Yamaha UK EXPO 2007 Review

This is the third time I have visited one of Yamaha UK’s EXPO events and every year new and exciting instruments are unveiled. The first, it was the turn of the flagship keyboard Yamaha Tyros 2, but now the main focus was on the new line of CVP-400’s, the PSR-S Series and the new Modus.

Based in Milton Keynes, Yamaha UK sits amidst a slew of roundabouts and dual-carriage ways that can literally drive you around the bend, however after this traveling adventure, Yamaha EXPO is there waiting for expectant dealers.

Luckily the weather held out for us all (it has been a pretty poor week or so in the United Kingdom with floods and massive rain downpour!) and so confident were Yamaha that this was going to be the case, free ice cream vouchers were issued at the event reception.

On entry to the keyboard and digital piano area, you couldn’t help but notice a large piano in bright red sitting proudly at the entrance… Apparently this is a limited edition Elton John ‘Red Piano’. Unfortunately this was all blocked off and I couldn’t have a go myself, so as the Elton John song goes ‘I’m Still Standing’.

Of course let us also not forget that Yamaha don’t just make musical instruments and as proof, I found this around a corner of one of the exhibits.

So after a little roaming, I finally came across a demonstration of the PSR-S900 and the new CVP-407.

As usual, James Sargeant and Peter Baartmans were on top form as they demonstrated the Yamaha PSR-S900 and CVP Clavinova 407 respectively. If you are wondering why they were not showing off the new CVP-409, well there are actually no technical differences between the 407 and 409. Instead the model numbers between these two signify the colours, finishes and subtle feel to the touch of the keys that are available.

Yamaha PSR-S900 Presented by James Sargeant

The Yamaha PSR-S Series is a new midrange set of keyboards starting with the PSR-S500, S700 and finally with the top model of this range the S900. The PSR-S900 is the successor to the PSR-3000 (which is the little brother to Tyros (1). Many of the features such as Super Articulation (23 voices, which is over half of what the Tyros 2 has) now appear on this modestly priced keyboard and the results are simply stunning. The Super Articulation Saxophone and Classical Guitar sound just as impressive as they do on the flagship Tyros 2 and are certainly not cut down cheaper alternatives. Let us also not forget the ample list of Mega Voices as well, which add greatly to the backing accompaniment styles.

The debate about whether to go for a PSR-3000 or a PSR-S900 is as far as I am concerned over as this demonstration proved to me that the new voices and additional ability of recording direct to a USB stick in the standard wave format (so we can easily share our music in digital quality, which is brilliant for then burning to an Audio CD) all add to this experience especially if you are using the ‘Music Performance’ board on the discussion forum here. The PSR-S900 also features vocal harmony, for those brave enough to sing and record as well.

Featuring 392 panel voices (compared to 512 on the Yamaha Tyros 2) and a massive 128 note polyphony, you will be easily convinced to consider this new mid-range model. In fact mid-range sounds a little disrespectful to this new keyboard as it really does take much of what I love from Tyros 2.

With a bright colour 5.7inch LCD screen, USB to Device, USB to Host and the much requested LAN port (so no more adapters for those wishing to connect to Internet Direct Connection (IDC) if they want to link via the traditional wired route) all feature for great connectivity and convenience.

All in all the PSR-S900 sounds simply amazing. Of course it helps to have top demonstrators at the helm, however many of the buzz words that feature on Tyros 2 are here in the mid-range now allowing for those with less money available to spend the chance to really shine.

With the previous CVP-300 Series, Yamaha looked at the then flagship model Tyros (1) and moved many features into the digital piano form. The same can be said for the CVP-400 Series that now looks to Tyros 2 for its inspiration.

Clavinova CVP-407 Presented by Peter Baartmans

If 88 weighted keys and backing styles are your thing, then the CVP-400 Series of Digital Pianos will no doubt have caught your eye. Much more than just a piece of furniture, these piano competitors that have all the advantages of hundreds of voices and styles, recording and of course no need to tune, encourages disgruntled acoustic piano players to move to the digital era. The CVP-407 is the latest in this technology revolution as Peter Baartmans presented a compelling demonstration to the crowd.

As he is a piano player at heart, you could really see and indeed admire his ability as a performer, while also noticing the large grin on his face. In all Peter had just 15 minutes to whizz through the features of the CVP-407, however this was not enough to satisfy his own cravings never mind the audiences as the enjoyment he purveyed was simply contagious. He was absolutely glued to the chair, pressing the keys frantically at rapid succession only to notice his time was nearly up!

With 509 panel voices and 408 accompaniment styles, there is certainly enough there to keep you entertained during these rain soaked evenings. From a distance there isn’t actually that much to distinguish the new range from its predecessors, however you will notice the new style panel buttons making it far easier to find the category of arrangements you wish to use. A small addition, but one that will no doubt prove popular among the masses of Yamaha enthusiasts.

Super Articulation isn’t far away again and the CVP-407 features the Saxophone among many others, which all sound absolutely spot on from Tyros 2. I thought it might have been difficult to really express some of these advanced voices without the pitch bend and modulation wheels, however the foot pedals as demonstrated by Peter achieve the same effect yet more ideally suited for the piano player.

Of course we have to finish on the Acoustic Grand Piano voice and let me tell you it sounds wonderful. The CVP range has always excelled in this area as you would expect, but the CVP-407 has a truly delicious set of samples that make even me a simple keyboard enthusiast consider learning the pianist way. That along with the CVP-407’s real wood keys and if you really are a purist, the CVP-409 has synthetic ivory key tops to give added grip and a natural friction.

Attention to detail is very important, so how about this? The phenomenon when adjoining keys to the one you played slightly vibrate due to the strings resonating on an acoustic piano is even replicated! Now if that isn’t engineering to the extreme, I don’t know what is…

The CVP-407 is another leap forward for the digital piano range and with key Tyros 2 voices, styles and unique piano features you can’t help but take a look further. Just when you think that something can’t be improved, Yamaha come along and almost stick their tongue out in happy glee as you have to admit they have achieved it yet again. Being a Yamaha keyboard or Digital Piano enthusiast certainly isn’t the cheapest of hobbies especially when year on year, Yamaha bring out fantastic additions and advancements tempting even the most stingy of us to part with our cash, but at least in return we get that sense of creativity and enjoyment of which we can share that is priceless.

Yamaha Modus CLP-H01

I should also mention the new Yamaha Modus. Just like the CLP-F01 that oozed sophistication, the Modus digital piano expresses grandeur and class. Rather than having buttons all over the place, the H01 aims to catch your attention with its style and simplicity. With only a few buttons hidden away from your gaze as your eye is directed at the keys for a change, the Modus is certainly an attractive musical instrument and brings the same sort of nostalgic quality and interest that acoustic grand pianos have, but this time it is a digital piano updated with a modern twist that will no doubt draw the same crowds.