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The Yamaha DJX So what is this exactly? It’s the first of Yamaha’s new keyboards aimed specifically at creating dance music. As opposed to the PSR series which had voices and patterns that were more general, this keyboard has Synth and Bass Voices, special drum kits and sound effects. In all, it has 155 voices, plus the general midi set. You can also use a sampled sound as another voice, and the keyboard can record this for 6-8 seconds. What can I do with it? All kinds of things! The keyboard had midi compatibility and can be used with popular sequencers such as Cakewalk, Cubase and Logic. This creates a powerful system, combining the flexibilty and depth of midi with the on-board voices of the keyboard which give a much better sound than you would get from an ordinary soundcard. Of course, you can also use the keyboard for recording to a sequencer to, both in midi notation and audio if you wish. Recording audio can be advisable if you want to use things such as cutoff and resonance filters or DSP effects which are very impressive features off the keyboard, especailly considering its price (about £200, £250 when I bought it). Of course, there are other things you can do with the keyboard without connecting it to a PC or Mac. The keyboard has an on-board recording facility with six tracks and the ability to hold three songs at a time. You can also record patterns from the keyboards internal styles, which are quite varied and are extremely customisable. Rather than just spouting out a rhythm with a few riffs and just and A and B part, you can switch off different parts of the patterns and alter the characteristics of each part. This means things such as cutoff, resonance, volume, bass boost, DSP effects and modulation can all be altered for each part, namely: Kick, Snare, Hihat, Percussion, Bass and Phrase 1,2 and 3. This can produce some pretty good sounding pieces simply from built-in styles. These cover the following st yles: Techno Trip-Hop Electro Trance Drum ‘n’ Bass Dance Floor House Abstract Beats Rap Hardcore Old Skool Fresh R&B Slo Jams There are also 14 general styles, from a total of 100. Any interesting features? Well since you mention it, yes there are. As I’ve already mentioned there are different filters and DSP effects. There are also a few more things. These include an arpegiator with 16 types of arpeggios, a ribbon controller (controlled by moving your finger up and down a touch-sensitive pad) for different effects, an assignable knob able of controlling modulation, reverb, attack, release and vloume levels and many other things which would take me all day to mention. How much is it going to set me back? About 200 quid I reckon, but you may be able to find a second hand one or one in a sale. I totally recommend it and its definitely worth £200 and looks great too.
Having graduated from a Yamaha keyboard with mini keys, it seemed strange to use full sized ones - my plump fingers had got used to bending to hit the smaller keys. The PSR is popular because it is easy to use; it has 100 voices and 100 styles. There are, it must be said, some voices which do not seem up to scratch, I cannot imagine what you would use them for! Likewise, the styles. It would be useful if you could turn down some of the accompaniments, even if they are good you do not want it to drown out your wonderful chords, you've spent ages to learn. It does not have sensitive keys, but then at about £150, what do you expect? A good beginners instrument,and it is worth persevering to learn proper chord fingering, you can then use it on other makes of keyboards.
If you're new to keyboards and making electronic music or not, the Yamaha DJX is an excellent value keyboard. For round about £200 you get a decent machine with an excellent range of sounds. It has lots of pre-programmed tunes and drum patterns and you can turn on and off various elements of each pattern as it plays to create youyr own "mix". While this is fun for a while, the novelty of this soon wears off..and it is now that the keyboard's strenghts really come out. Plug this beauty into the back of PC with a sound card. Fire up a sequencer like Cakewalk or Cubase and you've just entered the realm of professional sounding music, limited only by your imagination (and your ability to suss out the manual, which is not the clearest of things.) Combining the sounds on the keyboard with samples on the soundcard is relatively easy. But forget the manual for help in getting this set up. Search the internet for files and help (try the Yamaha Forum). I've got an AWE64 Gold soundcard. Not bad in its day, but when I play a MIDI file via the DJX, the sounds are much richer, and deeper than the sound card. And with the full velocity keys on the DJX (this means that the harder you hit the keys, the louder the sound), you've got a great package for £200. Of course you can buy better keyboards, with better sounds, and better options for tweaking those sounds, but you'll be looking at £600 plus for those. The drawback with the DJX is although you can tweak the sounds as they come out of the speakers with various knobs and things, none of these messages are transmitted via MIDI. This means that the lovely filter sweep you made on a synth with the facia knob, doesn't get put into your sequenceer track. So when you play it back, that effect is lost. Still, it's easier to go into the track on the sequencer and draw in the effect anyway. So i don't think it's a problem. So all in all, a great buy. Especially if you can find one second hand.
The Yamaha DJX is a nifty wee thing, with loads of buttons to press and switches to push. If you fance yourself as a Dance DJ mixer or composer, but don't have the computers or knowhow to do it, then this is a great place to start. There are 283 voices on this machine, which are good quality. It's basically an advanced keyboard. My favourites are the Seashore and Applause voices. There are also a set of sampled voiced like "Oh Baby!" "yeah" etc. The keyboard is midi compatible - I've only used it with cakewalk, but it was really easy to set up and use. There are loop and effects controls, a microphone (though I'm not quite sure how to use it.) There's a detailed manual, which is a bit confusing. There is a pitch bender and groove button, which alters the rhythmic accompaniments. The recording feature is standard, and easy to use. The best feature is the ribbon control - you run your finger along it, and it alters the accompaniment pitch, rhythm and speed. If you're into playing about then the DJX will keep you occupied for weeks, and longer. Drawbacks - it may look like a keyboard with extras, but it is really for dance mixing - if you want standard keyboard accompaniments like "waltz", you won't find it on the DJX. Overall, great fun, and impressive features, but could use some more standard keyboard features.