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  1. John
  2. MONTAGE Series Synthesizers
  3. Saturday, 04 September 2021
Just got the Montage yesterday. Love all the cool new things. Love having balanced outs finally. HOWEVER, these pianos sound like a toy. I played around with velocities which opened them up considerably, but they still sound REALLY electronic to me compared to my Nord. And the process of having to adjustment 3 or 4 velocity settings on every patch before I can even try it out was getting me a little hot under the collar. This was a problem in Motif, but not nearly as bad. Can anyone explain to me why they didn't just make it right at the factory? My S90ES had awesome pianos 20 YEARS AGO. Motif was a step backward, and this is another step backward. Can anyone help? Is there a firmware update or something that fixes the pianos? Thanks and sorry for being a whiner.
Responses (11)
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Hey @John

Glad to hear that the balanced cables made a big difference and that you decided to keep your Montage.

There are several reasons why I chose the Montage8 over other available options, and one of the reasons was actually the piano sound.
The thing I found about the Montage pianos compared to others that I’ve tried, is that with the ‘proper speakers’, it sounds more like an actual acoustic grand than it does like nicely recorded pianos. I had the opportunity of 'experiencing' the Montage pianos at the music store through a pair of Adam Audio A7X’s. While first trying many different speakers at less than half the price of the Adam’s, the pianos on the Montage sounded harsh, muddy, not as realistic in the mids, all the way from high to low mids. Then after playing the pianos through the Adam speakers, I closed my eyes and it was like magic … it was the closest thing to playing an actual acoustic grand. The reason being is that Yamaha did such a great job at sampling the CFX and programming many pianos to be more acoustic sounding instead of recorded sounding pianos, that unless you are using headphones (which handle piano frequencies much better than most speakers), most speakers that are not very high end can’t handle the full spectrum of frequencies that an acoustic grand piano requires. With pianos that are sampled & programmed as radio ready recorded pianos, those less expensive speakers sound great, because they don’t have to try and reproduce the full spectrum of midrange frequencies of an acoustic grand.

I don’t use any presets on the Montage. I customize all the presets, tweaking everything with better velocity, EQ’ing, less effects (or in some cases more or different effects).
I’ve found that for live &/or recorded sounding pianos, the CFX can benefit greatly from some EQ’ing, such as a low shelf (down), high shelves (up) to bring forth the highs & cut through like a recorded or even live piano, as well as maybe take down the low mids a bit around 200-250Hz, depending on your speakers or headphones. When tweaking velocities, most times I find it better to increase the Velocity Depth of each PART more so than the Velocity Offset. I find it allows me to play pianos for live gigs better at higher velocities, while still maintaining some sense of touch.

Note, if you haven’t heard about or looked into what piano libraries are available for the Montage, there is a “free” Imperial Grand (Bosendorfer) piano library. The Synthogy American Grand is a very well sampled Steinway Grand piano library. There is a relatively decent Yamaha C7 piano library called Epic Grand.

Regarding recording from the Montage. I don’t record anything through the output cables, and instead record to my DAW (Pro Tools) via the USB digital connection, whereby there is virtually zero quality loss.

I hope some of what I’ve shared regarding my experience with the Montage is helpful to you…
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Thanks, everyone, for your input. I did swap out for balanced cables and it made a big difference. I bought this keyboard to replace the Motif, and I mainly did because with supply shortages the used market is crazy right now and was able to sell the almost 10 year old Motif for nearly the same price as a new Montage. Insane. I'll primarily use it for recording to fill the gap between the analog synth and the Nord. The Nord falls short on synth stuff, and the analog can't do horns, strings, percussion, etc. So I don't really need it to be the world's best piano, but it would be nice to be able to play a gig with the thing if I had to. Especially if I get the call for a Journey/Styx/Foreigner band where the Nord will never cut it.

I've decided to keep it and work through the issues as best I can. The reality is, they all seem to have their shortcomings no matter what you're willing to spend. Thanks again.
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Hi John,

First question, you don't say what Montage you are using ? Is it Montage 8 or Montage 6-7 ?
Of course, if you expect a good piano articulation, you should use an heavy keys keyboard, so Montage 8.

I've been playing on many keyboards along my life. And what I can say is that all depends on your own taste. When you buy an acoustic piano, each one gets its own sound, its own touch, its own....personnality.
As regards electronic pianos, its the same. I know some people who can't bear the Nord piano sound. Yet, it is commonly the most used on stage.

Another point : if you bought the Montage for the piano sounds only, I'm not sure it has been a good thing. The Montage is really an high level keyboard with powerful versatily and capabilities. It requiers many time to appreciate all its qualities. One of these qualities is its versatility. You have no other choice to spend time to adjust each sounds to your taste, including piano sounds. You can't use any Montage sounds as they are and immediatly say "this sounds as a toy" without having shaped them ! Montage sounds are sounding exactly as you shape them.

Another point : when I first used Montage, I connected it on my mixer with unbalanced wire. Then, I changed all of them and used balanced cables. It was a big difference.

Finally, what I can say is that Montage pianos really don't sound as a "toy", (Bösendorfer sound bank for example), but at the end, perhaps the Montage is not the synth you need, despite all its great power.
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
I'm just going to focus on one small piece here ...

And the process of having to adjustment 3 or 4 velocity settings on every patch before I can even try it out was getting me a little hot under the collar.

You may have already done this - but it wasn't detailed explicitly. Have you adjusted the global velocity adjustments ("Keyboard Velocity Curve" )?

[UTILITY] button, "Settings" -> "Sound" menus.
Settings: Normal, Soft, Hard, Wide, Fixed
Normal: This linear “curve” produces one-to-one correspondence between the strength of your keyboard playing
(velocity) and the actual sound change.
Soft: This curve provides increased response, especially for lower velocities.
Hard: This curve provides increased response, especially for higher velocities.
Wide: This curve accentuates your playing strength by producing lower velocities in response to softer playing and
louder velocities in response to harder playing. As such, you can use this setting to expand your dynamic range.
Fixed: This setting produces the same amount of sound change (set in Keyboard Fixed Velocity below), no matter
what your playing strength. The velocity of the notes you play are fixed at the value set here.

There may be an opportunity to globally adjust the velocity response if this setting has not been adjusted yet.

Not saying this fixes everything - but wanted to double-check that this setting has already been explored.
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Pianos are easily the most disappointing aspect of the Montage/MODX, mostly because it's expected that Yamaha be piano champs.

But they're not, especially not in this instrument. Their real world, real string pianos are great.

If you don't have a need for (and love of) FM, there's not much reason to have one of these. The SuperKnob is insanely unintuitive to program when building even moderately complex performances. Nothing about the more complex possibilities of the Montage and MODX are fun to use. You'll always be crushing your way through menus to set things up, and unset things, and then reset things... and then discover there's no undo. Many times.

The Motion madness and SuperKnob feel like they're half finished ideas, kind of like prototype level UX developed, not fully fleshed out for user facing joy, nor even close, really.

On sounds... as others have noted, the AWM is old and not really a synth, it's more like a passable rompler, whilst the FM is great - if you have the time and tolerance required to fiddle with it, because Yamaha's done their very best to make the UI/UX as cumbersome as possible for diving into getting the most out of their FM. And you still have to know a LOT about FM to even begin getting good results.

and put up with the constant clicking and clacking through menus to do things. There's no way to even save presets for all sorts of sub settings you might come to need to rely on, like effects settings. This is MADDENING the more you use it. The better you get with it, the more work you have to do to use it fully, and the more you don't look forward to all the byzantine work of setting up the basis for each sound exploration you go through.

Korg showed this up recently - that FM no longer needs to be just for those of us that understand the ratios - via the creativity possible (easily) in the Opsix.

If FM is just another sound source/method for you, the Roland Fantom offers much more for the same money. And the other synth sounds it offers are at an entirely different level.
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Found it. Thanks for the tip. That's the best sounding one I've found so far, but still had to adjust the velocity to get it to sound anything like the audition sound. Does anyone know why they did this?
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
My S90ES had awesome pianos 20 YEARS AGO.

The main piano in the S90ES was the S700. That sound is in the MODX as well, have you tried that? (I think Montage was the first keyboard since the S90ES to come with that piano sound!)
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Seeing your equipment I think it will be too hard a thing for me to provide any idea...an amateur here.

But since I want to help you so as to finally appreciate the outstanding pianos in Montage I think perhaps the volume is too low to catch the sound spectrum provided....

I mean, get that part volume high enough (source) and adjust the rest of the chain to the required loudness.

Say 85 dB as final objective at the end of the chain would require something like 100% (source, Montage part)>>50% Montage output>>50% Active loudspeakers. So we have 100,50,50.

Settings like 50,50,75 might otherwise provide same loudness but in the end not the detail and great sound we are looking for. I was told by experts that the output of any DAC should always be 100%.

Something similar happens with binoculars and telescopes. Having detailed images call for high objective diameters, then some zooming is allowed up to a limit. Then any further zooming provides larger images but no new details are revealed any more, since there are none.

On the contrary, you can nowadays take a 200 megapixel picture and try to see it on a 4k TV. You can zoom a lot and discover more and more details as you go and go till reaching the very end, which is very far away (200000/4, or so).
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Yes, both are going into a Focusrite ISA828, Antelope Orion 32+, Dangerous Ddox, and Focal monitors. All the other patches sound great. Super high-fidelity, punchy, warm. It's just the pianos.
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Are you using the very same audio system on those keyboards...?
Same loudspeakers, power amplifier, same volume/loudness....I mean.
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