The simplest way of talking to your QY10/QY20
Two octaves to go - Nicholas Rowland checks out the ultimate add on for the QY20
Aeroplanes and buses, shopping malls, scout camps, Club 18-30 resorts, the Lake District... all places steadfastly avoided by MIDI musicians dependent on mains supply and easily embarrassed by taunts of "Give us a tune on yer workstation". All that has changed with products like the Yamaha QY10 Walkstation, a battery-powered multitimbral synth, drum machine and MIDI sequencer in a box smaller than a Gideon's Bible. The only problem, as users soon discovered, was that programming required the patience of a saint.
Enter the Novation mm10, a small but perfectly formed controller keyboard giving you 25 full-size keys, pitchbend and controller wheels, a sprinkling of MIDI functions, plus a slot in which to stick your QY10. Et voila - the dinkiest workstation on the campsite.
The mm10-X is a new, improved version produced in response to the QY20, Yamaha's new, improved walkstation. What's so new and improved? Apart from an extra X in the title, you get a better display (LCD instead of LED) and the ability to assign different controllers to the mod wheel. The new model also dispenses with the mm10's audio connections which allowed you to listen to the QY10 through the keyboard's internal headphone amplifiers. Not a great loss, methinks.
Like its forbear, the mm10-X's design is very much tailored to the Yamaha machines, although you'll need a special (and rather expensive) plastic adaptor to fit the QY20 into the slot provided. However, don't let the ergonomics lead you into thinking this is only of interest to QY owners. If you're looking for a general purpose MIDI controller keyboard you can stuff down your socks, read on.
As befits a piece of equipment designed for the musician on the move, the mm10-X is powered by six AA 1.5V batteries which the manual insists will enable you to play completely unattached for 100 hours. Rather thoughtfully the mm10-X gives you five hours' warning of the end of battery life as we know it - a battery symbol starts flashing ominously on the small LCD screen.
If you're not playing in any of the places mentioned above and a mains socket is available, you can make use of the optional 9V adaptor. The mm10-X will also pass on power to the QY10/20 without needing a separate 9V adaptor (a combined MIDI/power lead is provided for this purpose.) Apart from MIDI Out the only other hole round the back is an input for a sustain pedal.
As you might expect, the keyboard is non-weighted, but is velocity sensitive. (Aftertouch can be added via the mod wheel, of which more below.) The two octaves are laid out C-C and on power up you'll find that the middle C actually plays Middle C (ie, MIDI note 60). A few prods of the cursor buttons and you can transpose up four or down three whole octaves: a few prods more and you can transpose by single semitone steps as well. These octave shifts are always displayed on the LCD so you should know which octave you're in at any time. (Unless, that is, you're shortsighted or playing in a darkened room, since the LCD is rather small and not backlit.)
If you shift octaves while holding notes down, those notes are unaffected. This means you can play a bass note then quickly skip up the registers and play the lead part over the top.
More prodding of the cursor buttons takes you through the MIDI programming functions: MIDI channel select (1-16); program change number (1-128); and controller wheel assignment which enables you to assign one of four MIDI controllers to the mod wheel (Modulation, Aftertouch, Volume and Panning). The last two can come in quite handy for MIDI-mixing QY20 sequencer tracks or indeed most other multitimbral keyboards or expanders for that matter.
And that's really all there is to it, folks. Grouses? The keyboard itself ain't no Steinway, though I suspect it would loosen up a little more after continued use. Oh, and nothing is saved to memory when you switch off - all settings return to default. Ah yes... and the RRP for the QY20 adaptor is a somewhat steep £14.99, but I've said that already.
Otherwise, this is a reasonably priced and well thought-out piece of gear which apart from being ideal for the musician with wanderlust could find gainful employment in your spare bedroom... ermm, MIDI programming suite.
Whether you own a QY module or not, just don't let the mm10-X leave home without you.
|Ease of use||How complicated can four buttons be?|
|Originality||As original as the original|
|Value for money||Yes (apart from the QY20 adaptor)|
|Star Quality||Hot to trot|
|Price||keyboard £159.99 |
carry case £15.99
AC adaptor £15.99
QY20 adaptor £14.99
|More from||Novation Systems, (Contact Details)|
Review by Nicholas Rowland
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