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Yamaha WX-5 WIND CONTROLLER

As mentioned before, the Yamaha WX-5 wind controller is the start of my gig-rig. It enables me to play thousands of different instruments on the same piece of equipment by using the technical skills I have by playing saxophones for so many years. Getting used to the WX-5 did not take me long, just a week or so. But as with any other musical instrument, you never stop learning. Bob 'Notes' Norton of Norton Music wrote a very handy supplement to set-up the WX-5, which is to my opinion the best starting point. From there and with more pratice you can go on and on to make it suit your own needs. Read more about it at WX-5 Tips & Tricks

Yamaha WX-5 MODIFICATION 1 ; external key switch

The WX-5 has the possibility to change the key you play in by setting two dip switches. However, using dip switches can be a pain, since you need a pen or screwdriver to change the setting. Dip switches are not built for regular use and normally have a life cycle of about a thousand times. Since I like the option of setting the key on the WX-5 enabling me to play in the original key of most instruments, I decided to modify my WX-5 and build in a sliding switch that has a longer life cycle and can be set easily.

Please note that this modification has been created since I want my WX-5 to be able to do this. There are many other solutions possible without messing with the instrument and limiting the warantee, like transposing the sound module or just transposing the sheet music in your brain.


The circuit diagram of the switch is easy. There is no need for other parts than a double pole switch. The connections to the WX-5 are directly on the circuit board.


I made a rectangular hole in the side of the body located just above the thumb rest. There the switch fits exactly between the battery compartement and the side. Using some sticky foam keeps the switch fixed in its position.


I soldered the wires coming from the switch directly to the DIP switch connections on the circuit board. "Bb" connects to the upper switch of the right DIP switch row, the "Eb" connects to the second switch. The ground is connected to the other side of the switches. All 8 switches are connected to ground at one side.

Yamaha WX-5 MODIFICATION 2 ; Rechargeable WX-5 plus stand

I was challenged with the problem that, when I wanted to play wireless, batterylife was short. Normally, the WX-5 uses six AAA batteries and the Kenton MIDISTREAM uses one 9 volt block battery. Non-rechargeable batteries last much longer than rechargeable batteries, but this becomes very expensive and isn't very good for the environment.
However, rechargeable batteries have some disadavantages too; they only are 1.2 Volt instead of 1.5 Volt (AAA) and the recharageable 9V block batteries don't have much power (150 mAh - 350 mAh).
I needed to change batteries quite often also during gigs or when practicing. I came to the conclusion that a next generation wind controller should have built-in wireless MIDI and a rechargeable battery-pack with a charger stand. I didn't want to wait for the next generation, so I decided to modify my WX-5.

I ordered an Ansmann ACS 110 Traveller microprocessor controlled battery-pack charger, eight AAA NiMH rechargeable batteries and two AAA battery holders. I also borrowed an old wireless phone.

I opened the WX-5 before, when I did the key-switch modification, and I remembered there's enough space to add some extra batteries inside. Since the WX-5 has a voltage regulator, it can handle any voltage from about 7 to 12 Volt. With rechargeable batteries the voltage drops quickly when most of the energy is used, this discharge curve causes rechargeable batteries to run out of sufficient energy much quicker than non-rechargeable batteries, simply because their voltage is 20% lower. When you use six AAA rechargeable batteries in series you only have 7.2 Volt. That's why I decided to use eight instead to come to a voltage of 9.6 Volt, also suitable for the Kenton MIDISTREAM.

In the next photo's you can see the modification inside the WX-5. On the left you see the two extra AAA battery holders soldered in series with the exisiting battery compartment. On the right you see the plus and ground leads from the battery compartment connected to two leads mounted at the bottom of the WX-5 housing. These will be used for charging the batteries. Next to that I also soldered a wire from the plus lead to pin 3 of the 5 pin MIDI DIN connector. This lead is unused and will now act as the power lead to the Kenton MIDISTREAM.

In the next picture you can see the modification to the Kenton MIDISTREAM transmitter. I connected pin 3 of the MIDI DIN connector to the plus lead of the PCB and needed to connect the ground of the DIN connector (pin 2) to the ground of the PCB, because there normally is a capacitor between them.

The next photos show the stand. The stand is made from wood, which is easiest to work with when trying to find out what fits best. The Kenton MIDISTREAM is velcro-ed to the side of the WX-5 and helps it support it inside the stand. Two extra pieces of wood help to align everything exactly above the charging leads. I used part of the printed circuit board of the wireless phone stand to act as the charging leads in the stand. The leads are connected to a female connector that matches the Ansmann Traveller 110 charger cable.

I now have enough power and everytime I stop playing for a while and put it in the stand it immediately starts charging. The Ansmann charger detects how much energy is consumed and calculates its charging process. When batteries are full it switches to trickle loading automatically. I estimate I can play for about 6 to 8 hours and it takes about 2 to 2.5 hours to recharge the full set when they are too low to power the devices.


Yamaha WX-5 TIP: CIRCULAR BREATHING

By closing the air outlet at the bottom of the WX-5, using a cut Q-tip, piece of rubber eraser or anything similar, the WX-5 responds like using the circular breathing technique on an acoustic wind instrument, only much easier. Because the air outlet is closed you create a closed air system which allows you to control the breath sensor with the remaining air pressure in your mouth, without releasing extra air by blowing out. By breathing in through your nose, it becomes possible to play very long notes, particularly useful when playing bowed instruments like violin and cello. It will take some practice, but it is possible to learn within just a couple of hours.