Hands-On Review:KX8 USB MIDI Keyboard Studio

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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 Hardware


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.



The Software


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.