Two of the half-dozen or so well known synthesizer makers in the world are Roland and Yamaha. Other notable brands are Korg, Moog, Casio, and a few others. Both are known to make some exceptional products, and both have high end and low end synthesizers. In my experience with synthesizers in recent years, Yamaha and Roland (along with Korg) have really emerged as the front-runners and most dominant manufacturers in the industry. Because most people agree that Korg is head and shoulders above the rest of the crowd, we’ll take a look at what has seemed to be the second and third best synthesizer makers in the world, but in what order?
Analyzing the facts…
Yamaha has been entrenched as an authority in this industry for many years and most people know the firm for making electric pianos. As you meet more and more ‘hardcore’ synthesizer musicians, most of these people will be very familiar with Roland products and might even own a few workstations. Does this mean I think that Yamaha is a better company? No, but I do acknowledge that their exposure to the average person does help their case.
Sounds and features
I love the sound quality of Roland synthesizers and I truly think that they are superior to the vast majority of other synthesizers, but I also feel the same way about synthesizers made by Yamaha. When I first got the Roland JUNO-DS88 it was the best sounding synth I had in my collection up to that point. If you read my reviews you’ll notice that I raved about this product quite a bit because of how impressed I was with it. Since I got the Montage 8 though, I learned that there were many other synth makers who had made synthesizers just as good (if not better sounding) than the DS88. I would still give the slight edge to Roland in the sound quality department.
So what about features? Well, this varies from model to model but in my experience Yamaha synthesizers have been the best in this category by far. This is not just in the comparison with Roland synths, but with all synths – they pack the most features into their products. Take a look at any of models belonging to the Montage series and you’ll see what I mean.
Build quality and aesthetics
It’s hard to say which of these synthesizers is more durable and better built. Most synthesizers these days are built in the same way with many of the same or similar components making differentiating them more and more difficult every year. I will say that my Yamaha keyboards have held up extremely well over the years. Not to say that the Roland’s haven’t – just that the Yamaha synthesizers have retained nearly everything in the same way since I purchased them.
Aesthetically, they are both pleasing. I like the look of the Roland synths as they feel more sleek and premium to me, but I am slightly biased. Yamaha’s look great too but they feel more generic to me.
This might come as a surprise to some, but overall I am taking Yamaha over Roland. They are nearly neck and neck in sound quality, build, and aesthetics but Yamaha’s synths edge out those made by Roland in the features category. Everything else is nearly comparable but when you have as many features and presets as a Yamaha like the TYROS 5, it’s difficult to choose Roland over these synths. Both of these brands make some of the best synthesizers in the world, and a lot of this comes down to personal preference!