Yamaha SY85 v. CS2x

A forum for comparing two or more synths against each other. Also known as "versus" threads.

Yamaha SY85 v. CS2x

Postby gridsleep » Fri Sep 16, 2011 10:21 am

Does anyone know of any tonal differences between these two AWM2 keyboards? Ignore that one is a workstation with a full sequencer, more controls, floppy disk drive, card slots, and aftertouch, and the other has twice the polyphony and an arpeggiator. I suppose the one having 90 types of effect in two separate processors would greatly overshadow the other with only three independent effects. But, just generally, comparing the tone of the AWM2 in one to the other, are they the same, or are there marked differences? I was looking to get a CS2x for a long time, and might still, but I just acquired an SY85 for a paltry sum, and I am wondering if a CS2x would add anything notably different to warrant the cost. Especially since CS2xs in good condition are going for twice the price of my SY85. I guess it boils down to can the CS2x do anything the SY85 can't do, except play twice as many notes at once? I've been listening to as much video and audio of the two as I can find, but internet quality sound is no measure for comparison. Let's hear from anyone who's has first hand experience.
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Re: Yamaha SY85 v. CS2x

Postby Zamise » Sun Sep 18, 2011 11:40 am

I've never used an SY85, but have used a lot of Yamaha synths and have had a CS2X for a number of years... I've noticed the AWM2 TG in them all can sound quite a bit different from each other since you have to account for the entire synth engine, what comes after the TG, to properly judge each synth's characteristic sound. Seems like you want to ignore all the important parts of the SY85, I don't think I could do that, the workstation features would be a huge plus if you don't have something to sequence the CS2X. The arp on the CS2X is not programmable, you are stuck with the same arps and they are not too bad, but become useless and boring over time. The other thing is, even if you get a sequencer, like a QY70 which does go nice with the CS2x on its tray, but anyhow you are limited to using the CS2X's performance sounds to just one track/channel. It is at heart mainly just a performance synthesizer. The rest of the tracks/channels have to be relegated to having to use the XG sounds, which arn't nearly as editable. There may be an exception there for drum sets on track 10, but unsure of that or if it matters much, been a while since I've sequenced my CS2X. Not sure about SY85 either, but if you are able to have AWM2 performance sounds across more than one track/channel it would be a no brainer for me, I'd keep the SY85 and forget about the CS2X.

I keep my CS2X mostly for one particularly great sounding, grungy-distorted guitar, which from the YT demos I've heard of the SY85, it seems like it has a lot of great guitarish sounds too, but I didn't hear the one particular patch/voice that I love on the CS2X, if it didn't have it or be able to recreate it, then I would probably wind up keeping both synths, just for one dumb patch ;)

Also, does the SY85 have a dual HPF + LPF filter with distance? HPF with LPF is nice on the CS2X, basically can set their cutoff distance on it quickly since they have separate knobs, or maybe its just two chained filters I'm not sure, but having them paired like they are on the CS2X I think makes for some unique sounding sweeps.

Anyhow, I'm unsure of the prices they go for now days, but have you looked in to the older Motifs, or an RS7000 at all?
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Re: Yamaha SY85 v. CS2x

Postby gridsleep » Sun Sep 18, 2011 4:59 pm

Excellent! Thank you. Very informative. Indeed, I want to ignore all the things that make the SY85 superior to the CS2x. I am only looking for information on any notable differences between the AWM2. I have to admit, beside the passing resemblance to the AN1x, the main thing that sounded attractive about the CS2x is the 64 separate filters, one for each voice. But then, as you point out, even that can only take you so far. After months or years you find you have a one trick pony that ends up sleeping under its tarp most of the time. If I want sweeping guitars, I have a JD-800 (god what a guitar sound) and a ZR-76. Good. Great. That saves some money. Thanks.

One thing I might point out is that, like other Yamaha keyboards, the SY85 is built like a tank in some places but has congenital weaknesses in others. More evidence that Yamaha keyboards are designed by committee. The insides are sheet metal of a thick variety, but the floppy disk drive in its metal box is only held on with three screws. Unfortunately in the one I received, one of the screws and its plastic post into which it screws to the lid, was missing, and one of the remaining two had broken away in shipment, so the floppy drive had fallen and gotten stuck below its opening. After removing the sadistic number of screws retaining the metal bottom plate (Yamaha and Roland designers of that period seemed to delight in confronting repairers with wrist cramp) I was able to fix the drive mount within a few minutes. There is also one key, middle E, sticking up because the two plastic bits that keep the key level with all the others had broken away. For that I ordered a new key. The plastic bits are missing anyway, along with the post for the third floppy drive mount screw, so it would be too much trouble to cobble together a repair. Outside of that, the SY85 does not have a membrane keybed (is that the FATAR model?). No, each key has a complicated spring and a rotating dual action reed switch providing sound and aftertouch. Very impressive. Now that the floppy is back in place I can reload the default sounds--Performance memory has been set unanimously to harpsichord while Voice has been set to a light, whistley organ pad. Other than that, the keybed feels as good as a Kurzweil an the sounds are quite solid. All 244 different base voices are there, they just aren't distributed throughout separate performances. And the case is much more solid (other than that mentioned) than the AN1x, with a built-in power supply and fixed power cord. That's right, a bolted-in mains power cord. Even I wasn't expecting that. Only four of my other boxes have that: the TG55, the TG77s, and the JX-3P.
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Re: Yamaha SY85 v. CS2x

Postby meatballfulton » Mon Sep 19, 2011 12:45 am

Isn't the CS2X limited to programming variations on the basic sounds? The SY85 lets you built patches from scratch.

If you're planning to program, that's important.
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Re: Yamaha SY85 v. CS2x

Postby gridsleep » Mon Sep 19, 2011 2:43 am

Oh, yeah! That's what I'm all about. New sounds. I've got all sorts of sound invention machines, from a lowly JX-3P to a Hartmann Neuron. Physical modeling is my special fascination, but I love wavetables and additive, and I want to get into curiosities like granular and spiral synthesis. I wonder what kind of music would come from a synth engine based on imaginary numbers. Four or more dimensional sound. That would be interesting. Sound that not only builds on previous particles, but particles whose behavior is based on the actions of resulting constructs. Music that flows both backwards and forwards through time. This could all be done mathematically.
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