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
Numanoid
August 16, 2011 @ 12:18 pm
Thousand bucks, no way! Those who want it for something more than showing off on the coffee table, is better served spending their bucks buying a new Yamaha PSR or Casio WK model
Koen
July 28, 2011 @ 5:35 am
They sell one for 999 $.
I must have misread it cause the est. val. is 100$ I see.
Matt
June 13, 2011 @ 11:04 am
I own a lot of vintage analogue synths and this little thing is a right screamer!
Seriously, has to be one of the most expressive and playable synths I have used!Great deep bass tones and achingly good screaming leads polished off with a fantastic aftertouch keyboard! Bow Violin + filtering + up the attack a touch + aftertouch = bliss. I had this thing producing Tony Banks sounds from Genesis's 'The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway' album the other day. Did them spot on.
Yamaha's first produced synthesizer and mine is definitely a keeper. I will never be selling this rare beauty!
smingnoi
June 11, 2011 @ 1:39 pm
it sounds like how it's been structured. as analog as it is. I bought it for $75.
due to the fact that sy1 has limitation in programing ability, I rarely touch it & hardly realize that I own it.
davidhorizon
May 20, 2011 @ 2:20 pm
I think calling the presets 'not so good' shows a lack of imagination. I like all of the presets. Granted some are better than others, but there is enough programmability to shape the sound to your liking.
 
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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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