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Yamaha MU10XG

GM/XG Sound Module By Derek Johnson
Published December 1996

The MU10XG's unassuming casing conceals a sound source with hidden depths which you can explore using MIDI SysEx. Derek Johnson dives in.

As announced in last month's news, Yamaha have entered the burgeoning sub‑£200 General MIDI module market. The MU10XG might be the size of a video cassette, but its internals have a lot in common with the MU50/DB50XG line (which includes the CS1x control synth, reviewed August 1996 SOS).

Externally, the MU10 is pleasingly rounded, if grey and a bit plain — though it perfectly matches most computers and peripherals. Its spec is virtually identical to other DB50XG‑based products, but is especially noteworthy at this price: 16‑part multitimbrality; 32‑voice polyphony; 676 sounds; 21 drum kits; three effects processors (11 reverbs, 11 choruses, 43 variations); GM and XG compatibility; serial port for PC or Mac connection; two audio inputs, ideal for guitar, mic or synth, with input level controls; full SysEx control of editing parameters.


The MU10's only controls are the level sliders for the audio out and two audio ins, a power switch, and the serial port selector switch; the only visual feedback is from a power LED that flashes in the presence of MIDI data. Connectors include a stereo mini‑jack output (for line use or headphones), a pair of quarter‑inch audio input jacks, MIDI In and Out, a power socket (although the module will run on six AA batteries) and the serial port.

The MU10 is a sample‑based synth, each voice using one or two elements (waveforms); two‑element patches cut down polyphony. A full set of synthesis parameters includes envelope generator, resonant filter, LFO, alternate tuning table and pitch EG, although these features are only accessible through the use of MIDI System Exclusive commands. This is a highly capable synth, as evidenced by Yamaha's impressive XG demo files.


The MU10's effects, and their implementation, are nearly as sophisticated as those found on more upmarket synths. They can be used as 'system' effects, applied to all 16 parts, or as 'insertion' effects, where a designated effect treats just one part. Reverb and chorus are dedicated system effects, but the insertion effect can be a system effect or a variation effect: there are 42 of these, ranging from reverbs and modulation treatments to delays, distortion and pitch‑shift. This means that if a sound depends upon an effect — distorted guitar, say — it doesn't lose the effect when used multitimbrally, since it can be assigned that effect independently.

Bundled Extras

Mac or PC users in need of a MIDI interface will be able to use the MU10's serial port right away, since the MU10 comes in a bundle that includes a multi‑purpose serial lead and a CD‑ROM full of PC and Mac software, drivers and demo files. All you add is a MIDI keyboard. Pride of place on the CD‑ROM goes to a full copy of Steinberg's Cubasis sequencer, worth about £129. A shareware copy of XG Edit, currently only available for the PC, provides control over the hidden wonders of the MU10XG, but a Mac version is due soon — check out Yamaha's web site, or contact your local dealer. The user manual is also on the CD‑ROM, in Adobe Acrobat format — no wasted trees here — and you decide whether to print it out or not.


Taken with the Midiman module reviewed last month, the MU10XG might indicate the start of a trend. If other manufacturers decide to launch a sub‑£200 module, however, they'll already have some serious competition from this new Yamaha unit.

The downside of the MU10XG is that its full potential is only achieved when software capable of generating SysEx data is used. Computer‑less owners will gain a great GM module, but will not be able to edit the sounds — or make use of the bundled extras. Other things to note include the fact that using the external inputs (which route a signal through the MU10XG's effects) cuts polyphony by two voices. It's also a shame that the MIDI connections can't be used independently, which would have provided you with 16‑part multitimbrality internally, and another 16 parts to send to external modules. This is a trick used by many internal PC cards.

However, this module packs a mighty sonic wallop for the money, offering a collection of uniformly excellent sounds, with wondrous depths for the money, thanks to the magic of System Exclusive. If I had just £200 to spend on a GM module, at the moment this would be it.

XG Xplained

XG is an extended version of General MIDI, rather like Roland's GS format. Any XG instrument will play back GM files accurately, but Yamaha also equip their XG synths with alternative (variation) patches accessible with MIDI Bank Select commands. Not every patch has variations, but many have several. Most of Yamaha's XG MIDI files not only use these additional patches, but fully exploit editable parameters through judicious use of SysEx.


  • Cheap.
  • Compact.
  • 32‑voice polyphony.


  • No display.
  • Using the audio ins cuts two notes of polyphony.
  • Editing requires software.


A fine set of GM sounds, full editability if you need it (albeit via SysEx), compact size and an even more compact price tag mean that the MU10XG will fly off the shelves.