Over the weekend I picked up a nice looking and in great shape Yamaha CS1x Performance Synthesizer. The used music shop was selling it for $75 so I thought that was a pretty good price. It came with the adapter and two manuals, but had no case. As a bonus, the sales clerk threw in a free Yamaha DX-7 synth with case which I’ll write about in my next article. That was a nice surprise.
The Yamaha CS1x was a relatively popular synth back in 1996 when it first came out here in Japan. At the time I was living in Yokohama and a store called Ishibashii had it on display for quite some time. They sold quite a few and thus it ended up in a lot of music here in Japan. The CS1x was a bit overshadowed though by the Yamaha AN1x which came out shortly thereafter and it was the AN1x that I eventually picked up back in 1998 used. The Yamaha AN1x is a better synth, BUT, the CS1x is great to have also if not for the fun factor and the fact that it was used professionally A LOT here in Japan.
When I played the Yamaha CS1x at the music store a couple of days ago, I was immediately drawn to it’s tweakable knobs, wheel controllers, and decent keys. The sounds were slightly more digital sounding than I initially expected, but that was easily rectified by tweaking the sounds on the fly. As a result I was able to get a better analog”ish” sound. All of the sounds a definitely geared more towards dance, but again that all depends on one’s creativity. Many of the sounds were definitely funky and suitable for hip-hop, fusion, and as I said any sort of electronic oriented music, not just dance or techno. Sonic wise the sounds are also a bit bright but you can fix that to get a deeper bass or warmer sound. The keys can be split or layered or stacked.
The arpeggiator is really where the CS1x shines. It’s a bundle of fun and it compliments any beat you put to it quite nicely. The Yamaha CS1x is pretty much a one shot synth meaning that you will need to either incorporate one sound into your setup or simply record it to audio tracks for multiple sounds. If you want multiple midi tracks you are stuck with primarily the XG sounds if correct. I have yet to experiment with that, but like the AN1x or even the JP-8000 synths of that era they are basically midi “one track” or “two track” ponies as I call them. That’s ok though as for what they do on that one particular track, they will do extremely well.
The Yamaha CS1x is going for real cheap these days and it has been used extensively by a lot of big name artists and bands. It’s a very “musical” synth that instantly can help you create inspirational grooves and melodies. The arp alone ( although it has no midi out ) is fantastic even though you can’t program it. For that old school flavor it’s perfect! If you ever see a used Yamaha CS1x, I highly recommend it. It’s a definite fun to jam with synthesizer.