The flagship product of a range should stand out as a bastion of supreme quality, technological advancement and refined good looks. This top of the range model must carry the burden of being the yardstick by which a company will often be measured when it introduces a new line. Yamaha, albeit a behemoth in the world of technology, not only in musical instruments, but in the motor industry and audio-visual world too, continues to defy the possibility of being a ‘jack of all trades, master of none,’ type company by remaining a leader in each one of these fields.
Now I don’t know too much about motor-cycles and I’ve never had the luxury of owning a Yamaha home entertainment system, but when it comes to musical instruments I can emphatically confirm that Yamaha products are out the top drawer of excellence. Thus it is with much excitement and interest that the new CP range of stage pianos has caught our attention amidst claims that Yamaha have once again set the bar in this field. We took a close look at the flagship model, the CP1 to see if this instrument does indeed match the fanfare and of course its price tag….
The brochure claims the design to be ‘an elegant blend of tradition and innovation with attention to detail and quality in every component.’ Indeed.
Each component and facet of the instrument suggests quiet elegance and an air of brooding confidence. As I write this review, superlatives like ‘timeless,’ ‘understated elegance’ and ‘state-of-the-art’ pop into my head. It’s not that it just looks expensive, it’s the 70s-style tolex finish, and the prominent vacuum florescent display along with the chunky 88-note ‘NW-Stage’ hammer action wooden keyboard with its 42 CM depth and classic wooden side panel finishes that command these sort of impressions.
Then add to this the smaller details and a crowd pleaser for sure… a gorgeous prominently placed brushed aluminium volume knob and lighted Yamaha logo shining back at you. The entire construction is supremely built.
The main front panel has 40 shallow push-buttons and a centrally mounted 2 x 55 character fluorescent display and six accompanying ‘soft’ knobs. The CP1 comes with a three-pedal floor unit, manuals as well as a software DVD which contains the Cubase AI DAW application.
On the rear of the unit you will find a three-pin IEC mains connector, power switch, MIDI In, Out and Thru sockets, and a type-B USB socket for computer connectivity. You get six pedal inputs, of which three are meant to accommodate plugs from the supplied pedal unit, meaning an additional 3 for expansion. Audio output is via either a pair of quarter-inch jacks or male XLR sockets, thus providing both balanced and unbalanced options.
Then almost as to suggest that if you really do want to show off your glorious new stage piano you must find the small little switch hidden away that illuminates the Yamaha logo. Very sassy and oh so cool.
Spectral Component Modeling
The CP1’s sounds are generated through Yamaha’s new SCM (Spectral Component Modeling) system and boast 17 different piano types from their famous concert grand piano (CF111S) to a range of electric pianos as well as four DX7 synthesizer type piano sounds. This new SCM system uses a fundamentally different tone generation system to all previous Yamaha models. This system allows physical components of the instrument (hardness of the hammers, resonance of the sound board, striking position of the hammers) to be modeled. It also uses a completely different method of playback to normal sampling technology. Rather than multi-velocity layers of samples, SCM uses granular parametric data so every nuance of the player’s touch is translated into expressive tone.
The CP series also includes Virtual Circuit Modeling (VCM) effects as found on Yamaha’s high-end digital mixers and Motif series of workstations, which re-create the phasers, compressors and vintage stomp boxes that epitomised the sound of some of the most famous of vintage pianos and keyboards from the 60s, 70s and 80s. The CP1 ships with 48 preset ‘Performances’, which in a nutshell are patches for one to fully appreciate what the instrument has to offer. These can be called up via 16 dedicated number buttons and three bank buttons. You have up to 48 of your own performances that can be stored in a dedicated ‘user’ area. Handily if you exhaust these 48 you can store additional performances on a memory-stick by simply plugging into the front-panel socket.
A hugely contested and markedly subjective area of contention will always remain the sound of a modeled instrument and whilst this does inevitably come down to personal taste and performance requirements, there should be little to argue about when it comes to the trueness and authenticity with which the CP1 delivers the classic piano sounds.
The acoustic models (CF111S & S6B) are full of colour and exuberance; the CF111S delivers and elegant and classy concert grand piano sound whilst the S6B is the jazzier more pop-oriented piano sound which is warm, ballsy and expressive. What Yamaha have excelled in is the dynamic response of these sounds so that when you are playing loud the added energy carries through to the tone and dynamics giving it that truly authentic analog/acoustic piano delivery which would be impossible for the average ear to discern from a real grand piano. The CP1 excels even more with the electric piano sounds. Both the Wurlitzers and CP80/88 are brilliant, as are the various Rhodes models. These all require little if any tweaking to get the desired sounds which are very close to the original if not in many cases probably better.
The amp/speaker emulations are well thought out on each of these and are totally convincing. Likewise, the DX sounds are super and brought back memories of 80s New Wave pop music with the excessive use of synthesizers in that bygone era.
Surely a winner today as 80s synth-pop seems to be making a huge comeback in the current electro-pop music.
The effects proved to be a little less impressive than the build quality and sounds. The phasers, flangers, chorus and wah are all purposeful and work particularly well on the electric piano sounds but there are restrictions such as certain phasers causing the acoustic piano to go mono and you can only have one effect per part.
Likewise, the amp and speaker modeling whilst perfectly functional and useful with the electric pianos cannot be used with the acoustics. Essentially the effects are perfect when used on the preset patches that they are well matched to, but may be found to be a little restrictive to the more adventurous user looking to explore new sound possibilities.
There are also no front panel midi controls so use as a master keyboard with the bundled Cubase AI DAW software may feel a little basic although I should imagine one would not buy a CP1 to use primarily as a midi keyboard.
Simply put, the CP1 is not cheap. One could argue that for the price tag certain other sound-sets such as clavinet, harpsichord, vibes, an upright or two or a good honky-tonk could have been included, or maybe some strings and there is a case for this.
However the real objective Yamaha has seemingly set out to achieve with their Spectral Component Modeling is to focus on the trickiest part of digital piano technology and this is to marry a truly authentic playing experience with the sound of a real piano. Notably the more affordable CP5 retains all the key SCM pianos, has the NW-STAGE keyboard, includes a big sampled sound set and a sequencer, so at a more affordable price it’s likely that the CP5 and CP50 will prove the more popular of the range.
But let’s not take anything away from the CP1. It exudes an aura of elegance and quiet cool that befits a flagship model in any Yamaha range and will no doubt please those who can afford the ‘big-daddy.’
Expect to pay: (launch price specials)
Yamaha CP1 – R 49,000.00
Yamaha CP5 – R 36,000.00
Yamaha CP50 – R 23,500.00
Distributor: Global Music
Tel : 011 454-1131
Web : www.yamahaproaudio.co.za
Written By : Muse Reports