AF’s Weblog

January 25, 2011

Avid Pro Tools 9 Review

It was THE event at the 2010 AES show in San Fran: the launch of Pro Tools 9 took center stage and generated a lot of expectations. Pro Tools 9 is not merely a simple update. It is in fact a small revolution for Avid, given that the famous DAW is now open to the external world — for the first time ever.

Over the last couple of months there were rumors everywhere about the possibility of, one day, being able to use the well-known digital audio platform independently from the dedicated Avid hardware interfaces… All of you who have been patiently waiting for that moment can rejoice: now Avid Pro Tools doesn’t need Avid hardware to work, and still deliver a high performance. Or at least that’s the assertion by the American manufacturer — the leader in the digital pro audio and video markets.

Surely the most skeptical will think that it will only be possible with a “light” version of the software or something. Wrong!  We mean THE Pro Tools 9 — an almost “unique” version that works with all sorts of digital audio interfaces. However, when searching for more information on Avid’s website things get a bit more complicated, considering that there are several possible configurations at very different prices!

In order to make things clear, we will start by giving you an overview of the main software and hardware configurations and then introduce the new features offered by Pro Tools 9.

Set Menu or à la carte

Avid Pro Tools 9

Until now, the options to use Pro Tools were quite simple because they were limited: you could choose between an expensive Pro Tools HD system (including at least one DSP Core card upgradeable with Access cards) or the more affordable Pro Tools LE system with limited functionality (the price depended on the interface you chose)… Today, the configurations are quite different, although there is still some hierarchy when it comes to features (and price).

The first version is still the flagship in Avid’s DAW range: Pro Tools HD 9. Like its predecessor, this update of Pro Tools HD 8 works only with HD Core and Accel PCIe cards (including nine DSPs each) and is sold bundled as before: HD1 system (with one Core card), HD2 system (with one Core card and one Accel card) and HD3 system (with one Core card and two Accel cards). There is no surprise up to now.

The real change comes with the second version called Pro Tools HD Native, which is a piece of software that provides exactly the same features as the “HD” version but without a DSP card. Instead, Pro Tools HD Native is sold with a PCIe card with two Mini-Digilink ports that allow the user to connect any HD interface to it, like the new Avid HD I/O interfaces: 16×16 Analog, 16×16 Digital, HD MADI, and the new HD Omni! In other words, this Pro Tools version is the first “HD version” that can work without a dedicated DSP card… In fact, the compatibility between Pro Tools HD Native and the UAD-2 card system has just been officially announced… Does it start to make sense to you now?

Last but not least, the product range includes another version, simply called Pro Tools 9, which is very similar to the HD version and works on both Mac and PC platforms, regardless of your ASIO or Core Audio digital audio interface. This new hardware-independent version has the clear goal of competing with other native sequencers.

Let see if it can succeed!…

Pro Tools Will Always Stay Pro Tools

It’s true that the Pro Tools concept doesn’t change with this new update. We will probably have to wait some more time before certain features appear in the Avid software. Despite all, the manufacturer wants to listen to what its users have to say through IdeaScale.

 

And let’s make something clear: the fact that Pro Tools is used by the vast majority of professionals is not only due to the brand’s effective marketing. Apart from the proven quality of the ready-to-use hardware/software solutions in the HD range, Pro Tools has always had a great response due to the design of the software itself. Although it lacks some features, the software allows for an easy and fast recording, editing and mixing of audio, in comparison to other tools that make things much more complex because of their sophistication (for example, until version 4, the side chain was incredibly complex in Cubase and Nuendo compared to Pro Tools…).

 

For primary tasks, Avid’s sequencer is not disappointing at all and allows the user to work well and fast. That’s the main reason why it remains the first choice of many professionals and why it can be very appealing to beginners who can easily get scared by the endless menus, tabs and options in some competitor products… If all sequencers offered a demo version, these differences would be obvious, making the user’s decision much more easier.

Conclusion

By ensuring the compatibility of its flagship product with the external world, Avid took a huge step forward, which will certainly delight many professionals and semi-professionals: from now on, you can take the software anywhere, and even if it’s not an HD version it allows you to do some serious work.

After the major update that version 8 represented, we expected more new features and plug-in improvements. And we are still in shock by the price of the Complete Production ToolKit, which addresses professionals mainly. Although the “big” Pro Tools is now affordable to all budgets, it is not the best tool for everyone. And now that it can be really compared with other sequencers it could suffer from the aggressiveness of its competitors. But, since Avid is not a company that rests on its laurels, we are looking forward to seeing how this market will evolve…

Advantages:

  • Pro Tools usable with third-party audio interfaces!
  • Ease of installation/use/configuration of the software
  • Possible configurations
  • Improved I/O setup
  • Easier bus routing
  • Latency compensation (finally)!

Drawbacks:

  • Few new features compared to version 8 in terms of functionality
  • No VST/AU support
  • Complete Production Toolkit for HD version too expensive for non-professionals
  • Not all audio interfaces are 100% supported
  • Bounce only in real time

To read the full detailed article see:  Pro Tools 9 Review

 

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August 30, 2010

Ohm Studio Teaser – Going Beyond Old Sequencer Paradigms

Filed under: Sequencers, Software — Tags: , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 1:34 pm

When developing the Ohm Studio dared to break some old sequencer standards: for example, a track is not anymore a synonym of audio bus, it’s actually a timeline ready for all your ideas. Why is this the case? Because Ohm Studio’s GUI has been built from the ground up, keeping in mind both the creative workflow and the online collaborative ethos. Watch this video to understand how useful it could be…

April 16, 2010

Celemony Melodyne Editor Video Demo

To see more gear video demos see:  Audiofanzine Video Vault

March 10, 2010

Presonus Studio One Software Review

Fed up with Cubase? Sick of Logic? Bored by Sonar? PreSonus will take back your software in exchange for Studio One. But, is it really worth it?

Launching a new sequencer in 2010 is a bold venture considering that there are several well-established products out there. We could name at least a dozen top of mind, each one better than the others (Pro Tools, Logic, Sonar, Cubase, Nuendo, Samplitude, Digital Performer, Live, Tracktion, Reaper, Acid, Reason/Record, Fruity Loops, etc.), for all sorts of applications and within all price ranges. Nevertheless, more often than not, it was unexpected outsiders that introduced innovations in the field rather than the established brands (Cubase’s InLine Edition and Reason’s Combinator owe a lot to Tracktion to name only one example). That’s one of the main reasons why we are very pleased to welcome PreSonus’ Studio One – which we hope will bring some fresh air to the sequencer world.

How Long Has PreSonus Been Making Sequencers?

Studio OneWell-known for their FireWire interfaces (FirePod and FireBox, for example), the guys at PreSonus also offer a very comprehensive range of audio products from digital mixers to dual high-quality preamps (conceived by Anthony de Maria), headphones amps, monitoring controllers, etc. In short, almost everything you need to set up a home studio, except for microphones and monitors. In this context, a sequencer seems quite natural, all the more if you think that most leading manufacturers in the pro audio industry have their own sequencer: Cubase and Nuendo belong to Yamaha, Sonar to Roland, Pro Tools to Digidesign/M-Audio, Acid to Sony, Tracktion to Mackie, etc.

However, PreSonus could not become a software developer overnight even though they have lots of experience with DAW hardware solutions. Therefore it was no surprise to find the very experienced Matthias Juwan behind Studio One, a developer who worked six years for Steinberg before founding his own company and developing a free sequencer called Krystal Audio. Matthias had already planned to make V2 a paid upgrade before arriving at PreSonus; it seems his new software ended up being Studio One.  Fine.  Enough with the history lessons…

Is Studio One the One?

Studio OneStudio One is an audio/MIDI sequencer for Mac and PC (it includes Windows 7 and 64-bit support). There are two different versions available, “Artist” and “Pro”. They both share the same functions except for some major details like the audio engine’s internal resolution (32 bit in Artist, 64 bit in Pro), the ability to import/export to MP3 and, above all, AU, VST and Rewire compatibility. I beg your pardon? Did you just say that the Artist version which costs $200 doesn’t allow the use of external plugins? Yes, I did! Even though the Artist version includes about 20 virtual effects and instruments like a sampler, EZdrummer Lite and Kore Player, it’s hard to imagine how it’s supposed to compete in this market without allowing external plugin integration… But that’s none of our business right now because we will only deal with the Pro version in this review, which does support third-part plugins, provides additional effects and offers many samples as well as Kore Player sounds. Now let’s go back to the pretty blue box containing two DVDs…

Installing Studio One and the additional software tools provided is pretty straightforward and easy. Among the printed documentation included there’s a short quick start guide in full color and a leaflet listing all the shortcuts. It’s not much but you will also find a 189 page long PDF under the software’s Help menu, and PreSonus also included a handful of video tutorials to get you started. That was nice of them, even if one the main pros of Studio One is its intuitiveness.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

PreSonus did a good job with Studio One. We have rarely used such an intuitive sequencer: it is always difficult to switch from Cubase to Pro Tools or from Sonar to Digital Performer due to design and layout problems, but that wouldn’t be a problem with Studio One thanks to the great ideas implemented in this respect. Studio One resembles Tracktion in a way: it’s a small sequencer conceived for music creation that can be installed on a notebook to avoid more resource hungry tools like Cubase, Logic or Sonar. It is well thought-out, comprehensive, very stable, and promises a lot even if it’s a bit too expensive compared to similar products. Not taking into consideration the Artist version, which is too limited to be interesting, the Pro version is a bit more expensive than Mackie’s Tracktion 3, which place it in the same price range as all the big names on the market… and it just can’t compete with them, except in design and layout. To wrap it up, Studio One is a bit too expensive but it does offer some nice features so we will keep our eyes open for Studio Two…

Advantages:

  • Excellent design and layout
  • Provides everything to create a song from A to Z
  • Stability
  • Effect plugins quality
  • Well thought-out mastering section

Drawbacks:

  • Improvable virtual instruments
  • Artist version can’t host third-party plugins
  • There are much more powerful tools available for a few more bucks…

To read the full detailed article see:  Presonus Studio One Review

February 10, 2010

My iPhone is a Sequencer

iPhone/iPod Touch Sequencers Report

We’ll start with Xewton Music Studio, a pretty comprehensive MIDIMy iPhone is a sequencer sequencer if you consider that it runs on a mobile phone. It features 128 MIDI tracks, 4 FX sends (reverb, delay, EQ, amp simulation) and 21 instruments – more than enough to get you started… But even though the instruments will cover most of your needs and you can edit their volume envelope curve (in a somewhat rudimentary way), don’t expect too much from their sound (the quality is on the same level as an old wavetable Sound Blaster sound card, in other words cheap-sounding, but usable, Soundfonts).

On the other hand, the sequencing functions are pretty comprehensive including a dual, virtual MIDI keyboard for real time control of two instruments, a piano roll view, an arranger window, velocity management, and all necessary sequencing functions like cut, copy, paste, transpose, etc. It goes without saying that you can set the volume and pan for each track and, more importantly, you can export your work as a WAV or MIDI file. In conclusion, it is definitely a must-have for the iPhone and well worth the $19.99 the developer asks for it.

Now let’s look at some several other sequencers…

Loop the Loop

To wrap up this non-exhaustive iPhone sequencer overview let’s My iPhone is a sequencertake a look at loop-based production tools inspired by Acid/Garageband. With a brilliant design, IK Multimedia’s Groovemaker is available for different music styles at $7.99, but you cannot import your own loops, which is a major drawback. That’s why we prefer Looptastic’s Producer version ($9.99), because it allows you to import your own WAV, AIFF and OGC files. It can synchronize up to 20 files at the same time and allows you to export your mix.

My iPhone is a sequencerIt’s a pity that you cannot record! That’s the whole point of loopers and loop samplers! They come in very handy to record song ideas on the spot and loop the loop with our previous report about iPhone audio recorders. Anyway, we will only mention the nice StompVox, which lacks an export function, and take a nearer look at the excellent iSample which has been praised by Roger Linn himself and Jordan Rudess. This app provides six 30-second samplers, a mixer, a loop editor, delay and reverb effects, and a 12-pattern sequencer. Everything for only $9.99.

On the other side, some of you will appreciate the simplicity of My iPhone is a sequencerEveryday Looper! The oddness about this 4-track looper is the GUI with no buttons: you can slide both ways using 1, 2 or 3 fingers to start or stop the recording, toggle between different tracks, and export the result of your work via WiFi. This app is very ergonomic and costs only $3.99.

To read the full detailed report see: iPhone Sequencers

June 22, 2009

Steinberg Cubase 5 Review

Filed under: Sequencers, Software — Tags: , , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 8:38 am
Introduction

Cubase, one of the titans of the sequencer pantheon, has come out with an attractive looking 5th version, at a time when the sequencer wars are raging more than ever. Let’s take a look…

One of the oldest sequencers, along with Logic (old-timers may remember the golden era of Pro 24 and Notator), Cubase has over the years, imposed numerous ergonomic, technological, and conceptual standards on the competition. Releasing a new version of Steinberg’s flagship software is still an event in itself, although it must be admitted that today, the pretenders to the throne of the king of sequencers are quite numerous. As a result, innovation and excellence are no longer unique to Cubase and, without even mentioning other sequencer heavy-weights (Logic, Sonar, Pro Tools, Samplitude, Digital Performer and Ableton Live), the last decade has seen many new challengers, with varying price tags and popularity, but packed with great features: Fruity Loops, Melodyne, Tracktion, Energy XT, Reaper … In a market as competitive as this, it’s obviously increasingly difficult to stand out. Cubase 4 had its critics even though it launched the VST3 standard, brought its effects and virtual instruments up to date, inaugurated a new media management system and you could finally move effects from one track to another by drag & drop. But it seemed more like they were trying to catch up to the competition rather than really innovating … Even the more original innovations, like management of external hardware (particularly Yamaha’s, since the Japanese manufacturer had recently bought Steinberg) and the emergence of control room targeted features were interesting, but did not effect all users and therefore didn’t necessarily justify the increased software price: around $879! Fortunately, when the impressive Logic 8 came out for around $500 it forced Steinberg to rethink its rates and marketing strategy: you can now find Cubase 5 for around $500! With relatively interesting updates: 4.1 and 4.5 (side chain management for their effects, better routing management, additional sound banks for HALionOne, etc..), and this 5th version, Steinberg is doing its best to seduce us. Let’s get into details…

Conclusion

Cubase 5 is undoubtedly a success and shows progress in several areas. More user-friendly, more powerful and better equipped, Steinberg’s baby is alive and well! Sure, we’d always like to have more (especially virtual instruments), but features like VariAudio, VST Expression, Tempo/Signature tracks, or the multitrack export feature make this an essential update. To the question “Should you upgrade from version 4 or lower”, the answer is a 1000 times yes, but keep in mind that the Studio version of the software doesn’t include (and it’s an important point) VariAudio, amongst other things.

If however, you don’t have a sequencer or you intend to change, the problem is more difficult because after a quick web surf, it was pretty surprising to find out that no brands except Magix, Cakewalk and Ableton, have demo versions of their sequencers! And it’s a shame that you can’t try before you buy at a time when the differences between sequencers is often summed up by a few features and different work-flows. But, speaking as an unconditional Cubase user these past fifteen years, I can’t recommend Cubase 5 enough…

Positives:


A penalty goes to Propellerhead for still not addressing the 64-bit ReWire and Rex format issue
  • Full 64-bit!
  • VariAudio, efficient and fully integrated.
  • VST Expression.
  • Finally there’s a multitrack export!
  • Finally a hi-quality reverb!
  • Tempo and signature tracks, so much easier…
  • A complete all-in-one solution.
  • Printed manuals and video tutorials.
  • Groove Agent One, simple and effective.
  • Loopmash
  • The automation panel
  • The concept of an iPhone application to control the sequencer

Drawbacks:

  • No sampler, no organ, no piano outside of the presets in HALion One
  • Synthesizers that aren’t up to par with the competition

To read the full detailed exclusive article see:  Steinberg Cubase 5 Review

May 16, 2009

Ableton Live 8 Suite: The Test

Long LIVE Ableton
Ableton Live 8: The Test

Ableton’s Live has been with us for some time now and since it’s initial release in 2001 it has proudly sported a simple one window interface and transparent ’no frills’ operation. This simplicity initially led some producers and musicians to believe it was perhaps a step down from other more complex DAWs, but seven years down the line Live has more than stood the test of time.

Many musicians, engineers and DJs have now adopted Live as their primary production or performance environment and Ableton is now onto an impressive eighth major release. Their constant development of the application is also relentless with version 8.01 of Live being released only weeks ago, which sees stability and workflow further improved.

Ouverture

Live has never been short of virtual instruments, hardware quality effects and cool production tools but each major release manages to expand this sequencer’s inventory, and version 8 is certainly no exception. With a brand-new virtual instrument, updates to the interface, new production tools, extra effects and even an expanded sample library, the folks at Ableton certainly aren’t running out of ideas.

How Suite it is

Live now comes in three different versions: Live LE (medium), Live (Large) and Ableton Suite (XL). Live LE is essentially a cut down version of Live for the entry level user or budget conscious beginner and is limited in some areas such as number of tracks and effects that can be used. Live and Ableton Suite are pretty much the same core application but the Suite contains a pretty large sample library (including the new Latin Percussion collection) and you will also get all ten virtual instruments that Ableton offers for the higher price tag.

Let’s take a look at the major changes and hear some audio examples of them in action to see if this new update is a step in the right direction…

Conclusion

This is a really major release for Live and although the application remains the same at first glance the changes could literally change the way you use it. What could be a new set of toys to the seasoned user, could potentially be the feature that convinces the new user to switch.

Plan de groupe

Installation is a breeze and can be completed by download without the need for any dongles or iLoks. Activation is an automatic process that takes a matter of minutes so you’ll be up and running in no time. So if you haven’t checked it out already then do yourself a favour and upgrade or a least test drive the demo.

Feature rich update
Very cost effective (from €49 to Live 7 users to €549 for full Ableton suite)
Exciting new effects processors and instruments
Long list of interface and workflow enhancements

Overall interface and metering may be a little basic for some pros
Lack of support for multiple monitors maybe an issue for some

To read the full detailed article see Ableton Live 8 Review

February 26, 2009

Video Demo: Cakewalk Sonar V-Studio 700

A detailed presentation of the Cakewalk Sonar V-Studio 700 control surface, audio interface and software sequencer package.

To watch all NAMM 2009 video demos visit us on Audiofanzine NAMM 2009.

February 23, 2009

Review: Digidesign Transfuser

Sample Transfusion
Digidesign Transfuser: The Test

A.I.R., Digidesign’s virtual instrument division, continues to provide creative tools for users of their Pro Tools software. This time, it’s a sequencer within a sequencer, dedicated to loops of all kinds and their unlimited use. Let’s take a look…

Presentation

Ouverture

There’s a big box, a DVD, an activation number. Download the iLok license key, install the sound bank (requiring 1.65 GB of disk space) and RTAS plugin, nothing complicated, it’s Mac and PC compatibility, but you must (still …) have Pro Tools (LE, M-Powered or HD, from version 7) and it’s done. Then all you have to do is open the instrument in a session. Let’s take a look at its interface and how it works.

The idea is to create Tracks within Transfuser. These tracks, which bring together several modules, read audio files (according to various processes). On the left, there’s a browser pane that can be used to load Tracks (complete ensembles) or audio (separate sounds to build your own loops), whether factory or user-created. You can preview a sound by clicking on the file, preview lasts as long as you hold down the mouse, or, if Latch is enabled, for the duration of the file. A sync option synchronizes preview to the Pro Tools session tempo. There’s also a pitch and volume setting which can be adjusted as you preview. And lastly there’s a filtered search field that searches for all items in the list that match the typed-in criteria.

At the top there’s the area to which you drag and drop complete Tracks and audio files from the browser, Pro Tools region list, Pro Tools audio tracks, or the desktop (or a folder) of your computer. Either you import Tracks, in which case the modules are directly positioned, or you import audio, which opens a window offering the choice between three types of recognition/import: Sliced Audio and Slice Sequence, Time-Stretch Audio and Trigger Sequence, or Drum Kit and Drum Sequence (we’ll come back to these three types of Tracks later on). Corresponding modules will be opened in this section. Note that you can also use an external audio signal (more on this later).

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

Gater

Though Structure, Hybrid, Velvet or Strike may do their jobs perfectly, there’s nothing revolutionary about them (sampling, synthesis, emulation of electromechanical keyboards and Drumstations). Transfuser, without being completely revolutionary, does have a real concept, and can claim to be the first totally original VSTI by AIR. It’s definitely the most complete instrument geared at loop-based music at present. The number of tracks and effects available let you do almost everything necessary solely within it. To get the most out of it nevertheless requires a certain amount of learning time. The use of external controllers is also particularly well thought out.

Beatcutter

This opens up new horizons within Pro Tools, particularly for live settings. This may seem strange, to say the least, since Digidesign software is largely studio geared. But you can also see a pattern (or strategy) developed for live musicians and DJs that started with the Mbox Micro, both of which are also being offered in bundles.

Pro Tools on stage? Is it possible? The competition is fierce, from Live to Mainstage, Usine to Reason, Receptor to SM Pro … Digidesign’s version would really have to deliver, seeing how it’s Pro Tools exclusive. There’s no problem recognizing that Transfusion, which is extremely comprehensive and powerful (you’ll need a powerful computer for prolonged use) is up to the challenge. Especially since it’s use in the studio is equally handy for working with loops.

Its concept
Its three modes
Comprehensive Drum Machine
Pitch and time stretch Algorithms
Worlfkow despite its power and complexity
Midi Learn and automation everywhere
Well adapted for live settings
Audio
Drag’n’Drop Audio and Midi
Internal audio recorder
20 quality effects included
Effects are applicable just about everywhere
Numerous presets, Sequences with effects
Loop library

Info is sometimes difficult to read
Slice screen is too small
Doesn’t import MP3, AAC, CAF, Apple Lossless
Resource hog
Pro Tools only …

To read, the full detailed article see:   Digidesign Transfuser Review

January 26, 2009

Test: Yamaha Tenori-On Review

Filed under: Sequencers — Tags: , , , — audiofanzine @ 8:38 am
Unidentified Musical Object
Yamaha Tenori-On: The Test

In the world of electronic instruments, when you think innovation, the name Yamaha rarely comes to mind! Yet this Japanese company was the creator of the first FM synthesizer, the DX7. So just to show you that that they can still innovate, Yamaha has created the Tenori-On, a sort of UMO (Unidentified Musical Object) halfway between a musical instrument and a portable game console.

tenorion

At first glance, it’s tempting to compare the Tenori-On with devices that look similar like certain MIDI controllers (Monome for example). Although its 16×16 button grid might make you think this, the Tenori-On offers much more than just a MIDI controller. It’s a tone generator, a sequencer with multiple modes, and a sample reader all in one. The Tenori-On therefore has much more to it than just what the buttons might lead you to think…

A bit of its back history and philosophy

Originally, the Tenori-On concept was developed by a member of Yamaha’s R&D department (its motorcycle section!) in his free time … Once the basics were well established, Toshio Iwai (the illustrious creator of ElectroPlancton for Nintendo DS) finalized the instrument. Though he’s adept at audio and visual experiences, Toshio Iwai is not really a musician. That’s why one of the basic axioms of the Tenori-On is that it is not designed specifically for musicians, but also geared towards visual performances as well as audio. Therefore, as we’ll see, the instrument is missing some features that can be found almost everywhere else. This does not stop it however from offering innovative performance modes and work flow.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

bizarre

The Tenori-On really stands out from the rest, both with it’s very limited features in some aspects, and its completely innovative ones in others. What destabilizes the average musician is that they soon realize that it isn’t made primarily for musicians. There are large functional gaps that are obvious to aficionados of electronic instruments: it’s impossible to edit sounds, basic management of samples, etc.. You must therefore change your way of thinking and let yourself be guided by the instrument, approaching it visually as well as sonically. The different performance modes open up new perspectives and fortunately MIDI capability expands the possibilities of the device. But innovation and originality have a price. At $1200 MSRP, even if the manufacturing quality is very good, its limitations will start to be felt by your wallet. But it has a “endearing” quality to it that’s non negligible, and has been adopted by many artists, including Bjork. So a final verdict is very much based on subjectivity. Either you’ll enter fully into the strange world of Tenori-On, accepting its limitations, or you’ll fall back on something a bit more classic. I have chosen: I’m a fan! and you?

Lots of fun
An unusual and original instrument
Innovative performance modes
Easy learning curve
A real “sound and light show” when used live

A lot of limitations and functional gaps
Sample player is a bit basic
Sounds: Either you love them or hate them
Pricey despite a very nice look and its manufacturing quality

To read the full, detailed article see:   Yamaha Tenori-On Review

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