Note: this review covers only the features new to the PSR-E403. We recommend reading our PSR-E313 review first before reading this review if you aren't already familiar with any of the Yamaha PSR-E models.
For those of us who are fans of the Yamaha PSR-E213/203 (YPT210/YPT210) and PSR-E313 (YPT310) keyboards, the next step up is the Yamaha PSR-E403 61-Key Portable Keyboard(YPT400). This portable keyboard really packs a punch. New to the PSR-E403 are two assignable knobs, a pitch bend controller, 6-track sequencer, 15 arpeggio programs, USB connection, REW, FF, PAUSE, START/STOP song control features, a blue back lit LCD screen, and, accessory CD-ROM packed with songs, styles, and software. All this is in addition to the 100+ panel voices, 300+ XGlite voices, 12 drum kits, music database, dual and split voice modes, accompaniment, and, lesson mode that can be found on the PSR-E313 keyboard and to some extent the PSR-E213/203.
Some of you may be wondering: What's the difference between the PSR-Exxx and YPTxxx models? Well, the YPT designation is used for the Yamahas sold at Costco, Wal-Mart, etc—mass retailers, while, the PSR-E names are found at Yamaha dealers, such as, Guitar Centers and online Yamaha dealers. It's the same exact keyboard just with different names.
Like the other PSR's, the PSR-E403 is a 61-key keyboard with 32 voices of polyphony, dual and split voice modes and comes with the Yamaha Education Suite (YES). However, the PSR-E403's visual appearance and panel buttons were given a complete make over—giving a way more modern and up to date look. One of the first things we have noticed was the back lit blue LCD screen. It's a nice change from the plain LCD screens and is great for those who compose and play under low lighting conditions perhaps even setting the perfect ambience for inspiration. We also digged the carbon fiber look that's around the display and the redesigned panel buttons completing the PSR-E403's edgy appearance.
Also like the past PSR-E's, the PSR-E403 runs on batteries—six D size cells. This is an increase over the six AA cells powering the PSR-E213 and 313. Regularly changing six D size cells would probably get frustrating so the optional Yamaha PA-3C AC adapter would come in handy for those who don’t want to worry about batteries.
What? Assignable Knobs on a PSR-E?
Yup. Probably the coolest new feature to the PSR-E403 is the two assignable knobs—a feature found mostly on expensive professional keyboards. These knobs can be assigned to control five different parameters from filter cutoff and resonance to adjusting attack and release envelopes, creating some fun and interesting sounds. Another cool feature was the new arpeggio voices. There are 50 of them and they cover a wide range of styles from trance and techno to Arabic and African.
Unique to the PSR-E403 is the six track sequencer (five tracks plus one style track). Recording is super easy: Press SONG mode to select a song number (five user songs can be stored), press and hold the panel button corresponding to the track you want to record and press the REC button and play! If you make a mistake and want to re-record, just repeat the same process and the old song will be overwritten.
The Yamaha PSR-E403 has a true USB connection, so, there is no more messing with buying a MIDI to USB converter to connect to your PC or notebook. However, you will need to install the USB-MIDI driver that's bundled with the Accessory CD on your computer in order to communicate with your computer and keyboard, which, is a simple process.
The Accessory CD contains the Musicsoft Downloader, USB-MIDI drivers, style and midi files. This is a huge time saver over hunting down Yamaha drivers, utilities, and, songs from Yamaha's massive website.
The Yamaha PSR-E403 is a nice leap up from the PSR-E313. The assignable knobs, pitch wheel, six-track recorder, and new look are all nice touches. In particular, we really liked using the assignable knobs and pitch wheel for tweaking sounds in real time. Yamaha even added ventilation ports to the on board speakers to help reduce speaker rattle while adding more bass. The PSR-E403 is a great portable keyboard you can take with anywhere for composing or performing and has features that will keep you interested for a long time coming.
For all the new features added to the PSR-E403, we were shocked that the price tag wasn't significantly more from the PSR-E313's, which, makes the PSR-E403 an excellent value.