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GM sounds. Yamahas XG sound set is every bit as well-rounded as that of its main rival, Roland. Based on the companys AWM2 technology, all the sounds, from harmonically rich acoustic pianos to burbling bass lines for dance music, are natural and vibrant. A vast range is available, and those with editing software or an external controller can tweak individual sounds to suit any precise requirements. Basses are particularly strong, especially when DX100-style bass sounds are in vogue.
The MU128 easily passes the Standard MIDI File test on all GM and XG material. The final result may lack the sheen of a Sound Canvas, but the blend is good, and all the nuances of expression and filter movement are preserved.
Other sounds, features, and drums. A feature that sets all MU-series modules apart from the GM pack is the PFM or Performance mode of operation, which lets users stack up to four voices on a single MIDI channel. This provides something akin to the power of a pro synth without having to sacrifice GM functions. The module includes 100 presets to play with and 100 user locations to store combinations.
As with the MU100R, the MU128 is noteworthy for its XG support of an analog input. It lets users process two analog signals and mix them with internal sounds and use internal effects to enhance vocal, guitar, CD, or other input signals, balance the A/D input with the internal sounds, and send the whole thing to one set of stereo outputsvery neat.
If musicians still hunger for more sounds, they can retrofit the MU128 with up to three new XG plug-in boards: the PLG100-VL (Yamaha VL modeling sounds), PLG100-VH (vocal harmony), and PLG100-DX (FM synthesis). The plug-ins expand the number of sounds as well as the polyphony. Thats impressive.
Many of the drum kits have a level of realism and fresh air that isnt commonly found on most synths, much less a GM unit. My personal favorites include Ambient Kit and Rock Kit 2, with excellent, un-MIDI-like hi-hats. XG allows for detailed editing of drum sounds, so you can tweak individual drum filtering, individual volume, and the application of effects.
Effects and controls. Effects have always been a strong suit for Yamaha (especially the XG modules), and the MU128 is almost overwhelmed with effects options. Six effects banks are available: three system effects (reverb/chorus/variation), two insert effects for individual Parts, and a five-band EQ that is applied globally.
As with the MU100R, the MU128 offers real-time access to filter cutoff, resonance, basic envelope parameters, effects levels, and more, using NRPNs as well as CC numbers 71 through 74. Users can also set up (per Part/ MIDI channel) dedicated footpedal or Breath Controller control over basic sounds and effects parameters.
Bottom line. Although onboard sound editing is only at the individual Part level and is more an offset than actual editing, XG is an incredibly powerful engine to dive into, which you can do with XG editing software.
The MU128 clearly offers more GM bang than any other module on the market. XG is an extremely powerful system, but it can often seem like a dense and complicated programming language. The MU128s additional power is therefore only available to those who are motivated and able to access it. Such endeavors, however, will be richly rewarded.
Reprinted with permission from Magazine, February, 2001
© 2000, Intertec Publishing, A Primedia Company All Rights Reserved
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