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
Ulli Bartel
January 19, 2012 @ 2:10 pm
My SY85 is doing a great job - but a since couple of days it refuses to give sounds by playing the keys - it just gives sounds from older productions of the sequenzer... what could it be? Ulli
November 21, 2011 @ 12:58 pm
Lawrence from School of Rock played this keyboard. Serious cool points right there.
Johnny T
November 10, 2011 @ 12:58 pm
I have an SY-85 I bought circa 1993/4 I think, brand new. It is in perfect condition and used almost daily. I think that says a great deal about the build quality. The sounds are still excellent. I will be hanging on to this classic beauty for good.
November 8, 2011 @ 10:28 pm
I got a perfectly functional NEW replacement floppy from a nice lady in Italy named Andrea. Her eBay name is BIGUTZ. Check out her wares and drop her a line if you need a floppy drive with a 24-pin ribbon connection. She makes the connection conversion that is outlined in the Yamaha.uk BBS, and does it perfectly. Now with the single broken key replaced and a fully function floppy (yay!) my SY85 is as good as new. Boy, is it a sweetie. It seems like the perfect accompaniment to my also newly acquired Korg DS-8 digital. Just...fabulous. MMMM-mmmm-mmmMMMM!
October 1, 2011 @ 5:55 am
Picked up an SY85 in great condition a few weeks ago (Sept 2011). It came with several disks and a RAM card.... WOW this is really impressive!! Ive sold a couple of other synths as a result. This machine can do almost anything! Stacks up very well against newer synths - it's my #1 digital synth for sure!

Great key action and looks - just makes you want to play it! BUY IT!
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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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