Designer’s story

Designer’s story

Tokyo, Japan


reface won the Good Design Best 100 award at the Good Design Award competition. Good Design Award has been a sole comprehensive design evaluation and commendation system in Japan since 1957 and the award represents “Design power of making tomorrow.” Yoshihiro Katsumata, the designer of reface, presented his vision at the Good Design Best 100 exhibition.

“reface is a series of mobile mini keyboards that make it easy for players to give authentic sounding performances. The lineup comprises a digital (FM) synthesizer, an analog synthesizer, an electric piano, and an electric organ, for a total of four models. Each model revives the unique sound and interface of a popular Yamaha keyboard from the past.

The recent advent of software applications that allow users to play and edit music virtually with a mouse and tablet has revolutionized the way we create music. Recently however, the creativity offered by conventional synthesizers has gained renewed attention, thanks to the manner in which they allow users to tweak sounds from a physical interface. Similarly, the electric pianos and electric organs of yesteryear have remained extremely popular thanks to their intuitive interfaces and immediately recognizable sounds. We thought that providing these physical values in a more efficient, easy-to-use design would offer users more ways to enjoy them.

Each vintage instrument has a unique interface that is directly linked to its sound. These interfaces are an essential element of the playability of the instruments, and hold a strong attraction for the user, which is why we felt that the design of each model in the reface series should convey the unique characteristics and features of the vintage instruments they were modeled after. The interfaces created for these instruments should be intuitive to use, and the focus on this along with the exclusion of more general-purpose functionality is intended to inspire creativity.

We believe that offering small, portable instruments with these attributes will provide users with new opportunities to create sounds at their leisure, a value which is unique to the reface series and which cannot be achieved with a multifunctional keyboard.

In the following paragraphs we would like to give a brief introduction of each feature in the reface series keyboards.


First let’s look at the reface CS. All of the parameters available for adjustment are represented by the interface sliders, providing at-a-glance comprehension of the current state of the instrument and allowing you to try any idea in an instant. This ability to “play” the instrument with its controllers is so important that it could be considered central to the identity of an analog synthesizer.

Next is the reface DX digital synthesizer. For the DX, we settled on a style centered on the processing of preset sounds. This was due to the complexity of FM-based digital synthesis, which, while allowing the creation of a huge range of sounds, also requires a large number of parameters. The interface of the reface DX features a graphical display and four electrostatic touch panels that allow the user to control the instrument with efficient actions such as tapping and swiping.

Although the natural sounds of the reface CP electric piano are beautiful in themselves, the unique tones produced by tweaking them with effects are where things get interesting and inspiring. The rotary knobs are designed with an analog feel that complements the resultant classic sounds.

Finally let’s take a look at the reface YC electric organ. The drawbars used to open and close the reeds of a conventional organ play a vital role in the design of this instrument. Because players tend to grab several drawbars at once when playing, we paid careful attention to the feel of the drawbars when designing this instrument. The reface YC comes with all of the features that organ players need, including seesaw switches and a lever to control rotary speed.


As the common element of every model in the reface series, we were particularly careful in designing the keyboard itself. We developed a new configuration in order to provide the best possible performance in a keyboard this size. To that end this keyboard has been enlarged to be 10 mm longer than our standard mini keyboard, which has the added benefit of making it look more elegant and attractive.
Stereo speakers also play an essential role in the realization of the reface concept. We made use of extremely precise drilling techniques to express the quality of sound that the reface series offers. The simple form of the case has been designed to give each model a color and finish appropriate to its identity without looking strange or awkward.

Lastly, let’s look at the passion that has gone into the reface.
We want the reface series to be instruments that are inspiring to play and a pleasure to hold—something that you can pick up and play, like a guitar, regardless of where you happen to be at the time. These are instruments that somehow grow on you with time— they have a great presence on a stage, as well as being reliable partners for musical endeavors. In designing the instruments that make up the reface series, we set out to offer players the enjoyment of creating and performing with their own sounds by recreating the timeless values of classic musical instruments “refaced” in a modern way.

This series has had a major impact on the music world since its launch in September. We will continue working to create new value by looking at the true nature of things through the lens offered by tradition and innovation.
Thank you very much.”

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