Dodds was duly kitted out
in the uniform and took his place behind the 2500 for the scene
when the cameras rolled. The irony, of course, was that this monster
2500 wasn't actually used for the famous musical dialogue between
us and the visiting spacecraft - that all came from John Williams'
magnificent orchestra. But we digress.....
The SY2 was Yamaha's second foray into the emerging world
of synthesisers in the mid-'70s, a world that had previously been
dominated (mostly) by American companies Moog and ARP but which
was now facing infiltration by Japanese manufacturers such as Korg,
Roland and, of course, Yamaha.
Yamaha's first offering, the SY1, was aimed fair and
square at the organ market, a market that Yamaha were very successful
in, and it came with a wooden case designed to match the organs
they were intended to be placed upon. The SY2, however, was far
more 'rock n roll' and came in it's own Tolex 'flightcase' - flip
the lid off the top and screw in the chrome legs that were retained
underneath and you were ready to go. Of course, most people threw
away the legs and sat their SY2 atop their Fender Rhodes, organ
or Mellotron - whatever.
The SY2 was, of course, monophonic and came with a variety
of presets, selectable from a series of coloured 'tab' switches
above the keyboard. However, it had enough variable controls to
the left of the keyboard to allow extensive modification of the
presets. Other 'tabs' could be used to further customise the sound.
Apart from the change to the casework, the SY2 also offered slightly
more functionality in this area than the SY1 making it more versatile
than its predecessor.
The SY2 had a single oscillator that fed separate resonant
lowpass and highpass filters with a simple envelope generator. An
LFO rounded off the synth's capabilities and this could be used
for vibrato or filter modulation (quaintly referred to in those
times as 'wow' or 'growl'!). But within this simple voice architecture
lies a puzzle. Some of the presets offered on the SY2 sound decidedly
like they employ TWO oscillators with a prominent 'detune' or 'chorus'
effect. Closer inspection inside reveals only a single oscillator
so what's going on?
Without an in-depth study of the synth's circuit diagrams,
it is my belief that Yamaha achieved a faux chorus effect
using Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) and given that the left-hand
control panel features a PW control confirms my suspicions. Whatever,
the SY2 was capable of some beefy sounds that bely its humble origins.
The SY2 also featured aftertouch. Although rare in its
day, it wasn't unique - the ARP Pro-Soloist had this some years
earlier - but it did provide a level of expression not possible
on most other synths of the time.
The SY2 is certainly not a 'classic' synth in the strict
sense of the word but it is certainly an interesting glimpse into
the early history of Yamaha in this market. It might also be of
interest that the filters used in the SY2 were also used in Yamaha's
behemoth GX1 (though strangely, not in the CS80).
I remember quite liking the SY2 when it was released
in 1976. I was fresh out of school, I had a job (and hence some
money!) and it was a genuine contender on my shopping list. It was
quick and easy to use - flick a preset but then tweak it as required
- and it sounded good. In the end, I settled on an ARP Axxe which
offered more 'serious' synth flexibility for the same price. I was
delighted, therefore, to receive this donation - it really took
me back a bit!
I am therefore extremely grateful to John from
Room for providing a selection of some of the more representative
presets from this rare (and underrated) little synth. John has carefully
multii-sampled and looped the samples and whilst you may think they
sound a tad cheesy in this day and age of thousands of impressive
'film-score' presets, these sounds are typical of what manufacturers
offered in the mid-'70s! Maybe not to everyone's taste but not without