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!

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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!

Kawai Q-80 Sequencer buy one get one free!

Kawai Q-80 Sequencer
Kawai Q-80 Sequencer

Unbelievable! I went back to the store today where I recently purchased my Roland W-30 and Kawai K4r. I noticed in the junk area was a mint condition Kawai Q-80 which in my opinion is a great little sequencer. The price was $10 which included the Kawai Q-80, manual, and adapter. I went up to the counter to buy it and the guy told me he had another one he would give me since I was interested in the device. He told me I was a frequent customer so he would allow me to buy both for $5 each.

The Q-80 is a 32-track sequencer with 26,000-note capacity and a built-in 3.5″ disk drive. Extensive and complete editing, real-time and step recording and quantizing with up to 10 songs. A new “motif” function allows up to 100 stored musical phrases or “motifs” for use or insertion into a song at any time. The Q-80 works well in the studio and for live performances. The Q-80 can also store MIDI system exclusive data to disk from other synths. (1988)

Also the 32 tracks all have their own mute buttons (8 buttons across and 4 rows to toggle through). The beauty is that each track can be any length so no copying short sections out against other longer ones. Plus it holds 10 songs worth of tracks in memory when you power it off and it has a floppy drive for backup which doesn’t need to be used in order to run the sequencer.

With both units, the floppy drives work fantastic. Both sequencers were in mint condition without any sign of wear. Plus I got adapters for both along with manuals. The LCDs were in pristine condition and everything worked just great. Will I use these extensively? We’ll see, but with the price at $5 bucks each, I just couldn’t pass them up.