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  1. Jason
  2. Sherlock Holmes The Voice
  3. MONTAGE Series Synthesizers
  4. Sunday, 15 September 2019
The thread on sequencers was getting heavy on other items (sampler, etc) - so it may be worthwhile to have a dedicated thread for comparing the two keyboards.

Just a few items to kick things off.

Fantom has a more fully capable on-board set of sequencers. Montage has a recorder with limitations and no editing.

Fantom has balanced audio inputs (my favorite XLR+1/4" TRS combo). Phantom power is supported and each channel (L and R) gets its own level trim. Montage has unbalanced audio inputs. No phantom supply. Level gain knob is applied equally to both L and R. Montage's knob is on the front face - Fantom is behind the keyboard. So probably not something you will use much on Fantom past set-it-and-forget-it.

Fantom has XLR audio outputs (my favorite cable for live use). Montage has balanced - but TRS

Fantom allows controlling all 16 zones with local keyboard. Montage allows only 8 zones under local keyboard control.
EDIT: worth noting that Fantom's zone, made up of a "Tone" can have 4 different "partials" - so some look at this as being the same as Montage since Montage's AWM2 supports 8 elements and if you see "partials" as elements - then 16x4 = 8x8. However, the difference is that all sounds on Fantom work with this - so a single zone is a fully-formed instrument which all are done within 4 partials while Montage gets 8 elements. I think, given this, it's a false equivalency - although worth mentioning. Both Fantom's PCM (sample) based engine and the virtual analog support 4 partials.

Fantom supports "seamless" type Performance switching with less limitations than Montage. Montage, and only when supported, you can only switch to one next Performance while holding the original sound. With Fantom, you can switch many times (seemingly unlimited - more than 5 as demonstrated) while the original sound is still sustained. Also, all 16 zones are supported. Fantom has no limitation based on zone usage - as Montage only allows the 1st 8 PARTs to be used by both the original and final Performances in a switch.

Fantom has a touchscreen operated joystick-like fader between 4 different sounds with ability to record a travel pattern. Montage has superknob which is different. You can realize the same sort of thing with appropriate programming - but also have superknob target many other parameters.

Fantom appears to have ability to chain performance equivalents. Closest Montage has is sequential position of Performances in live set and using footswitch to advance to next Live Set Performance. Maybe a wash here. Would have to learn more about Fantom to know advantage/disadvantage.

Fantom's GUI allows more "touch and drag" operations - which enables editing curves by "drawing" on the screen (such as ADSR envelopes, cutoff curves, etc). Montage doesn't have any touch/drag support so editing is done more indirectly (increase/decrease individual parameters).

Fantom's pitch wheel and possibly other controllers support 1024 values. Montage's pitch wheel supports 127 values. Use of Fantom's controllers results in less "stepping" - more smooth results than Montage. There's a thread on Montage's issues with pitch bend.

Fantom has some dedicated knobs for items which are typically "deep edit" items. Cutoff, Resonance, A/D/S/R, patch select. Montage you can assign different assignable knobs for some of this - but Fantom's more dedicated knobs integrate a bit differently with how different sounds can be selected to apply to their fixed-function knobs. Slightly more "dynamic" than Montage's approach for these functions.

Fantom has an engine supporting modeled pianos. Montage doesn't have this.

Fantom has a virtual analog engine. Montage doesn't have this - but FM-X is the trade - Montage has this and Fantom doesn't.

Fantom seems to have more knobs/buttons. There are the knobs similar to the assignable knobs in Montage under the faders. Then there are a set of knobs in Fantom below the touchscreen. These sport my favorite knob feature to have a push-button integrated so they take less space and can do more. There are the other knobs mentioned before for ADSR/etc. Then there are the pads which can take on many different modes (DAW control, sample playback, etc).

Fantom has tight integration with Mainstage where the Mainstage screen will "show up" on Fantom. You can see the VSTi controls on the Fantom screen. Montage's integration is less. More geared towards having Montage (knobs and sliders) controllers assigned to controlling different things in your DAW - but no other integration.

Fantom ... there's also vapor-ware "rumors". Where reviewers mention that more synth engines are to come in future updates. Not sure what will come of that. Montage does have this - a rumor of a new engine in the future. Relatively speaking, Fantom already starts with more engines.

Fantom has CV/Gate outs. Montage doesn't have this.

Fantom has more aux audio outs. Helpful for click track and other uses. One extra output compared to Montage.

Fantom supports 3 USB ports for external MIDI USB-MIDI controllers. Montage doesn't have this. Technically, the USB port for Montage is for flash drives only.

Fantom has 2 MIDI outs (or 1 out and 1 thru). More possibilities perhaps integrating with external gear. Montage has 1 MIDI out.

Fantom has a joystick control (pitch and mod in one controller) or wheels. Montage has wheels.

Fantom has a sampler built-in. You can edit loop points and such. Montage doesn't have any sampler features. Currently, Fantom doesn't support sampling/editing multisamples on board. The sampler is "dumbed down" to only support loading in one-shot samples for the multi-pads. The keyboard has a lot of beefy support for audio input (balanced inputs, phantom power, XLR or TRS) - "expensive" stuff to only support pad-triggered samples. The vaporware promise/rumor is that multisample editing is to come later. I would think, given what's there, this seems like a reasonable thing to anticipate. That said, Roland's track record of firmware updates and support-after-the-sale has not been stellar. As many complaints I've seen against Montage on this front, Yamaha did a great job of delivering. So great that I think it started to setup an expectation of ultra-frequent updates. I would say relatively, Yamaha (Montage) wins in this category although there's no real data on Fantom yet.

Yes, none of these matter if the keyboard sounds like a tin can stuck the bottom of your shoe. Fantom's V-piano engine sounds great to me. The synth sounds are Roland - they have a characteristic sound I do not personally gravitate towards (which is why I've gone the Yamaha path). But they sound fine and balanced with the other sounds. I think the sound is no slouch and there is vapor-ware promises of updates to bring more/different sounds to the table where the current release sounds are more derivative of past products.

There are more differences to possibly highlight. Those are the main ones I can think of to start the ball rolling.
Responses (113)
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Well i just think Fantom and Montage are just great Synths... i would like to get them both :p
Agreed :D . For now I cancelled the Fantom order until they integrate proper multi-sampling. But this thread is useful for those who want to decide between the two.
  1. more than a month ago
  2. MONTAGE Series Synthesizers
  3. # 21
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Saying Roland has a history of not adding firmware updates is complete bull****, and sounds like the ramblings of a jealous child.


That's one opinion.

I think it's responsible to introduce skepticism for promised future development. One has to take this sort of thing with a grain of salt from Roland or any other company. Making purchases based on what's not in the product - and banking that something you need will be updated in a future update - is discouraged. Reports of Roland's history comes from dedicated Roland users on Roland support forums. This isn't meant to be mud slinging - but fairly unbiased accounts from Roland users themselves.

Yamaha has their moments as well. At one point Yamaha suggested a future update for compatibility with WXC/LPC waveforms. That did not materialize and has since been backed-out. Many promised items did materialize - but that one stands out as an exception to the rule.
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  2. MONTAGE Series Synthesizers
  3. # 22
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Montage lets you save a performance with fx edits and all no problem. The Fantom requires you to save an individual tone (part) with fx changes first and then save the scene (performance). Otherwise you will lose any effects changes you made. With only 512 user save slots that pretty dumb IMO.
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  3. # 23
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Fantom has some dedicated knobs for items which are typically "deep edit" items. Cutoff, Resonance, A/D/S/R, patch select. Montage you can assign different assignable knobs for some of this - but Fantom's more dedicated knobs integrate a bit differently with how different sounds can be selected to apply to their fixed-function knobs. Slightly more "dynamic" than Montage's approach for these functions.
This is very significant for synth tweakers. The functions are logically grouped and labeled, and consistent from patch to patch. The buttons that let you switch the ADSR from pitch to amp to filter mean that those 4 knobs actually have the functions of 12 knobs. Yes, you could assign these things to assignable knobs on the Montage, but once you assign the 12 envelope controls, the filter cutoff/resonance, and some of the other dedicated controls of that section, you'll have pretty much used up the 8 available knobs and 8 available sliders on the Montage. On the Fantom, you have all those controls all the time, without using up any of those other knobs and sliders, leaving them free for still other functions. So between that and the fact that it includes a real VA engine, plus the real analog filter that I don't think has been mentioned, the Fantom would seem to have greater appeal to the traditional synth folks.

Fantom has more aux audio outs. Helpful for click track and other uses. One extra output compared to Montage.
Worth noting, it's an additional stereo output. So you have a total of 4 channels of assignable output, vs. 2.

One more Fantom advantage I don't think has been mentioned... yes, as mentioned, you can mix-and-match up to 16 internal sounds to be played from the internal keys instead of 8, but also, you can play up to 16 external sounds instead of the 8 supported by Yamaha's zone master function.

One more point in Yamaha's favor that I haven't seen mentioned is that a single instrument sound can have many more component pieces. Yamaha supports 8 Elements per Part; and the concept of multi-part single instruments means that, for example, a four part instrument could have 32 elements. A single recallable instrument on the Roland consists of a max of just 4 Partials (their equivalent to elements).

And my favorite Yamaha advantage: You can get the bulk of the Montage's sounds and capabilities in a MODX that costs and weighs far less! ;-)
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  2. MONTAGE Series Synthesizers
  3. # 24
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The Fantom requires you to save an individual tone (part) with fx changes first and then save the scene (performance).


Sort of true. The tone contains one effect (MFX). The other effects are not part of the tone. IFX1, IFX2, Chorus, Reverb, Master Comp.

So, yes, there's one effect that's tied to the tone - but most of the effects are not and are outside of the tone.

Overall, there's less flexibility since - to compare to Montage - it's like you have one insertion effect and then 4 system effects. The master effect (Master EQ+Master Comp) in Fantom is more limited. Just compression and EQ. Montage's master effects stage has EQ and also compression, delay, spiralizer, bit crusher, and more. Fantom's non-tone effects: IFX1, IFX2, Chorus, and Reverb are all shared across all zones - so it's like you have more system effects in Fantom. How flexible this arrangement is depends on the number of tones you use - but overall is less flexible than having more effects at the individual "tone" (PART) level. I haven't reviewed what the 90 effects are on the Fantom. It's possible that there are many "multi effects" that equate to combining two of Montage's insertion effects. Someone can dig more deeply into this. Fantom has a less than 30 "multi effects". I would say not quite as flexible as Montage even with a collection of multi-effects.
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  2. MONTAGE Series Synthesizers
  3. # 25
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Regarding ADSR, filter/cutoff knobs ...
This is very significant for synth tweakers.


The 6 knobs (that have built-in buttons) under the touchscreen on Fantom are also great for real-time control. They assume different roles depending on what you have selected - but can also tweak/shape the sound. For V-pianos I believe the 1st knob is generally how open the piano lid is. And others have generally standard assignments for their presets depending on the type of sound loaded.

Montage's approach was to, for the most part, ditch too many buttons that interact with the touchscreen and rely on the touchscreen itself. There are a few exceptions - like using sliders to adjust custom user curve step values (or inflection points for linear curve). So sometimes the sliders interact with the touchscreen. And data dial, inc/dec, cursor keys do - but those are not really built for real-time tweaking of synth sounds. They're more for editing in the studio when you're programming. Fantom's choice to throw more knobs at the interface provides more real-time control over different things. It does provide more choices for future engines (even if they never come) and also provide more useful controllers when using as a master to VSTi slaves (or even other keyboards).

Pivoting to the expression pedals - Fantom has 3 combo switch/expression-pedal jacks while Montage has 2 expression pedal jacks plus a footswitch jack. Fantom is more flexible as it allows for more footswitches at once. The functions of these switches can include going to the next or previous "performance" (scene). Alternatively, standard 3-pedal (damper, sostenuto, soft) can be used and still have an open port for expression. Damper in both keyboards is fixed-function so damper was not previously listed in the port count. The addition of more foot switches overall gives Fantom more flexibility - something which has been requested by Montage users (inc + dec, or sostenuto).
  1. more than a month ago
  2. MONTAGE Series Synthesizers
  3. # 26
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Montage lets you save a performance with fx edits and all no problem. The Fantom requires you to save an individual tone (part) with fx changes first and then save the scene (performance). Otherwise you will lose any effects changes you made. With only 512 user save slots that pretty dumb IMO.


Incorrect, in the Fantom you can have offset values for most used tweaks eg cutoff, resonance and amp envelope settings which can be tweaked without altering the original tone. The only effect that is tied to the tone is the MFX the other effects (IFX1, IFX2, reverb, and chorus) are tied to the scene. This means the tone will be the same when you bring it into the scene. If you tweak the sound more than the offset settings then yes you save a new version of it, but not always a bad thing as then it doesn;t effect other sounds that use the tone you changed.

I really like the Fantom architecture, we are all different, but so far I am loving programming the F6, its a breeze to program. I still have a MODX which will become a backup board, but the Fantom does sound extremely good....
  1. more than a month ago
  2. MONTAGE Series Synthesizers
  3. # 27
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I think I just didnt word it correctly. Yes the tone must be resaved if you change the MFX setting otherwise when you load the scene that contains the scene the old MFX will still be there. People need to know how this affects things. +1 Yamaha for not doing this on the Montage. But i understand why it is the way it is on Roland products.
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  3. # 28
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Still we have no real details on modulation comparison
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  3. # 29
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Fantom has something called a "structure" where half of the partials (2) can act as modulators and half (2) can act as carriers. The relationship of the modulator to carrier can vary: "SYNC" mode will reset the carrier's oscillator according to the modulator's pitch cycle. I'd have to have a demo to make sense out of that. There's "RING" mode where the modulator's output multiplies with the carrier. Then there's "XMOD" (cross modulation) where the modulator's output affects the pitch of the carrier. "XMOD2" is cross-modulation of the VA (virtual analog) engine only. Most other modes apply to both VA and sampled (PCM) modes. There are other parameters to control the depth/level of various partials in the structure along with phase control for XMOD2.
  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 30
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LFO Modulation.

Waveforms: Sine, Triangle, Saw Up, Saw Down, Square, Random, Trapezoid, Sample & Hold, Chaos, Sine with randomly varied amplitude, Step (fixed pattern with 16 steps)

Along with "normal" settings like offset, rate, and sync - there are interesting "spice" parameters like "rate detune". This will vary the rate of the LFO each time you press a key. You can set how much change to expect from every key press (subtle change to a higher degree).

When modulating pitch, Fantom provides details how to achieve specific note values. Examples: when pitch depth is 51, step values in multiples of 6 will achieve up to one octave of change (6*12 = 72, the maximum setting - so each step of 6 is a chromatic note or semi-tone. Steps of 3 - you can do microtonal exactly half-way between two notes). Different pitch depths have a "table" of how to achieve a range of 2 or 3 octaves total. Each of these tables get you to chromatic notes. For a 3-octave note range, your steps are limited to 2 - which gives you only quarter tones and not other microtones (like available for 2 or 1 octave range).

LFO can affect pitch, filtar, pan, amplitude, or can be a source for "matrix control". In this sense, the LFO is similar in high-level operation as Montage's motion sequence.

Other than LFO1/2, "matrix control" sources (maximum count of 4 at a time - compared to Montage which has many more possible sources. 8 assignable knobs per PART, mod wheel, pitch bend, aftertouch, buttons, etc -- lots more - 16 at a time per PART) can be:

Sources:
CC1-95 (excluding CC32).
Pitch bend, Aftertouch,
Syscontrol 1-4. This one is a bit different. You can set 4 MIDI messages as system control messages and this counts as one source (4-in-1), MIDI messages are CC1-95(except 32), aftertouch, pitch bend. Suitable for control by an external MIDI controller.
Velocity (Montage doesn't have velocity as a source - you have to use an envelope follower to simulate this - not quite the same),
pitch envelope, filter envelope, amplitude envelope (Montage doesn't support these as sources).

Destinations:
Pitch, Cutoff, Resonance, Level (volume), pan, chorus amount, reverb amount, LFO1 or LFO2 pitch depth, LFO1 or 2 filter depth, LFO1 or 2 amplitude depth, LFO 1 or 2 pan depth, LFO rate (if LFO is not set to sync to note values - can speed/slow down the LFO), Pitch Envelope attack/decay/release time, Filter Envelope ADR time, Amplitude ADR time, PMT (crossfade type when fading between two partials), FXM (depth of frequency modulation produced by FXM - FXM applies a modulating waveform to the current waveform - to sort of "FM-ize" sounds. FMX color 1-4 makes sounds more "metallic" to more "grainy" ) ... Montage doesn't have this but FM-X may be able to come close, MFX control 1-4 (effects modulation), PW (pulse width = duty cycle for waveforms), PWM (pulse width modulation depth) ... Montage does not have provisions for applying PWM to arbitrary waves or ability to modulate these, FAT (low frequency boost amount for virtual analog), X-MOD or X-MOD2 (Crossmod depth when using carrier/modulator partials), LFO 1 or 2 step position - so can offset the current LFO step position, supersaw detune, pitch/filter/amplitude depth.

Since LFO can be a source and a destination - it appears there's some ability to make "recursive" functions - maybe useful for generative music/synthesis.

Finally, you can control the sensitivity of the 4 matrix controls (sources). There are negative values - so you can change the polarity.

Montage allows for translating a source through a curve to a destination. Fantom does not have a curve you can translate source controllers from incoming values to outgoing values applied to destinations. LFOs, for the matrix control, are similar to the "pulses" which define the movement of a lane in Montage. But in Fantom, these LFO modulations (Lane-like) do not have any curve they can pass through. Nor do other Fantom controllers as sources (pitch wheel, aftertouch, etc) have an ability to pass through a curve like Montage's system. Fantom's modulation is more direct - which means that some controllers are better than others for certain modulation results.
  1. more than a month ago
  2. MONTAGE Series Synthesizers
  3. # 31
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I know this is somewhat subjective, but I've watched quite a number of videos of the new Fantom, and have not heard any V-piano that sounds nearly as awesome as the CFX on the Montage8. This was my number 1 consideration when deciding to buy the Montage over the Kronos several months back, as well as over the MODX8 (i could have saved a lot of money and had a synth 1/3 the weight, but the MODX8 was a fail on pianos & the User memory to maximize how many piano libraries could be loaded at once). If I had to do it all over and decide against the Fantom with it's V-piano, I would still pick the Montage8.

Having said that, I do love Roland and would certainly want the Fantom if I could afford a second synth!
  1. more than a month ago
  2. MONTAGE Series Synthesizers
  3. # 32
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The other things that may come into play for consideration and potentially change things when comparing the Montage & Fantom, is the "Yamaha Synth streams 45th anniversary event" Sept 22. If they announce some of the things I've suspected they will in the next OS update, that could be a game changer and level the playing field, or possibly give the Montage the edge..!?

It will be interesting how this discussion changes (or not) in a week's time! ;)
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  3. # 33
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When modulating pitch, Fantom provides details how to achieve specific note values.


1. Want. I remember your unsuccessful trials with this. Yamaha should have gone the extra mile with the scaling values. Too late now, no doubt.

2. Fantom's PWM on samples is notoriously bad unless you're into aliasing. I wouldn't call that a point for the Fantom, given the very narrow sweet spot.
  1. more than a month ago
  2. MONTAGE Series Synthesizers
  3. # 34
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I like Scott's playing more - but this run in this first impression I thought I heard more dynamics in the interaction of the body of the piano and maybe string-to-string. Montage simulates this somewhat, but for this aspect of the sound - I prefer a modeled approach (various resonance).

https://youtu.be/0spqtaHkH5A?t=1383

Piano sounds are, as you say, highly subjective. Having options is great - so it's nice to have more libraries in Montage or other keyboards that each have their own approaches/character.

For me, I think Yamaha pianos have always played in a mix better. If I was doing solo work - some of the modeled nuance may be helpful/"better" - but this sort of thing tends to get lost in the settings I play in.
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  2. MONTAGE Series Synthesizers
  3. # 35
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There's an apparent limitation to one of Fantom's upsides: the CV/Gate outputs. They are not exposed to the computer as part of the audio interface (as is the norm with computer CV output), so they cannot be used as CV outputs with software like VCV Rack.
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  2. MONTAGE Series Synthesizers
  3. # 36
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Fantom Cv outputs vs montage no cv outputs
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  3. # 37
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Fantom Cv outputs vs montage no cv outputs

I did call it an upside. :)

My clarification is that it's more like:
Fantom limited CV Outputs vs Montage no CV Outputs

This opens a clear avenue for Yamaha or another company to improve upon what Roland has started here. Maybe they might even add CV tools to Cubase in order to compete with Ableton and Bitwig.

I've just noticed that the analog filter has its own discrete L&R outputs on the back. From a computer, the audio interface only presents 6 outputs (3 stereo pairs) so this pair is apparently not independently accessible that way or at least not at the same time as the others. But at least for the onboard sounds, and maybe in combination with appropriately routed audio coming into the A/D inputs, it appears that the Fantom effectively has three pairs of assignable outputs vs the Montage's one.
  1. more than a month ago
  2. MONTAGE Series Synthesizers
  3. # 38
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I like Scott's playing more - but this run in this first impression I thought I heard more dynamics in the interaction of the body of the piano and maybe string-to-string. Montage simulates this somewhat, but for this aspect of the sound - I prefer a modeled approach (various resonance).
https://youtu.be/0spqtaHkH5A?t=1383


This one I did not see yet, so definitely the best I've heard so far of the V-piano! That one definitely brings it closer to the Montage, but I still give the CFX the win IMHO

The V-piano definitely has great resonance. What I plan to do with the Montage pianos is combine the enveloped based resonance from the Epic Grand piano with the effect based resonance of the CFX, cut the volume/amount of each type in half, thus mixing the two...

For me, I think Yamaha pianos have always played in a mix better. If I was doing solo work - some of the modeled nuance may be helpful/"better" - but this sort of thing tends to get lost in the settings I play in.

I hear this a lot on forums, and maybe there is a lot of truth in it due to the type of piano it is, and the quality of the samples & programming Yamaha have put into it; however I just love the sound itself of the CFX more than most other pianos...except for the Synthogy Ivory C7, which I am working on capturing via SampleRobot. Maybe it's my style of playing whereby I love the dynamic & sometimes hardest notes in the mid to lower end of the piano, or that I grew up on Journey, Chicago, Night Ranger and other piano heavy bands, but this is what I want to hear come out of the Montage, with the bell like overtones in the bass notes, etc. (the CFX is a very close 2nd IMHO):
https://soundcloud.com/synthogy/pursuit-i2
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  3. # 39
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Disclaimer for the truth police ...

For me, I think Yamaha pianos have always played in a mix better


BTW: when I compared "Yamaha pianos" to other manufacturers who do modeling - I was comparing the flagship synth (Motif, Montage) vs other manufacturers' flagship synths that directly compete with Yamaha. Yamaha has done modeling in past CP series and perhaps other keyboards. "Yamaha pianos" I mentioned before -- better in the mix (without modeling) should have read "Yamaha flagship synthesizer/workstation pianos as in Motif and Montage and derivatives".

Also keep in mind that you grow into any piano sound you spend a lot of time with. I've never loved ____ pianos (fill in the blank with some major manufacturer that has a reputation for great pianos -- not important to call out any particular one) - but if I played that keyboard exclusively -- I'd probably grow into preferring at over other pianos as I acclimate. Or at least, this could be a component of bias.
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  3. # 40


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