Posts in Synth Explorations
Exploring the Yamaha CS-80

The Yamaha CS-80 is one of the most iconic and revered synths of all time. It was one of the first polyphonic synthesizers on the market, and it boasted an incredible sound, expressive controls and an early example of patch memory. Despite its now legendary status, it was released in 1976 to a pretty lukewarm reception, regarded by some as being too heavy and expensive, and the patch bay system was seen as clumsy. The Sequential Prophet-5 was released soon after, and being much lighter and sleeker, it soon overshadowed the CS-80. Despite the Prophet-5’s greater popularity, the CS-80 was arguably a more expressive performance synth than the Pro-5; it had a velocity sensitive semi-weighted keyboard that had aftertouch, and a ribbon controller, which is still a rarity on modern synths. It was a favourite of Greek composer Vangelis, whose use of it in his score for the 1981 movie Blade Runner cemented its status as a classic synthesizer. It was used on 80s pop hits by artists such as Michael Jackson, Toto and Paul McCartney, and now its rarity and legendary status make it popular amongst modern artists such as Phoenix, Empire of the Sun, Aphex Twin and Squarepusher.

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Exploring the Yamaha DX7

When you think of 80s music, some of the sounds that come to mind are sparkly electric pianos, metallic basses and cheesy orchestral elements. Many of these sounds came from one synthesizer: the Yamaha DX7. It was released in 1983, and was the first digital synthesizer to have an impact on popular music. Along with its eventual spiritual successors, the Roland D-50 and Korg M1, the DX7 marked a move away from warm analog sounds, to complex digital sounds. For a producer, the DX7 meant more sonic options in one box, and more versatility in a recording studio.

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Exploring the Roland D-50

The Roland D-50 was released in 1987 and quickly replaced the Yamaha DX7 as the most popular synth on the market, going on to appear in countless pop songs and soundtracks, as well as defining the sound of the late 80s / early 90s era. The at-the-time revolutionary synthesizer used a complex new form of synthesis called ‘Linear Arithmetic’ synthesis, that combines real-instrument samples with synthesised waveforms. The unit featured a joystick for easy sound manipulation, an onboard chorus effect and was the first synth to feature onboard reverb. It was revered by producers and composers for its ability to easily emulate real instruments and has many classic patches. Like the DX7, it went on to be described as one of those ‘hated’ keyboards, as it’s responsible for some very cheesy new-age sounds, as well as fake slap-basses. Nevertheless, it is still one of the most complex synthesizers ever made, it's sounds are incredible, and it is now making a comeback.

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