Yamaha SY-1 / SY-2

Yamaha SY-1 Image

Yamaha SY-1 (1974)

The SY-1 and SY-2 are the first compact/portable analog synthesizers produced by Yamaha. They are single-VCO synthesizers (derived from the GX-1) with preset sounds and basic synthesis capabilities. As was the trend during the mid-seventies, the SY-1 and SY-2 were designed as accessories to the larger organs and pianos of the time—compact and light enough to sit atop an organ (or piano) and adorned with controls and switches that imitated those found on organs. One listen to the SY-1 or SY-2 and you'll hear the signature classic synth sound that defined Yamaha throughout their more famous CS-series.

There are 28 preset sounds which include woodwind and brass instruments on the red switches, piano and stringed instruments on the yellow switches, and stranger synthesized sounds (such as "Growlpet") on the green switches. These preset sounds can not be combined but they can be freely edited using the sliders and knobs to the left of the compact 37-note keyboard. To facilitate that, there's a great-sounding analog low pass resonant filter, analog VCA envelope and an attack/pitch-bend effect. Additional control switches allow for some more tweaks, such as pulse-width modulation, vibrato, portamento and keyboard transposition. A Touch Control feature allows for expressive aftertouch control from the keyboard to be sent to the VCO, VCA or VCF for achieving vibrato, wah-wah or volume effects, repsectively.

While there is obviously no sign of MIDI control (it hadn't been invented yet), there is also a lack of CV and Gate controls that would have allowed it to work with other analog equipment. But the compact and vintage wood road-case design make this a synth for the road, which also means some units could show signs of decades worth of abuse—an important consideration when looking at second hand units. Nevertheless, it is a unique alternative to CS-series Yamaha's that are a fun synth to play around with and an historic synth to own! The SY-1 has been used by Royksopp.

Yamaha SY-2 Image

Yamaha SY-2 (1975)

The SY-2 has all the same preset sounds as the SY-1, and adds enhanced synthesis controls. A resonant high pass filter has been added alongside the resonant low pass and the VCA envelope controls have been expanded to full ADSR by adding Decay and Release sliders. The SY-2 also adds Foot Control (via external input) of Wah-Wah and Volume to expand expressive control beyond that of the keyboard's Touch Control feature (the SY-1 had Foot Control for volume only). And lastly, the SY-2 was built in a more rugged flight-case style enclosure. The SY-2 has been used by Add N To (X) and BBC Radiophonic Workshop and even made an appearance in Steven Spielberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind".

Lookup Yamaha SY-1 / SY-2 Prices

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27 Visitor comments
April 20, 2014 @ 5:40 am
Kerry Minnear of the Gentle Giant used an SY 2 in the BBC Sight and Sounds Concert in 1978. It is on his right on top of the Rhodes and below the Minimoog.
You can clearly see it in the close up at 29:18 , you can hear it (though mixed a bit low) in the solo of Just The same which starts at 23:55
Defective Nation
November 20, 2013 @ 2:07 am
Just got an SY-2 yesterday. It shows signs of its age in cosmetics but only a couple of minor flaws mechanically which will be sorted because this synth is a joy to play and although somewhat limited it can be brought to life with the aftertouch which is pressure sensitive.

Beautiful sounds can be had and the filter is amazing. Very strong bass but not a very snappy envelope but the filter is AWESOME.

I picked ours up for a song on ebay and was surprised that my best bid wasn't beaten. A very, very, underrated synth when you compare to similar preset Korgs & Rolands.
January 21, 2013 @ 1:21 pm
Hey, have you ever seen a Yamaha SY20 before? It is one of the rarest synthesizer and definetely the last analog Yamaha synthesizer. It seems to be a clone between the typical GX1 Filter and the later CS-Models. Today I have posted a video soundcheck on our tastronauten website and on youtube ("tastronauten sy20" on google).
alessio d'andria
November 10, 2012 @ 12:23 pm
It was my first synth, I remember the aftertouch on filter and vibrato. Simple synth but great.
alessio d'andria
October 18, 2012 @ 3:44 pm

but there wasn't such a problem when I switched to hook up the jack into power mixer that wired with speakers. In order to get the SY1 into the DAW, I better try miking form the speakers next time or recording into analog tape should do solving the problem
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Rated 3.25 (255 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 - Monophonic
  • Oscillators - 1 VCO
  • Filter - Low pass resonant analog filter (SY-2 adds a High pass resonant filter)
  • LFO - 1 LFO for Vibrato or Wah-Wah
  • VCA - Attack, Sustain (SY-2 adds Decay, Release)
  • Memory - 28 presets: Clarinet, Flute, Bassoon, French Horn, Bass Clarient, English Horn, Trombone, Trumpet, Saxophone, Oboe, Pizz Violin, Guitar, Hawaiian Guitar, Pizz Bass, Sousaphone, Wah Guitar, Bow Violin, Piano, Harpsichord, Contrabass, Tuba, Bass Guitar, Pulsar, Growlpet, Reed, Funny, Trumute, Double.
  • Keyboard - 37 keys with Aftertouch
  • Effects - Portamento, Attack Pitch/Tone Bend
  • Control - Foot Control: Volume (SY-2 adds Wah-Wah control)
  • Weight - 26 lbs. (12 kg)
  • Date Produced -
    SY-1: 1974 - 1979
    SY-2: 1975 - 1979
  • Resources & Credits
  • Images from Synthfind.

    Review updated January, 2013.

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