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
February 14, 2013 @ 4:59 pm
is a SY 77 better than an SY85?
February 8, 2013 @ 6:39 am
I'm aware a lot of people have a fondness for it, perhaps due to nostalgia in many cases, but I'd be very surprised if there is a convincing reason to get this over the SY99, which also has the Advanced FM engine and interaction between it and AWM that the SY85 totally lacks.

Trying to think of positives of the SY85, it can take SIMMs and has those multi-EQ type controls. Possibly a few more effects than the SY99's already excellent SPX900 (or is it 990?), maybe? Different samples in the factory ROM, sure, but the SY99 could load most of them in if you fitted the 3 MB memory upgrade
February 3, 2013 @ 7:21 pm
I couldn't stand the SY-85, Just couldn't get in to it at all. Bought one in 1993 and quickly moved onto the far superior Roland JD-800 which blew me away.
November 12, 2012 @ 2:38 pm
Great Synth! I bought mine new in the early 90's and still use it today! Very lush pads. Some sounds are weak but have some great sampled sounds you can play around with. Tweeked many of the internal sounds to get what i wanted. Have a listen on Youtube "Cheseabun"
October 4, 2012 @ 2:37 pm
So, you're saying that Yamaha should have gone out of business after 1991 when they produced their last FM synthesizer, along with every other synthesizer company except maybe Native Instruments when they developed the FM8, after which they should also have gone out of business, so that the world can bask in the glory that is FM, and we would never have to listen to pianos and trumpets and strings and pads ever again? And Waldorf! Pfeh! Who needs them? Novation? Off with their heads! Access and Alesis can stay. The Virus and Micron have FM. But the rest of the knobs need to be removed.
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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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