Yamaha EX5 Silver Beast in Japan

Yamaha Silver EX5S
Yamaha Silver EX5S

This is a three part story about acquiring a Yamaha EX5 “Silver” Beast Edition in Japan today.

Part 1: At a Japan used music shop that I frequent in Nagano-city there is a Silver EX5 that has been sitting there for about one year. The price in Japanese yen at the moment is 65,000 which equals about $772.642 USD according to today’s exchange rate. The condition is “good” but not excellent. There appears to be no expansions, modules, SCSI interface, or whatever attached to the EX5 other than a hard shell case. Just the basic version. Furthermore, in some areas the paint appears to be rubbing off slightly. The EX5 definitely appears to have been used in performance or practice, but is still fully operational I believe. I haven’t played it, but the shop is offering a 3 month guarantee against problems or I can return it. It’s standard policy for them.

This past week I picked up both a Yamaha V50 and an SY77 which I’m really happy with. I really don’t see myself picking up this EX5 and I’ve obviously had a year to think about it, so I suppose I’m seeking closure…laugh.

What I’m curious about is whether this appears to be a good deal among EX5 users and enthusiasts. The guys at the shop may consider lowering the price since I am a frequent customer, but if I recall correctly, they already dropped the price about two months ago from 85,000 yen ( $1,010 USD ), so I doubt they will drop the price anymore this soon.

I’ve heard there is little or no difference between the Silver version and the regular version.

Just curious on whether it’s a potential diamond in the rough, or better to move on but maybe keep an eye on it.

Part 2:. I went back to the used music shop here in Japan and tried out the Silver EX5 I mentioned above. I found two problems with the synth.

1. There was a “Change Internal Battery” error message when powering up the unit. I suppose that is an easy fix by simply replacing the CR2032 internal battery. I was able to continue playing the synth though.

2. There is a dead “E” key at the upper most octave of the keyboard. This is probably most bothersome in that I can’t seem to find success stories about how to fix that. I have no idea if it simply would require cleaning the contact or what not. So, I would have to consider the notion that the EX5 could permanently have a dead key there.

There are no options as indicated with the exception that there was the 64MB extra memory in the EX5, but no flash memory of course. I pushed the “Sample” button and found that info.

The asking price is basically $750. Being in Japan I have to consider the cost of shipping should I buy overseas which I generally don’t. So $750 could be reasonable if buying abroad, but being that I’m down the street from the store, the keyboard “silver edition” seems to be priced pretty high.

I’ll probably continue checking about whether I can fix the dead key or not. If I can, I may go back to the store and see if I can talk him down. This may be the best opportunity to get a much better deal. However, if I fail, I then really have to consider whether I want it bad enough.

The sound is incredible and it was a joy playing through the presets. Even if I can talk the owner down, it’s greatly upsetting that there’s a dead key. I really wanted the full working 76 set of keys. Crap!

Reasons for wanting the EX5:

1. FDSP Synth
2. VL Synth (I have an ES Rack but no breath controller except with the CS6r, but I have two PLG-AN boards in that. The ES Rack has the PLG Drums and PLG DX. Could switch around and by the PLG-VL I suppose.)
3. RHODES – I am an EP freak and most of my playing “foundation” wise is with the Rhodes or EPs.
4. Multi-Sampling. Owning a Roland W-30 and S-760, I do lots of multi-sampling but with very “small” samples. Contrary to most EX5 users perhaps, I don’t mind loading my samples from floppy. I also have an A3000 with SCSI should I need that. I use other phrase/loop gear for large samples.
5. Programming Options! The thought of all those synth patch possibilities has me intrigued.
6. Pattern Sequencer. I am an active keyboard learner and “jam” artist so I prefer to create Sequenced patterns with drums, bass, and maybe some strings. I then like to practice and play “rhodes” oriented stuff over that as improv or just learning theory etc. The EX5 has the sequencer inside and it seems “good enough” for basic pattern back tracks in a non-live environment.
7. Finally Speculation. With the release of the Yamaha XF, there seems to be a lot of comparison going around with Motif series. I notice that the EX5(r) keeps coming up a lot with the majority of people saying either “Get it now!” or “I’ll never get rid of it!”.

One of the things I really liked about the EX5 though was that it was 76 keys. All of my synths are either 61 keys or less. Although I’m exaggerating a bit, it seems having a dead key is almost like having 61 keys all over again.

P.S. – Perhaps someone reading this will simply feel that I’m whacked for considering the EX5 given my current Yamaha gear setup. Maybe I need to hear that as well from someone….

Part3: I went back to the store and managed to “surprisingly” talk the owner down to $375 for the Silver Yamaha EX5 with hard shell case. He asked me if there were any problems with the keyboard and I honestly told him that I had to:

(a) change the battery,
(b) figure out how to fix the dead “E” key in the upper octave, and finally
(c) upgrade the rom chip as the synth had V1.06 and TG V1.07 if I remember correctly. I think that’s what I saw when I pressed “Voice + H + Bank8”.

I also indicated that there may be other things wrong like the floppy drive, LCD Display, and Unresponsive Knobs although they checked out just fine when I tested the EX5 in the store. I wasn’t trying to give him any crap, but rather just sincerely let him know that the EX5 had been in the store for over a year and that I’d have to likely put some and money into maintenance. ( Us Synth enthusiasts know this anyway so this probably shouldn’t be news to him. I always expect to put extra money in with synths after purchasing. ).

The owner kind of felt bad I think and knocked the price down considerably as you can see. So instead of walking out with a $750 synth, I only had to pay $375. Of course my fingers are crossed that after replacing the battery, everything will be fine. I’m not sure how to upgrade the ROM and quite frankly my testing kind of proved that I may not need it. I read on another forum some of the changes for each upgrade and thought anything above v1.06 should be sufficient for my purposes. However, if anyone does know how to get a hold of a current ROM chip, please email me. I’d greatly appreciate the consideration.

I understand the floppy drives are easy to replace should mine go bad and as I mentioned I have an A3000 with an SCSI board if needed. Probably the only other option I might need is the flash ram, but honestly, that’s becoming a very expensive option and I already don’t really want to put more money into the EX5 until I can really get a grip on what it can do.

In any event, I hope my story proves interesting for some people here. The Yamaha EX5 is a great synth and I’m excited to have finally picked this one up after seeing it for over a year in the shop. There’s just something about the EX5 that urged me to buy it now. One things for sure!! This is absolutely the heaviest synthesizer I have ever lugged up three flights of stairs!

Yamaha V50 YSEDITOR with Steem Atari ST Emulator

Yamaha V50 YSEDITOR Librarian
Yamaha V50 YSEDITOR Librarian on Steem

Today I had some great success in using the YSEDITOR version 3.35 for Yamaha V50 running on Steem version 3.2 Emulation. Steem is an ST Emulator which recreates the Atari ST computer in software on a PC. My OS is Windows 7 32 bit and I run the YSEDITOR inside the Steem ST Emulator. This was my first time running both applications on the Windows 7 platform and with reading the readme text info, I was able to figure out how to get everything running.

I much prefer using the Sound Quest editor for the Yamaha V50 as it’s a little easier to edit with in my opinion. However, as a librarian, it’s got a problem with loading and saving banks to the Yamaha V50. It loads individual voices and performances just great, but cannot load entire I-IV banks at all. The editor is also better with Midi Sound Quest because it’s visually nice being color, but also you get realtime updates with your sound edits. You also don’t have to run either Steem Emulation or the YSEDITOR which requires Atari.

Initially to get the YSEDITOR formatted voice banks into the V50, I had to find something different for that and the YSEDITOR for the V50 worked very well. As you can see by the screenshot I am able to load and save banks of 100 voices or performances very easily. There are also several banks of voices that come with the software editor which I have now converted to Midi Sound Quest format. It was particularly nice to get the TX81Z Rom library for the V50 which has the famous “LatelyBass” voice. A couple of the other libraries has “Shimmer” one and two which are very good.

It took me a couple of hours “trial and error” to get the correct setup that worked well with the Yamaha V50. Getting the YSEDITOR, Steem Atari Emulator, and the Yamaha V50 all in sync and working together did have some minor hiccups. Once I got my settings down, I was then able to proceed transferring and working with the voices in a stable manner. Again, my goal with the YSEDITOR was simply to access the large library of voices in the Atari format so that I could transfer them over to Midi Quest. When done, I’ll probably only work with MidiQuest editing voices, performances, and creating my own custom banks.

The developer of YSEDITOR offers no support for using the editor with Steem ST Emulator which I understand so you’re on your won when using these two together, but they do both work just fine. I wanted to mention that the YSEDITOR does work with STEEM very well on Windows 7 32bit platform connected to a Yamaha V50. For all I know, I am the only one using the Yamaha V50 so I’d much rather field questions if anyone should have any…laugh. Info about the Yamaha V50 or anyone using it is hard to find. So feel free to email or comment with any questions regarding the YSEDITOR and it’s use with Steem and the Yamaha V50. Once setup correctly it’s very stable and a very powerful editor for the Yamaha V50. There’s loads of voices in that format with sounds that are pretty cool.

Yamaha A3000 Multisampling Fun

Yamaha A3000 Sampler
Yamaha A3000 Sampler

Last week I dusted off my old Yamaha A3000 version 1 sampler and was surprised to find out how well it worked with multisampling. I remember shelving the unit a while back namely because I had issues with looping, midi, and a few other things that happened to be fixed or improved with Version 2. I never got around to upgrading it, but I recently discovered that despite the fact that it’s a version 1 Yamaha A3000, it actually works extremely well with multisampling. Nowadays I say leave looping to the likes of the newer Akai MPCs, Roland SP Groove boxes, Soft Samplers, or anything current. However, with multisampling, I think the Yamaha A3000 still has a lot of life left even if it’s still version one. Something tells me also that multisampling was probably the A3000’s primary function in the first place. and unless you were interested in that, you pretty much sold or moth balled the sampler.

Currently I have the Yamaha A3000 V1 maxed out at 128MB of memory which is plenty for most multisampling tasks. Attached to the rear SCSI is a zip drive which works to store the samples from memory and loads them rather quickly. I usually import my WAV files from the PC and using either the Floppy Drive or Zip drive works well with for this. I use Sony Soundforge to save my WAV files to Microsoft PCM format for easy importing. The on board effects are decent and applying the samples to the keys is easy enough. Triggering the samples via a midi controller works perfectly and you can do velocity cross fades and some layering as well. In fact with regards to multisamples, the Yamaha A3000 is actually pretty easy to use. Looping on the other hand is best done “from” version 2 and upward although it still can be done with Version 1.

Lately I’ve enjoyed using such hardware samplers as the Roland W-30, S-330, and S-760. When you compare the Yamaha A3000 version 1 to those samplers you start finding out that the A3000 is pretty competitive. In fact in some cases it’s an upgrade so it’s been really fun. I also have a Roland SP-606 which works fine for working with loops. It syncs well with the Yamaha A3000 if required. Honestly, I’m not into that much looping really so some hard core loopers may require more in features than what I currently use.

It’s always good to hold on to old gear as you never know when you might need it again in the future. Actually if I think about it, I don’t think I was able to sell the A3000 version one in the first place so perhaps that is why I really kept it…laugh. However, with my recent interest in working with multisampled instruments and synthesizers, I’ve found the Yamaha A3000 version 1 to be a more than capable and rewarding hardware sampler. So far, it has been getting the job done beautifully. Perhaps one of these days I’ll upgrade to either the A4000 or A5000 when I see one, but for now, my A3000 has a new life with multisampling and it’s super cheap on Ebay right now!!

Yamaha SY77 Music Synthesizer

Yamaha SY77 Music Synthesizer
Yamaha SY77 Music Synthesizer

The day following my purchase of the Yamaha V50, I took a drive over to another used music store that I usually visit about twice a month. I was stunned to see sitting on top of a shelf a vintage Yamaha SY77 in excellent condition. It had a hard shell case and inserted into the card slot was an MCD64 64K Memory Card. The pice tag was $100 bucks. I took it down from the shelf and quickly decided to give it a whirl to see how nice it sounded. As expected, it sounded great.

Just one day before I had found a fantastic Yamaha V50. One of the things I wanted was a memory card for it, so I got onto Ebay and checked around. As exepcted I found a couple of MCD64 memory cards, but they were at least $75 plus an extra $35 or so for shipping to Japan. You can imagine what I was thinking when I saw the MCD64 memory card sticking out of the Yamaha SY77. In my mind, I basically bought the memory card and got a Yamaha SY77 synthesizer for free…laugh. Seriously, that’s what I thought.

When I got home with the Yamaha SY77 I noticed that it was extremely heavy. This thing is built like a tank and it weighs like one as well. Throw a hard shell case in with it and you have some major ball busting to carry this around. I don’t know if I’ll be lugging it on the stage, but I can certainly say it will fit nicely in the home studio. It’s a big synth, but the keys feel great and really solid just like the Yamaha DX7.

A couple of notable problem areas on these Yamaha SY77 synthesizers are (a) the LCD fading out and (b) the floppy disk drive failing due to broken drive belts. In my case, the LCD was just fine. However, my floppy drive was indeed not working. I opened up the synth and took a look inside. As expected ( and hoping ), the floppy drive had a broken belt. The rubber stuff was luckily easy to clean off in my case and quickly I scrounged up a rubber band to replace the floppy drive belt temporarily. I needed to check and see if the floppy drive was operational or whether there was an additional problem.

I put the Yamaha SY77 back together with the floppy drive fixed using a rubber band. I started it up and decided to format a new floppy disk. Awesome! The floppy drive worked like a charm. Now I can just order a new floppy belt off of Ebay and know that will fix it for quite a while. I don’t know if just using the rubber band will be stable enough long term. I was happy that I didn’t have to pay $85 from Floppy Drive Solutions for a new floppy drive, although I may do that in the future if I use the drive a lot. Right now, transferring voice banks from the computer via midi is the way to go. I can also use the MCD64 Memory Card for adding extra banks to the SY77.

All in all it was a great day and a nice surprise to come home with a really nice Yamaha SY77 to go along with the Yamaha V50 from yesterday. After playing both synths, I must say that the sequencer, drum machine, and raw edgy synth sound of the Yamaha V50 is pretty cool and unique. However, the incredible power of the Yamaha SY77 Synthesizer is simply awesome. I haven’t tried the sequencer yet, but it looks great and of course it’s a Yamaha. They have probably the best sequencers. What I like the best about both synths are the keys themselves. They are so nice to play and are very sturdy.

If anyone has any questions about the Yamaha SY77 or Yamaha V50, please feel free to comment or send me an email anytime. Thanks and enjoy!

Yamaha V50 Digital Synthesizer

Yamaha V50 Digital Synthesizer
Yamaha V50 Digital Synthesizer

Today I bought a used Yamaha V50 Digital Synthesizer for $50 in near mint condition. I had heard these synths were pretty hard to find so when I saw it in the store it peaked my interest. What’s amazing is that this synth was released in 1989 if correct, and the condition was fantastic. The Yamaha V50 had all the Demo and Voice disks still packaged in a nice plastic case with the words “Yamaha V50” on it. All of the buttons, disk drive, LCD screen, and keys were in perfect working order. I then fired it up and browsed through some of the sounds. Before long I knew I had to have this. The sheer enjoyment of playing the synth was incredible.

A long time ago I saw a couple of videos on Youtube which I’ll post here that originally put the Yamaha V50 on my radar screen. When I saw the synth in the store, I pretty much was set on buying it. I actually couldn’t believe the condition for that price. I also heard that in Europe for example, the Yamaha V-50 was highly sought after, but I’m not sure if that’s true. If you check on Youtube there are quite a few people using for some really different sounds. To me, it’s got great stuff for that cool 80’s and 90’s dance, rock, or funky electronic sound.

Later that evening I sat down with the online manual to see what I could create out of the Yamaha V-50 and I was absolutely amazed at how easy it was to play. First I should mention that with a keyboard this old, it’s important in my opinion that one kind of knows how to play the piano when using this synth. It’s more of a manual style synth with little “auto” functionality, however, the Yamaha V-50 was very well thought out as I’ll explain.

The functionality the Yamaha V-50 matches quite a few of the newer keyboards of today. For example, I hit the Rhythm key and right away I was able to call up a drum pattern. While it was playing I could adjust the effects and turn down the reverb which you MUST do with this synth. The Yamaha V-50 has some serious reverb cranked up on all it’s presets, so you need to dial that crap down right away.

After I had the drums grooving, I then was able to tap into “Performance Mode” while the drums kept playing and find a performance patch that I liked. Performances can be layered, split, have applied effects, etc. while the drums are playing. I thought it was extremely cool to call up drums, performances, and effects all LIVE without stopping anything or pushing a zillion buttons.

Instantly, I was able to get a jam going and then was able to make modifications to the sounds. Once I had my ideas set, I could stop everything and then start recording real time with the built in sequencer. Simply brilliant and easy!! Again, if you know how to play the keys well and you have worked with sequencers, the Yamaha V-50 is a “creative” breeze to work with.

Referring to the Youtube videos again, you will notice that the guy from Yamaha just sits there and goes through a fast and simple process of creating a song or groove. In my opinion, this is exactly what the Yamaha V-50 is all about. It’s creating a song from beginning to end all in an evening and having fun while doing it.

How about the sounds? The FM sounds are actually quite good provided you again dial down the reverbs. They are definitely overkill on this synth. I think the pads, strings, basses, and metallic sounds are brilliant. They really cut through the mix as they say. The choirs, brass, flutes, and other dreamy sounds are classic FM/DX sounding and are very nice in my opinion. The Yamaha V50’s sounds can also be layered for a fatter sound or in creating some cool atmospheric sounds. Plus you can create splits or overlap certain areas of the keyboard.

It’s an incredibly versatile synth that has stuff I wish some of the newer synths had. Of course the sounds are late 80’s and 90’s sounding so beware if that’s not your thing. In that case, you can simply create your own original sounds.

With out a doubt, the Yamaha V-50 is probably the most fun I’ve had in creating music. It’s what an idea scratch pad should be in a synthesizer which not many modern synths do.

I remember a guy telling me once how old keyboards were so difficult to program and work with. That same guy then turned around and said he didn’t know how he was going to learn all the cool stuff his new Korg M3 had with all the manuals. To me, that sounded the same.

Whether your synth is old or new, you have to put time into learning the product. I am so glad I bought the Yamaha V-50. It’s by far the most fun I’ve had in getting my ideas down fast on a synth.