The Tenori-On's illuminated grid of 256 buttons is both functional and beautiful. The Tenori-On's buttons glow when pressed, and each glowing button represents a note of the music sequence. You can think of the glowing buttons like bumps on a music box or holes in a player piano paper roll.
On the bottom of the Tenori-On you'll find jacks for the power adapter, MIDI cable, and headphone output. You can also see the instrument's large menu scroll wheel and the small power switch recessed in the center.
A surprising amount of the Tenori-On's functions can be controlled with the right combination of buttons and shift keys. Some of the deeper Tenori-On settings, however, can only be accessed using the small, illuminated LCD screen on the bottom edge of the instrument. An oversize scroll wheel to the left of the screen helps you navigate through menus, while OK and Cancel buttons to the right of the screen let you select or back out of menu options.
When powered off, the Tenori-On looks like medical-grade technology for recovering bubble wrap poppers. Composing music in the Tenori-On is infinitely more entertaining than air-injected packaging, and just as satisfying to squeeze. For electronic musicians who dread pointing and clicking their way through computer music software, the Tenori-On is a great way to make something as tedious as sequencing MIDI notes feel fun and tactile.
A Clear button located between the two speakers wipes the currently selected pattern from the Tenori-On's memory. The button is useful for making a clean start after a disappointing composition. Thankfully, the button is placed far enough out of the way to not be triggered accidentally.
The back of the original Tenori-On offered a mirror image of the lighting grid found on the front, making it a more interesting instrument to view from an audience perspective. The less expensive Tenori-On "O" has just a slate of white plastic in the back. Also missing from the original model are compartments for AA batteries, making this version much less portable.
Using an SD memory card, you can load the Tenori-On with your own audio samples and also record and save performances. The software Yamaha requires for loading samples onto the Tenori-On is both Mac and PC compatible.