Memory limitations of the Yamaha RM1x

I wrote a pretty massive post on this topic the other night, which fell victim to back-space malfunction. I’ll try again without further ado…

Image courtesy of Darren Stone/Wikipedia

I’ve got a couple of gripes with the Yamaha RM1x. Let me preface them by focusing initially on the positives.

  • It’s got 480ppq timing resolution. Evidently the Akai MPC 5000 has 960ppq resolution but that’s miles off the chart for anything from 10 years ago. By comparison, the original Akai samplers have 96ppq timing and I think the first generation Elektron Machinedrum is no more than 128ppq
  • The Yamaha kit of this era is nearly flawless in terms of making promised functionality work – and work routinely
  • It’s got loads of editing capabilities that nothing else in its class, nor its era shared in common
  • It’s got a friendly enough overall ease of use that I don’t generally miss the computer

However, there are times when I do. Particularly when I try to arrange music. But before I explain my gripes, let me explain how it would seem most people work with the limitations of the device and where I run in to problems:

  • The pattern mode allows creation of multiple sections per pattern, with distinct mute combinations of the same phrase, or variations on the phrase across these sections
  • These sections can be chained together to form the basis of a song in Pattern Chain Mode. Once the sequence of sections/patterns has been laid out there is a Copy to Song function that duplicates the pattern data in a song, becoming a separately editable object (as in my changes to the patterns or song don’t reflect in the other)
  • In my case, memory limitations forbade this copy operation, so I deleted some things that I wasn’t totally happy about deleting (after backing them up of course), but it still didn’t free up enough space. Without deleting everything but the pattern I was working on at the time, I couldn’t see how I was going to get the Copy to Song function to work
  • I should note that this is a 32-bar pattern, for what it’s worth
  • Unfortunately the documentation doesn’t really suggest anything about approaches for transitioning from pattern to song, nor for freeing up memory – at least not that I’ve seen

So… I wound up copying my original section with all of the track data in to Cubase, did the skeleton of the arrangement there, then saved it as an SMF file and loaded it in to an empty section in the RM1x. I can only assume there was sufficient space because there was a lot less total note data than there would have been if everything was “on” for 200-300 bars. Anyway… this works fine enough if you only have to do it once, but doing it repeatedly would be a major hassle, and ultimately it feels like failure since my original aim when buying the RM1x (and subsequently rebuilding the entire studio with hardware) was to get my eyes away from the computer screen. Ultimately this isn’t a complete failure since I only need to look at the screen when I’m doing the arrangement, but it’s not what I really want.

This left me wondering if there was anything else on the market that might suit my needs better, so I looked at the FutureRetro Orb (which seems unsuitable because of the 16 step maximum pattern length) and the EMU XL-7 (which seems to have some annoying limitations of its own).

Basically this leaves me two options:

  • The GenoQs Nemo, which is the height of gear porn. Despite being a couple of thousands pounds less expensive than its bigger brother, the Octopus, it’s still way out of my budget, at around £1200. It’s an obscene amount to spend on a sequencer
  • I could look at upgrading to the Yamaha RS7000 at some point, if I can find adequate desk space to accommodate it. I’m pretty sure it’s big for the amount of space I have left (virtually none). It seems to have about double the sequencing capacity and there are fifteen other reasons why it’s improved over the RM1x, but I just need to figure out if it’s really necessary

This is my latest conundrum. I’m really pleased with my synths and the general usablity of my setup at the moment, but this arrangement malarkey has become a huge obstacle to actually completing anything. It’s making me feel like one of these gear geeks that just talks kit all the time and never finished real music

2 thoughts on “Memory limitations of the Yamaha RM1x”

  1. did you ever consider finding a customizable control surface for a software sequencer? After you took the time to set it up, you could basically make music only by double-clicking cubase or live – and never touch the computer again?

    I don’t know if that’s feasible tho, but might be worth considering.

    or just get an MPC 🙂

  2. I haven’t. Or at least I haven’t considered using a control surface purely for sequencing. I think the main reason it wouldn’t offer any advantage is that I don’t really arrange on-the-fly. If I did, the RM1x would work fine, but I’ve never been satisfied with this approach since I can’t do enough fade ins/outs and knob twiddles at once to content myself with the final result. Any less than doing it purely live and I wouldn’t be using the control surface any more.

    I have considered an MPC 500 and haven’t ruled it out, but I could probably get an RS7000 for the same price.

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