Computer-friendly portable keyboard

   photograph from Yamaha site

I have to be honest - I am really impressed with this inexpensive Yamaha home keyboard.

I bought it brand new at BestBuy for $179 (and have seen it on line for $169).  The YPT-400 (which is exactly the same model as the PSR-E403, the only differences being the panel grey color, and the fact that the YPT-400 is being sold in department store chains, while the PSR-E403 is sold in musical instrument stores) is probably worth two, three times that much.

There are quite a few improvements that I have noticed from Yamaha's earlier line of PSRs, the first and foremost being the inclusion of two MULTI-FUNCTION knobs, that default to the usual suspect destinations - filter Cutoff and Resonance - but can be very easily and quickly changed to FX amount (Reverb & Chorus), Envelope Generator (Attack & Release), Style Filter (again Cutoff & Resonance), and Style Tempo.  This is superb addition, that makes the keyboard very useful if you plan on adding great-sounding filter sweeps to your electronic songs, or simply if you need to change parameters quickly.


The second big improvement is the addition of a dedicated ARPEGGIO section, with several great-sounding types that run from the classic up-down and random, to more modern and useful patterns like Guitar arps, finger picking, acid line, trance, salsa and a lot more!

The third very welcome improvement is the inclusion of a PITCH-BEND WHEEL. No other keyboard in this price range has a programmable pitch-bend wheel.  I trust and seriously hope that with the next release, Yamaha will also add a modulation wheel, but maybe it's asking too much?  :-)

Now for the sounds:  the basic sounds are beautiful and realistic, and they very much borrow from the excellent ROM found in the pro-line of the Motif, PSR-3000, and Tyros... They are, of course, a bit slimmed-down, the base samples are not as vigorous as the ones found in its bigger brothers, but - as you will hear from the audio samples - the quality is there, including a selection from the famous Yamaha "Sweet" and "Cool" voices.  In addition to the "more serious sounding" AWM2 samples, the YPT-400 features a huge amount of XGlite and General MIDI sounds, that are perfect if you want to use this to play .mid and .kar files.

I have had a few other Yamaha keyboards in the past (PSR-550, PSR-3000), and the YPT-400 is a worthy successor to them.  It's their baby brother, but I can assure you, add some quality effects to the base ROM sounds, and you will have good results in your songs.

The Music Database is also featured (like on the previous models), and several other song templates have been added, bringing the total to a hefty 256 song templates on-board!  You will not need anymore than that to play piano bar gigs :-)  , and if you do, you can still add songs to flash memory or user song data.

Also the very useful OTS (One Touch Setting) is retained, allowing you to step through the songs/style patterns, and a suitable arrangement and lead sound will be chosen for you.  Of course, you can change that in no time, but 90% of the time, it's the right sound for the right hand melody.

The excellent scroll wheel from the mid-range PSRs is there, and I assure you, this is a MUST-HAVE item that will make your life easier at gigs, or at the studio.  It allows to run and program things a lot faster than having a couple of increment buttons (case in point:  I was also looking at the comparable Casio CTK-900, and while the sounds on the Casio are good  - especially the organ section - the lack of a scroll wheel made me go with the Yamaha).

The on-board speakers are of good quality, and certainly adequate for home use, or small parties at somebody's house.  However, if you want to compete in a band, with other instruments, you will need an amplifier - the speakers only go so far up in volume.

OK, so, what corners have been cut to bring the price down that low?  One single stereo 1/4" output serves for both phones and line out, there is one lonely sustain jack input, and no MIDI.  What?!  No MIDI??  Nope... there is a USB port though, which will happily attend those functions, but of course, you will need a computer to hook it up to.

This is, in my opinion, more than a starter keyboard.  You can definitely make it sound like a "professional" synth, and if you connect it to a DAW and start sweetening up the sounds via effects and plug-ins, it will reward you with excellent sounding arrangements.



Yamaha YPT-400 (PSR-E403) audio demos

Here are the main Factory Song demos:

001 Phunk !  ..... a very cool and modern funky beat, that represents the synthetic soul of the YPT-400

002 Syn_Zone  .. the current trend in dance beats, vaguely a la Benny Benassi

003 Chillin  ........ beautiful chillout/downtempo arrangement... check out the beautiful piano and puffy pads

004 GP Demo  .... the notorious Yamaha Stereo Sampled Piano

005 TSaxDemo ... the same demo that's on the PSR-550 and PSR-3000

006 JzOrDemo  ... superb hard-bop Hammond organ 1960s demo, a la Jimmy Smith with orchestra

007 EPnoDemo ... the beautiful "Galaxy" electric piano

008 MHrpDemo ... very expressive mouth harp (aka harmonica) and soprano sax

and here's a selection of audio examples I recorded from the main sampled voices:

Yamaha YPT-400 (PSR-E403) Voice demos

stream all Voice examples below



Voice name with audio demo My comments
001 GrandPno Superb, expressive grand piano sample, with just the right amount of reverb.
007 CoolGalx One of the select "Cool!" voices taken from Yamaha's upper-end technology, this is a charming digital FM piano, very sparkling and perfect for ballads.
013 Cool!Org Another excellent "Cool!" voice, a realistic jazz Hammond organ
014 Cool!Rot A few more drawbars called in for duty, and fast Leslie.
024 Chapel Very nice, intimate small church harmonium
025 ChrchOrg Majestic pipe organ.  At 00:19, I increased the reverb decay time using the first multi-function knob.
032 ClassGtr Marvellously expressive thanks to the well-programmed velocity switch
035 60Clean Classic 1960s electric guitar.  I added the vibrato twang using the pitch-bend wheel.
042 FngrBass Very nice fingered electric bass.
048 HiQ Bass Nice synth bass.  I used the Cutoff & Resonance knobs for the real time tweaks.
052 SlowStr The slow strings is one sample that has been a bit overlooked - the samples are a bit too short and loop very fast... you need a large amount of reverb to cover this... but it works.
059 Harp Pretty :-)  and very realistic!
062 Choir Realistic when played in the middle range
066 SweetTnr One of the most famous "Sweet!" voices... this tenor saxophone sounds really great.
067 SweetSpr Perfect for Smooth Jazz styles... a great soprano sax with natural vibrato and dynamics
077 Sweet Tp Probably the most famous "Sweet!" voice that's been around for a while... the trumpet
090 SweetFlt Very realistic
091 SweetPan The classic Andean flute
099 Analogon Here we get into synthesizer territory... I start by playing the "Analogon" patch by itself, then turn the arpeggiator on, and finally trigger a beat under it.  It's good stuff!
100 Fargo Another well known Yamaha synth sample
101 Stardust Add quality outboard reverb/delay, it's ready for ambient/new age
102 Voice Ld Cool lead synth
104 XenonPad Beautiful ambient, steamy synth
106 Fantasia Nice emulation of Roland's classic D-50 first preset.
117 Std.Kit1 Solid drum kit, clean samples
124 Jazz Kit Dry samples, optimal for jazz
129 SynthSq The arpeggio feature at work.  Tweaking the filter, then the reverb in real time.
132 ChordSq Nice arpeggio and filter action
135 Trance Cool arpeggio pattern, solid beat
136 SynEcho Another excellent arpeggio pattern, modern
137 PianoArp Here I am just keeping my hands still playing still chords... the arpeggiator does all the work!  :-)
139 GtrChord Cool and realistic strummed guitar patch.  I added a beat to show how it sounds when synched.
141 AcidSyn Another superb arpeggio pattern - straight from the TB-303 shop
142 ArabLoop The arpeggio feature is also useful to build complex rhythms.  Filter tweaking added.
143 MassivPc Same as above.


Yamaha YPT-400 (PSR-E403) Style demos


Style name with audio demo My comments
044 Garage 2 The classic British 2-step style
091 Bossa Very realistic, and the excellent sax in OTS
101 Reggae Solid reggae
118 Trntella Italian festive southern style
124 Indi Pop Incredibly realistic Indian style
126 Garba More coolness from the world... I used the pitch bender for the lead voice


Yamaha YPT-400 (PSR-E403) Music Database demos


Music Database style name with audio demo My comments
003 CoinLane Obviously inspired by Beatles' "Penny Lane"
023 LveMeDo More Beatles and their "Love Me Do"
042 WhatALoo ABBA's "Waterloo", but useful for many other songs
043 WhitePle Procol Harum's mega-hit "A Whiter Shader Of Pale"
064 FunkyTwn Another classic hit from the '70s
065 Kids Robert Miles' "Children" song is still very popular in arrangement keyboards
101 SumerPlc The famous and beautiful theme from "A Summer Place"
105 WomanLov Barbra Streisand's beautiful hit song
115 RisingSn The Animals' most memorable "House Of The Rising Sun"
159 LuvStory Famous and super sad movie.
180 CopaLola Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl... in Barry Manilow's Copacabana, of course
195 CntryRds One of John Denver's most beautiful songs
205 DnceBird YES!  There even is that song, in the YPT-400's database... your bases are all covered, my friends :-)


Features at a glance
Year of release: 2006
Polyphony: 32-voice
Presets: 128 + arpeggios and XGlite sounds
Rhythms: 256 Music Database patterns, 155 styles
Keyboard: 5-octave
Responds to velocity: yes
Sound generation method: PCM
Sound expansion capabilities: no
Effects: yes
Controls: two multi-function knobs
Outputs: one stereo 1/4"
Display: yes, blue colored LCD


Yamaha YPT-400 pictures (click on thumbnails to enlarge)

Yamaha YPT-400 manual

Available at www.yamaha.com



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Yamaha YPT-400 review with audio demo