Yamaha GS-1

Yamaha GS-1
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Yamaha released the GS-1 in the early eighties, which makes it one of the first commercially produced synthesizers to make use of frequency modulation. This also means that it is an early forerunner for the popular DX7. According to Yamaha, the GS1 was designed to provide the "music-minded" with the sophistication of digital synthesis instead of the "computer-minded." The idea was to let musicians play the GS1 without having to understand computers or synthesizers. Of course, this meant that the GS1 was a straightforward instrument by today's standards.

At first glance, the GS1 looks like a simple digital piano, but it had a much more extensive selection of synthesizer sounds to offer. It features an internal architecture of 16-voice polyphony, but even with its 8-operator voice architecture users were unable to choose the algorithms. It features eight envelope generator / voltage controlled amplifier pairs as well as a low-frequency oscillator. However, it lacked VCFs, and the LFO could only be applied to a few parameters. The GS1 also only contained a few onboard effects. The 16 voices of the GS1 could be changed at any time by loading other voices that were stored on the magnetic card voice library for the instrument. This was done via the card reader of the GS1.

Yamaha opted for an 88-key, piano-weighted keyboard that is velocity sensitive as well as aftertouch. In terms of performance controls, the GS1 has a vibrato pedal, tremolo pedal and damper pedal that could be used. The GS1 also has buttons and knobs that are situated along the fallboard, which can be used for tweaking the limited amount of user-variable parameters and to select patches.

The original price for the Yamaha GS1 put it out of reach of most users back in the early eighties. This meant that Yamaha was barely able to sell 100 of these synths before the DX7 came along a few years later and became a much better choice for users. Yamaha did try to remedy the situation with the release of the GS2, which was basically a cheaper version of the GS1 that had fewer features. Unfortunately, the GS2 also failed to capture much of a userbase. These days finding a GS1 in working condition is not a cheap endeavor, and the instrument has been surpassed in every way, making it more of a collector's item or novelty for synth enthusiasts.

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Demos & Media

Casiopea "Asayake"(Mint Jams) Keyboard-Cover with YAMAHA GS1
Casiopea Keyboard-Covers


Polyphony - 16 voice polyphony with eight operaters per voice
Multitimbral - 2 parts
Effects - Chorus
Keyboard - 88 keys that are velocity and pressure sensitive
Memory - 16 presets