Yamaha YC61 Stage Keyboard REVIEW

The new Yamaha YC61 is quite the beast – a 61-key clonewheel-style organ and piano combo that takes cues from some existing Yamaha instruments (like the CP73) and retains the feel and sound the Yamaha audio team has become known for.

Why did we mention the CP73? Well, we got a little déjà vu opening up the box. It felt like we had already reviewed this keyboard not that long ago, so much so that we had to do a double-take and make sure they didn’t send us the same product twice. The CP73 was the same price, if we recall correctly (which we frequently do not, to be fair) and although it featured another octave, it also offered up electric piano and organ tones with a similar-looking control layout and all-black aesthetic. You’d be forgiven if you made the same mistake we did. If there was one negative we have for the YC61, it might be that marketplace confusion sets in pretty easily when similar looking products come out in a relatively short timeframe, with similar functions and pricing. Just a bit of constructive feedback for the folks at Yamaha…

That said, the keyboard does perform amazingly well. The action is great, the sounds you can coax from it are outstanding and its sits very well in a mix (both live and in the DAW). Like the CP boards, this is primarily set up as a knob-per-function instrument, meaning you can really start tweaking in real time straight away, and get the tones you’re looking for without too much effort. That said, there is a decent amount of menu-diving necessary for more advanced stuff, and the screen is fairly small. So that’s a bit of a bummer, but not too bad.

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If you need an organ on the go, you can go with one of Hammond’s more recent digital offerings (though they’re pricy) or the Crumar Mojo, which we’ve also tested (and loved). The Yamaha features a similar waterfall style keybed for those palm grease runs, which is great. And the drawbar controls are actually pretty good, too (not as good as the Crumar, but good – the Crumar also didn’t require a screen). This is where the chief difference in the CP and YC can be found – the CP doesn’t have drawbar sliders, but does feature some basic organ sounds.

Of course, the Yamaha does have a leg up on other modern clonewheel machines in that you can split some FM tones in the mix, or some strings, brass and pads on top of the traditional clonewheel sounds. That’s a nice touch if you’re comping and filling out the rhythm section as a single keyboardist.

Without being in the marketing room at Yamaha HQ, I take it the CP is more for piano sounds, and the YC is more for organ sounds (at least this seems to be the convention with Yamaha – see the recent Reface line and other classic lines from yesteryear that adhere to this standard), although there is so much overlap in design, feel and sound engines that I feel like two separate instruments could be seen as a bit unnecessary in the lineup, unless I’m missing something. The keyboard certainly plays and sounds great, and it feels great with that waterfall keyboard, so if you are in the market for a realistic organ sound with TONS of versatility, this is definitely high on the list. I just wish they had taken the best of both instruments (YC and CP) and simply made one killer app to rule them all, so to speak.

PROS:

great action, feel, sound, waterfall keybed, and drawbar controls

CONS:

Menu-diving, no MIDI thru port

STREET PRICE:

$1999

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