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!

SCSIforSamplers SCSI Flash Card Reader Review

Triton Classic 61 SCSI Drive
Triton Classic 61 SCSI Drive

SCSI Card Readers (SCSICardReaders)http://www.scsicardreaders.com/
It’s been a little while since I received and installed the SCSIforSamplers SCSI Flash Card Reader for my Triton Classic 61 Keyboard and I wanted to write a review of my experience. At the time I purchased the drive, pictured in this post, I actually had a very bad experience with SCSIforSamplers. I felt it necessary to give it some time in order to digest everything and calm down so to speak..LOL.

The product I purchased was the CF-CARD SCSI Flash Card Reader and installation kit for the Triton Classic 61 keyboard. The price is expensive many will think, but I feel if you use the keyboard you are installing the unit to, then it’s overall worth the money for sure. I use the Triton Classic quite a bit and the CF-Card reader has been a very nice and worthwhile addition.

After ordering from SCSIforSamplers, I received very good communication with regards to delivery time, manual documents, plus a nice friendly thank you for my order. All was well. It took about a week to get the drive to Japan which I thought was pretty fast. The drive and installation kit was well packaged and documented.

Now I have built several computers and have cracked open many different synthesizers and musical oriented gear in the past. So, coming off my successful Roland Juno 106 project, I felt pretty confident that with reading the instructions I should be able to install the CF-Card reader with few if any problems. However, it didn’t turn out that way. The major problem I had with the drive installation concerned the parts pertaining to the SCSI area in the back. The instructions were clear, but not clear enough considering the parts sent to me were slightly different. I felt it was like a puzzle where you had to figure out how to assemble several pieces so that they would all “mesh” nicely together. Instead, it was like a Rubix Cube with me trying different ways to get things to connect well. As I progressed it became increasingly obvious that the parts, instructions, and experiences by others were not all in sync.

I also met a nice gentleman from the Korg Forums who had success installing a SCSIforSamplers CF-Card reader for his Triton and he kindly had photos posted on his gallery website. To my surprise, I noticed some small differences in the parts. Clearly, the instructions and the parts were in the ball park, but were not precisely the same. This explained why the SCSI section was not going together well. As a result I notified the SCSIforSamplers developer, who basically did two things that set me off. First, he told me there was nothing wrong or different about the parts. Second, he wanted me to ship everything back. That didn’t sit well with me. SCSIforSamplers could care less I thought and so I decided to continue trying to make it work on my own…somehow.

So, I elected to try everything in the book and finally one evening found the “secret” way to get all the parts together. It was and still is an “extremely” tight fit and I’m not all that sure I’ll be able to squeeze the EXB-MOSS board in there should I ever elect to do so. Nonetheless, the parts were close as depicted in the instructions. I just didn’t feel I was sent the exact same parts as evident when comparing to the previous gentleman’s photos. In the case of my installation, these small differences in part dimensions created a problem for the installation.

Overall, the SCSIforSamplers CF-Card reader works as advertised for the Korg Triton Classic. I would definitely recommend this drive to other Triton users and feel you will not be disappointed in the product. I also feel that in the beginning communication is top notch and packaging very well done. The only complaint I have is make sure things don’t go wrong. I am not confident that the developer of SCSIforSamplers understands that when changes are made to a product, however small, it can effect customers. Perhaps I am the only one who has ever experienced a problem with the installation.

So do checkout SCSIforSamplers if you are in need of an upgrade to your floppy drive. The device works and you’ll have great fun with the addition to your synth or keyboard. Most likely you will also not have any installation issues as most people seem to have positive reviews about SCSIforSamplers. I think they all got the same parts….LOL.

UPDATE: SCSIforSamplers has changed to SCSI Card Readers (SCSICardReaders)http://www.scsicardreaders.com/.

Roland S-760 Digital Sampler in Japan

Roland S-760 Digital Sampler
Roland S-760 Digital Sampler

Today I managed to locate a used Roland S-760 Digital Sampler at a remote used music shop near Nagano City here in Japan. The unit was in excellent condition and it had the manuals, but no disks. The gentleman at the counter said it was junk and I said to myself “Are you kidding?”. He sold it to me for $35 because he said he couldn’t get it to work without the disks. I wanted to say if he had heard of the internet at all, but instead I slapped down the cash and walked away with a fine Roland S-760.

At home I found some english manuals in PDF format from Roland and then later found the System OS 2.24 disk needed to fire it up. Sure enough, the Roland S-760 started up beautifully and I was all ready to go. I even noticed I had the OP-760-1 board in the back and the memory fully expanded at 32MB. Amazing!! I still don’t have a Roland MU-1 Mouse yet, but I did manage to install SoundDiver 3.0.5.2 for Windows which has the Roland S-760 and S-330. I connected the Roland S-760 to SoundDiver and everything worked great!

A friend of mine had several Rhodes samples which I loaded into the Roland S-760 and they sounded fantastic! I then connected an MO Disk Drive to the SCSI on the back and saved the samples to an MO disk. I also saved the system, but I am not sure if you can boot off an MO or other drive with the Roland S-760 yet. I know you can with the Roland W-30. The MO drive was very quiet and fast when both saving and loading files I thought. So after I boot up the S-760 using the Floppy, I can then load up all the different Rhodes Performances rather quickly.

It’s been a fun couple of weeks. I never thought I could score a Roland W-30, S-330, and S-760 all for $200 in near mint condition. Indeed I have to work with SCSI and older gear, but the sound quality is really really good. I also find it a lot of fun playing around with older gear as well as someone who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s. It’s just amazing at how little people will take for this stuff here in Japan. If you check out the rest of my blog, you’ll notice all of the great deals I’ve been finding lately.

Check out Synth Japan forums for more discussions.

Please check out the comments below for updates on this post.

Roland W-30 Music Workstation Found!

Roland W-30 Sampler Workstation
Roland W-30 Sampler Workstation

Yesterday I picked up a “mint” condition Roland W-30 Sampler Workstation from a used audio shop here in Nagano City, Japan. The W30 was in mint condition with all the manuals, system disks, and sounds disks. Not only that but the manuals and disks were practically not even used as they were in pristine condition…amazing! Also included was the KW30 SCSI kit manual and floppy disk. Inside the chip was indeed installed. A case was also included. The entire package I bought for $80 which I thought was a great deal considering the KW30 chip was installed with all accessories. The manuals were in Japanese of course, but I can read Japanese so no problem there.

At home I was able to scrounge up an old 4.36GB SCSI hard disk which I was able to connect and sure enough, the Roland W-30 was able to communicate with the HD. I then was able to format the HD which took about 30 minutes and it indeed formatted to max capacity of 80MB. I then tested saving and loading various sounds and everything worked very well. I also tested an IOMEGA 250MB Zip drive with a 100MB zip disk and the Roland W-30 would not communicate with it at all. Some have had success with the Iomega Zip 250 drive, but from my experience it doesn’t work. I saw a Fujitsu 100MB SCSI Zip drive at the same used audio store for $5 bucks so I’ll probably pick that up for testing. I’ve heard that SCSI 100MB Zip drives will work fine.

The Roland W-30 boots fine with the Floppy Drive, but since I had the Hard Disk working I thought I would try to boot from the HD. This did not work despite following all sorts of instructions and trying different methods. After research and testing, it appears I need to find a different HD that can boot the W-30. Although my HD works for saving and loading sounds, it does not work as a boot drive.

I also was successfully able to tape the left hole of High Density Floppy Disks and format them as DD disks without any problems using Windows 7 Professional. I used the Sdiskw software to then load and create sound images from sources on the internet. I was able to establish a very simple workflow to transfer soundsets found on the internet to the Roland W-30 using the Sdiskw software. The only issue however is that I have yet to find a way to load and transfer WAV files. Most likely though I will simply sample directly using the inputs of the Roland W-30. The computer drives me crazy with regards to music and so far the Roland W-30 has been very simple to work with on it’s own.

Why did I buy it? The price was a bargain for this popular 1989 Keyboard Workstation. The sound is really ( I mean really ) good with the right samples and their is some functionality you can’t get on some of the newer samplers to date. For my purposes, the Roland W-30 is a real gem. For example I found a great Hammond Sample today and it was a blast playing that on the Roland W-30. Yes, the memory is limited, but honestly if I want backtracks I just use my SP-606, Roland X Series, or Korg Triton to do that. I basically wanted a keyboard that I could sample sound bites and then have fun editing and playing them expressively on the keys. There is so much you can do with the keyboard, sequencer, and editing functions.

The Roland W-30 is such a joy to play. Everything on my W30 works flawlessly and the condition is mind boggling. Somebody must have just locked this up in their closet for the past 20 years. Japan is such a great place to find used vintage gear I must say.

As I discover new uses and techniques for the Roland W-30, I’ll be sure to post comments to follow-up this article. Right now I would like to find a Hard Disk to book the Roland W-30. I would also like to have a Zip drive that works as well. With that said though I do have an HD that is saving and loading sounds. Plus my Floppy drive works great with the possibility that I might pick up a backup drive from Route66. I also would like to find a work flow for loading my own wav files from the computer, but for now I’ll just record direct. That should suffice for now and it might even be the best and fastest way to do things.

Stay tuned for more updates and feel free to comment or email if you have any specific questions about the Roland W-30 Music Sampler Workstation. I am so glad I bought it!

Does the SD Card HxC Floppy Emulator work on the Roland S-330 and W-30 Samplers?

Roland S-330 – YES!
Roland W-30 – YES!

Check out Synth Japan forums for more discussions.