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.

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59 Visitor comments
vincent mccormack
March 25, 2009 @ 4:18 am
I got mine in '92 and it's still part of my set up. To me it sounded streets better than the Korg 01Wfd at the time and still sounds decent today.
February 25, 2009 @ 6:24 pm
This synth is not as good as they say. I got at the same time a Yamaha SY-99, SY-85, and KORG T3. The sounds of the 85 were quite crappy compared to those in the 99, and was more difficult to program, and the sequencer was even worse. My advice: if you want a synth like the 85, get a SY-99 and you'll receive also the FM Synthesis, which sounds great.
By now i still have the SY-99, the T3 was stolen a few years ago, but i would still own it. I sold the 85 in 1993.
October 6, 2008 @ 4:16 am
The amazing SY85. While it is a rompler at heart, it's got very good filters and a fatness to it's sounds that the Korg M1 can't touch. I used the rack version (TG500) for many years before picking this up 2nd hand. The SY85 is a very hands on synth. The sliders under the LCD are great to use for quick tweaks and easily reveal the 'real synth' underneath the AWM samples.

analog like synth sounds are very easy to achieve.

Also has one of the best keyboard actions going, light but with a positive action, not rubbery or clunky.

The panel is very well laid out and everything is logical and within reach thanks to the matrix menu and the sliders/jog wheel. A real joy to program and play. One of Yamaha's best ever and is like a digital synth 'sketch pad' thanks to it's great panel.

Rating: 5/5
September 30, 2008 @ 5:00 pm
It was my first.......will always be with me. Just for the presets it's amazing but when I learned to program it.......WOW!

It delivers!!
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Rated 3.93 (321 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 - 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
  • Resources & Credits
  • Images from

    Thanks to Robert Uhlmann for contributing.

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