We’re going to talk about the S70XS Yamaha synthesizer. The keyboard itself comes from a long line of Yamaha S series which has been around for at least 10 years.
There are actually two keyboards in the XS series, the S70XS which is a 76 note keyboard and he S90X which is a 88 note keyboard. But today we will focus on the S70XS. It features more hands on controls compared to its predecessors in the S series and undoubtedly the motif line of Yamaha keyboards.
Recessed and Smaller Display
One of the things that I noted is that display is somewhat recessed and smaller than previous versions. A smaller display is counter to current mainstream keyboard production lines which are displaying much larger monitors. Of equal note is the introduction of the balanced hammer keyboard response which typically found on higher priced digital keyboards and synthesizers.
Looking at the backside of the keyboard there aren’t that many feature differences from previous models, except for one notable exception – a microphone input, which doesn’t seem to be just a straightforward signal route to the output, but rather something more complex.
Unheard of 2 USB Ports
The Yamaha S70XS also features two USB ports as well. The sound banks and patches are organized much the same as the S series and motif models. Yamaha organizes these sound patches in a hierarchical fashion starting with the voices at the lowest level, and at the higher level, performance voices for live performance playing. The performance level actually combines several sounds together to replicate a full band featured live performance. Voices can be split on the keyboard and assigned to different regions or up to 4 voices layered one on top of each other.
The keyboard can be plugged into a computer and be used as a recording studio with midi sequencing software.
You’re the Master with Master Mode
One nice feature is the master mode, which allows you to assign combinations of sounds together either in layers and/or different combinations and can be assigned to different zones on the keyboard all through an assignable preset. So you can switch keyboard modes on the fly with a preset button.
Also included is an arpeggio producer which can be assigned to any instrument. One feature I liked was to assign drum kits to the arpeggiator which produced some unique drum patterns. With 6,779 preset arpeggios, producing unique drum grooves was a cinch.
The S70XS features a master mode for self accompanying mode. So for instance if you hit a low key in the base register of the keyboard or make a chord, the keyboard will immediately start playing a groove pattern including bass and drum line. While this feature may be quite useful and help get the creative juices flowing, this is a feature that is not typically used by more advanced musicians. Equally I can’t really see performing musicians wanting to use his in a live band situation. Having said that, who knows, perhaps a new trend is about to be born.
Your Master’s Voice
Given the vast selection of voice, there is a feature that will let you group your favorite voices under an appropriately named “favorites” category. The easiest to your favorite voices is use the search feature or dial through the various instrument families that are arranged in categories. Once you’ve found an instrument category, simply select the instrument from the category to put into your favorites.
A USB port allows you to store your midi files onto a USB stick for playback later on. In addition you can use the USB stick to save audio files including backing vocals and the like. However, it is best to save these audio files in “wav” or “AIFF” format, giving the best sound quality.
In addition to the audio sound you can also use the microphone input for singing and routing the input through the onboard effects module. Amazingly this keyboard features a vocoder that allows you to sample a voice, modify it, and then assign it to your keyboard so that each key will carry its own pitch of the sampled sound.
The X70XS features 128 notes of polyphony, 9 nine reverb 22 chorus and 9 different master effects on board including 3 band stereo EQ. Overall, the new Yamaha is a well-rounded and excellent keyboard for the performing and composer/arranger musician.