Yamaha Montage vs. Motif: A Comparison

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Does an upgrade make sense for you?

Surrounded by a fortress of hardware synths plus virtual softsynth cousins, producers and sound designers often ponder whether a new piece of gear is worth the investment. Is the cost and learning curve justified by the capabilities the new synth brings to the table?

Having sold thousands of Motif workstation synthesizers since its introduction in 2001, when Yamaha recently debuted its new line of Montage synths, Motif-equipped audio pros were faced with that same question. Similarly, thousands of Yamaha DX synth owners tussled with the same decision.

In the end, though, for many, once they got a load of Montage’s capabilities, the step up to Yamaha’s new synth platform was essential. Let’s look at some of the factors that persuaded them.


Take a tour of Montage and its near-endless performance/composition possibilities.

By the numbers

A calculation of the Montage’s sheer firepower is staggering. Compared with Motif, the numbers are exponential. With 10 times the waveform-crunching capacity of the Motif XF, 256-note polyphony and 1.75 GB of flash memory, Montage can create multilayered, highly complex scores and sound designs without breaking a sweat. As a performance instrument, it bristles with stage-ready tools for unbridled onstage possibilities.

Three was another significant number in the Montage rollout. Continuing a longstanding tradition, Yamaha has released Montage in 61-, 76-, and 88-key editions. The two smaller boards have FSX action while the 88-note Montage is equipped with a balanced hammer action for the ultimate in touch. In crowded project studios, the two smaller form factors will obviously take up less space with no loss of functionality other than the enhanced keyboard response.

Of course, none of these numbers and specs mean much if they’re locked up in a cryptic, menu-dense interface. Nor do they replace the need for real, ergonomic hands-on control that’s both tactile and intuitive. And if your game is composition or sound design, you need smart workflows and the ability to manage libraries pretty much the way you see fit. On all counts, Montage delivers in spades.

The creativity engine

At the heart of Montage is the Motion Control Synthesis Engine. It grants you near-limitless control over two heavy-hitter Yamaha sound engines: the AWM2 waveform/subtractive synth and FM-X, a pinnacle of frequency-modulation synthesis. Harnessed, these two engines can be layered across eight parts of a Montage Performance and freely zoned. The creative possibilities and capacity for expression are ridiculous. Whether you’re a beat builder exploring the frontiers of EDM, a game or score producer, or a musician seeking the iconic sounds of ‘80s synths, Montage has it all.

Control the universe

Yamaha unleashed a trio of controls with Montage that give you newfound levels of mastery over performance and audio production. The boldly illuminated Super Knob gives you breathtaking program changes that you configure to your music. Choose the parameters you want to control then dial in the level of effect you’re going for. You can even assign the Super Knob’s output to a foot controller like the Yamaha FC7 Volume Pedal for fully two-handed performances.

The Montage’s envelope follower instantly converts audio into a control source for practically any of your synths’ parameters. Imagine the massive grooves you can create using looped percussion tracks as a rhythmic center for your performance or production. You can even use the envelope follower in realtime using Montage’s A/D input to capture a live source.

Motion SEQ offers tempo-synced control sequences you can customize to your heart’s content. With front-panel control, using Motion SEQ in live performance will let you play parts that were impossible in the past.

Beyond these innovative controllers, Montage sports a color touch screen plus eight rotary controllers with stepladder LEDs to keep your mix position clear. For gigging musicians, the Live Set function lets you you create set lists and organize Performances any way you like.

Yeah, but how does it sound?

In a word: awesome. Yamaha gives its enormously satisfying instrument sounds a huge boost by equipping the Montage with a Pure Analog Circuit—a hardware circuit that converts the synth’s post-DAC output more fully into the analog realm by softening any waveform jaggedness. The Montage reproduces Yamaha’s acclaimed sounds and effects with unprecedented detail, clarity and perceived warmth.


Improved From Previous Model - Motif XF Step Ups From Lower Model -MOXF
Nearly 10x waveform capacity as MotifXF 128- Note Stereo (As Opposed to Mono) AWM2 Polphony
128- Note Stereo (As Opposed to Mono) AWM2 Polphony FM-X Synth Engine (with 128-Note Polyphony)
FM-X Synth Engine (with 128-Note Polyphony) Motion Control Synthesis Engine
Motion Control Synthesis Engine Modeless Operation
Live Set Live Set
1.75 GB Integrated Flash Memory (Previously Optional) Integrated (vs. Optional) Flash Memory
8 Faders and Rotary Encoders 8 Faders and Rotary Encoders
Color Touch Screen Interface Color Touch Screen Interface
32 out, 10 in USB Audio Interface 32 out, 10 in USB Audio Interface

You’ll find all three Montage workstation synths at Musician’s Friend.

Tags: Keyboards

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