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Pete and the WX5


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Brief summary: I was gifted with an Akai EWI USB about a month ago. About a week ago, I was given the opportunity to buy a Yamaha WX5 for an extremely low price, and I had just received my tax refund check. Summarily, the EWI USB will soon be posted on sale ...

I'm running a bit short on time and I didn't do much testing, yet, but I'm very happy with the WX5. I was able to find an "OK" flute sound and was playing around with that. My wife also likes it more than the Akai. I'll post some more in-depth stuff later!


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Well, "some depth," at least.

The WX5 ships with two mouthpieces, a recorder-style one and a saxophone-style one that has a metal, replaceable, reed. For me, at least, the reed means I can actually tongue the thing, without having to do research on how recorder players tongue. The mouthpiece is also removable, like the Akai, but, unlike the Akai, it has a synthetic rubber "cork," similar to a saxophone neck, and Yamaha even has "cork grease" for it, which they call "recorder cream." I don't necessarily think having a moveable mouthpiece is the best thing for the WX5, though, because you have to "line up" the mouthpiece with the mechanism that captures the breath controller and tonguing data. It might be nicer to have a screw to line up the mouthpiece, like the Akai does, so you can be certain that all the parts are lined up right. Also, the Akai mouthpiece is made out of some sort of semi-firm synthetic rubber that's quite comfortable to use. I would really like to have that on the WX5 ... or any woodwind mouthpiece, really. Possibly a thick mouthpiece patch will make it more comfortable for me. Hey, it's been awhile since I've played any sax or clarinet. I think I'd want to buy another mouthpiece ($16) and reed ($6) before experimenting with the patch, though.

Production idea for someone: custom WX5 mouthpieces and/or custom reeds.

The WX5 is powered either by an optional wall-wart power supply or six AAA batteries. The WX5 is pretty light -- 520 grams/1.2 pounds without batteries (the first plastic clarinet I could find a weight on is 720 grams, for comparison) -- so the batteries add a significant amount of weight, percentage-wise. However, if you want a bit more mobility, that's the way to go. I'm probably going to hit up Amazon and do some price comparison shopping for the batteries and power supply. Another thing to consider is that you'll have a MIDI or WX cable hanging off the thing, unless you buy a wireless MIDI adapter. There are now a few of these on the market that are under $100, but not all support all operating systems and/or all MIDI controllers. The one guaranteed to work with the WX5 is $450. I don't think I'll buy one of those.

The key action feels more like that of a clarinet than the Akai. However, theoretically you could play faster on the Akai because you're not hitting a key that connects to a switch. You're actually hitting the switch. However, I don't think you'll ever be able to play so fast as to get to that theoretical point. Also, there's a lot to be said for having the tactile feedback on the WX5.

I've learned that the very old and very discontinued Yamaha WX7 has a bunch more ways you can alter the key action and that the WX7, on the whole, is a better instrument. However, you're talking about an electronic instrument introduced way back in 1987/88. Old electronics are kind of iffy, even if you've had them in storage. You also have to either have one of the original synths designed for the WX7 (VL70, IIRC) or a BT7 battery pack, both of which are pricey and also long discontinued.

Another thing that could be both a plus and a minus is the tweakability of the WX5: you can change hundreds of parameters on the thing and you can do even more with the MIDI parameters on the tone generator you're using. And, if you're using a computer as a tone generator, as I am, you can then look for the "perfect" sound patch. That can send you down various rabbit holes for hours and hours. The Akai EWI USB has an awful lot less stuff you can configure and comes with more-or-less configured software right out of the box. That makes the EWI a bit less intimidating. There's a lot to be said for instant gratification!
I use my WX5 a lot. It is for night practice, and has been known to go on holiday with me! (particularly skiing, - practicing for concerts and in case of bad weather closing the resort off).

When out and about, I use iRig to connect it to my iThing (pad or phone) and use samplertank as a tone generator. On the iPad, Sampletank can be set to play in the background, so I can also read the score (Forscore) while playing, and also play mp3 too, to play along to.

Instead of iRig, it is possible to use a PUC which connects the WX5 to the iThing by wifi to use one less lead, but the iRig is less hassle for me.

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I'm a little late to this party.

I bring two WX5s to the gig and play them through two VL70m's and a Roland XV5050.

Why two? The show must go on.

I've been playing WXs since the original WX7, I play one-nighters for a living, and playing music is how I make my living. So the WX5 is a very reliable instrument, and in all these years I only had to switch to the second on on a gig once. We were playing outdoors, but covered, a cold front came through, misty rain, dropping temperatures and the thing went out of tune. Way sharp or flat, I forget which - it was over 10 years ago.

But what if I dropped it, or something else happened? The show must go on. That's also why two VL70ms (although I do layer a couple of sounds).

On the gig I play sax, flute, lead guitar, wind synth, and vocals. In the unlikely event the sax, flute, or guitar goes 'belly up' on the gig, I can cover those parts on the wind synth. So having a spare wind synth is cheap gig insurance.

I play it through a Yamaha MFC10 footpedal (for fast patch changes) and it's powered through the WX cable (phantom power and MIDI). Now that it's discontinued, I bought a couple more because I like the design better than the competition. Mostly because of the lip/pitch bend.

The Akai bite sensor uses a capacitor discharge to return to pitch zero, so I would not have compete control over the vibrato.

I read the Roland doesn't allow the pitch bend to go above pitch zero with the lip. When playing guitar patches, this feature is essential for string bends.

So I've never tried the competition. Perhaps I don't know what I'm missing. There is more than one right way to do almost anything.

Insights and incite by Notes
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