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The Yamaha DJX was the first keyboard myself and my Brother came to own, around 10 years ago when I first started my music lessons at school. Since then, I have come to own several keyboards and a piano, but there's something which always draws me back to the DJX, especially when recording. On it's blue exterior, the vast array of dials, buttons, pitch bend and ribbon controller gives a nod to the time in which it was built, towards the end of the 1990's - when rave and techno was arguably at it's peak, amongst the wish wash of Boybands and Girlbands who ruled the airwaves at the time.
From a specifications point of view, this 61-key keyboard has 283 "Voices", 100 "Styles" and a wonderfully eclectic range of functions, changeable via a numbered keypad that even Coolio would be impressed with. Granted, the voices are not as exciting as the synths you would find with a keyboard made in 2011, but for a 14 year old keyboard there is still a lot of fun to be had. On occasion, I even see modern day bands feature the DJX sounds/keyboard in music videos (the name of the band I'm thinking of escapes me), but it just proves that keyboards/synths are allowed to age, unlike anyone in Hollywood.
As for the functions of the DJX, there are standard ones such as transpose, dual and reverb, but also more intricate ones such as panning, arpegiator, volume and octave options. You scroll through each of these options by continually hitting the "function" button, and then if the particular option displayed is what you want to change, wait a few seconds and then use the arrows below the screen to change it.
One of the main features which I get the most use out of, is the MIDI capability. For those of you who don't know, this is where you can connect your keyboard to your PC via a USB cable, and then play in music into a software program to make songs. On a modern day piece of Software such as Mixcraft, you can play in any voice or effect through MIDI, and then change it completely within the software, i.e play in a piano voice and change it to a rusty old synth. Many hours of fun have been had with this particular feature, not to mention the amount of songs made. Arguably, you use this feature with any modern day MIDI-capable keyboard, but I have always preferred to use the DJX as you can really have fun with the settings, especially the arpegiator (which none of my other keyboards possess).
There are also some wonderfully random features, such as voice sampling. This is where you plug a microphone into the back of the keyboard, go on the sampling setting and you can record a short voice clip which then gets turned into the full set of keys. As kids myself and my cousin would mess around saying Bullseye phrases, and have "One-Hundred-and-EIGHTY!", played at every pitch possible, much to the joy of the neighbours. To use this setting (and to plug in headphones), you will require a special jack which you can get for about £1 at Maplins.
As with most keyboards, you can also record a 6 track song by playing in each voice individually. This is a feature I use often when making up songs and melodies, although with the DJX it can become tricky to re-record over a voice, as it sometimes doesn't allow you to do this. Nevertheless, the range of voices which cover everything from percussion, synths, strings, SFX, organs, guitars, brass and many more, allow you to really have fun, and be creative. Some may appear ear-piercing, without adjustment from the dials, but this is all part of the fun, as this keyboard doesn't just hand you a great sounding voice on a plate - in many cases you have to work for it.
I guess to sum the DJX up, it's like a vintage Aston Martin, in that it is classic and has a uniqueness about it that modern cars don't possess, but that doesn't mean it's suitable for the school run. Yes, it has amazing quirky features which keep me entertained for hours, but sometimes it's age can be a problem. The speakers for example, differ greatly from modern keyboards and have plastic lines going across them instead of the plastic mesh style ones used today. When you turn the keyboard on, unless you disabled several functions you will automatically set off the pre-programmed song, and the touch sens will be impossible, unless you change it from the set level 3, to level 1. For some reason the "Grand Piano" sound is set way over to voice 156, yet on every other keyboard I own the Grand Piano is always the first of the voices.
The Yamaha DJX is now expired, in that you can only really find it for sale in places such as Ebay. The going rate seems to be about £30-£85, which is quite fair given it's age, but to me this keyboard is worth much more than that and I could never see myself parting with it. It's not shiny and new, and doesn't have the latest features, and the plug is as big as Mount Everest - but it has wisdom and feel to it that you simply don't get with newer keyboards, certainly none I have tried to date anyway.
Beginners to the keyboard may wish to steer clear and opt for something simpler, as the amount of functions may seem overwhelming if you are not sure how to use them. However, if you are interested in retro features and being able to really play with the sound (there are 6 dials to choose from: Cutoff, Resonance, Groove, Asign and Bass Boost) then I couldn't recommend this keyboard enough, especially if you are a fan of 80's/90's music, and wish to recreate similar sounds. My prediction is that I will still be using this keyboard as much in another 10 years!