Yamaha MM8 Review – a Really Good Keyboard

yamaha mm8Welcome to my Yamaha MM8 review. It is a synthesizer with 88 graded hammer keys, 418 voices, and 22 drum kits. The sounds are all based on the MOTIF series of synthesizers, and cover everything from realistic acoustic instruments to unique synthesizer sounds. In addition to this, there is a set of General MIDI sounds as well, so if you need to play standard MIDI files you can do that via the MM8. The sounds are arranged according to the category, such as guitar, piano, synth, organ, etc. It also has an arpeggio feature and a series of control knobs for controlling parameters like filter cutoff and resonance in real-time.


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Contents


PROS & CONS

Pros:

  • Lightweight for an 88-key weighted keyboard
  • Easy to use
  • Has some good sounds
  • Emulates a real guitar player very well
  • 64 different keyboard setups to choose from
  • Lots of control over the effects
  • MIDI and USB for connecting to computer
  • Real-time control of sounds via knobs
  • Arpeggiator works very well
  • Good value for money

Cons:

  • Only has 32 voice polyphony
  • MIDI spec is not as good as it should be
  • Only able to store 5 songs
  • No intros or endings for the backing tracks.
  • You can only upload one custom rhythm track

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Video Reviews


So, as you can see, it has a lot going for it. It is some very realistic sounds in it, including the superb acoustic guitar sounds. It even emulates all the little performance nuances that guitarists do, such as sliding between the notes. It also has some beautiful string sounds. But if you are into making electronic-sounding music, it delivers that too, and the onboard control knobs can easily be used to alter parameters like filter cutoff and resonance in real-time. With the backing drum sounds and the arpeggiator, you can get some great music going immediately. Oh, and with the split and dual functions, you can pad out your sounds more and play different sounds with your left and right hands.


Who is the Yamaha MM8 Designed For?

People are saying that this is not a professional level keyboard, and perhaps they are right. Yet it clearly has a lot going for it. I would say it is at the higher end of the hobby level of keyboards. It is easy to use and has some great performance features such the arpeggiator, dual, split, and the control knobs. Some of the sounds are great, so you can really impress people with this keyboard, but perhaps not so much in a professional setting. I think it is best suited to those wanting a good keyboard to play around with at home for their own enjoyment.


FEATURES

Arpeggiator

There are 213 different arpeggio styles, covering various different musical types. There are bass arpeggios and drum rhythm loops for you to jam over. When playing guitar sounds using the arpeggiator, you can get it to emulate how a real guitarist plays the guitar, for example by making it sound like the guitar is being strummed rather than all the notes happening at exactly the same time.

Yamaha MM8 ControlsControl Knobs

These can be assigned to various parameters for tweaking while you are playing. For example, with synths sounds you might want to alter the filter cutoff and resonance, or for string sounds you might want to change the attack (how quickly the notes start) and release (how long they last for afterward).

Backing Drum Patterns

There are lots of different styles of drums that you can use for your backing while you play along. Everything from pop, rock, ambient, jazz, dance, R&B, rap and hip-hop. You can even set it so that it starts playing when you start playing on the keys.

Yamaha MM8 KeyboardGraded Hammer Keyboard

Where the MM6 has a synth-action keyboard, the MM8 has weighted piano-style keys. They are even weighted heavier at the lower end and lighter at the higher end.

Performance Memory

This enables you to switch sounds quickly at any time, even when in the middle of playing a song. You can store all your desired settings all in one place, such as the sounds you are using, the split of the keyboard,  and the drum backing patterns. These can then be accessed instantly by pressing a button. You can store up to 64 performances on the keyboard itself, but more if you save to a USB stick.

User Songs

You can store up to 5 user songs on the keyboard, or up to 400 on a USB stick. These can also be saved as the Standard MIDI File (SMF) format, for uploading to your computer and working on using your favorite music software.

Yamaha MM8 Rear ConnectorsUSB and MIDI

You can use the MM8 as a MIDI controller keyboard for other synthesizers and sound modules. You can also use the USB port to link it up to your computer so that it becomes part of your computer-based music production setup.

Yamaha MM8 Cubase AICubase AI Software

The MM8 comes with a free version of Cubase AI 4, which is a lighter version of the Cubase digital audio workstation software. It has MIDI sequencing, VST effects plugins, and sounds from the Yamaha MOTIF series of synthesizers.


PROS & CONS IN DEPTH

Lightweight for an 88-key weighted keyboard

How important this is to you all depends on how you are likely to use this keyboard. If it is just going to sit in one place at home all the time, it doesn’t really matter. But many people will probably want to be able to take this keyboard various places to show off what it can do, or to do performances at various events. You certainly don’t want a heavy keyboard if you are going to be moving it around a lot.

Easy to use

Since this is a high-quality non-professional level keyboard, it really helps that it is so easy to use. If you are doing music just for the fun of it, you certainly don’t want to be spending hours reading manuals, trying to figure out how to make it sound good.

Great string and pad sounds

I was very impressed with how good the string and pad sounds were. These will be great for creating very emotional sounding music. When used with the control knobs, you can really get a lot of out it as you tweak the filter and envelope settings in real-time while you are playing.

Emulates a real guitar player very well

The thing that impressed me most about this synthesizer was how realistic the acoustic guitar sound is. It can even emulate various performance nuances that a real guitarist would do, such as sliding along the strings. When used with the arpeggiator, it even sounds like a real guitarist actually strumming a guitar. This is so much better than just having notes triggered all at the same time, which is what would have happened on the keyboards of the past.

64 different keyboard setups

This is extremely useful for when you want to be able to use certain sounds and rhythm tracks and key points in a performance. No need to spend time going through the menus trying to sort things out. Save the setups you are going to need to the buttons and then you can select them instantly. This is essential if you need to be able to change sounds during a performance.

Lots of control over the effects

Each effect is separate on this keyboard, which gives you great control over how you want your instruments to sound. For example, you might want to add a chorus effect to a guitar sound, and add a certain type of reverb to a strings sound. It also has 5 preset EQ curves that you can apply to your sounds.

MIDI and USB for connecting to computer or other devices

This is ideal if you want to use the MM8 as a MIDI controller keyboard for playing other synthesizers or sound modules. Also, being able to connect it up to your computer using the USB port means it can be used as part of a computer-based studio setup.

Real-time control of sounds via knobs

For me, this is essential for any synthesizer. It’s all very well having all these different parameters to change the sounds, but unless you are able to actually play around with them on-the-fly it can be rather limiting. So having those 4 control knobs is a great feature for anyone wanting to make great synth sounds live.

Good value for money

While this is not quite a professional standard synthesizer, it does offer a lot at the price point. You get some great sounds and performance features that just didn’t used to exist on keyboards years ago. As long as you accept that this is not quite a professional-quality keyboard, you can have a lot of fun with it for the money you spend.

Only has 32 voice polyphony

This is actually quite low, even for this price. I would really have expected at least 64, but maybe even as much as 128. Yes, I know you can only play a maximum of 10 notes with your fingers, but if you use the dual function to layer two different sounds together, that instantly halves it to only 16. Then if you use the backing rhythm tracks, that uses up some of it. So 32 is cutting it a bit fine really.

MIDI spec is not as good as it should be

One user complained that the MIDI spec is not quite as good as it should be. I’m not entirely sure what they mean by that, but obviously, it was enough of an issue for them to want to write about it in their review.

Only able to store 5 songs

This is quite a limitation, but I suppose it’s not so bad when you consider that you can store more on a USB stick. But these days, memory is so much cheaper than it used to be, it seems a bit mean to have such low memory on this keyboard.

No intros or endings for the backing tracks

One user complained that this means the MM8 is not really for writing full songs and is limited really for just sketching out ideas.

You can only upload one custom rhythm track

This seems like a significant flaw to me and rather stifling of people’s creativity. Sure, the built-in rhythm tracks are great, but it doesn’t leave much room for being original or customizing things to your own preferences.


Conclusion

This is a pretty good keyboard for the price, but it’s not quite a professional standard keyboard. Some people may have an issue with the lack or polyphony and the song composing limitations. However, there are some lovely sounds on this synthesizer, as well as some great performance features such as the arpeggiator and the performance knobs. I was particularly impressed by how realistic the acoustic guitar sound was, especially when used in conjunction with the arpeggiator to create a strumming sound.

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I hope you found my Yamaha MM8 review helpful, but if you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comments section below and I will reply as soon as I can.

All the best,
Marcus.

6 Comments

  1. Hannah

    I do love the keyboard. Such a versatile instrument which can create so many different sounds and styles of music!

    This Yamaha one does sound awesome too. So many features and effects. The demonstrations show just how creative you can be on this particular keyboard.

    Great job in this review. I very much enjoyed reading!
    Hannah.

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      Thank you, Hannah. I’m glad you liked the review. Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
  2. Lionismee

    After reading this review, I’d like to play around with this keyboard. My current one is rather limited in what it can do and this seems as though it would expand our creative possibilities. I’d really like to hear the acoustic guitar sounds that you touted, it sounds like it has possibilities.

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      Thank you, I’m glad you found it helpful.

      Reply
  3. Palanquator

    Hey !
    Thanks for the review ! First, sorry if my english is not perfect, i’m just a french fellow looking for a new keyboard…
    This one seems really good ! The creativity it allows is awesome on the demo ! 🙂
    But i’m really disappointed that it can only store 5 songs…
    Do you know any similar product which correct this problem ?
    Thanks again !

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      It’s worth taking a look at the Korg Kross 61 .

      Reply

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