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
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.
May 21, 2013 @ 12:10 pm
The SY85 wast the best workstation on the market well until 1996 at least, and that includes its Yamaha successors, the QS and WS, both failures. Only the EX was better 8and not that much). Siimilar in concept to the Korg M1, but far superior, the SY had EXCELLENT classical, pop and electronic sounds, an easy to use and very responsive sequencer (for the time), some realtime controls (unheard of back then) and a FANTASTIC semi-weighted keybed, the same as the DX7. It's over 20 yrs old, and you can't pay this over €/$ 200 or so. But it'll be a very fine studio keyboard indeed for ANYONE.
March 3, 2013 @ 1:31 am
Almost forgot, Matt the SY-85 does not have weighted keys, though like I said earlier they are the most responsive keys I have ever played...
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User Rating

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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