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EWI USB style


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
I don't mind anyone disagreeing with me. I've not played the Akais, I just heard from folks that should know that they were supposed to be better.

Somewhat in response to NN and rjf, I do agree that the Yamaha-produced tone modules work better with the Yamaha wind controller, in terms of compatibility: the breath sensor's output is being interpreted right, etc. However, the Yamaha tone generators from the late 1980's/early 1990's just sounded cheezy for anything orchestral, especially solo instruments. I mention elsewhere that I recently went to a music store and played with a bunch of keyboards, tone generators and samplers. They didn't sound much better to me. However, I'll grant that the VL70m might do it. The specs look good, but it's 7 years old. Which also might mean that that's why I didn't see one.

rj, you might go to Akai's website and take a look at their synths. Find the one that looks the best for your requirements an call a music store to see if you can try one. Or try that VL70m.


Staff member
I've played the Yamaha in the past. Might consider getting one in the future as I need to buy a sound module for a recent midi keyboard pickup.

I rather liked the Yamaha and found it to be more user friendly as a sax player than when I tried the Akai.
I very much appreciate the honesty, thank you.

I rarely post to forums so if this comes across as insincere that is not my intent at all. I do appreciate the input.

What I'm beginning to understand is that this is as good as it gets. With the exception of a few different voicing units "it is what it is." I kept an ear on the WX/Yamaha units and grabbed every sample audio file I could get. Never could justify the money for something that sounded so "cheesy." When the EWI-USB came out at $300 (+/- a few) it was worth a shot and it missed (or I missed).

The wire tethering me to a machine was hard to get over. Two wireless USB hubs later I gave up on that attempt.

I can't in all honesty play an instrument that sounds this artificial. It's back to the box for the EWI-USB.

Thank you everyone for your input. I needed a sanity check and you were gracious enough to help me out.

R.J. Fear


Old King Log
Staff member
I have had EWI enthusiasts tell me that this or that synthesizer has overcome the problems inherent in the breed, and that the dawn of the EWI age is upon us. And yet, each time that I have listened to (you don't really need to play one to evaluate the claims of how they sound) a new synthesizer's instrumental patches, It's just as clear to me that they are standing too close to their topic, and that "just as good" just isn't good enough.

Having said that, they do have their place. They are good at filling in for a string section, so much so that two soloists (violin and 'cello - we can safely discount the need for a solo viola for anything) plus a competent synth operator can save your typical orchestral contractor a good ten slugs of payroll, while delivering a roughly equivalent product.

Something else needs to be kept in mind here. We are not the intended audience of such efforts. The target here is the general public, and for the general public the synthesizer is is more than good enough. In a world where margarine is considered as tasty as butter, where people put fake tailpipes on four cylinder cars to make them look like eight cylinder muscle cars, and where Styrofoam architectural details masquerade as old world stone work, smoothed out and edited electronic string sounds are more than enough of a substitute for all of those girls with long hair and black dresses. After all, they aren't usually even the main reason for the music being made in the first place.

Do I think that the synth crowd will ever penetrate to the level of art music; music performed solely for music's sake (not pit orchestras or opera orchestras)? I dunno. In my sixty years, I've probably seen more "dumbing down" of everything than anyone who lived before, and I have little doubt that others who follow will better that record by a considerable margin.

My wife's grandmother lived to just short of a century, and she moved from a world where there were no internal combustion engines in regular circulation, to one where people flew through the air and outer space, and from a world where there was no electricity outside of the big cities to one where it was everywhere, even in your hip pocket (cellphones) and in the canal of your ear (hearing aides).

In a world where that kind of change can happen, I can see (sometime in the future) where an electrical-mechanical "thing" will blow into a saxophone and produce a similar, "musical" product to what we produce today. We may not like it, but it may be more than enough to satisfy the rest of the world. And, if it costs less, then it may be more than good enough.

And, there is a chance that it may be a better product as well. Anyone who has listened to any significant amount of "antique" instrumental product knows that we are not at the end of the development of instrumental music, but rather somewhere in the middle of it. Animal bone flutes, keyed bugles and clavicords have all be left by the wayside for a reason - something better has come along.

It won't be as traditional. And, there may be certain antiquated folks who will maintain "the old ways", and that's their privilege. I still eat butter like it's going out of style, I still read plain, old paper and card-stock books instead of the digital product, and you'll have to pry my incandescent bulbs from my cold, dead fingers before I'll go over to the fluorescent camp (and LEDs may keep that from happening in any event). But, I don't begrudge others who want to move on. (Except for members of the NACACP*, who are probably incapable of doing so.)

Now, if I can just keep those damn'd kids off of my lawn...

* National Association of Committed Albert Clarinet Players
I agree, the sounds are for the general public. And if you played recordings from Getz and 'Trane back to back, the majority of the pubic would think they were listening to two different instruments.

What I like about the VL70m is not the tone, but the ability to recreate the nuances of the instrument you are emulating. And for me that's where it's at.

When you hear a comic doing an impression of the president or some other famous people, the voice is different, but by recreating the nuances of that person's speech, you hear the president or other famous person, not the impressionist.

The EWI USB and the Yamaha WX5 are just controllers and have no sound of their own.

IMHO the WX is better mainly due to the things I mentioned earlier, control of vibrato speed with the reed and discreet octave keys.

Plus I'm not really enamored with soft synths. I'd rather bring a hardware synth to the gig (1) they boot up instantly (2) they don't crash (3) they have no moving parts to wear out. Plus they still work when the computer's OS is upgraded.

Of course, YMMV.



Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Hardware synths can crash, just like a computer can crash. The fun thing is that the hardware generally crashes when a specific set of conditions are matched. It's reproducible. Software can crash if a specific set of conditions are met or ... if you've got bad karma or something.

Easiest way to crash a piece of hardware: pull the plug.

I've never played a synth where it boots up instantly. It generally has to do some checks and then it comes on. Hey, if it's analog synth, it might take a bit to warm up, too.

Most hardware synths have at least one moving part: a cooling fan. You've also got buttons and stuff -- and membrane keys are annoying to replace. Even if you've got only one sound, you've got an on and off switch. And, of course, if you've got a keyboard, you've got, well, keys.

"Solid state" is a term to describe something that can function without any moving parts. A solid state (hard) drive (SSD) is the most prevalent example of this at this time. However, they can overheat and their firmware can be glitchy -- including ceasing to function if you upgrade the firmware wrong or the operating system on your computer.

Of course, you've also gotta have an amplifier of some sort ....

As one final example, the Apple "chicklet-style" keyboard (which I like very much) has firmware to make it work. There have been a couple viruses that can infect the firmware. Kewl, no?

(Sorry, dude. I'm a computer tech. I deal with this type of stuff all the time :geek:)
Hardware synths can crash, just like a computer can crash. The fun thing is that the hardware generally crashes when a specific set of conditions are matched. It's reproducible. Software can crash if a specific set of conditions are met or ... if you've got bad karma or something.<...>
You have some very valid points. Yes the hardware synth does take 30 seconds or less to boot up (nothing compared to my computer).

However, I've crashed computers on a regular basis, and none of my sound modules have ever crashed, including the Roland MT-32 that I bought in the 1980s.

Plus I can still use that MT-32 than I first used with an Atari computer, then a Motorola Mac and later a DOS/Win3.1 computer. Although many of the sounds are dated, there are a few great sounds that I still use when making my own backing tracks.

Plus I still bring a Yamaha TX81z on stage. Again only a couple of voices are good, but those voices do things my VL70m cannot do. Each form of synthesis has it's strong and weak points. I play music for a living, and reliability is of utmost importance.

I've been playing wind synth since the 1980s. I've done cruise ships where the AC power is flaky, and I'm currently doing one-nighters. I play cold air-conditioned halls, poolside in the hot sun, and everything in between. I've never crashed a sound module.

In all those years I must have crashed my Macs and ThinkPads close to 100 times, sitting in my controlled environment office.

I wouldn't trust an USB EWI with either a ThinkPad or MacBook on the gig (both very reliable computers).

Okay... I am done

for general distribution.... there is now an EWI at the bottom of the Mississinewa River if anyone is interested in fishing it out. Behind the 1500 block of north Washington Street, Marion, Indiana.
Yeah, the Akai USB EWI, is cheap, but then you need a good soundcard to get down the latency so you can play. When you need a good computer with lot of memory to be able to run the synthezizers, a high speed CPU is also good
if you want to add some effects, i.e. reverb. When you need good really good active monitors to get out the sound.
It is cheaper to buy a real high-end instrument, Selmer Previlege or Buffet Tosca.

But if you have all the stuff anyhow, I can recommend you Samplemodeling
They have really good sounds and software for wind instruments, me as a clarinet player can now play saxophone without buying a Mark VI. The problem is perhaps that it sounds "too good" no mistakes in sound but just pure
simple wrong notes, but growling and vibrato is possible to control.

To change the controls and tuning the EWI, you can find tools and descriptions for that here

Good luck


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
I wanted to mention this:

We've had some problems on this forum, in the past, with someone more or less advertising for Sample Modeling. Even though that user's comments were arguably on-topic -- i.e. you're talking about virtual instruments and Sample Modeling is a company that makes virtual instruments -- when he was asked to discontinue posting his ads about Sample Modeling by both a CE and Admin, he decided to ignore us, ignore forum rules, and continue posting in the same vein. He was then banned.

Even though I do think that some of the Sample Modeling products are decent, I really don't like the idea of them spamming websites as an advertising campaign. It would have been really nice if Sample Modeling contacted us to buy an ad and/or just provided the WF staff with some of their virtual instruments. Hey, if they were good enough, we'd probably do the advertising for them.

Another way of looking at it: I have a computer motherboard and video card made by a particular company. Where I work also bought around a thousand of this company's computers. I think my computer is and my video card was quite decent, as were a good percentage of the computers my company bought. However, their customer service is soooooo bad (and has been repeatably bad) that I now actively tell folks not to buy ANYTHING from them. My experience also convinced the company I work at to never buy from them again.


Old King Log
Staff member
And this is where I add that I'd be more than willing to evaluate that top of the line Audi R8 sports car, the one that looks like a big, black toad that someone has stepped on. I'm just sayin'...
I wanted to mention this:

We've had some problems on this forum, in the past, with someone more or less advertising for Sample Modeling. Even though that user's comments were arguably on-topic (...)

Even though I do think that some of the Sample Modeling products are decent, I really don't like the idea of them spamming websites as an advertising campaign.(...).
I don't know the previous problem Pete mentioned but, in this particular case, I've been happy to hear about one of the very few sources of something resembling a decent sax for wind controllers. I think Ekamagn didn't cross any red line and, if yes, anybody hinting that his Selmer S80 is a nice instrument should be banned ad eternam...


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
I think Ekamagn didn't cross any red line

He hasn't.

The person that was banned did have an ad for Sample Modeling in all of his posts and, worse, when he was told to stop, he didn't.
No worries.

Just some thoughts,

Shall we treat the EWI as instrument of its own. Trying to immitate real wind instruments there the players mouth is a part om the sound creation is much harder than pure sampling of a piano. Perhaps mission impossible. Using an artificial Electronic sound which one can tweek and bend and add vibrato to is perhaps the way forward.


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Well, I partially agree.

An EWI definitely is an instrument of its own. As a fairly easy example, you'll generally have around a 6-octave range, depending on the sound module. The other thing is definitely in the "feel" category. That can be anything from the fact that the key "weight" is considerably lighter than any woodwind I've played with to the mouthpiece, itself. The Yamaha WX5, for instance, has two choices for you: one that looks kinda like a recorder mouthpiece and one that looks like a contrabass clarinet mouthpiece. The mouthpiece on the Akais, for instance, probably most resemble a double-reed mouthpiece, but I'm positive it won't feel like anything else. You also have to worry about your sound module, too, and learn what its quirks are to get the best possible sound. So, in those respects, I'd say your comments are spot on.

The only bit of pause I have is that *probably* there are more woodwind players than anyone else that want to buy wind controllers, so it'd benefit Yamaha, Akai, etc. to make a sound module that has sounds that are lifelike as possible.

The really fun thing is that I've had a teacher friend of mine, who has a master's in piano performance, test both a Roland U110 piano sound and an Emu-III sampler piano sound (so, this was quite awhile ago). I thought the sound was pretty much spot on. She, however, could go up and down the keyboard and tell me which notes were sampled and which ones were transposed from the sample.

This, of course, takes me back into my assertion that sound modules haven't really changed much in sound quality in 20+ years. You now can get gigabytes of memory for cheap. You've got plenty of room for sound storage. Make a killer sample playback unit!


Old King Log
Staff member
The few different EWI controllers that I have used all suffer from a "let's make a woodwind instrument for people who don't want to have to learn how to play a woodwind instrument" feel, to say nothing of the tone that they produce. That's one of the biggest negatives about the things, and then the quality of the sound is the capper that puts them in the "sorta" musical instrument.

Of course, some people play saws and jugs and crystal glassware. It doesn't mean that it's not music that's produced, it's just that it's produced in a different fashion from the traditional way of doing things.

The most frustrating features of the Yamaha unit that I of late have been up close and personal with are the spacing on the keywork and the hair trigger of those keys.

The spacing shows that these devices are still in the initial stages of their design. I've played old clarinets, and the key work on same is a far sight from that which we use today. A century or more of improvement and refinement has trimmed a little here, added a little there, and in general made a newer clarinet "better" than those that Klose put together back in the day.

But, the real killer is the sensitivity of the keywork. Every musical instrument that I've run across prior to the EWIs is much more "analog" in its response - putting a finger onto a key doesn't instantaneous kick things up one or two octaves. In effect, the sensitivity appears to have been set by people used to electronics, but not to traditional musical instruments.

Mind you, I want the things to work in the worst possible way. My therapy continues, but I've had precious little improvement in my ability to blow a traditional horn - thirty minutes still remains the ceiling for my use, and a little less on a soprano clarinet.

But, I noodle around on my bass for twenty minutes or so, then switch over to the EWI with the bass clarinet patch (one of the better ones, incidentally), and I wonder if it's even worth the trouble (never mind the expense - I'm using a borrowed unit for now) to bother with an EWI.
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