Yamaha PortaSound PSS-470

Yamaha PortaSound PSS-470 Image

The PSS-470 was released by Yamaha in 1987, and was clearly aimed at non-professionals. This is the type of keyboard that would not be surprising to find in the musical instrument section of a major toy store. It's a simple synth built in a plastic case, with built-in stereo speakers, stereo outputs and 49 mini-sized keys. It's designed to be lightweight and portable. Yet at its heart it has inherited Yamaha's DX series digital FM synthesis, which is enough to garner this synth some attention.

There are 21 preset sounds, all of which sound pretty silly. Fortunately, Yamaha included a section called "Digital Synthesizer" which is essentially a manual editing mode. In this mode, six sliders at the top right of the instrument allow you to shape DX/FM sounds. It is a very limited and simplified means of FM synthesis, but for many users this freedom from the complexity of having to attempt to craft FM sounds could be quite fun! The WAVE slider steps through a few very basic waveforms. The SPECTRUM slider is akin to a DX's frequency setting. The MODULATION is more of a timbre/brightness control that renders the sound from dull to bright, which is almost like filtering. The ATTACK and DECAY sliders both control the characteristics of the envelope. There is also a VOLUME slider which controls the output level of the synthesizer section.

Typical of this style of all-in-one synthesizer for casual consumers, is the built-in rhythm and accompaniment sections. The rhythm section offers 12 drum patterns which are comparable to Casio synths like the VL-Tone VL-1, with patterns like Bossa Nova, Rock, Disco and March/Waltz. They are pretty silly. But once again Yamaha did go one step further by adding the "Custom Drummer" which allows you to add some additional drum hits to the current pattern, to give it a little extra flavor of your own. There are only five of these drum sounds - the basics - kick, snare, tom, cymbal and hi-hat.

There is also the "Auto-Bass-Chord" accompaniment section which will play a chord and bass line appropriate to the selected rhythm pattern. Chords are selected from the lower octave-and-a-half of the keyboard, so you can play the melody/lead in the upper octave. The rhythm section also offers "Fill-In" and "Variation" buttons to keep your rhythm pattern from getting too boring. Another nice feature Yamaha added was individual volume controls for the "Auto-Bass-Chord" and Drum sections.

At the end of the day, the PSS-470 seems like a pretty advanced synth-toy, but still one that no real musician would consider using. However, the PSS-470 is so cheap that not only does it provide DX sounds at a bargain price, but circuit-bending these things has become quite common. That means some pretty wacky and unique things can be done, or have already been done to this synth. And with just enough quality touches added by Yamaha that make it a little more flexible than its Casio contemporaries, the PSS-470 could actually prove quite useful and exciting!

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19 Visitor comments
April 19, 2014 @ 9:38 am
Well, This is one of my favorit synths when it comes to a great layout. If you enjoy making & creating synths this is a very good example of a great synth to bend. The fact is, the pss560 is good because you can simply bend the crap out of it ......
OK.....lets do this, get you pss ready
turn on
turn digital synth on & (bass/chord on set to 5,5) synthesizer sliders to 5,1,3,3,1,5
change to fingered auto bass..turn abc volume up.pitch down
turn sustain,vibrato and duet on...if you turn rhythm volume all the way down, tempo up, your starting to get some where..
victor jones
March 1, 2014 @ 3:49 pm
why is the pss-470 getting a mention when the pss480 dosent the pss480 is a breeze to edit with buttons not sliders and has full midi has a sequencer and multitimbral.

i have a dx100 that is next to my toy pss480 ha ha that i am never selling just wish i could edit my dx as fast as this pss480.

seriously forget the pss470 and look out for a pss 480
February 13, 2014 @ 4:43 pm
a remarkably common but nice budget synth. i use mine as a tone generator for reason where it gets its fullest workout. the big highlight for me is the bass sounds out of this which can vary between mooglike and also the brass. the tone generator approach gives access to an amazing range of options esp when you factor in the fact that you can warp presets or generate your own sounds. the drums arent my cup of tea, but being that i paid $4.00 for mine, I am thrilled.
Purcell White
October 18, 2013 @ 12:07 pm
There was a similar 'digital synthesiser' section on the (full size) the DSR-2000, which had digital access control backed up with a LCD display, it was velocity sensitive, had pitch & mod wheels, full MIDI, & its' 4-operator FM sounds could be stored in 40 user locations!
The sounds are pretty classy, work really well in a mix & the editing process is an absolute breeze.
I have one I got online for £80 & it gets a awful lot of use - well worth looking for if you want good quality FM with easy editing!
May 3, 2013 @ 1:17 am
This was my first keyboard and first synthesizer, purchased new in the 80s. From there, I upgraded to a Roland HS-60 (Juno 106 with speakers, as it turned out) I tried out used in a music store. It's all downhill GAS from there :)
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User Rating

Rated 3.38 (86 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 - 8 voices + 1 Drum kit (5 drum sounds)
  • Oscillators - 2 FM Operators
  • Filter - Spectrum and Modulation sliders
  • Envelope - Attack and Decay sliders
  • Effects - Sustain, Vibrato, and Duet
  • Sequencer - Auto-Bass-Chord: Automatic bassline and chord accompaniment feature. Chords are selected using the lower octaves of the keyboard.
    Custom Drummer: Add any of the 5 drum sounds to the selected rhythm pattern in real-time.
  • Patterns - 12 Rhythm patterns for the Drum kit and Auto Bass Chord: Pops, Disco, 16 Beat, Rock n Roll, Country, Latin, Bossa Nova, Reggae, Big Band, Slow Rock, March/Polka, Waltz
  • Arpeggiator - None
  • Keyboard - 49 mini-keys
  • Memory - 21 Preset synth sounds. 12 Drum kit rhythm patterns.
  • Control - None
  • Date Produced - 1987
  • Resources & Credits
  • Information provided by Xces

    Original image from Ethan Callender

    Reviewed January 2011

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