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
October 18, 2012 @ 3:43 pm
I just found some problem when recording an SY1 with Motu Ultralite MK3. Because of the fact that it can go really deep in bass, even beyond the range of the frequency that can be recorded thru the interface. I thought my ultralite mk3 went wrong at first cuz everytime I tried to record the SY1, the sound that came out from the interface would sound like trigger pluses, .
John Hodgson
April 2, 2012 @ 7:13 pm
I bought one for £450 in 1976, and stupidly sold it in 1985 for £5 at a boot sale. Regretted it ever since, I now collect vintage synths as a hobby.
Dennis Matana
January 18, 2012 @ 10:13 am
Royksopp can be added to famous user's. They use the SY-1.
http://www.barcodezine.com/Royksopp%20Interview.htm link to interview on Barcode.
Busta Speeker
October 24, 2011 @ 4:15 pm
I had one of the very first ones... it would absolutely NAIL the arpeggiated chords in the bridge of "Here Comes the Sun"-- all five octaves w\ only four button shifts and one position change!! As fat, farty and juicy as analog gets,too...Mini-Whoog?!1?!
October 1, 2011 @ 10:53 am
Fantastic synth!!! Sounds classic!!!

@ Koen, prices shown in the est. value of 100$ is outdated by 8 years or so..
@ Numanoid, you must be joking right?
@ Matt...finally somebody is talking sense about this instrument...
VSE Rating

It’s Good

User Rating

Rated 3.25 (256 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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