Yamaha DX5

Yamaha DX5 Image

Yamaha's DX5 slots in somewhere between their legendary DX7 and flagship DX1 synthesizers. Under the hood the DX5 is almost identical to the DX1 except the DX5 has done away with the heavy wood-paneling and has a less fancy keyboard (no more ployphonic aftertouch) and is more affordable. With its dual 6-operator FM synth engines the DX5 is like having two DX7 synthesizers in one, and then some! The DX5 has 64 performance memories which can be loaded or saved to cartridge, while the DX7 has only one manual performance memory. This improves the versatility for live performance and makes excellent use of the dual engines. However, one thing to consider is that the MIDI implementation, while adequate, does not qualify it as a master keyboard, in particular, the DX5 (like the DX7) sends only 99 as the maximum velocity, not 127. In addition, the DX5 is slightly noisier than the DX7.

Although the DX5 is a digital synthesizer, its sounds are unique and fresh with an analog/digital hybrid feel. Programming however, is not at all like analog synth programming. All DX series synths use Frequency Modulation (FM) synthesis and all are rather difficult to program or, at least, difficult to understand what to program. The DX5 is no exception to this rule except that its layout, parameter buttons and displays are much better than typical DX synths.

For performances, the DX5 shares the DX1's bitimbric ability to play two patches from memory (Channel A and B) with the keyboard in layer or split mode and the polyphony reduced from 32 to 16 voices. That's a very cool ability for an old synth, especially a DX type synth. Imagine playing bass in one hand and some other wacky sounds in the other hand. You'd have to get a couple TX7s or DX7s to achieve that otherwise (of course this may be cheaper than getting a DX5 anyway). The DX5 remains a very high quality vintage instrument and if you've got the money to burn and a desire for a unique instrument from the DX line of synths, this is the one! It has been used by Kitaro.

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21 Visitor comments
April 12, 2010 @ 12:41 pm
I had one of these, and will attest that it was indeed cleaner sounding than the DX7 or TX units. It was also easier to program, and nice to have the 76 keys.

If you want a real DX sound, this is probably the best you're going to get (other than a DX1), better than a DX7, and truer than DX7 II even. But if you want the best FM hardware synth, find an FS1r.

Of course, you can likely get more out of NI's FM8 more easily, but it's not quite the same as hardware, is it?
Gil Sicuro
September 9, 2009 @ 11:50 pm
The DX5 is NOT noisier than the DX7, quite the opposite!! I have both and I can tell that! The DX5 has way better D/A converters, way better analog preamps, and XLR balanced outputs, not to mention a more sophisticated power supply board. Also, what people say about the old DX synths being uncapable of sending velocity over 99 is a MYTH - actually the keyboard just have a logarithmic velocity curve, so to achive a velocity close to 127 is necessary a very strong hit to the keyboard (to the point to nearly break a key).
July 10, 2009 @ 5:01 am
Actually, a Motif or S80 plus the PLG150DX will cost a little bit more than a DX5. The DX5 is essentially a DX1 in a more stage-friendly package, which is pretty awesome. DX5s haven't gone for thousands since the mid-80s, when they were brand new.

I should also mention that the PLG150DX only acts like a DX7, not a DX5. Remember that the DX5 is bitimbral unlike the original DX7.
April 30, 2009 @ 3:15 pm
Strictly for the collector crowd. These were noisy, big and expensive. Save your money, buy a used Motif or S80 and get the PLG150DX card. It will cost you thousands less and the FM sound will be usable, layerable and crystal clear.
November 14, 2008 @ 6:10 am
Frank Zappa had a couple of these on his 1988 tour.
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Rated 3.57 (284 Votes)

  • Check Price
  • The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace or post a wanted classified.
  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - 32 voices
  • Multitimbral - Bitimbral: 2 simultaneous patches (A and B)
  • LFO - Sine/Square/Tri/SAW up/SAW Down/Random
  • VCA - 6 Envelope generators 8 parameters each
  • Effects - None
  • Keyboard - 76 keys with velocity and aftertouch
  • Memory - 64 patches: 32 ROM, 32 RAM, external cartridge memory
  • Control - MIDI
  • Date Produced - 1985 - 1987

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