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  1. Henrik
  2. MODX Series Synthesizers
  3. Wednesday, 14 November 2018
I am the proud owner of s90, motif XF8 and now MODX8 and have obviously been happy with this, BUT the overdrive/distortion have always been pretty awful.
In my opinion, this has been a main reason why e.g. Nord have been able to take over so many Yamaha customers and I have to say that I consider returning the modx8.

It's not that there is no distortion. It's just that all settings sound less than mediocre and weak and I had hoped something had improved.

Am I the only one who miss a better sounding distortion/overdrive for especially Hammond/Leslie type sounds - and more importantly, if Yamaha agrees - wouldn't it just be great if an upgrade could be provided?
Responses (8)
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
I haven't checked all the MODX options, but I know that I could not get the nice tube overdrive organ effect from the S30/S80 on the Motif XS series. I'd be very happy if that were back.
  1. more than a month ago
  2. MODX Series Synthesizers
  3. # 1
Bad Mister
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
S90, S30/S80 (even Motif XS/XF) are ancient history ... getting the appropriate distortion sound for any instrument you are trying to emulate is really a matter of programming skill - (you can blame the effect but that’s the easy way out). *Where* in the chain of Effects you place the Distortion device, *how much* signal you provide it to work with, what you route it through post the application of the distortion can make all the difference in the result. Positioning is also a new word for some... not just where in the Stereo field you place something... but the feel of just where you, as a listener, are from the sound you’re hearing. “In your face” versus “ambient”... a sound can have the “room” built in or not.

You decide that by how you setup your effects. Attempting to get a ‘good overdrive’ sound requires you pay very close attention to the virtual component you are overdriving. Also what else is your instrument doing at the time? Are you asking it to do more than just create the one sound, or not? In other words, I discovered an acoustic piano sound that when played alone sounds, ...well, less than stellar, you would use it as a solo piano but in context of other instruments (sequenced) it’s beyond perfect!!

All considerations that go into making something sound right. New effects have been added and each could be a course by itself...

Your own opinions, not withstanding, we’re gonna take your statement to mean that you’d like to see a tutorial on how to synthesize the particular distortion sound you are going after. The S-series synths mentioned are almost twenty years ago, fellas! Yikes... I can think of tons of improvements in just signal path since that time. Even the Motif XS/XF is 8-11 years ago...

I used to (in a former reality) spend a lot of time doing sound-alike MIDI sequences, which required not going necessarily after *my* favorite distortion, but actually recreating, in specific detail, a specific guitar or organ or Rhodes sound... I find with the tools available in the MONTAGE/MODX (EQs, Inserts, and Routing capability) I can make it sound like an old ‘40s recording, a 1970s vibe, the 80’s gated era, to ultra high def, to virtually any sonic atmosphere desired.

Guys like Dave Polich, (programmer extraordinaire, DCP) does excellent recreations of guitars and organs, I mention his programming because I'm a big fan.

I cannot change your opinion, wouldn’t even try.. that’s for you to work on... (you’re free to think whatever you like). But I’ll just put it down as you’re possibly confused about how to get the most out of them, or how to get better results. But while you’re doing so, ask around about Yamaha Effects and their pedigree, where they are used, by who they are endorsed. The VCM (Virtual Circuitry Modeling) Effects are no joke. You don’t really appreciate them til you break out an old stomp box and then do the A/B comparisons yourself. Proof:Pudding!

I do know a lot about these synths (no brag, it’s just what I do that allows me to spend the time with them) you can do most anything. I would never claim I know everything. But I do know enough to conclude that a mediocre or weak sound is the fault of instrument... I learn something new every time I approach the gear.

Last word: what are you playing through? (It’s a rhetorical question... ask yourself, ‘do I have a great sound system?’ If you cannot yell out YES I DO! then your right to complain will be diminished...
I spent some amount of time with a guy that wanted “better effects”, after some time of clearing some of the routing issues, I asked what he was playing the synth through... and it became clear why he thought the sound was terrible... because the sound system was terrible. Play through a sound system that doesn’t reproduce what you send in ... is an Operator Error... great synth => terrible sound system = terrible sound. You can only be as good as the weakest link in your audio chain. The Rotary Speaker ... is a Stereo Effect — fail to play it in Stereo, fail to feel it rotate. Trying to surround someone with sound from a mono keyboard amp, is dooming yourself to failure (imho).
  1. more than a month ago
  2. MODX Series Synthesizers
  3. # 2
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Initially, during MODX's development (actually, when Montage was piloting MODX's eventual features) - Montage had a "weaker" rotating speaker emulator than is now available. From customer feedback, a new effect "Rotary Speaker 2" was born which allows to add distortion to the sound. There are selections of presets which take advantage of this effect and some which use the original effect.

I'm not saying that the net result will match your aspiration - only that there is some precedence for Yamaha already improving a sound you have in your line-of-fire to improve. And that what you hear (or do not) is already the result of improvement. The Rotary Speaker 2 effect has some parameters you may want to tweak to see if anything comes more in-line.

J's Jazz vs. J's Jazz 2 features the differences. I recognize that Rotary Speaker 1 vs. 2 does not have anything specific in it for distortion - and that in this Performance it's InsB (a multi effect, not rotating speaker) that supplies the distortion for both Performances. However, the improvements to rotating speaker were said to offer some enhancements to reproduce "grit" - which is why I bring this up specifically.

Note that the superknob is used to turn up/down distortion (along with adjusting other things) - or you can use Assignable Knob #4 to change the distortion level (along with fewer other parameters changing). The ratio for InsB distortion does not go as high as it could (14). Around 30 for the ratio would max out distortion. It starts to sound "bad" at the limits - common for any effect - but you may want to inch up the ratio to get more distortion.

Also, edit InsB directly. You'll see "Dist Tone" and "Dist Presence" can give lots of variation - basically emphasizing the high freq. vs low. I like what happens when I leave "Dist Tone" alone and crank up "Dist Presence". "Dist Drive" is already one of the parameter Assignable knob 4 changes. Changing the "Dist SW" from clean to something else gives you another entire type of distortion. Some of the others match organ well. For this effect, you'll notice the speaker simulation is turned off. You can turn that on for more variation. There are some nice presets here which work. Except for speaker type, any of these parameters discussed can be assigned to a knob if you want. But not yet - (* see below ).

Maybe you've already run through all of this - but just wanted to make you aware and have you start with J's Jazz (original) vs. J's Jazz 2 to see what's improved for organs - as well as show that the story doesn't end there as there are lots of parameters you can either already freely control (with superknob or assignable knobs) or edit.

(* See Below: ) Also note that J's Jazz 2 is out of destinations. They used all 16 available to a single PART in this single-PART Performance. If you want to be able to assign something to this PART differently - you'll have to replace an existing assignment.

Two that I think is easy to get rid of are the assignable knobs adjusting Var Send and Rev Send (assignable knobs #6 and #7). There's already knobs for this using the EQ/FX switch - but, more than that, I'm more likely to adjust this to taste and leave it set that way for the duration. I know some of this depends on the venue you play - but still, I would most likely never fool with these knobs. Superknob does not move these knobs either - so you're not losing anything. Then I would assign more of the distortion destinations to knobs just so I can tweak with knobs until I dialed in something better - and maybe set those parameters in with the programmed value and move the knobs to something else I want real-time control over.

In the case of using assignable knobs 5-8 on MODX, you'll need to set the knob bank/selection appropriately.


This thing about the S80 effects - when I look at the S80's data list, I do see lots of "Modulation" effect options that seem to target organs. The following single-effects seem to apply:

S80's effects:

Even though it may be ancient history - I wonder if the more recent addition of the Rotary Speaker 2 effect to Montage (and subsequently MODX) were taking algorithms lifted from this list - or follow-ons which inherited these.

... making the combo effects like "distortion+" or "overdrive+" or "amp sim+" just means you have to "burn" an effect to add the other one instead of using a single effect slot. That's probably manageable. I'm not sure how meaningful the Rotary Speaker 1-4 vs. Rotary Speaker 1-2 are in MODX.
  1. more than a month ago
  2. MODX Series Synthesizers
  3. # 3
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
When I got my MOX, I sat it side-by-side with my S30, looked at both their patches with editors, and tried to get the S30 Tube Organ sound out of the MOX. A close match on the raw sound was easy, but I couldn't get a match in the overdrive/amp sim, I couldn't get the MOX organ to sound as good (to my ears) as the S30. It's good to see that more fx options have been added to the MODX. One of these days, I'll have to pull out my old S30 and put it side-by-side with the MODX and revisit this project!
  1. more than a month ago
  2. MODX Series Synthesizers
  3. # 4
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Maybe it wasn't clear I was listing the S80's effects. I've edited the post to add a couple of clarifying words to label the data.

EDIT: wasn't referencing S80 vs. S30 -- just re-read my original post and thought to myself it wasn't clear if the effect parameters I summarized were being listed as representing MODX or the S80/S30 - so I added the clarifications.
  1. more than a month ago
  2. MODX Series Synthesizers
  3. # 5
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
S30 and S80 are the same except for the keys. S30 was the 61 key version, S80 was the 88. Regardless, the point remains, there are more effects/amp/rotary options in the MODX than there were in the MOX, so maybe I'll be able to come closer to duplicating the sound I liked from the old S30/S80.
  1. more than a month ago
  2. MODX Series Synthesizers
  3. # 6
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
I highly appreciate the answers, especially Jason's, which contains real useful advise, which I've already been through more or less as far as I can tell right now. I will investigate asap if there is something I've missed.

Also thank you to Bad Mister, who answered in length with a fierce passionate defense of the existing functionality. As usual with some valid points, but perhaps not entirely objective:D - which is quite alright I guess.

To answer a few of the rhetorical questions, I mainly compare the MODX with a Nord Electro 5, on some fairly old PA and speakers as well as some studio monitors (the same for both synths obviously), only using the built-in effects. I also have a Hammond 100 on a Leslie147 for reference, but my main comparison is between the Nord and the MODX, since anything going through the Leslie sounds awesome. A freakin' recorder sounds great on that Leslie. When comparing, I ONLY use the organ sounds or the Clavinet sounds.
The experience which triggered me here was actually the sound of a free Native Instrument (komplete 11) Organ. --- Again on the same speakers, even the distortion on their FREE Leslie emulation beats the MODX. - That cannot be ?

Ultimately, I guess this area can be considered down to individual subjective tastes, but I would argue that 90% of all users will agree that it is simply impossible to get something out of the MODX (not to mention Motif XF), which is on the same standard as especially the Nord. If I EQ the MODX effects heavily and boost low/mid range I get a lot closer than with the presents, but the distortion simply turns unpleasant before reaching that deeply satisfying scream that I can get out of my other options. - It's somewhat easier with Clavinet sounds than Hammond sounds, but still not completely there.

There is only so much which can be done by tweaking the parameters and I keep tweaking - make no mistake. Even though I am aware that Yamaha representatives probably cannot agree with such critique in public, I hope that you will take my information and consider reverse engineering some of the existing competition. I am truly a fan of the Yamaha products for many other reasons and wish to be able to promote these for many years to come. An enhancement in this area would truly make my day,
  1. more than a month ago
  2. MODX Series Synthesizers
  3. # 7
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
When it comes to distortion or overdrive, I start with the effects added with the Motif XF version 1.5 update:


BTW, These same effect types (algorithms) are available on Genos, Tyros 5 and a few other Yamaha arrangers. On arrangers, they are called "Real Distortion." The presets are voiced differently.

The "All 9 Bars!" Performance insert effects perform distortion and rotary speaker emulation. The effect routing is:

Insert B --> Insert A

where Insert B is MULTI FX and Insert A is Rotary Speaker 1.

MULTI FX is effectively a chain of guitar pedal effects and is quite versatile. The effect parameters for "All 9 Bars!" are:

1 Comp. Sustain 2.0
2 Wah SW Off
3 Wah Pedal 0
4 Dist SW Clean
5 Dist Drive 1.8
6 Dist EQ Hi Boost
7 Dist Tone 1.5
8 Dist Presence 5.0
9 Output Level 100
10 --
11 Speaker Type Twin
12 LFO Speed 7.738Hz
13 Phaser SW Off
14 Delay SW Echo 1 St
15 Delay Ctrl 40
16 Delay Time 48

The Compressor Sustain stage is always on. The Wah and Phaser are turned off. So, after the compressor, the rest of the chain applies distortion, amp simulation (Twin) and delay.

There's plenty to tweak here! I recommend reading Phil's blog covering the new effects in Motif XF version 1.5:


If MULTI FX doesn't get the sound that your looking for, then maybe one of the other "Real Distortion" effects will get the job done.

All the best -- pj
  1. more than a month ago
  2. MODX Series Synthesizers
  3. # 8
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