Yamaha RS 7000 by dhollmusik
A little background:
I've been using the RS7000 regularly since I got it soon after release around 10 years ago. I used it as an all-in-one techno monster for underground parties between 2001-2004, and also for non-linear ambient drone productions which I sometimes played out too. It was also the heart of a band rig, with guitarists, singers and the like all joining in the fun.
I used it much less between 2005-2008 as I was busy with non-music stuff (work and also discovered photography in a big way). I was frankly also a little bored of its sound, having rinsed it the previous years. In this time I also tried to get into software music: using Reason, Logic & Cubase on PC & MAC with various plug-ins.
I was never so uninspired to make music than during this time.
Only in 2009 did I get back into music in a serious way because I started to try out dedicated hardware synths and started to use my RS7000 as a sequencer for them...it was a whole new revelation! My lust for music and the RS itself was reborn.
So...to the review...
When I played banging percussive techno with good soundsystems it sounded great. I always had the Master FX on "compressor" and also used a Samson S-Com to beef up the sound, giving the drums some snap.
At home the 1000+ presets sound fairly bland, but there is more than enough tweaking options to evolve them to something more interesting. The effects are ok to fairly decent, but nothing spectacular.
The RS disappointments somewhat with its western acoustic instruments (standard GM guitars & pianos) but is better with ethnic patches. Some synths sound a bit washy and most of the kick drums and snares unexciting, tho' it wins props for many excellent hi-hats.
After 2 years of much experience with dedicated units I'll have to mark this down. (My Harmony Central User Review from 3 or 4 years ago marked sound quality 8/10). The character of the RS's sound is to be honest a little bland and chalky, and it doesn't do high tones very well (they tend to sound piercing and sharp rather than glassy or smooth). Basses can sound muddy unless you take extra care...tho' mid-range is generally fine.
For full productions using only RS sounds I recommend using a separate audio recorder so you can mix/master the tracks properly, otherwise everything sounds too squashed.
It loses a mark for its sampler too, the audio quality from the original audio takes a very noticable hit, even at maximum rate.
The filters are a highlight, very digital but not in a bad way. The resonance doesn't lose much thickness when turned up, and with the latest OS you get all kinds of new filter-combination types. The BEF is especially psychedelic-sounding.
I would still recommend the sounds if intended to be part of a mix along with other synths/modules, and I would also still recommend the unit if you intend to play live beats. But for professional productions, or if you simply have high standards, you might not be happy with the overall quality of the sounds it produces.
In comparison: the RS7000 GM sounds are superior to the QY-series and its little brother RM1X, and its sound-palette is far larger than any Electribe or Roland MC (save maybe the 909), but its GM sounds are less appealing than Roland's JV-series, and its synth sounds don't compare well when up against the AN1X.
Ease of use:
Very intuitive to use, the sequencer itself makes perfect sense (tho' I did come from the QY100 so was ready for it). The massive highlight here is the real-time tweaking which include clock shifts, midi-delays, Octave switches, LFO, pitch, ADSR, effects, filters...and all the rest. All very responsive and makes you feel like a musician rather than a programmer. Navigating menus and sequencing is easy, fast and ergonomic.
The sequencer is great, you can literally place anything anywhere at anytime. There is an extra "Edit" mode for ultra-finetuning. I always use the "Song" sequencing mode: great for non-linear real-time track recording. There are also well-executed pattern-chain modes.
The onboard keyboard has LED's so you can easily see which notes are playing and when. The LCD display screen is fine, you never feel perplexed at the wealth of information on it.
I've not really referred to the manual but it seems well-written enough.
This gets a maximum 10/10 from me because I can't really think of how to improve it. I can start with one kick drum sound and from there quickly develop a busy percussive groove, and the joy is that the journey to get to that groove is something wonderful. You can jam for hours just developing grooves. If all you want from your sequencer/groovebox is fun, then this is where you'll get it.
LOADS and LOADS of features, tasks, settings...a lot of them real-time controllable (they will record too). Jobs for almost anything you can think of, deeper synthesis apart. My favourite features are the Clock-Shift, Midi-Delay and Overdub Record.
Think of the synth section as a 1000-patch ROMpler with most of the knobs you expect on an average synth, plus knobs for sequencing too. But unlike a proper synth, you can't make a single patch sound like any preset. Each preset is limited to its original tone intention.
Built-in effects add some meat, space and mystery to the neutral presets. Only being able to assign 3 effect-types in a whole song is a little limiting meaning you can't choose a flange and distortion simultaneously, tho' the effects are quite editable. Compared to good dedicated units however, they are no match.
2 x midi-outs can be quite handy, but I use a 8x8 Emagic Unitor anyway, so far so good.
The on-board sequencer is the heart of the RS7000 and is flexible, powerful and easy to use. Might be weird for Yamaha newbies but I like it. Not a match for top-level Cubase or Logic sequencing tho', but then it's far more playable.
The sampler (expandable to 64MB) has plenty of editing options, tho' I rarely use it because I was never happy with the audio quality.
There's really not much missing feature-wise, polyphony (64) is also decent. It's even expandable with a rare module which gives you digital connections and 8 analogue outs.
Whether the sequencer is enough to please modern trending EDM producers I can't say, but it's enough for me as a non-pro who wants to make music for fun.
Well...I have had it for about 10 years and played dozens of squat parties, gigs and partook in many more bedroom jams. It's had wine, beer and hot tea spilt on it (the tea was the worst, it went mad for 2 days...but then somehow righted itself). It's also crossed the north sea successfully. The whole time I only ever wrapped it in a soft suit bag with towels wrapped round it. It has a few scars and two real issues:
1) the master volume control is iffy (scratchy when turned).
2) sometimes a song will become stunted and start farting and playing out of time, it's definitely not polyphony-based, and once it's present it's permanent, even after saving to a new name and turning off/on. I know of no other solution than to give up on the song. Sounds like a bug to me.
Seen as it has been in some quite harsh environments I judge this to be a strong, robust old boy. In fact it's amazing it still works as I've (to my shame) never opened it up to clean it...I bet there's an entire forest inside where new lifeforms have formed.
Bang for buck:
I paid over a thousand quid for it from Turnkey, London and that was well worth it back then. Nowadays you can get them for anywhere between €350-€500 dependent on condition. Because of its sequencing and real-time control alone, I judge this to be excellent value for money. You can save even more money by getting the RM1X which offers much of the same capabilities.
It's a 100% keeper and the heart of my setup. I've tried many other sequencers (hard & soft) and the RS remains King. Recommended for hardware producers who fancy something more tangible than their DAW or a change of inspiration from their MPC. Also recommended for those who like to play live, or enjoy jamming for fun.
Sound and sequence examples:
This is a 100% pure RS song (or 'song'):
This is a piece with the RS combined with the DX7 and Korg A5 effects:
blackest matter | dholl
and this is a very short clip of a sequence from the RS but using other sound sources:
I have hundreds of hours of RS techno spread out on hard drives and one day I might get organised to upload something, but hopefully these little sound demos will give you a small idea of character.