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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56 Visitor comments
March 30, 2011 @ 2:02 pm
For me, the best feature of the SY85, sound-wise, are the filters. Now there's a filter that's not an attempt to emulate some (enter name of typical 70s analogue synth manufacturer) filter, but has a digital-age character of its own. Using it in combination with the deficated faders for cutoff and resonance (in sound mode), and you really can make your leads sing!
Mats Sjöblom
November 12, 2010 @ 8:00 pm
I just came home from a gig with my trusty old SY85, using organ sounds, expression pedal and triggering rotary speaker speed changes with aftertouch. Mine has 8 Megabytes of sample RAM added, that I have mainly used for pre-recorded background vocals. As each 3½" floppy holds only 720 KB, the number of floppies adds up quickly, and they take quite a while to load.
September 10, 2010 @ 1:30 pm
I really disliked this synth and to my horror my band mate turned up with it after spending over a grand on one in 1993.
We quickly pressured him to get shot of it and the replacement was a Roland JD-800 which blew us away at the time!
John Thornley
July 27, 2010 @ 10:38 am
I still have my SY85 in full working order. i found the internal sequencer awkward but used cubase on a PC to handle that. It produced some of my best work. In fact I am thinking of returning to a much simpler setup using the 85 alone with a simpler midi sequencer. A bit retro but who cares.
February 4, 2010 @ 8:33 am
It's 2010 and the SY85 is still a fantastic synthesizer. Even though it lacks FM synthesis (compared to SY77/99). Resonant filters, great FX, charming sound. I like and use it regularly.

All of my thoughts here:
http://solasistim.wordpress.com/2010/02/04/yamaha-sy85-workstation-synthesi zer/
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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

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