll almost never need to touch your mouse.
If you don’t need a full 88-note keyboard, Yamaha also offers the KX25, KX49, and KX61 Keyboard Studio, all of which include the same basic functionality as the KX8 in smaller, less expensive packages.
Cubase AI is the Yamaha-exclusive version of Steinberg’s award-winning Cubase software. It features 48 stereo audio tracks, 256 MIDI tracks, 16 VST instrument tracks, and two VST slots so you can create complete music productions with just the included software. The KX8 also features the HALion One soft synth with 256 sounds ported from the MOTIF line of Yamaha synths, making it a powerful USB/MIDI studio complete with software and sounds right out of the box.
But we wanted to go even further, so we have made available the Yamaha Music Production Powerpack loaded with valuable software that you can put to use right away with your controller. When you register your KX8 at www.mpsn.com, you are eligible to download two DVDs packed with goodies including an expanded library of sounds that can be added to the KX8’s core sound set. These include a Yamaha-developed HALion One version of the S700 sample found in the Yamaha S90ES synthesizer. This $250,000 handcrafted piano was meticulously sampled and is used by professionals worldwide onstage with the S90ES. Now it’s available in HALion One format as a virtual instrument. The Powerpack also includes 1.3GB of choice samples taken from the vaults of Sonic Reality and converted to HALion One format. Also part of your download is the X Factor DVD containing four very special VSTs to expand your creative horizons:
IK Multimedia Sample Tank Yamaha Edition includes sounds from over $3,500 worth of VSTs including the Miroslav Orchestral Library, Sonik Synth 2, SampleTank 3, and Sample Moog. This exclusive bundle also qualifies you for the IK Multimedia universal crossgrade promotion that can save you hundreds of dollars on the full versions of IK software.
FXpansion’s BFD is the leader in expressive drum sounds. We have included a special version of BFD on the X Factor DVD so you’ll never be at a loss for a groove.
Keyfax New Media’s DrumWorld is a collection of MIDI samples recorded by real drummers that can be used to drive HALion One or BFD drum kits. You can even import these MIDI files directly into BFD’s groove library so they can be accessed in real time on the KX keyboard.
Arturia’s Analog Factory is a “classic synth” collection, featuring sounds from the MiniMoog to the ARP 2600.
To get the most out of your software, the Music Production Powerpack also contains ASK Video’s Guide to Cubase AI, a full-length DVD tutorial on all aspects of Cubase music production.
The combination of a Yamaha-quality MIDI controller, outstanding Steinberg software, and brilliant music content like the S90ES sample as a VSTi make the KX8 truly the best of both worlds—hardware and software.