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Yamaha CE20 Combo Ensemble

   (1 review)

The Yamaha CE20 Combo Ensemble was released in 1982. The year prior to the DX7, also from Yamaha. Like the DX7 the CE20 is an FM synthesizer and is also known to fans of Kitaro as the "Silk Road Machine" because of Japanese New Age artist Kitaro's extensive use of the instrument on that album as a lead synthesizer.

The unit has 20 preset FM sounds and offers limited real time editing of the presets using built in sliders that control the envelope and filter of the sounds. However none of your custom sounds can be saved.

The CE20 is 8 voice polyphonic and can play monophonically as well. Thanks to it's highly advanced FM tone generation all of the CE20's voices are exceptionally real and natural. The instrument has a built in symphonic effect which is Yamaha's version of a chorus effect which automatically turns on with the string and organ presets but can be applied to any of the presets including the monop[honic ones. The default preset is the string sound when the unit is first powered on.

The CE20 also has some unique features like aftertouch called "touch response" and a special "slider control" which is a button type control that lets the user player play a legato type phrase by holding the button down while playing another note after the first one played. there is a pitch wheel that works in conjunction with the slider control and also works as a traditional pitch wheel. there is one LFO that is referred to as a vibrato effect with delay and is also controlled by a slider for depth, speed, and delay.

The CE20 has a mono line output for external amplification and a mono/stereo headphone jack. there's also a sustain pedal and expression pedal input jack as well.

Technical Specifications
Type: Digital
Synthesis: Frequency Modulation
Oscillators: 2
Waveforms: Sine
Osc Modulation: After Touch, Envelope, Fader, Glide / Portamento, Pitch Wheel
Envelopes: 1
Evelope Paramerters: Attack
Filters: 1
LFO: 1
LFO Parameters: Delay
Polyphony & Tuning
Polyphony: 8
Tuning: Standard
Modes: Mono, Polyphonic
Patches RAM: 1
Patches ROM: 20
Symphonic (chorus)
Case: Keyboard
Keyboard: 49 keys
Controls: Aftertouch, Buttons, Sliders, Pitch -Wheel, Pedal - Control, Pedal - Sustain
Dimensions (WxDxH): 841 x 86 x 294 mm
Weight: 9 kg
Audio Output Connections: 1/4" Phone Jack, Mono Out, Stereo Headphone
Audio Output Count: 3
Power: 35W
Year Released: 1982
MSRP List Price: $1395 - convert
Used Price: $750-$1,000 - convert
References & Sources

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I was in the market for a string synth and stumbled on one of these on the instrument selling page Reverb.com.  After doing a bit of research and watching some of the videos linked here, I took a chance on it.  So glad I did.  This thing is just fantastic sounding.  Though it is only a preset machine, the fact that it is FM synthesis means that it does a few things OK and a few things damn near perfect.  String sounds are OK, and with the ensemble mode on, plus running thru almost any reverb guitar pedal, it sounds really sweet.  It really filled my want for a good Solina type string sound, without the crazy price tag.  It's not a perfect Solina copy since you can't adjust the attack, and a sustain pedal really only gives you one speed of release time.  All the sounds are played with an organ gate envelope, On/Off only with a bit of decay rather than full sustain using a pedal.  The things FM is know for are EP sounds, horn sounds, and bass sounds.  EP sound is OK, but not great.  It could do a job in a pinch but I wouldn't want it as my main EP.  The horn/woodwind sounds (both mono and poly versions) are incredible! and so are the bass sounds.  The keyboard is velocity for volume and brightness, and there is a second touch, which is a bar that is set below the initial key strike that runs the entire keyboard.  If you push down on the keyboard hard enough to press into this sensor, and then play another key, you'll "feel" the vibration into the first held key.  This is their version of Aftertouch for volume, brightness and vibrato depending on the preset or the manual adjustment sliders.  One correction to the above description.  The wheel on the left is not a pitch bend wheel.  It is available only to mono sounds, is active via a push button above the wheel, and controls a legato portamento glide time, high note priority.  Takes a bit of getting used to, but it is an extremely expressive instrument.  It says they listed new at around $1,300 or the same price as a DX 9 a year later, also with 4 operator FM voice engine.  It also predates midi so no midi control in or out.  I'm now on the lookout for it's brother, the CE25.

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