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Yamaha S90 ES

4.25 4.25 out of 5, based on 3 Reviews

Synth and stage piano in one.

17th January 2012

by seangray1

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 3 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4

Synth and stage piano in one.
I've owned two of these and I sold them. Here's why I bought them and here's why I sold them:

I bought them because I wanted an awesome piano sound in my bedroom. I started a conservatory drum study and it also involved learning piano. I started songwriting and I thought it would be great to learn piano and be able to write songs on piano and have this monster as my master keyboard in my studio.

It's definitely a fantastic product. The sound is amazing and the build is like a tank. Try and break this? You'll need to go to the gym first, because lifting it up is the first problem.

So the piano sound is fantastic. You can get the half-damping pedal to go with it and that feels great. The keys are very nice, but not very realistic. Still, the best I've come by yet.
Sound is great for on stage, but not really for in the studio. Could have something to do with my mixing skills, but I must say that if you play it quite hard, it just doesn't sound very nice. The attack gets very aggressive.

I bought it because I liked the 'piano and synth all in one package'. It's quite cool, but the only thing that REALLY sounds good is the piano. You won't want to use this synth in your studio. Your software synths are probably way better. It's digital anyway and it's quite hard to edit the sounds.

I sold my latest one and have bought a real analog synth. It's so fantastic compared to the digital ES 90. Besides sounding beautiful, the real synths are built for editing the sounds, so there's enough knobs to fiddle with, instead of a complicated screen menu.

Best piano sound I've heard on a stage piano. Great as a master keyboard for its keyboard and it's stability. For most things you would not want to record it; rather go for a real piano. Difficult interface for editing sounds.

If you play live and you're quite strong or if you study piano and need to practice and have no space for a real one, then it's fantastic; buy it. If you aren't then just buy a cheap midi keyboard and use sample libraries.

17th January 2012

by jimmymio

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 3 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4

I've been a pro keyboard player for nearly 30 years and i've owned one of these for the last 5 or so. It's probably the favorite KB I've owned. I love the sounds and the feel and it's been extremely reliable. The architecture is a little tough to get used to but that's because its so flexible.

29th June 2015

by Deleted User

I'm reviewing the Yamaha S90-ES as a used instrument because this model has been discontinued (replaced by the S90-XS), and that's how I purchased it.

I have keyboards. My favorite is my 76-note Roland A-70, and I also have a few other 61 and 76-note varieties from Rhodes, Kurzweil, Yamaha, Roland and others. My only 88-note controller is a Kurzweil K2500XS, which sounds amazing but does not have a fully-weighted piano action. Any good keyboard player will tell you that when you have to make do, you settle for what you have and make the most of it, but some things just need to be played on a fully weighted action to capture the expressiveness of the performance that can't quite be reproduced on a synth action keybed.

Probably my all-time favorite keyboardist is Michael Omartian, the multiple Grammy-winning producer/singer/songwriter, whose Sound House studio features a Yamaha S90. If this keyboard is good enough for my hero (who in all likelihood has manufacturers literally throwing keyboards at him for a home in his studio) then who am I to argue? Yet I also wanted the expandability afforded by the PLG-150 slots of which I have several cards, so I decided my next keyboard would be the Yamaha S90-ES.

The S90-ES is built on the same engine as the Motif ES. In fact all patches and performances on the S90-ES are compatible with the Motif ES. Yamaha traded the user-installable RAM option with extra ROM. The S90-ES takes the 175MB of ROM from the Motif ES line and enhances it with 53MB of multiple velocity stereo samples from their beautiful $250,000 handmade S700 flagship grand piano for a total of 228MB of wave ROM.

These piano samples (and others) can be articulated with a new "half-damper" effect using the optional FC-3 pedal. Half-damper is a continuous controller; instead of the standard on/off pedal switch, the half-damper feature allows you to fine tune your sustain by varying the pressure on the pedal. This very closely simulates the same type of damper control found on acoustic grand pianos, and can be utilized to enhance other sounds as well, for instance the secondary "release" of a Hohner D6 Clavinet sound. If it's hard to visualize, here's a YouTube video which demonstrates Yamaha's half-damper technology.

The instrument feels like a piano. There are several factors which govern this including your choice of stands and their height and angle, but the S90-ES is widely recognized as one of the best "feeling" digital pianos, and is matched by its amazing sound. As an added bonus the Yamaha Motif ES ROM is included which contains many fine instruments. Having said that, this is not a stage piano version of a Motif ES; there are enough differences between the two which justify the S90ES as a separate instrument class. It's heavy, but not too heavy (~50lbs); it's mostly made of metal and feels substantial enough to let you know it's a serious instrument.

The S90ES contains 3 PLG slots, which is a bonus for a person like me who has multiple PLG150 cards. I currently have two PLG15-AN cards and a PLG150-DX card installed for a rich and diverse palette of synthesis types that can be layered and extend the 128-note polyphony. There are also USB connections for the keyboard itself, allowing it to connect to your DAW besides through MIDI only, as well as a host-mode USB slot which allows one to load and save voices, arps and songs for the sequencer.

There are many features of this instrument that I simply have not either had time to explore or would be better explained by a google search. Current used pricing is ~$1400, meaning it's held its value quite well against its initial MSRP of $2100 from 10 years ago, which is a testament to its amazing sound and feel. Most of what you do on a Motif ES can be done on the S90ES which further increases the value, it's a lot like getting a two-fer.

I love this keyboard. It sounds as amazing and relevant today as it did 10 years ago, and provides an excess of usability both in the studio and on the stage. Yamaha originally marketed the S90ES as "the perfect balance between synthesizer and digital piano", and I agree wholeheartedly.

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