yamaha

Hey – don’t forget Yamaha.

For all the buzz about Roland and KORG (and American makers like Moog), the titan Japanese maker surely deserves its own enormous claim to synthesizer history. This is the company that made one the most influential polyphonic synths of all time (the CS-80), and introduced the world to FM synthesis (DX series) and physical modeling (VP series). You can still make DX and VP sounds that seem like they fell out of the future.

And Yamaha are no newcomer, either. This year will mark the 40th anniversary since the firm first entered the synth market with its SY-1. (That’s an SY-1 at top; the SY-2 follow-up offers more synth controls.)

Now, lovers of those synths will have good reason to spend some time in the cathedral of Yamaha at Anaheim’s NAMM trade show. They’re bringing an SY-2, CS-30, GS-1, DX7, and even the ultra-rare polyphonic VP1-a physical modeling synth – many of these to be playable.

You’re forgiven for some quick Googling here. Despite popular belief, the DX-7 wasn’t the first FM synth: the GS-1 was an 88-key, 8-operator, 16-note polyphonic concert grand of a synth that preceded the DX by two full years. No MIDI, 90 kg – so there’s a reason you haven’t spotted one lying around. This might be your only chance to see one. (See a 2010 write-up on Synthtopia.) The Yamaha CS-30, for its part, may be monophonic unlike its polyphonic sibling, but is one of the best hands-on synthesizers ever made, with copious controls for getting your fingers all over the sound. (In fact, I might nominate the CS-30 for Yamaha Synth I Most Want To See On An iPad – or inspiring some new hardware.)

It’s great to see Yamaha recognize its rich heritage in this way. But I do wonder: will we see any new take on that legacy?

Even the Yamaha press release on the vintage showcase segues neatly from these synths to workstations – a shift that Yamaha led at the end of the 1980s. So, since then? Well, the company quickly mentions the Motif series as the final evolution of all these years of synths.

That’s in contrast to its rivals. After making a similar argument about workstations, and even earning some ire by cramming synth models into the Jupiter, Roland’s biggest buzz last year came from new spins on its past with AIRA – standalone instruments that had more in common with the company’s early-80s designs. KORG, of course, haven’t been even remotely shy about their past. They’ve reissued the MS-20 in full size, in mini size, on iOS, as a desktop plug-in, and on Nintendo DS, are making new analog synths (volca), and have even moved onto the legacy of other companies (ARP).

So, where’s Yamaha? It’s left modeling the CS and DX to other companies, while new instruments remain solidly in the 90s workstation mold. (One notable exception was the brilliant if ahead-of-its-time Tenori-On, but we haven’t seen anything as adventurous since.) Now, I don’t expect companies to chase trends, but it does make you wonder: what could a new synthesizer from Yamaha look like?

For now, the company is adding content to a USB drive for its Motif XF and changing the paint job to white. And they have a Website for synth enthusiasts:

Earlier this year, the company launched www.yamahasynth.com, a new community for Yamaha synthesizer users. The site features a forum where members can interact with Yamaha’s product experts including the legendary Phil “Bad Mister” Clendeninn, Yamaha Synthesizer artists and other enthusiasts, along with resources to help all players get the most out of their instrument and download sounds directly into their synthesizers.

Amazingly, you can get a used SY for a song – I’d strongly consider it over something like a Minimoog simply because it’s different and you get more bang for your buck. The absence of hype around Yamaha’s instruments has kept a lot of the used prices – sorry, I have to say it – more realistic. (Am I saying some other vintage gear is overrated? You betcha. Have you seen some of the insanely-inflated eBay pricetags lately?)

But I do wonder: what if Yamaha’s engineering forces put their minds to a new spiritual successor to the SY or (even better) a new take on physical modeling? Could we even yet see a surprise at this year’s NAMM or Messe?

I can tell you this: for those in the know, the lineup above will certainly inspire, and I know some synth designers will find a way to go on an extended “lunch break” to play them.

I want a studio somewhere in the woods in Sweden and a GS-1. Watch:

  • papertiger

    I’d settle for a Yamaha DX200 reissue!

    -papertiger

    • Dave O Mahony

      Amen!

    • aaron

      I was going to mention that.. the groovebox approach of the DX200 was actually really really cool. FM Bass/Drum machine awesomeness. I wanted one for a long time but GAS led me elsewhere. Still, a very cool synth that I admire.. I’ve looked @ a ton of reviews online over the years and I don’t think I have seen much bad said about it. There are limitations with its interface when switching voices, but thats pretty much going to happen on anything knobby.
      Also,. the AN1X has a strong reputation and cult following. It even passes mustard with many of the snobs over at VSE =P
      I hope Yamaha gets back into the synth game. They really have done alot of creative things over the years, but have been absent in the last 10-20. Now that the synth market is a viable option for manufacturers, I wouldn’t put it past them to jump in feet first. If they were going to do something legacy based, it’d be logical they would do something in the vein of the CS-15 or CS-20. I would be down with that =)

      • papertiger

        Like Korg and Roland, Yamaha has so much tech “on the self”/”in the stable” that it’s amazing to me that it *still* hasn’t tried to exploit it. My cousin still has an AN1x that he will never part with because there is nothing like it. And that’s not even touching the FM stuff… Can anyone imagine an FS1(R) with an interface that ISN’T a total bastard to use? TAKE MY MONEY!

        Korg is the only one of the big three that seem to “get” it, at least in terms of leveraging their history/tech into new devices that are F U N. Yes, we’re a small target audience, but we’re enthusiastic and, perhaps more importantly?, willing to pay (I think…? :D).

        I’m serial, guys, TAKE OUR MONEY!

        • Michael Aldridge

          Definitely agree with you on the FS1R (you gotta have the R in there otherwise you get a Yamaha FS1 which is a moped, but anyway) – I’d love to buy one but I think I’ll end up either preset bashing or ditching it because of the interface.

          No-one else seems to have moved past 6 operators in their software and I’m not sure why! (glad to be corrected, but every time companies like NI bring out a DX7 clone I have to roll my eyes somewhat – they can go further!!)

          Also agree with you on the Korg side of things, their new gear is fun but you can be productive on it too!

          If someone releases a synth with the capabilities of the Yamaha FS1R, as you say, I’ll be first in line!

  • papertiger

    I’d settle for a Yamaha DX200 reissue!

    -papertiger

    • Dave O Mahony

      Amen!

    • aaron

      I was going to mention that.. the groovebox approach of the DX200 was actually really really cool. FM Bass/Drum machine awesomeness. I wanted one for a long time but GAS led me elsewhere. Still, a very cool synth that I admire.. I’ve looked @ a ton of reviews online over the years and I don’t think I have seen much bad said about it. There are limitations with its interface when switching voices, but thats pretty much going to happen on anything knobby and multiple voices.

      Also,. the AN1X has a strong reputation and cult following. It even passes mustard with many of the snobs over at VSE =P

      I hope Yamaha gets back into the synth game. They really have done alot of creative things over the years, but have been absent in the last 10-20. Now that the synth market is a viable option for manufacturers, I wouldn’t put it past them to jump in feet first. If they were going to do something legacy based, it’d be logical they would do something in the vein of the CS-15 or CS-20. I would be down with that =)

      • papertiger

        Like Korg and Roland, Yamaha has so much tech “on the self”/”in the stable” that it’s amazing to me that it *still* hasn’t tried to exploit it. My cousin still has an AN1x that he will never part with because there is nothing like it. And that’s not even touching the FM stuff… Can anyone imagine an FS1(R) with an interface that ISN’T a total bastard to use? TAKE MY MONEY!

        Korg is the only one of the big three that seem to “get” it, at least in terms of leveraging their history/tech into new devices that are F U N. Yes, we’re a small target audience, but we’re enthusiastic and, perhaps more importantly?, willing to pay (I think…? :D).

        I’m serial, guys, TAKE OUR MONEY!

        • Michael Aldridge

          Definitely agree with you on the FS1R (you gotta have the R in there otherwise you get a Yamaha FS1 which is a moped, but anyway) – I’d love to buy one but I think I’ll end up either preset bashing or ditching it because of the interface.

          No-one else seems to have moved past 6 operators in their software and I’m not sure why! (glad to be corrected, but every time companies like NI bring out a DX7 clone I have to roll my eyes somewhat – they can go further!!)

          Also agree with you on the Korg side of things, their new gear is fun but you can be productive on it too!

          If someone releases a synth with the capabilities of the Yamaha FS1R, as you say, I’ll be first in line!

  • papertiger

    I’d settle for a Yamaha DX200 reissue!

    -papertiger

    • Dave O Mahony

      Amen!

    • aaron

      I was going to mention that.. the groovebox approach of the DX200 was actually really really cool. FM Bass/Drum machine awesomeness. I wanted one for a long time but GAS led me elsewhere. Still, a very cool synth that I admire.. I’ve looked @ a ton of reviews online over the years and I don’t think I have seen much bad said about it. There are limitations with its interface when switching voices, but thats pretty much going to happen on anything knobby and multiple voices.

      Also,. the AN1X has a strong reputation and cult following. It even passes mustard with many of the snobs over at VSE =P

      I hope Yamaha gets back into the synth game. They really have done alot of creative things over the years, but have been absent in the last 10-20. Now that the synth market is a viable option for manufacturers, I wouldn’t put it past them to jump in feet first. If they were going to do something legacy based, it’d be logical they would do something in the vein of the CS-15 or CS-20. I would be down with that =)

      • papertiger

        Like Korg and Roland, Yamaha has so much tech “on the self”/”in the stable” that it’s amazing to me that it *still* hasn’t tried to exploit it. My cousin still has an AN1x that he will never part with because there is nothing like it. And that’s not even touching the FM stuff… Can anyone imagine an FS1(R) with an interface that ISN’T a total bastard to use? TAKE MY MONEY!

        Korg is the only one of the big three that seem to “get” it, at least in terms of leveraging their history/tech into new devices that are F U N. Yes, we’re a small target audience, but we’re enthusiastic and, perhaps more importantly?, willing to pay (I think…? :D).

        I’m serial, guys, TAKE OUR MONEY!

        • Michael Aldridge

          Definitely agree with you on the FS1R (you gotta have the R in there otherwise you get a Yamaha FS1 which is a moped, but anyway) – I’d love to buy one but I think I’ll end up either preset bashing or ditching it because of the interface.

          No-one else seems to have moved past 6 operators in their software and I’m not sure why! (glad to be corrected, but every time companies like NI bring out a DX7 clone I have to roll my eyes somewhat – they can go further!!)

          Also agree with you on the Korg side of things, their new gear is fun but you can be productive on it too!

          If someone releases a synth with the capabilities of the Yamaha FS1R, as you say, I’ll be first in line!

  • Dom Harwood

    Here’s hoping they make something like these imaginary beauties a reality.

  • Dom Harwood

    (ง ͠° ͟ل͜ ͡°)ง

  • (ง ͠° ͟ل͜ ͡°)ง

  • Marco
  • Marco
  • Marco
  • wndfrm

    i miss my cs-10 and cs-20m dearly.. sigh.. 2001-2005 was a bad time to get rid of gear.. no way i could afford or justify re-acquiring!!

  • wndfrm

    i miss my cs-10 and cs-20m dearly.. sigh.. 2001-2005 was a bad time to get rid of gear.. no way i could afford or justify re-acquiring!!

  • wndfrm

    i miss my cs-10 and cs-20m dearly.. sigh.. 2001-2005 was a bad time to get rid of gear.. no way i could afford or justify re-acquiring!!

  • maddechee

    dx7 with knooobsss and good UI
    stunning

  • maddechee

    dx7 with knooobsss and good UI
    stunning

  • maddechee

    dx7 with knooobsss and good UI
    stunning

  • lambdoid

    I just want them to release a new hardware sequencer(like RM1x/RS7000), but I suspect that’s not going to happen now they own Steinberg.

  • lambdoid

    I just want them to release a new hardware sequencer(like RM1x/RS7000), but I suspect that’s not going to happen now they own Steinberg.

  • lambdoid

    I just want them to release a new hardware sequencer(like RM1x/RS7000), but I suspect that’s not going to happen now they own Steinberg.

  • Omichordman

    What a pointless video, he could have filmed a black wall instead….

    • rimwolf

      Google/YouTube should run ads for motion sickness pills on that video. I could only take a minute of it — is it worth listening to?

  • Omichordman

    What a pointless video, he could have filmed a black wall instead….

    • rimwolf

      Google/YouTube should run ads for motion sickness pills on that video. I could only take a minute of it — is it worth listening to?

  • Omichordman

    What a pointless video, he could have filmed a black wall instead….

    • rimwolf

      Google/YouTube should run ads for motion sickness pills on that video. I could only take a minute of it — is it worth listening to?