Hands-On Review:Yamaha E-Series Portable Keyboards


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Compact music machines flex condensed music muscle

Mike Fitch
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
  • Reverb

EZ-200

  • 61 touch-sensitive keys
  • Guide-lighted keys
  • 367 voices
  • 100 accompaniment styles

PSR-E213

  • 61 keys
  • 375 GM & XGlite voices
  • 102 songs and 100 accompaniment styles

PSR-E313

  • 61 touch-sensitive keys
  • Backlit LCD screen
  • 2-track recorder
  • Flash ROM
  • Reverb plus chorus
  • 482 GM and XGlite voices
  • Speaker bass ports

PSR-E403

  • 61 touch-sensitive keys
  • 6-track recorder
  • Synthesizer control knob
  • 2-way stereo speakers
  • Master EQ
  • USB/Flash ROM
  • Easy Song Arranger