Yamaha YC-73 Review from a Longtime Nord Owner

Discuss other brands keyboards, synthesizers, modules, software, controllers including how they compare or work with the Nords.
Post Reply
User avatar
Rusty Mike
Posts: 930
Joined: 08 Nov 2011, 21:57
12
Your Nord Gear #1: Nord Piano 5
Your Nord Gear #2: Nord Electro 6
Location: United States
Has thanked: 97 times
Been thanked: 535 times
Contact:
United States of America

Yamaha YC-73 Review from a Longtime Nord Owner

Post by Rusty Mike »

Intro

I’ll be honest, I bought the YC73 because I got tired of waiting for the next Electro, which I anticipate will have some/many of the newer features of the Piano 5 and Stage 4 as well as the improved TP-110 action. But who knows when it’s coming out and what it will actually include.

Nord keyboards have been a core staple of my live music playing since returning to music in 2009. Most of the time was spent playing on a history of Electros, but I switched to the Stage 2EX 76 in 2017 as my main board for quite a few years. It was time to move on, sell the Stage while it still had value and graduate to something beyond the HP action to improve my experience.

I bought the Piano 5 73 last year, but I really missed the organ engine of the Electro. I’m also still not over the 10 pound weight gain over the Stage 2EX HP I had been carrying before. The Yamaha YC73 is sort of in the midway point between the two, and that weight savings is a real positive and very evident to me.

I find more practicality in the Electro over the Stage for my own use. I need piano and organ, but do not need the synth engine or duality the Stage offers. I would also prefer to not spend that much money on something I won’t use. The YC is more of an Electro competitor than is it a Stage alternative in my eyes. The pricing is more in line with the Electro, although the YC is still less money.

For what it’s worth, I sold my Stage 2EX to a good home and the proceeds of that, along with some gig cash I had set aside paid for 95% of the YC.

Anyway, I thought I would share my impressions of this instrument from the perspective of a person who has been playing exclusively Nord keyboards for the past 15 years or so. Bear in mind that this review is only in the context of the music i play (big band and small jazz combos), the way I use the instrument (live gig/rehearsal through a single powered PA speaker) and as an alternative to the Nord Electro/Piano.

I'll post in multiple sections to keep the overall review readable.
These users thanked the author Rusty Mike for the post (total 2):
Tracii, Nordine
Mike from Central NJ, USA
Tools: Ten fingers, two feet, middle-age brain, questionable judgement and taste
Current Nords: Piano 5 73, Electro 6D 73
Ownership History: Electro 2, Electro 3-73 SW, Electro 3HP, Electro 4D, Stage 2EX 76HP
User avatar
Rusty Mike
Posts: 930
Joined: 08 Nov 2011, 21:57
12
Your Nord Gear #1: Nord Piano 5
Your Nord Gear #2: Nord Electro 6
Location: United States
Has thanked: 97 times
Been thanked: 535 times
Contact:
United States of America

Yamaha YC-73 Review: Keyboard Action

Post by Rusty Mike »

Keyboard Action
This was the attribute I was most concerned about. Most of the reviews I read about the 73 action weren’t complimentary to true piano use, and that was more favorable for EP playing. Compared to the Nord HP/TP-100, it’s soother, tighter and quicker feeling. The TP-40 on the P5 is certainly more buttery and expressive, albeit heavier to carry. The YC action plays very well live; responsive and quick. Acoustic piano plays just fine on it, at least for my level of skill.

The touch settings are much more flexible compared to the Nord, and I’m able to get a touch response that seems to suit me. The touch response is also stored with the program, so it can be customized for each type of AP/EP. That said, however, I think Nord’s finger-to-ear connection works very well out of the box for my playing and really doesn’t require the depth of adjustment I’ve had to make for the Yamaha.

The action does not have a high trigger point for the organ, which is no secret to anyone who has read a review about this instrument. This will not be an issue for my context. The action is light enough to do some decent organ playing on, which is a big plus over Nord’s HP action. Also I can always take my Electro 6 out for truer organ playing should the need arise.

Next - Yamaha's User Interface and Experience.
These users thanked the author Rusty Mike for the post (total 2):
Tracii, Nordine
Mike from Central NJ, USA
Tools: Ten fingers, two feet, middle-age brain, questionable judgement and taste
Current Nords: Piano 5 73, Electro 6D 73
Ownership History: Electro 2, Electro 3-73 SW, Electro 3HP, Electro 4D, Stage 2EX 76HP
User avatar
Rusty Mike
Posts: 930
Joined: 08 Nov 2011, 21:57
12
Your Nord Gear #1: Nord Piano 5
Your Nord Gear #2: Nord Electro 6
Location: United States
Has thanked: 97 times
Been thanked: 535 times
Contact:
United States of America

Yamaha YC-73 Review: User Interface

Post by Rusty Mike »

UI/UX
Initially a lot of manual diving. Yamaha doesn’t think the way Clavia does, and I’m very much used to the Nord instrument workflow. Despite Yamaha’s boasting of an immediate UI, there is still a dose of the cryptic “Yamaha-ness” in the navigation and more menu diving than I care for. It’s an overall deeper instrument compared to the Electro or Piano 5, but some things are over complicated or just not logical. My nose is in the manual a lot.

When you call up a patch that uses the expression pedal, the volume defaults to the loudest value, like the pedal is pushed all the way down, and not based on the pedal’s current position or the softest position. If you don’t know this going into a program you can be in for a shock when playing the first note without first moving the control pedal to orient it.

Settings are not always where I expect them to be. Again this is due to me being used to the Nord workflow and not necessarily speaking Yamaha just yet. There are some powerful features (like copy/paste at the page, program or layer level), but it’s a bit of a diving process to get to them. Yamaha has included some key shortcuts, some of which are obvious, others you have to look in the manual for, which is a bit self-defeating.

Next: Sounds
These users thanked the author Rusty Mike for the post (total 2):
Tracii, Nordine
Mike from Central NJ, USA
Tools: Ten fingers, two feet, middle-age brain, questionable judgement and taste
Current Nords: Piano 5 73, Electro 6D 73
Ownership History: Electro 2, Electro 3-73 SW, Electro 3HP, Electro 4D, Stage 2EX 76HP
User avatar
Rusty Mike
Posts: 930
Joined: 08 Nov 2011, 21:57
12
Your Nord Gear #1: Nord Piano 5
Your Nord Gear #2: Nord Electro 6
Location: United States
Has thanked: 97 times
Been thanked: 535 times
Contact:
United States of America

Yamaha YC-73 Review: Sounds

Post by Rusty Mike »

Sounds

Organ
The organ has more girth and spit compared to the Nord implementation, which I find attractive. I don’t like the way the Brake/Fast/Slow buttons work though. I tend to play the old school 1-speed rotor approach for traditional jazz, using only brake and fast. This is easily done on the Electro with just the Brake button, which is more intuitive to me. On the YC, you need to press Stop to brake the rotor and Fast/Slow to start the rotation. You also cannot program a footswitch for brake on/off either, which I don’t like.

Huzzah, it features the proper Drawbar 9 cancel on percussion.

I have not yet dug deep into the organ side of the YC, so I can’t comment on the other organ features. Maybe over time I’ll get to it.

Pianos
In the solitude of my studio, the piano sounds are not as rich as the Nord library, at least at first listen. In a live band context there was no significant difference. The Damper Resonance effect (discussed below) helps give the piano sounds a bit more depth.

So far, the Hamberg Steinway and S700 samples stand out live. The S700 is a real gem for me. It blends well but can stand out when needed. It reflects a nice singing quality that smaller grands have, and the bass is light enough that it stays out of the way. Serves more as an alternative to Nord’s Amber Upright rather than a grand piano in its own right. I’ve also been working with the Live CF3 sample, and there is some potential for that voice in my repertoire. I tend to prefer the woodier sound of a Steinway compared to Yamaha’s acoustics, so the Hamberg is my go-to.

Not yet connecting with the other pianos. I tried the Nashville Grand, but it just does not fit my ear for big band. The U1 is rather horrid to me as well. I’m not a fan of the actual U1 piano, and the sample contains all the stringy annoyances of the real thing while sounding out of tune.

The Nord Piano Library is vastly superior, specially the uprights which they give proper respect to. That said, I’m happy with the Hamburg and S700 pianos, and am warming up to the Live CF3.

Still working with the EP sounds. I’m not much of a Wurly player, so the ones that are included are adequate for how seldom I use them. Still trying to get my head around the Rhodes samples. Some of this is just sheer familiarity, as I’m comfortable with Nord’s naming convention and know what to expect from their samples. On my Nords, the Stockholm and EP2 (1975 Suitcase Mk1) are my go-to’s and meet all my needs. I’m not yet comfortable enough with the YC’s selection and still feeing my way around. Overall, though, I think the Nord EP samples have more body, warmth and expression compared to Yamaha. I tend to play EPs with minimal to no effects and the Nord samples stand up very well to that. On the YC, I feel like the samples always need effects of some sort. More to come.

This may sound ironic, but I actually prefer Nord’s digital EP sounds over the DX/FM pianos implemented in the YC. Again, I’m not much of a user of these sounds, but the Nord digital EP’s (specially the Roland samples) just have more body and sustain; the YC’s are all just too delicate and tinkly. Odd, since Yamaha was the originator of this character of digital piano.

For each of the Keys engines there are separate Tone and Filter/Envelope adjustments. The Tone is a single variable control, giving it a different flexibility compared to Nord’s Piano Equalizer buttons.

The EG/Filter control is an interesting beast. I’m not sure (yet) if they both are active simultaneously and you just use the button/knob to switch between them for control, or if you can have only one at a time. Regardless, the lowpass filter implementation is interesting, as you can apply 7 different filter curves to your sound. The curves vary how the cutoff and resonance interact, giving you some flexibility to enhance or attenuate certain frequencies in your sound. It’s handier for a piano patch than it seems.

The EG has 11 different types, again varying how the attack, decay and release interact. I’ve not yet messed with this setting. The Eg is obviously more useful for synth than piano.

Others
The synth/sample sounds run the gamut from usable to meh, heavily favoring FM synth sounds. Aside from a few basses and jazz vibes, I’m not sure how much I’ll use this part of the instrument.

Just like with the Piano 5, I’m starting to enjoy dual piano engines. I’m not a piano-and-strings player, but I do like to double up AP and EP on occasion. I hope the next Electro has this capability.

Next: Effects
These users thanked the author Rusty Mike for the post (total 3):
Tracii, FZiegler, Nordine
Mike from Central NJ, USA
Tools: Ten fingers, two feet, middle-age brain, questionable judgement and taste
Current Nords: Piano 5 73, Electro 6D 73
Ownership History: Electro 2, Electro 3-73 SW, Electro 3HP, Electro 4D, Stage 2EX 76HP
User avatar
Rusty Mike
Posts: 930
Joined: 08 Nov 2011, 21:57
12
Your Nord Gear #1: Nord Piano 5
Your Nord Gear #2: Nord Electro 6
Location: United States
Has thanked: 97 times
Been thanked: 535 times
Contact:
United States of America

Yamaha YC-73 Review: Effects

Post by Rusty Mike »

Effects Section
The effects selection is large, but the layout is different compared to Nord’s implementation. For each Keys (A/B) engine, you have two separate and independent insert effects. That means you can run combos not available on the Electro, such as ring mod and tremolo or chorus and vibe. It also means you can have a different phaser on each Keys type with independent settings, again not available on the Electro.

In addition to two insert effects per Key engine, there is a third Effect that can be applied to any one of the Keys A, Keys B or organ engines. The list of available effects is largely the same as the insert effects, excluding the digital delay and damper resonance, but including a tempo delay and a looper effect. The looper is applied to all the YC’s sound engines. I’m not a looper user, but I guess this has value for those who do.

The variety of effects available is larger and more varied compared to the Nord, but I wouldn’t say they are better. For example the YC has four phaser effects compared to Nord’s 2, but they both have Small Stone emulations which is really the only one I care about. YC has four chorus effects compared to Nord’s 2, similar wah effects, bigger delay variety, a reverse reverb, Lo-Fi, slicer, additional lowpass filter and harmonic enhancer. These are of limited value to my use case.

This is followed by a Speaker/Amp section which includes a variety of emulations, drive and tone controls. This can be applied to any single sound engine. Since the compressor is a separate insert effect, it is not part of the Speaker/Amp selection list like it is on the Nord keyboards.

The insert effects also has a selection of amp sims apart from the Speaker/Amp section of the instrument. The Speaker/Amp section does not include a “small” speaker (assume to be akin to the Wurly speakers on the Nord), but it is a choice in the effects list for the particular Keys A/B section. Again, a bit of Yamaha’s “left-field” thinking.

Each effects slot uses a dual 7-segment LED display to tell you what effect is in that slot, so you get indicators like “Co”, “PE” or “r2” - nice and informative, eh?. This is a typical Yamaha UI approach which I find cryptic and annoying. Also, the dials for the effects are labeled “Depth” and “Rate”, which applies well for some effects but is completely misleading for others. On the EQ for example, the “Rate” knob controls the upper band while the “Depth” knob attenuates the lower band. The guessing game is annoying, but fortunately the OLED display tells you what is changing when you turn a knob or hit a switch.

One of the effects is Damper Resonance, which seems to be a combination of damper and sympathetic resonance as well as Nord’s Soft Release feature. It creates a nice ambience but can sound like you’re playing from outer space if turned up too high. It also uses up an effects slot, which then leaves you only with two more - one for the section and other general effect that can only apply to one engine. This is less of an issue for acoustic piano, since compression and reverb are probably all I’d use on those, but creates a problem for EPs, which could be more effect heavy, so some choices will have to be made.

The compressor is the secret weapon in this instrument. It does a good job and is really helpful for gain management. The Depth knob controls the amount of compression and the Rate knob manages the overall volume. You can push the levels pretty hard well while still having the instrument fairly natural sounding.

There is a master EQ, but it’s global and not programmable like on the Nord. That’s a shame.

For someone like me who uses only one or maybe two sounds in a single program, there is enough flexibility for me to work with on the YC, just as I’ve never found limitations with Nord’s approach.
These users thanked the author Rusty Mike for the post (total 2):
Tracii, Nordine
Mike from Central NJ, USA
Tools: Ten fingers, two feet, middle-age brain, questionable judgement and taste
Current Nords: Piano 5 73, Electro 6D 73
Ownership History: Electro 2, Electro 3-73 SW, Electro 3HP, Electro 4D, Stage 2EX 76HP
User avatar
Rusty Mike
Posts: 930
Joined: 08 Nov 2011, 21:57
12
Your Nord Gear #1: Nord Piano 5
Your Nord Gear #2: Nord Electro 6
Location: United States
Has thanked: 97 times
Been thanked: 535 times
Contact:
United States of America

Yamaha YC-73 Review: Features and Ecosystem

Post by Rusty Mike »

Features
As noted earlier, I consider the YC series to be more of an “Electro Plus” as opposed to a “Stage Minus”. It does not have a full synth engine on it, but rather a collection of samples/waveforms that you can tweak a bit. It betters the Electro’s synth capabilities in three ways:
- the samples can respond to velocity more deeply
- Monophonic ability for leads and basses
- Pitch bend / mod lever

Even though Nord does not have velocity layered samples, you do have some capability with the Electro for the sample to respond to dynamics for volume and filter. And while the envelope control on the Electro is still simple, you at least get two parameters to control it instead of a single knob on the YC.

The Nord has the advantage in that the synth samples library is much larger. With the YC, your selection of core sounds are limited and you get what you get. And I’ve got a strong suspicion that we will not see another OS update for this instrument and the waveforms/samples are not user expandable.

That said, I’m not sure when/if I’ll ever use these features since I play mostly piano and organ. I don’t even use strings or pads in my normal repertoire. Because I don’t really use the Electro for leads, I’m not all that vocal about including pitch or mod levers on future models.

The Yamaha Ecosystem
I tried searching for a NUF-like community for this instrument and so far have come up dry. Yamaha does host their yamahasynth.com site, which is mostly their endorsers posting up some stuff. The user forum section is currently “under construction”, severely restricting the amount of actual user interaction and sharing. Not sure if or when it’s coming back.

All other searches for user forums on this instrument mostly yield communities focused on their arranger instruments and not the stage-oriented stuff.

Also, it seems Yamaha has moved on from their focus on CP/YC instruments. Granted, both of these series are now a few years old, but Yamaha is on to the next thing they want to push, and right now that is the CK series and the new Montage ESP feature. A friend of mine went to NAMM this past January and said the YC was nowhere in the Yamaha suite. He was told inventory was limited, which is a lame excuse as far as I’m concerned. The product’s manufacturer certainly has access to their own inventory; they chose not to show the product on the floor. A pretty clear message to me that they are done promoting this product and that we won’t see any more OS updates. It would at least be nice to see the yamahasynth user forum back on line.

I have not tried Soundmondo. Frankly I don’t see the reason as this instrument is fairly easy to program once you understand the features and UI. Since I’m just starting with it, I also don’t yet feel a kinship to other users like with the Nord community.

Next: My Take
These users thanked the author Rusty Mike for the post (total 3):
Tracii, FZiegler, Nordine
Mike from Central NJ, USA
Tools: Ten fingers, two feet, middle-age brain, questionable judgement and taste
Current Nords: Piano 5 73, Electro 6D 73
Ownership History: Electro 2, Electro 3-73 SW, Electro 3HP, Electro 4D, Stage 2EX 76HP
User avatar
Rusty Mike
Posts: 930
Joined: 08 Nov 2011, 21:57
12
Your Nord Gear #1: Nord Piano 5
Your Nord Gear #2: Nord Electro 6
Location: United States
Has thanked: 97 times
Been thanked: 535 times
Contact:
United States of America

Yamaha YC-73 Review: Wrap Up

Post by Rusty Mike »

Quirks and Dislikes
You can set it to start at a specific program at startup, but not where it last left off. This is different from Nord’s implementation.

Comes with an FC3A sustain pedal, which supports half-pedaling but is not recognized by the Electro or the Piano. The YC is rather finicky with a simple on/off pedal, as it seems to get “stuck” every so often, mostly while programming. This could be problematic, I don’t want to swap pedals in and out of my gig bag depending on the instrument I’m playing. I’ll continue to fiddle with this and see if it behaves with my regular M-Audio pedal at the gig. So far it has not occurred during regular playing.

All the factory piano programs come with the expression pedal enabled as a default. What’s up with that?

The instrument’s shape is a small challenge. All four sides taper in at the bottom, which causes you to be a bit more cautious while placing and lifting it from bag to stand. I prefer the squared off sides of the Nord Instruments.

The OS has some odd little bugs, mostly while programming. Sounds will cut out and features will momentarily disappear while you’re tweaking. You sometimes have to back out of what you’re doing because you think you did something wrong.

I know this is not the popular opinion, but I like Nord’s fixed split points. The lights help my feeble little head understand where the split points are, and the fade feature is a wonderful thing. The YC allows you to split anywhere, but there is no split fade and you have to remember where your split point is.

Likes
The six pound weight difference from the Piano 5 is very evident to me. This is an advantage for the schlep.

The action is light and relatively fast now that I seem to have found a touch sensitivity that works for me.

The organ engine is pretty good. Between the H and F settings, you have a nice variety of flavors. And there is a mono mode for the rotary amp if you run through a single speaker.

I’m starting to like having the two simultaneous piano engines. I’ve got a couple of AP/EP combos that I like, and the YC does this well. Granted, the Piano 5 can do this too but not the current Electro, and we don’t know if this feature will carry over to the next Electro model.

There is more than enough variety and flexibility in the effects from my use. They sound pretty good as well.

Conclusions
For the moment, I no longer feel the pressure to have a decent feeling action, lighter weight and good piano/organ capabilities. I’m still interested in the next Electro, but my itch has been scratched for now by the YC; it is now my regular live instrument.

I like the sounds, feel and quality of the Piano 5, but don’t like the weight and miss the organ of the Electro. The Electro 6D doesn’t have the piano feel I need for 90% of my playing, so it’s not suitable for my everyday live rig. And I won’t buy another HP model until they upgrade the TP100 action. Not sure what I’m going to do with the Piano 5 right now, but I will hang onto it for the time being. I’ll probably use it for intimate piano gigs where I don’t have to haul it long distances or up the stairs.

So despite its oddities, the YC is now my gig rig. Not perfect (and not a Nord), but it’s luggable, playable, fairly workable and sounds pretty good after the learning curve and twiddling.

That's all for now.
These users thanked the author Rusty Mike for the post (total 3):
Tracii, koudekak, Nordine
Mike from Central NJ, USA
Tools: Ten fingers, two feet, middle-age brain, questionable judgement and taste
Current Nords: Piano 5 73, Electro 6D 73
Ownership History: Electro 2, Electro 3-73 SW, Electro 3HP, Electro 4D, Stage 2EX 76HP
koudekak
Posts: 2
Joined: 06 Jul 2021, 16:39
2
Your Nord Gear #1: Nord Stage EX
Your Nord Gear #2: Nord Electro 5
Has thanked: 2 times
Been thanked: 1 time
France

Re: Yamaha YC-73 Review from a Longtime Nord Owner

Post by koudekak »

Hi Mike,
Thanks for this extensive review. I did exactly the same thing, I sold my Nord Electro and bought a YC73.
I am a piano player, but during gigs i need organ and electric piano sounds as well.

I've been playing a Nord stage at home since 2011, and a Nord Electro 5 on gigs. I decided to sell the Nord Electro, because the action just isn't adapted to the way you play an acoustic piano.
I would have loved to stick with Nord, but they just don't offer what I need.
If you are looking for a piano with an organ engine and correct key action, the only option is the Stage. The problem is that it comes with a synth engine that I don't need, and it makes the instrument very expensive.
And there is no alternative between hammer action and waterfall, which means that, as a piano player, you need to buy the Stage with the weighted keys, which, even in the 73 key version, is very heavy. The YC73 is 3,5 kilos lighter than the NS 73.

It's true that the YC73 needs some getting used to.
But the action is a great compromise between heavy weighted keys and a waterfall keybed. It allows to put in the nuance needed when you play acoustic piano.

The organ and the electric pianos sound nice; I prefer the piano sounds of the Nord, but the S700 sounds very well in a live setting.

Another major asset of the YC73 is its price. It is a lot cheaper than Nords!

So if Nord puts out a nord piano with an organ engine and a semi-weighted keybed, I would be happy to consider that option. But for now, it's the YC73 ;)
These users thanked the author koudekak for the post:
Rusty Mike
ngextre
Posts: 1
Joined: 08 May 2024, 20:16
Been thanked: 2 times

Re: Yamaha YC-73 Review from a Longtime Nord Owner

Post by ngextre »

One thing to add with the YC, is it has an inbuilt audio interface where you can use an Ipad or other device to layer, and setup zones/ splits in combination with the onboard sounds.
It is a poke in the eye that the YC only had 3 updates and still issues that could be fixed through an update.
These users thanked the author ngextre for the post (total 2):
Rusty Mike, dmamfmgm
User avatar
Rusty Mike
Posts: 930
Joined: 08 Nov 2011, 21:57
12
Your Nord Gear #1: Nord Piano 5
Your Nord Gear #2: Nord Electro 6
Location: United States
Has thanked: 97 times
Been thanked: 535 times
Contact:
United States of America

Re: Yamaha YC-73 Review from a Longtime Nord Owner

Post by Rusty Mike »

Well the user forum on yamahasynth seems to be back online, but it’s seriously quiet.

And yes it seems the OS updates are done. Yamaha has moved on. It’s okay for me though. I have what I need out of it and seem to be living alright with the quirks.

Although I did bring my Piano 5 to the last gig ;)
Mike from Central NJ, USA
Tools: Ten fingers, two feet, middle-age brain, questionable judgement and taste
Current Nords: Piano 5 73, Electro 6D 73
Ownership History: Electro 2, Electro 3-73 SW, Electro 3HP, Electro 4D, Stage 2EX 76HP
Post Reply