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Yamaha MOTIF-RACK XS Review

MotifXSRack

The MOTIF XS Rack has proven itself as one of the best keyboard modules on the market in its price range.

The emergence of the “refined” keyboard workstation in the late 1990s opened up a whole new set of doors for musicians everywhere. Not only was the sound quality impeccable, but the multi-voicing and sequencing capabilities provided the convenience of working entirely within the keyboard. Following the immense success of Korg’s Triton series, Yamaha took a shot at the keyboard workstation market in 2001 with the first series of MOTIFs. The result was a list of critical acclaim that has continued for the past eight years.

The emergence of MIDI in the modern recording studio has popularized rack modules of keyboard workstations, to consolidate space and to provide a less expensive alternative. At $1,299.99 the MOTIF XS Rack is more than 1K less than the base MOTIF XS6 keyboard workstation. There has to be some significant sonic quality I am going to be giving up, I thought as I was unboxing the XS Rack. This was absolutely not the case. In fact, it uses the exact same tone-generation architecture that the XS workstation does, complete with 1,152 voices and 65 drum kits.

As I scrolled through the different presets in the module, I was immediately struck with how versatile the XS Rack truly was. Terrific sounding pianos, any orchestral instrument you can think of (or not think of), accurate vintage keyboards, guitar, bass, brass, and drums that would appeal to any genre. You truly are working with a blank canvas that could be applied to any style of music.

Aside from the superior sound quality the Motif Rack XS possesses, it is also incredibly easy to use. Often when I am using a module or keyboard workstation I like to tweak and alter the presets to work with my mixes better. This usually consists of navigating through endless display pages on an LCD screen with a jog wheel. The XS Rack easily bypasses this mess by including 5 knobs where you can access an array of effects (EQ, Chorus, Reverb, etc) in real-time. Total convenience.

The MIDI communication with my DAW was made extremely easy with Yamaha’s inclusion of a USB port in the back of the module, and with the optional addition of the mLAN16E2 FireWire expansion interface, I can record 14 individual parts along with the main stereo output from the instrument directly to my computer. Not too shabby at all!

The MOTIF XS Rack has proven itself as one of the best keyboard modules on the market in its price range. The tremendous sound quality and powerful multi-voicing capabilities coupled with its embarrassingly easy controls make this module a worthy addition to any studio environment or live rig. Yamaha hits another one out of the park.

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