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Yamaha YC88 review

Yamaha has a history of making some of the best stage keyboards ever, none more so than the legendary Motif range. Some would argue that Yamaha has raised the bar yet again with the new YC88, a blend of retro looks and modern features.

The Yamaha YC88 is an 88-key stage piano that doubles as a very convincing drawbar organ. It utilizes three sound engines to deliver outstanding pianos, organs, synths, and more.

About the author

I’m a producer, composer, and multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience in the music industry. As a professional pianist, I’ve played and tested everything from a Bösendorfer Imperial concert grand piano to budget-friendly beginner keyboards.

Yamaha YC88 review
Image: Yamaha
  • 88 weighted keys
  • 128-note polyphony
  • touch sensitivity
  • 190 voices
  • 1/4″ ins/outs, XLR
  • headphone out

Final verdict on the Yamaha YC88 4.5

Since the YC88 was announced, I have heard people saying that Yamaha has raised the bar for stage pianos. I have to agree with that opinion, and I have no legitimate complaints. It appears to be a sign of things to come from Yamaha, and pound for pound, the YC88 is going to be hard to beat.

What I like

  • Intuitive design.
  • Fantastic sounds.
  • VCM effects.
  • Real LED-lit drawbars.
  • Realistic piano feel.
  • Retro look.

What I don’t like

  • Mod/pitch sticks instead of wheels won’t please all.
Buy Yamaha YC88 at: SweetwaterAmazon


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Sound quality 4.5

I was already a big fan of the Yamaha CP88, so I expected good things when the YC88 was announced. If you are familiar with the CP88, you’ll know that it delivers absolutely stellar pianos and electric pianos. I can comfortably say the YC88 does the same, and that quality extends to the synths, strings, and brass sounds, too.

The quality of the sounds combined with the onboard effects processors is outstanding. It’s that combination that makes the YC88 such a versatile instrument.

The thing that sets it apart is the Organ section. It mimics Yamaha’s classic combo organs incredibly, and the rotary speaker emulations, it’s a joy to play. Even if the organ isn’t your main concern, having the drawbars will help you get the most out of other sounds.

My fear was that being so heavily focused on the organ, the other sounds would suffer, and that’s not the case at all.

Keyboard feel 4.5

It’s a good time to mention that as well as the YC88, a YC73, and YC61 are also available. The reason I bring it up in this section is that they offer different keyboard types, as well as price points.

The YC88 has beautiful graded hammer-action keys with an ebony and ivory feel. For serious piano players, it’s lovely to play and allows for incredibly dynamic performances. The downside is that the keys are a little heavy if you use the organs sound most.

The YC73 has balanced hammer-action keys, and the YC61 has waterfall/organ-style keys. You’ll notice that the keys on the YC61 do not have a lip that overlaps the end of the key. They are far lighter, and if you use synths and organs more than pianos, the YC61 is for you.

It’s hard to fault the feel because, in three keyboards, Yamaha has covered all the bases.

Features 4.5

Virtual Circuitry Modeling

Virtual Circuitry Modeling (VCM) emulates analog circuits with incredible accuracy. The reason it’s so accurate is that it breaks circuits down to individual components, so no detail is lost. This technology has been a long time in the making as Yamaha has been developing its physical modeling technology since the early 1990s.

The latest VCM technology powers some of Yamaha’s flagship keyboards. It delivers digital recreations of stunning instruments, vintage effects and helps the YC88’s drawbar organ sound and behave very realistically.

Real drawbars

The YC88 has nine physical drawbars, which are primarily for organ playing. But, they also give precision control over effects and other parameters. With any physical drawbars, it’s about how they feel; they have to be smooth but sturdy.

The YC88 drawbars feel very nice indeed, especially with proper stops on the end rather than being basic sliders. Another really nice touch is that they have LED indicators to show precisely where each bar is, even on a dark stage.

Dual keys

Layering sounds is simple with the YC88 using the Keys section. In the Keys section, you have sound A and sound B. Each layer/patch can be assigned any sound you like, and layering both, switching between the two, or turning either off completely is done at the touch of a button.

Rotary speaker models

If you know anything about vintage Hammond organs, you’ll know the sound of a pristine Leslie rotary speaker. The YP88 offers two very convincing emulations using the VCM technology.

The speaker emulations aren’t just good for organ sounds, they are great for adding some crunch to an electric piano.

Seamless sound switching

Seamless sound switching is something that I see more and more in top-tier stage keyboards now, which is a good thing. It allows you to hold a note/chord without the sound cutting off when you change to a new voice. It’s ideal for songs where you go back and forth between piano and strings/pad patches.

Onboard effects processors

You can assume the digital effects will be pretty good with any Yamaha keyboard that features VCM technology. But, the YC88 goes a step further with nine onboard effects processors.

The nine processors let you do some pretty deep effects routing. You have your Organ, Key A, and Key B sounds as sources. The Organ is routed to a preamp drive effect, while Key A/B each has two slots for insert effects at this stage.

Next, there is an insert effects section that all three sources pass through if you choose to add an effect. After that, you have the speaker/amp section with another chance to insert an effect for each source. A reverb section then offers independent sends for each source.

Finally, you have a master EQ that affects all sources when engaged. An interesting thing about the master EQ is that you can set exactly where the mid-frequency is applied.

In use 4.5

The YC88 looks like it has a jam-packed top panel with a million things going on. But, it’s actually very well organized in a modular way. The layout is somewhat similar to the tried and trusted Nord approach.

From left to right, you have the organ section, the live set section with the central rotary knob and screen, the keys section, and lastly, the effects section. Everything you do with the YC88 is very hands-on and intuitive. Almost everything is done at the touch of a button or two.

As a home studio keyboard, you can’t go far wrong with the YC88, or any of the YC models. Obviously, if you mainly use virtual instruments, you don’t need to spend so much on a keyboard. But, if you want a realistic feel and stunning sounds, the YC88 is perfect.

As a performer, you want high-quality sounds, versatile sounds, and intuitive controls with good visual feedback. The YC88 ticks every box, especially with the LED indicators on the drawbars. It’s awesome for gigging.

Build quality 4.5

When it comes to high-end stage pianos, it’s rare to find any significant issues with the build quality. If there are any issues, it tends to be with the buttons, faders, or wheels not being as sturdy as they should be.

Because the YC88 is such a tactile, hands-on instrument, the buttons and controls have to be robust, and they are. No complaints.

Connectivity 4.5

The Yamaha YC88 features fairly decent connectivity with two 1/4-inch audio and XLR outputs, two 1/4-inch inputs, pedal inputs, and a headphone output. You also get two USB ports (Type-A and B) and MIDI I/O.

Compared to other stage pianos

The YC88 could well be a bit of a game changer for Yamaha and future stage pianos. As good as it is, it still has some worthy competition.

Yamaha YC88 vs CP88

If you aren’t sold on the organ-heavy approach of the YC88 but want to stick with Yamaha, look no further than the CP88.

Read the full Yamaha CP88 review

Yamaha YC88 vs Roland RD-2000

The RD-2000 is Roland’s flagship stage piano, and it is ideal for performers who like to integrate other software and hardware. If you are one of those performers, the RD-2000 is perfect. Otherwise, the YC88 is hard to pick against.

Read the full Roland RD-2000 review

Yamaha YC88 vs Nord Piano 5

It’s hard to justify the extra money, but if you have the budget, the Nord Piano 5 should always be a consideration. However, the value for money is with the YC88.

Read the full Nord Piano 5 review

Who is the Yamaha YC88 best suited for?

The YC88 stage keyboard is an excellent choice for gigging musicians or serious (home) studio producers.

Buy Yamaha YC88 at: SweetwaterAmazon