I found a neat little gem of a synth today called the Yamaha SY22 Dynamic Vector Synthesizer. What caught my eye was the track ball style controller in the upper left hand corner of the synth. I also noticed the “vector synthesizer” label written on it and started to wonder what that was all about. I plugged it in and gave it a test run. I was really impressed with the sound and the ball controller. Very cool so I picked it up along with a Rom sound card Proteus Impressions (Sound Source Unlimited, Inc.) all for $50 bucks.
The ball controller is basically split into 4 separate sections A,B,C, and D. When you move it up and down you can move between the A and B voices. Moving from left to right you get the D and C voices. The two main settings are level and detune. You can really get some terrific “motion” effects plus it’s really cool to easily fade between the four voices. It’s very unique to me and loads of fun. Using the detune you can get a chorus effect really well along with the built in reverbs, delay, and other effects.
Another thing I found to be very interesting with the SY22 is the panning effect. With the ball you can move the voices around giving you an easy way to pan the sounds around you head. It’s hard to explain but I noticed that when testing the synth the voices were like floating all around. It’s simply panning the voice right and left but on other synths you have to physically program that in whereas with the SY22 it’s easier to move things around.
Furthermore, you can record the ball controller motions for your patches. This is really cool and similar to the Roland JP-8000 which also allows you to record motion data. This really allows you to create some really dynamic and motion oriented soundscapes. Pads are awesome with SY22 and like all Yamahas with FM you can get some really gritty bass and synth sounds. Note that the SY22 is a low frequency synth so you get that DX7-ish gritty sound which I really like. Some people say the SY22 is a bit noisy but mine is super quiet. Any noise I do get it fits the patch well and actually am thankful for it.
The LCD is bright which is great and it’s very durable but light weight. It has 61 keys and you might say it’s quite portable. There is a Card Slot in the back and it takes the Yamaha MCD64 Ram cards. I actually recently bought a Sweet 16 Card that has 16 MCD64 cards all in one. That will be great for the SY22. The Sweet 16 Card allows me to store sounds for my V50, SY77, and SY22 all on one card. ( I just choose one of the 16 cards inside to save voices to ).
With regards to editing again some people say it’s tedious and difficult. Frankly I come from the Yamaha DX7 era so it’s definitely easier than that beast, so to me the SY22 is easier. It’s easy to hook up an editor via MIDI and tweak anything you like. Sure it’s harder than today’s synths, but manageable.
I really like the Yamaha SY22. It’s the unique vector control and recording that really makes this useful to me. You can definitely get some great sounds out of the SY22 and for live performance it’s pretty fun too working that ball controller. Once you get organized on how you want to set it up with your sounds it’s really cool. It takes layering your sounds to a whole new level.
Here is a pretty good demo found on Youtube of the Yamaha SY22 in action.