Released this year, Yamaha’s new Montage is billed a synthesiser from the future and a flagship product for the brand. A further development of Yamaha’s game-changing DX and the later Motif synth range, Montages come in three models, 88-, 76- and 61-key versions – the latter being the one I was provided for this review.
Biggest of the range is the Montage 8 which boasts fully-weighted balanced hammer key action and will set you back seven grand, while the Montage 6 comes at the more widely affordable rrp of $5,099. Along with the 76-key Montage 7 model it has a semi-weighted action with aftertouch called FSX. 128-note stereo polyphony, customisable control sequences, 1.75GB of integrated flash memory and a ‘Super Knob’ feature across the range.
The Montage ‘Motion Control Synthesis Engine’ combines two sound engines – AWM2 (high-quality waveform and subtractive synthesis) and FM-X (pure Frequency Modulation synthesis). The two can be zoned or layered across eight parts.
The ‘Motion Control’ matrix provides for the creation of new sounds not possible on previous hardware synths.
It’s heavy, and when synthesisers are heavy I get excited. It usually means the circuitry is top notch, there’s lots of it AND that the casing of the synth is robust. The Montage weighs 15kg. It reminded me of my Korg Polysix, which weighs around 12kg and has the most amazing arpeggiator I’ve ever played. The sound bank at first listen is incredible. Did they use this for the Stranger Things soundtrack? (I think the timing is wrong – but you get my drift.)
This is an FM synthesiser – it’s not an analogue synth. It does not have an oscillator that generates a simple sine/sawtooth waveforms. It gives you a bank of sounds to manipulate.
The performance/sound bank is incredible. It covers all genres and the sounds (with large-volume waveform data) are better than anything I’ve heard in a synthesiser. The console is nicely satisfying – I was very quickly able to access the different sound banks.
The Montage offers so many ways to manipulate sounds that it was hard to know where to start. The best place for me was the well-articulated parameter area on the left hand side of the keyboard where there are physical knobs to manipulate Tone, EQ/FX and ARP/MS. The signal processing options are the most thorough I’ve come across in a synth. The digital console offers even deeper possibilities, if you want to do more. I was also pleased to discover you can upload your own sounds/samples.
As noted above, I’m a big Korg Polysix fan. In particular I love its arpeggiator. With more than 10,000 Arpeggio types the Montage 6 sells itself on its arpeggio function – but I found it too complex, so much so that it was difficult to get a simple arpeggio. This did frustrate me, but if you’re a geek for creating arpeggios, then this would likely be your synth.
The semi-weighted keys are luxurious. One of the surprising things about this synth is that it has a touch screen menu that’s actually good. It works, it’s really intuitive (I didn’t need to read the manual to find my way around), and it responds quickly to touch.
The front panel is like a spaceship – this ‘futuristic’ synth would be easy to navigate in a dark room/stage. It has backlit buttons, the pulsating Super Knob allowing for a wide range of dynamic sound changes, rotary encoders with LED position indicator collars, LED ‘ladders’ for the faders, plus a 17cm (7”) colour touchscreen.
This would be ideal for a live/pro musician, in my humble opinion it beats the pants off the Nord Stage which many musicians use live. It has a great bank of sounds, with top-notch filters. You can save and recall sounds easily. It also has a SSS (Seamless Sound Switching) function for switching between performances smoothly without any notes being cut off.
The Montage would also be good in the studio. It supports high-resolution (192 kHz) audio and it has a USB audio interface for recording on a Mac or Windows PC – without the need for a separate device. The connections are also compatible with iOS devices.
The Montage 6 is a lovely synth to play. It has wonderfully weighted keys, an intuitive console (digital and physical) and the highest quality bank of sounds I’ve come across. This review covers just the basics – the Montage can literally do everything and anything you need or could imagine in a synthesiser. Despite the price tag being north of five grand I think it’s great value.
Sophie Burbery is Little Bark – littlebark.bandcamp.com