Although dozens of synthesizer workstations have come and gone, Yamaha''s Motif line has evolved considerably since its launch in 2001. In a field filled with worthy competitors, all three models in the latest Motif XS series deliver serious music-production firepower, but the XS6 stands out as the model that gives you the most cluck for the least buck. Its versatile timbral palette can handle just about any type of music you throw at it, from lounge standards to full-tilt rock ''n'' roll, from folk songs to fully orchestrated film soundtracks.
The Motif XS6 furnishes most everything you''d want in a sample-playback synthesizer workstation. Its big, bright color LCD is easy to read, and you''ll have no trouble navigating its well-organized operating system. Loads of real-time controls, from front-panel sliders and knobs to assignable footpedal inputs, invite hands-on operation and suggest all manner of expressive possibilities. Thanks to built-in Ethernet and USB 2.0, the XS6 can directly access computers and external drives, and you can download software to extend its parameter-editing faculties. You can also add as much as a gigabyte of RAM for 16-bit stereo user sampling, and install an mLAN expansion card for 128-channel MIDI and 6-channel digital audio connectivity via FireWire.
The XS6 puts a huge assortment of lifelike sounds at your fingertips, from a General MIDI bank to a full concert grand piano. Yamaha''s Mega Voice and Expanded Articulation presets add to the realism. The XS6 does everything a synth can do to make songwriting and composition as trouble-free as possible. Its onboard 16-track sequencer records audio and MIDI data, and you can quickly switch from linear multitrack sequencing to arranging patterns with as many as 256 phrases each. Edit sequencer data in an event list with 480 ppqn precision. Four intelligent arpeggiators tap into more than 6,000 patterns, simultaneously and in sync. Put it all together—great sounds, versatile sequencing, excellent effects, computer interactivity, and plenty of hands-on control with lots of visual feedback, all at a reasonable price—and you have this year''s Editors'' Choice for Hardware Synthesizer.