Yamaha SY85

Yamaha SY85 Image

In the early 1990's most synth manufacturer's quest to use digital forms of synthesis to re-create acoustic sounds (as well as analog sounds) led to an onslaught of rather boring instruments. Among the mob of digital synths some stood out such as Korg's M1, Roland's D-50, and Yamaha's SY85. Fading away were the days of Yamaha's FM-synthesis, replaced by Advanced Wave Memory (AWM2). Throughout the 1990's Yamaha used AWM2 in many of their successful products because of its high sonic quality and advanced synth-like editing features. The SY85 was a powerful workstation keyboard capable of some great sounds and full arrangements.

It's a 16-part multitimbral MIDI synth with a nice 61-note keyboard designed to be the main keyboard in your MIDI studio, with tons of sounds and sequencing features built-in. It has a long but narrow 40 character x 2 line LCD display and a 5x5 mode selection matrix which enhances operation by allowing fast easy access to any of the SY85's modes. In addition to pitch & modulation wheels and dual output level controls, the SY85 has eight slide controls that can be used to control a range of parameters while performing for expressive real-time power. Best of all it's got multi-mode filters and a dual-effects processor with chorus, flange, reverb, delay, exciter, parametric EQ, echo, ring modulation, leslie, distortion, etc. The effects can be used in series or parallel, and there are 4 busses to route sounds through them. Other features include a 3.5" floppy disk drive, external memory card slots and two assignable stereo outputs.

Check Yamaha SY85 Prices on eBay

The link above will take you to a search for this synth to see active listings with more images, specs and information. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace. Our marketplace gets thousands of visits every week so make sure to check back often if you want to buy or sell a synth.

Related forum topics


Are you looking to buy or sell a Yamaha SY85? Post an ad in Gear For Sale or a request in Gear Wanted. For spare parts and repair services check out Gear Services & Other Goods. Our forums also has a Buyer’s Guide section where you can ask for advice on buying synthesizers.

56 Visitor comments
April 9, 2014 @ 10:33 pm
"Throughout the '90s..."? Still, you mean. The latest MOXF keyboard still uses AWM2, with some small refinements. Yamaha have been coasting on the same synth engine for 22 years. Of course, they're diversified. Once you make a reliable bulldozer you keep making the same bulldozer as long as people need bulldozers. And Yamaha also make bulldozers. And satellite systems. And ship components and motorcycles and grand pianos. It's what people want, or they would be trying out all sorts of new little gadgets like Roland and Korg. But Yamaha don't have to. They just give people what they expect.
March 22, 2014 @ 9:19 am
@ looneytoonmusic Actually it does have weighted keys.

Personally I think the keyboard mech is awful. Very rigid mechanical feel, due to the use of sprung steel strips instead of using normal springs, like on the DX27 or Ensoniq SQ2. I've had to respring my SY85 because the keys get very clanky/unsmooth.

The synth sound hardware is brilliant though!
June 16, 2013 @ 2:10 pm
I am thinking to trade my pc for this synth. My pc is powerful enough to play medal of honor warfighter. Should i do the trade? Because i have no money to buy it and i want it!
June 2, 2013 @ 2:07 pm
Used to use this for playing live, still have it, but it has some faults- disk drive, broken key and flat battery. On this, if the battery goes, you have to reload the presets from disk.
Two things mark this board out above other ROMplers of this era. One, they keyboard is amongst the best you'll find, and there's 8 drawbars which can be used to modify the sounds in real time. The other is that (subject to cheap RAM upgrade) you can load wave files with the floppy disk, and use these as the basis for new sounds, filter effects can be added etc. Not as classy sounds as the SY55/77 though.
John Thornley
May 30, 2013 @ 7:18 am
I bought my SY-85 in 1994, I think, Brand new. It's in perfect working order and i believe will last forever. I still love the sounds and the architecture. If it ain't broke, don't fix it! I will never ever sell this. Think I paid about £1100 for it then. It is a great machine for composers like me.
Post Comment!
VSE Rating


User Rating

Rated 3.92 (310 Votes)

  • Check Prices on eBay
  • The link above will take you to a 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
  • Oscillators - AWM2 (2nd-generation Advanced Wave Memory)
  • Filter - Digital LPF, HPF, BPF, BEF (Band Elimination Filter)
  • Sequencer - 9 tracks (8 normal+1 rhythm) 20,000 note capacity, 100 patterns, 10 Songs
  • Effects - 2 Discrete FX units, each with 90 effect types (Chorus, flange, reverb, delay, exciter, EQ, ring modulation, leslie, distortion, etc.)
  • Keyboard - 61 keys (w/ velocity and aftertouch)
  • Memory - Wave ROM: 6 MB.
    Wave RAM 0.5 MB.
    Expandable to 3.5 MB
  • Control - MIDI (16-part multitimbral)
  • Date Produced - 1992

Errors or Corrections? Send them here.