Yamaha DJX

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Yamaha DJX Mk1

 

I cannot say anything bad about this machine - it almost lacks nothing unless you are a home organist looking for auto-RHUMBA arrangements. The DJX is full of rave and electro type rhythms and has moved away from the organ-type layout of many home keyboards - even though the same auto-accomp and rhythms are on board they are controlled in a very different fashion and the net feeling is that you are dealing with something a whole lot more geared to the home recording enthusiast rather than an organist. In fact I did note that one of these on Ebay was being sold BECAUSE an organist had bought it by mistake.

I do sympathise with him - because Cutoff frequencies and resonance are not really the type of things organists excel at - however the manual covers it all in detail,so don't be put off - this is a magic machine full of features and the sound that comes out will make your jaw drop.

Keyboard
The keyboard is fairly standard 5 octave touch sensitive large keys - the weighting is not incredible but then this doesn't cost thousands. It splits in various places for different reasons,but basically you only have one split voice and one layer voice,which seems to have become the norm these days.

The lower keyboard acts as the chord controller for the "parts" that play back IF the part control button is pressed - otherwise the whole keyboard is manual. This is basically your auto-accomp. The difference being that each part is composed of 3 phrases - each of which can be turned on or off using one octave of the keyboard - when the part control button is pressed. All of the phrases can be routed to any of the effects that the DJX has on board - and they are quite extensive - much more than your usual reverb/chorus.

The keyboard can be sent on any MIDI channel and can be switched off under Local Control.

Voices
The voices on the DJX cover many of the sounds outside of the GM system and more geared to the rave scene - they are grouped into sections and some of them will auto-phase or can be altered by the filter to give the same sort of effect as an analogue synth - this is what the DJX excels at - if you make the velocity sensitivity high (3rd out of the 3 steps) then the dynamics/timbre alter, the harder you hit the keys,so your sound alters from a muted almost none existing noise to a brash brassy noise as you it the keys harder.

The DJX also has a full set of GM voices as well as the rave style ones,which is quite remarkable - it has managed to replace my PSR420 and added a whole other suite of features.

Sampling
Some of the voices are samples -and the DJX has a sampling feature built in - which cross the keyboard according to how many samples you have and where you attributed them on the keyboard - the sound quality is much better than the crude sampling of the Casio SK1/5 and everything is under MIDI control. 12 samples can be taken,but you are limited to about 6 seconds of sample time. You can sample from LINE IN or MIC or both at once.
The samples can be edited and the DJX shows a full LCD layout of the wave and makes it easier to truncate and edit the wave so that there are no nasty jumps in a loop.

Rhythms
The drum sequences are broken into areas such as ELECTRO and DRUM 'N' BASS covering all the sort of modern sound styles used by anyone with a short haircut. Each of the drums can be routed INDIVIDUALLY through whatever effect is currently dominant - which means that you can use the filter's cutoff and resonance to individually tweak the drum noises and that means if you want to pump up your bass drum or echo your snare - you can. Or if you think the high hats need a phaser,you can do that too.

There are several MIDI drumkits and also drumloops which will rotate when the sustain is held down -all of which sounds fantastic. Each drum is sent on a different MIDI channel - which may make Channel 10 or 16 machines operate rather bizarrely- but it does mean independent control of the drums.

Effects
The DJX has 3 effects sections - reverb,chorus and DSP - which work synchronously - that is - you can choose one from each section,and any part of it's voicing system can go through them - meaning your main voice can be echoed - and the layered voice needn't be - the routing is activated by the ASSIGN Knob - which controls any of the parameters in the DJX - there are left/right echoes Plate,Gate and Hall type reverbs,Wah,Phaser,Flanger - in essence you don't even need an external effects box.

Songs
The DJX has a 6 track recorder which works in Real or Step time and can store 3 user song patterns. The front panel settings can be stored,so that set-ups can be recalled - ie which effects work on what.
Step time programming is awkward on any machine- but the DJX has an extra facility to alter the dynamics of the whole step time phrase - changing the volume dynamics of any step-time phrase that is entered using one of several volume variations.

The front facia settings can be saved - though the record button cycles through Step,Real Time and Facia settings which means sometimes you can accidentally overwrite the facia settings if you don't notice which record mode you are in.

Controllers
There is a pitch bender whose range is adjustable and a ribbon controller - which along with the ASSIGN knob can be selected to control  many parameters - from modulation to 'turntable' which alters the speed up or down as well as pitch rather as if you were slowing a tape machine.

SYSx
The DJX supports full system exclusive dumping so you can store songs and samples on your PC!

Good Points: The whole thing is a good point. Can't help but 'rave' about it. It is particularly useful to be able to edit the sample,though pitch adjustment may have helped - this can be accomplished with careful use of the assignable knob set to turntable type pitch adjustment though.

Niggles: One problem I have found is that the ribbon controller is far from the Pitch Bend wheel which makes doing pitch/mod effects impossible without a 3rd hand - it would have been better to have the two closer together much as they are on the DX100.
It is also slightly annoying that the red RECORD button functions for the STEP/REAL record process AND the voice bank settings which leads you to accidentally overwrite any voice bank settings you have made if you have not noticed that you are still in record mode.
There is no sample pitch adjustment which may have helped get those samples in tune with the rest of the notes.

Expect to pay: These are about £50-80 on Ebay - probably one of the better buys from Yamaha -IF you are not an organist!

 

Watch out also for the rather snazzy looking MKII version!!!

DJX2

Unlike it's forerunner the DJX2 DOES lack some features. With this keyboard Yamaha have moved even further away from the conventional idea of a keyboard - the manual even boasts that you don't have to be a musician to make great sounding noises - which is true,if rather detracting from what music is about. However,what the DJX2 excels in is producing those House,Trance,Rave styles that are not so easy to mimic on other keyboards and like the earlier model all the controls are geared to DJ-ing rather than playing keyboards - not that you cannot do that too.

The reason for the odd coloured keyboard is that each octave - like the earlier version - doubles as a set of controls for switching some of the musical parts on and off or selecting which ones to control,and wisely Yamaha decided it might be easier to find them if the keys were coloured differently,though how good grey keys are playing to an audience of ravers in a nightclub might be guessed at.

The controls have been simplified from the earlier version which had loads of menu options and an LCD display - here the DJX2 has traded all that in for a few buttons and switches and a rotary control - which makes it a lot easier on performance,and less geared towards "tecchies" and more towards DJ's.
The LCD display has been replaced with a simpler LED display which is better for low lighting conditions and it does not take ages to figure out what function has changed to what parameter.

The keyboard is NOT velocity sensitive,but does respond to velocity via MIDI. There are some rather odd omissions by Yamaha - notably the production of a MIDI output through the OUT socket to send any of what it is going on to another machine - this is a glaring oversight and very disappointing.There is no SUSTAIN jack ,but again,response happens via MIDI.

Added on, are some LEDs above the part control octaves which give a better idea of what is switched on and off,and are perhaps easier to see in a badly lit audiotorium.The pitch bender has been removed and pitch is controlled only by the ribbon controller. There is also an addtional ACTIVATOR,which adds enchancements to the chosen patterns.

VOICES

The voice palette is quite extensive covering largely the same areas as the first version,wierd synth noises rather than the GM classical voices- though some of those are there too - especially brass,trumpets and organs which might be used in modern styles.These are dialled up on the rotary selector which is a brilliant idea and perhaps better than the phone keypad system that was on the DJX1. Unlike the DJX1 the main voice cannot be actively filtered by the cutoff and resonance control - another glaring omission - but again - CAN be controlled under MIDI. Incidentally, I have now both models under breath control by using MIDI-ox,details of how to do this and the PDF manuals can be found at templarseries.atspace.com/synths.html.

RHYTHMS
The rhythm unit in the DJX2 is similar to the first version,playing modern techno-styles. Each of the parts can be turned on or off by use of the grey keys when in pattern mode,and this is where you make use of the activator to use the last octave to add repeating loops or one shot noises. Use the rotary selector to choose from an amazing array.There are several modern drumkits inside the DJX2 as there was in the first incarnation and these can be played from the keys manually by selecting the required voice number,or MIDI channel10.

EFFECTS
The effect unit on the MK2 has been greatly simplified,you have control over the balance and one parameter of the 10 effects,only one of which can be used at one time. The effect is applied to the whole sound signal,rather than individual sounds as it was on the MK1,which is a tad sad, though the effects themselves are rather fantastic and the parameter controls go from really slow to really fast - and I believe the MK1 did not have ring modulation,which the MK2 does,so you can sound like dial tone telephones!

The selection of an effect is rather odd,pressing the selector button skips through the effects in sequence and upon arriving at the one you want press the live on switch once and press the grey button again to secure the effect.

SAMPLES
There are ROM based samples in the MK2 - as there were in the MK1,but seemingly,more of them and different ones.Add to this 6 user samples which arrive via microphone or via LINE IN - which is a phono socket as opposed to the 3.5 jack on the MK1. 3 of the samples are one shot and 3 are loops - and the memory is divided between them - and it is not a lot,so be careful to end the sample with the sample button. There is no editor as there was on the MK1 so loops tend to get gaps in them - not good.

MIDI
The MIDI provision on the MK2 is where it fails the most. It sends almost nothing and one wonders why they bothered to have an OUT socket, other than the fact that it sends MIDI SYSx dumps,and the SYNC signal.A real failure there. It does however,respond to almost everything,and I have found it very handy to tack the DJX2 on the end of the DJX1,and then everything makes sense.

The output is phenomenal from this machine,the actual sound is amazing,beefed up by a 3 channel equalizer and exiting via headphones or the dual phono line out sockets.It can also store 6 of your performances with 1200 events per performance,so you can record what you have done digitally straight onto the keyboard!

Its is also supported by Yamaha's Pattern Launcher software which can add 5 user patterns to the repertoire. [see templarseries.atspace.com/djx.html]

Good points: This machine,like the MK1 has to be heard to be believed,the performance controls, & ribbon controller make creating rave music a cinch - it is like having REASON in a box. The case is stylish and rugged. The LEDs make more sense than LCDs (without a backlight?!) when using in dark conditions, and it can even be synched under MIDI to an external time pulse.The filtering is under MIDI control and the quality of the sampling seems better than the MK1 if suffering from a higher noise quotient.The speaker system is amazing and pumps out buckets of bass and noise and when I first got it I never stopped using it for hours - it was loads of fun - and that IS what music is about.

Niggles: The glaring omissions on the MK2,make sense if seen in the light of DJ use rather than musician use,but even so - the lack of the MIDI output from the rhythm generator is a travesty,no editor on the samples makes them quick and easy to use but not polished.The effects ARE polished but do not have much control.There is no velocity sensitivity which does not make much sense when trying to raise expectations with dynamics.

Expect to pay: Around £35 - 45+

 

Watch out also for the keyboardless DJXiib which sells for about £25-40

 
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