Hands-On Review:Yamaha E-Series Portable Keyboards
Compact music machines flex condensed music muscle
Musician’s Friend Staff Writer
It wasn’t so very long ago that entry-level keyboards made music that sounded like something coming from an ice cream truck. A quick listen to the demo tracks on any of these Yamaha E-Series portable keyboards will reveal just how far the technology has come since then.
A couple of local symphony musicians happened to come by while I was testing the PSR-E313 and they were quite impressed with the depth and realism of the strings, brass, percussion, and choir in the classical music demos onboard. If it’s been awhile since you’ve played a Yamaha portable, you owe it to yourself to give them a listen. I’ll wager that their current sounds will knock you out. With effects for added depth, a wide range of songs and rhythm tracks to play with, and a bonanza of educational resources and exercises onboard, there’s plenty here to keep your creativity flowing and your performance skills sharp.
By connecting any of these keyboards to a computer with a computer via MIDI, you can access thousands of MIDI song files on the Internet and play them back with high-quality instrument sounds. Onboard speakers mean no external amplifier is needed, while a headphone jack allows you to play or practice in private anytime. The lush sound quality of the E-Series boards and their accompaniment capabilities also hold potential for solo artists or duos looking for a bigger live sound at gigs.
Just say Y.E.S.
The built-in Yamaha Education Suite or (Y.E.S.), is now up to version 5. Y.E.S. software includes tools and exercises separated into left- and right-hand drills, providing seven levels of lessons plus a convenient chord dictionary. The interactive exercises are fun and allow you to chart your progress. If I had owned one of these to augment my piano lessons when I was younger, I might have been more diligent with my keyboard practice—the interactive learning experience that Y.E.S. provides ensures that these are instruments that will get played and not gather dust on the shelf.
Three keyboard lessons are provided for each hand. Listen & Learn helps you study the melody or rhythm of the selected song. Timing allows you to play the melody or chord by pressing any key in correct time. Waiting mode stops the playback of a song until you play the correct note. A chord dictionary shows you how to play chords and displays the notes and names of played chords on the LCD screen.
Auto accompaniment styles are also provided that follow your playing. Just select a style of music from among the 100 styles provided, play a single note or chord on the left side of the keyboard, and play your melody on the right side. The keyboard will create a backup band (bass, drums, strings, guitar etc.) and "follow" you through the song. It’s a fun way to arrange songs and try out different feels. It's all quite entertaining, and even better, “edutaining.”
EZ-200 – Light it up!
Guide lights built into its 61 full-sized, touch-sensitive keys indicate the proper notes to play to accompany any of the 100 songs onboard. Being able to play melodies instantly is a confidence booster that gives students the motivation to go forward with lessons. It’s fun to hear the auto-accompaniment provide a full-sounding “backing band” to simple single-note melodies. The EZ-200’s voices include the famous Yamaha Stereo Grand Piano, 367 XGlite Voices, 12 drum kits, and a sound effects set that includes nine reverb settings for applying various types of spatial ambience to the sounds.
PSR-E213 – Expansive sounds
With 102 songs plus 100 auto accompaniment styles that follow your playing, you’ll never feel alone at the PSR-E213. Play a single note or chord on the left side of the keyboard, and play a melody on the right side, and the keyboard creates a backup band (bass, drums, strings, guitar etc.) that accompanies you through the song. The 32-voice polyphony allows for dense, elaborate arrangements, with 375 realistic-sounding voices for creating convincing orchestrations.
PSR-E313 – Real feel, more sounds
The PSR-E313 is enhanced with an expressive, piano-like touch-sensitive keyboard, 482 GM and XGlite voices, a backlit LCD screen, an easy-to-use two-track recorder, and bass ports for enhanced low-frequency response—features friendly to pro musicians as well as advancing students. 106 accompaniment styles are provided to play along with and the effects section has nine digital reverb plus four chorus effects. You can layer voices and split the keyboard into sections.
PSR-E403 – Bells and whistles abound
This computer-savvy E-Series board packs in a blizzard of features including a 50-pattern arpeggiator, USB connectivity to connect to a wider range of fast computer interfaces, two-way speakers with five EQ settings, a six-track recorder, synthesizer control knobs for realtime control of filters and other functions, and a pitch wheel for more expressiveness. The Performance Assistant Technology even ensures that every key you strike will fit the song you’re currently playing for foolproof performances!
Moveable musical feast
Yamaha’s long history of creating educational music programs is evident in the software integrated into these portable keyboards, adding great value for music students. The Portable Grand piano patch is perfect for piano students. Available at the touch of a button, this acoustic grand sound is remarkable for its warmth and clarity.
For the professional or semi-pro player these compact instruments are great to have around the house or home studio to play and sketch out musical ideas. You can even run them on batteries, making them ideal for taking on the road. If you’re looking for a lot of music power in a small package, you’ll want to check out Yamaha’s E-Series keyboards.
Features & Specs
All E-Series Keyboards:
- Yamaha Education Suite 5.0 software
- MIDI I/O for computer connectivity
- 32-note polyphony
- Stereo speakers onboard
- 61 touch-sensitive keys
- Guide-lighted keys
- 367 voices
- 100 accompaniment styles
- 61 keys
- 375 GM & XGlite voices
- 102 songs and 100 accompaniment styles
- 61 touch-sensitive keys
- Backlit LCD screen
- 2-track recorder
- Flash ROM
- Reverb plus chorus
- 482 GM and XGlite voices
- Speaker bass ports
- 61 touch-sensitive keys
- 6-track recorder
- Synthesizer control knob
- 2-way stereo speakers
- Master EQ
- USB/Flash ROM
- Easy Song Arranger