by Rob Puricelli | 4,3 / 5,0 | Approximate reading time: 5 Minutes
Yamaha Montage White

Yamaha Montage White  ·  Source: Yamaha

Yamaha Montage Synthesizer

 ·  Source: Yamaha

Yamaha Montage White

Yamaha Montage White  ·  Source: Yamaha

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In a fairly low-key announcement today, Yamaha announced the discontinuation of their flagship synthesizer, the Montage. They also announced the imminent arrival of the next-generation… Montage! Let’s unravel the mystery…

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After seven years in production as Yamaha’s top-of-the-line synthesizer, Yamaha announced today that the Montage is to be discontinued. Replacing the highly regarded MOTIF series, the Montage has gained a large and loyal following. The announcement was brief but contained a glimmer of what is to come…

Today we are discontinuing the MONTAGE music synthesizer. Since its launch in 2016, MONTAGE has provided musicians with new ways to express themselves. As much as we would have liked to, we cannot develop the current MONTAGE any further.

The wording is quite telling. It points toward Yamaha being forced to redesign the platform based on chip availability and cost. The Montage was, and still is, very highly regarded. It is found in countless studios and live rigs. However, Montage hasn’t been available to buy for a long time. Retailers were quoting massive lead times and, undoubtedly, pointing people towards alternatives.

So what made the Montage so successful? And why is its demise and apparent reincarnation so important?

Yamaha Montage White

Yamaha Montage White

Montage History

On its release in May of 2016, the Montage represented a clear shift in tactics. Yamaha had built quite a reputation for building powerful, reliable workstations. The MOTIF, which Montage replaced, was the staple of many musicians. Pros and amateurs loved its power and quality of sound. It was even Prince’s keyboard of choice in his latter years. So when the Montage came out without a full set of workstation features, it seemed to suggest the era of the keyboard workstation was over. It also heralded the re-emergence of FM as a main sound generation source. FM-X is based on the FM section of the FS1R tone module of the late 1990s. It features 8 operators and 88 algorithms. It sadly lacks the 8 formant shaping operators of the FS1R which made it so unique.

Coupled with Yamaha’s already outstanding AWM2 sample-based engine, this new pairing gave the Montage a very powerful and hugely expressive sound.

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Yamaha Montage White

Yamaha Montage White

Montage Reborn?

So Montage is dead. But there was one more thing…

And one more thing…the next generation MONTAGE synthesizer is coming in October.

So Montage isn’t dead? It would appear not. This statement implies that whatever is coming to fill the Montage’s boots, it will bear the same name. My guess is Montage+. That’s what they did with the MODX series last year with the introduction of the MODX+ series. The MODX has always been the cut-down version of the Montage. With the added + features, it came much closer to Montage specs, at least under the hood.

Yamaha AN-X Logo

Yamaha AN-X Logo

Montage+ Wishlist

My prediction for October is a new, premium Montage+ featuring AWM2, FM-X and AN-X, the name that Yamaha patented a while back. The smart money is that this is a new, updated virtual analogue engine based on Yamaha’s AN modelling technology seen first in the brilliant AN1x in 1997. It might also feature polyphonic aftertouch, which has seen a resurgence of late. The reason I say this is that a Yamaha synth with virtual analogue modelling simply HAS to feature authentic CS-80 reproductions. And you can’t have a CS-80 replication without PolyAT.

Maybe they’ll finally add the Formant Shaping last seen on the FS1R? I was amazed that they didn’t port this over alongside the 8-Op FM engine they copied from it. Even Dr John Chowning, the man who discovered FM synthesis, said that Formant Shaping was the next logical progression for FM.

Fun Fact: Yamaha hoovered up as many FS1R’s from the likes of eBay to give to sound designers for the original Montage. Now you know why there are so few about and why they command such high prices!

Yamaha FS1R

Yamaha FS1R

Expect the “Montage+” to have all the amazing sound-shaping tools of its forebear, if not more. The Superknob might be oddly named, but it is a pretty powerful tool. Motion sequencing between AWM, FM and AN? Yes please!! The Spectral suite of sound shaping tools may well be expanded or enhanced.

But I Want A Montage Now!

If you’ve been hankering for a Montage, can you wait until October? If not, you might be looking around for some alternatives. The best way to get the Montage sound is, without question, the MODX+. These synths feature an almost identical spec to the Montage when it comes to synthesis. It lacks a bunch of user interface controls, but sonically, it’s virtually identical. It’s also available in 61, 76 and 88 note varieties. It’s light, robust and great for gigging. Like the Montage, it has a very capable built-in audio interface. On the down side, it is quite plasticky and the keybeds are very lacking. No aftertouch at all and a fairly uninspiring feel.

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Yamaha MODX6+
Yamaha MODX6+
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Yamaha MODX7+
Yamaha MODX7+
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(3)
Yamaha MODX8+
Yamaha MODX8+
Customer rating:
(7)

Or you could go for a KORG. Like the Montage, the Kronos has been unavailable for a while so they have been pushing the NAUTILUS. This workstation just got an update with the NAUTILUS AT, which we reported on last week. I had a go on one at the weekend and it’s nice. But the price definitely isn’t. That said, it has a huge range of synthesis engines and is a true workstation.

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Korg Nautilus 61
Korg Nautilus 61
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(13)
Korg Nautilus 61 AT
Korg Nautilus 61 AT No customer rating available yet
Korg Nautilus 73
Korg Nautilus 73
Customer rating:
(7)
Korg Nautilus 88
Korg Nautilus 88
Customer rating:
(5)
Korg Nautilus 88 AT
Korg Nautilus 88 AT
Customer rating:
(2)

And then there’s Roland Fantom range. Revered in much the same way as Yamaha is in this field, there are plenty of models to choose from.

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Roland Fantom 6
Roland Fantom 6
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(7)
Roland Fantom 7
Roland Fantom 7
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(8)
Roland Fantom 8
Roland Fantom 8
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(14)
Roland Fantom-06
Roland Fantom-06
Customer rating:
(10)
Roland Fantom-07
Roland Fantom-07
Customer rating:
(7)
Roland Fantom-08
Roland Fantom-08
Customer rating:
(8)

Watch This Space

The wait is on to see what the team in Hamamatsu have come up with. The Yamaha fan in me is desperate for a full-on return to a hugely powerful and expressive synth from the masters of hugely powerful and expressive synths! I hope the designers had images of the GX1, CS-80, DX-1 and SY99 on their walls!

As a parting gift, Yamaha are giving away a free Montage sample pack featuring three unique Yamaha pianos. These sounds are for Montage only, but should work on the MODX+.

Until then, we mourn the passing of the Montage which has served its users well.

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Image Sources:
  • Yamaha Montage White: Yamaha
  • Yamaha Montage White: Yamaha
  • Yamaha AN-X Logo: Yamaha
  • Yamaha FS1R: Yamaha Japan
Yamaha Montage Synthesizer

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10 responses to “The Yamaha Montage is dead. Long live the Montage!”

    doctor iavnov says:
    5

    Hope, at the same time we will get an update for MODX+ with AN-X engine too…

    doctor ivanov says:
    5

    …and gift from Yamaha for MONTAGE and MODX users – FREE Character Pianos patch (I checked it on my MODX6+, sounds beautiful):

    Nicole says:
    1

    They really need to make the new Montage compatible with all the patterns and songs that people created on the Motif XFs. These users were left with no way to transfer their work they recorded using these modes.

    eugene Sherman says:
    4

    l would like to buy a Yamaha digital piano with 61 keys that are
    weighted if possible.
    thanks gene

    Scott Kinsey says:
    1

    Add VP1 tech .. now that would be something else !

    David says:
    1

    It would be nice to see a new Yamaha with more polyphony in the same way Casio privia has 256 of polyphony

    Kimbo says:
    0

    This is just a fast cash grab.

    Just at some more memory and ask more cash. MODX
    At AT and ask more cash. Nautilus

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