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Yamaha SY77 Multitimbral Music Workstation

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Yamaha SY77 is a 16 voice multitimbral music workstation first produced by Yamaha Corporation in 1989. The SY77 is a synthesizer whose architecture combines AFM (Advanced Frequency Modulation) synthesis, AWM2 (Advanced Wave Memory 2) for ROM-borne sample-based synthesis, and the combination of these two methods christened Realtime Convolution and Modulation Synthesis (RCM). The same technology was also packaged in a rack-mounted module released simultaneously, the TG77.

The SY77 is equipped with a 61-key keyboard with velocity and aftertouch; has a pitch wheel and two modulation wheels (the latter being quite a rare feature among keyboards in general); and has a large backlit LCD display, expansion slots, floppy-drive, on-board effects, and a 16,000 note sequencer. Programming is performed through a keypad on the front panel.

When the SY77 was released in late 1989, its initial prices were close to $3000 USD/£2000 GBP. In 1991, it was followed by the SY99, a successor that cost ~$4000/£3000 and expanded its capabilities with a 76-key keyboard, the ability to load user-specified samples for AWM, a more advanced effects unit, and other features.

Synthesis technologies

The AFM synthesis of the SY77 is effectively a superset of the 6-operator FM synthesis available on the Yamaha DX7 and DX7 II series of synthesizers. It is capable of all of the sounds that can be produced by those earlier keyboards – with various programs being able to automatically translate DX patches intelligently into accurate SY equivalents – and many more sounds besides. Among the advantages of AFM synthesis over FM synthesis are: a larger choice of algorithms, 15 additional waves besides the standard sine, which have additional harmonic content; 45 standard algorithms instead of the DX7's 32, plus a new ability to design one's own custom-routed algorithm using MIDI/SysEx; the flexible routing of up to three feedback sources within any algorithm, as opposed to the DX series' fixed algorithms with a single source each; the ability to route the FM signal through a configurable filter with the options of resonance and self-oscillation; and more.

The SY/TG series also features Yamaha's now-flagship Advanced Wave Memory 2 (AWM2) technology for playback and manipulation of PCM samples, an evolution of the AWM included earlier in their TX16W. Such waveforms can be used as samples alone; can be layered with FM-based Elements, including using them as transients to FM-synthesized main waveforms, similarly to Roland's LA synthesis; or, in a feature unique to the SY/TG series, can be used as modulators for FM operators in place of elementary signals like the sine wave.

These technologies, both alone and in combination (the latter giving rise to the name Realtime Convolution and Modulation), can generate rich, layered, multi-timbral sounds, and there are large libraries of patches available for the SY77. Sound sets on floppy disks are available online with patches and presets ranging from emulationis of classic synthesizers and ambient pads, to percussion and organ sounds. A single 720 kB (DD) formatted floppy disk can hold over 400 patches. The TG77 lacks the disk drive but can still load patches and settings via MIDI SysEx. However, software applications exist that can convert previously disk-only and thus SY77-only files into a TG77-compatible format.

The SY/TG range as a whole was discontinued sometime between 1995 and 1997[when?]. The SY77 and SY99 were replaced as the flagship Yamaha synthesizer workstations by the W7 and W5, respectively. However, the SY77 and SY99 were the last Yamaha "flagship" workstations to be natively capable of the fully fledged FM synthesis that had been introduced with the DX line. Yamaha's later FS1r was the most advanced of their FM synthesizers, adding the long-awaited 8-operator synthesis and the innovative formant synthesis (hence FS), but it was a rack-mounted module and never received much attention, and so it was discontinued rapidly, with the result that units today are both hard to find and expensive.

Some subsequent products by Yamaha included FM to certain extents. The CS6x, Motif, and Motif ES lines can perform FM using the PLG150DX expansion cards, which enable monotimbral voicing with up to 16 notes of polyphony per card. The DX200 is a groovebox-style repackaging of the same expansion card into a table-top chassis with an added drum machine. It has also some basic effects and LP/HP filter with resonance. FM synthesis in PLG100-DX and PLG150-DX is identical to DX7, so in that manner it is less powerful than its predecessors, SY-77/TG-77, SY-99 and FS1R.

Technical Specifications
Type: Digital
Synthesis: Frequency Modulation, ROM, Subtractive
Oscillators: 14
Waveforms: Pulse, ROM, Saw Down, Saw Up, Sine, Square, Super Saw, Triangle, Wave Table, White Noise
Oscillator Notes:
12 FM Oscillators
2 AWM2 Oscillators
16 FM Waveforms
Envelopes: 20
Evelope Paramerters: Delay, Rate 1, Level 1, Rate 2, Level 2, Rate 3, Level 3, Rate 4, Level 4
Envelope Notes::
12 FM
2 FM Global
2 FM Filter
2 AWM Filter
Filters: 8
Types: 12dB Slope (2-pole), 24dB Slope (4-pole), Band Pass, Comb, High Pass, Low Pass, Resonance
Filter Notes:
2 Filters Element
LFO: 6
LFO Parameters: Sample & Hold, Saw Up, Saw Down, Sine, Square, Triangle, Delay, Freerun, Key Sync
LFO Notes::
4 FM
Polyphony & Tuning
Polyphony: 32
Timbrality: 16
Patches RAM: 64 voices, 16 multis
Patches ROM: 128 voice, 16 Multis
Storage: Tape, Internal, RAM Cartridge, ROM Cartridge
Editing: MIDI
Dual SPX90 effects processors
63 types of effects
40 Reverb Effectss
4 Modulation Effects
Recording: realtime/step/punch in
Tracks: 15 tracks + 1 pattern track
Songs: 1
Resolution: 1/96 of a quarter note
Maximum simultaneous notes: 32
Capacity: approximately 16,000 notes
Patterns: 99
Case: Keyboard
Case Details: 61 semi-weighted keys
Controls: Aftertouch, Velocity, Mod - Wheel, Mod - Wheel 2, Pitch -Wheel, Modulation 1/4" Jacks, Pedal - Sustain, Pedal - Volume
Display Notes: LCD 240 x 64 pixels Backlight
Dimensions (WxDxH): 1046 (W) x 407 (D) x 119 (H) mm (41 1/8" x 16" x 4 5/8")
Weight: 17kg (44 lbs 4 oz)
Audio Output Connections: 1/4" Phone Jack, Stereo Main, Stereo 2, Stereo Headphone
Audio Output Count: 6
DAC Bits: 16
DAC Frequency Rate: 48
Power: 120 V AC IEC Connector
Year Released: 1989
Year Discontinued: 1996
Used By
Wendy Carlos, FrontRunner, 808 State, Eloy_Fritsch, Skinny Puppy, Brian Eno, Europe, Toto, Vangelis, David Paich, Chick Corea, Front 242,
Design Notes:

Original Yamaha Press Release


NEW YORK, NY This week, Yamaha will unveil the new Yamaha SY77 digital synthesizer at the Tokyo Music Fair and New York Audio Engineering Society shows. The SY77, in development for over two years, features Realtime Convolution and Modulation Synthesis (RC&M).

The convolution filter emulates analog operation, filtering the AFM or AWM2 elements in a voice. Up to eight filters are controlled by independent dedicated envelope generators. RC&M Synthesis also allows sampled waveforms to be used to modulate AFM operators. This opens up a whole new world of dynamic synthesizer voice possibilities.

This technology incorporates a highly advanced form of frequency modulation (AFM), sixteen bit sampling (AWM2), with completely new envelope generator and panning technologies. Also unique is a sophisticated dynamic real time digital filtering system that allows highly accurate filtering of all voice elements.

The SY77 is 16 voice multi-timbral, with a sixteen track sequencer and four digital signal processors. All functions are controlled from a newly designed user interface, utilizing the 40 x 8 backlit LCD with multiple screens, fonts, and prompts.

The SY77 features a 61 note velocity and aftertouch keyboard. The front panel includes the LCD with contrast control and eight soft function buttons, a 3.5" floppy disk drive, numeric key pad, rotary wheel, data entry slider, and increment/decrement buttons.

One voice card slot and one wave data card slot are included to allow instant storage and access to voices, sequences and samples. In addition to the standard pitch wheel and mod wheel, there is a second programmable mod wheel which is bi-directional with a center detent.

"The SY77's sound quality is one which allows the accuracy and realism of samples to be combined with the expression of FM. The sound is stunning and eminently playable," states a Yamaha spokesman. "The interactive hybrid voicing technique produces voices that easily surpass those which are currently available, in terms of accuracy, nuance and expression. They are so musical, that one will never want to play purely sampled instruments again!"

The new AFM tone system is radically different and much more open ended and complex. "Those who have wished for more flexibility in the FM system will be delighted with AFM. Those who have wished for accurate 16-bit sampled voices will also be pleased. Those who have wished for Yamaha to create a hybrid of these two technologies will be amazed!"

The SY77 will be available during the first quarter of 1990. The suggested retail price is yet to be determined. For more information write Yamaha Corporation of America, SGD, P.O. Box 6600, Buena Park, CA



With the SY77 Music Synthesizer, Yamaha has set a new direction for synthesizer development through the 1990's. A full-function profes- sional performance and composition synthesizer, it incorporates the first truly different tone generation technology to come out in years: RC&M (Real-time Convolution & Modulation) Synthesis.

Realtime Convolution and Modulation Synthesis

While many manufacturers offer 'sample plus synthesis' tone generation, Yamaha improves upon this concept in the SY77 by offering advanced ver- sions of both its AWM sampling and FM synthesis technologies. The breakthrough in SY77 is that Realtime Convolution and Modulation allows the two kinds of sounds to interact.

The convolution filtering section emulates analog operation, consisting of two 12dB/octave filters, one low pass and one switchable low pass/high pass filter. Filtering is included in the AFM and AWM2 ele- ments in a voice, and each filter can be controlled by independent dedi- cated envelope generators. The filters provide 12dB/octave band pass filtering or, used in tandem, a steep 24dB/octave low pass filter. The filters also feature fully adjustable resonance, which, as in older ana- log synthesizers, can be raised into filter oscillation. As many as eight filters can be used in 'single' voice mode.

With Yamaha's revolutionary new RC&M Synthesis, sampled waveforms can be used to modulate FM operators. This opens up a whole new world of dynamic synthesizer voice possibilities.

Not only can the elements that make up a voice in the SY77 modify each other, but each can have its own stereo panning scheme, keyboard zone, velocity scaling, and filtering parameters. The digital filtering sec- tion offers all of the advantages of analog filters.

Multiple Tone Generation System

The sampled sounds are produced by second generation Advanced Wave Memory (AWM2) technology, which features 16 bit resolution at either 32- or 48-kHz sampling frequency. With 24-bit internal processing resolution and 22-bit digital to analog converters (DACs), the SY77 delivers sonic clarity and reproduction accuracy that surpasses all previous Yamaha AWM products. Two megawords (four megabytes) of sampled waveform memory are available in ROM. A wave card slot provides additional memory via 256 kiloword or 512 kiloword wave cards.

The Advanced Frequency Modulation (AFM) system is also a major break- through in tone generation technology. The six-operator AFM now has 45 algorithms and each operator can now use any of 16 different waveforms. In addition, each operator provides two user-configurable inputs, which allow modulation by other operators, a noise generator, or AWM2 sampled waveforms. Each algorithm also allows the user to assign up to three feedback loops for precise timbral definition. At the same time, the conventional FM parameters have been enhanced to give significantly im- proved response and control. A new six-segment design has been employed for the envelope generators, complete with adjustable envelope delays and segment looping.

New Voice Architecture

The SY77 marks a departure from the voice architecture of earlier Yamaha synthesizers. The basic sound building blocks of the SY77 are called Elements. Each element can use either an AFM or AWM2 waveform for its sound source. Individual elements can be given separate filter and pan- ning settings as well as independent keyboard zones and velocity scaling.

Since up to four elements can be used to make a voice, the SY77 is capa- ble of far greater sonic complexity and flexibility than its previous FM counterparts. Moreover, each voice can be assigned various global func- tions such as random detuning, effect programs and micro tuning presets, much like a 'performance' on a DX-7II.

For sequencer applications different voices can be combined in Multi mode, and different drum kits can be assigned across the keyboard. Up to 16 voices can be combined into a multi preset.

Dynamic Pan Table

Dynamic panning allows the user to move individual elements across the two pairs of stereo outputs in complex ways, pan movement time being determined by independent envelope generators. This remarkably flexible system also makes it possible to control panning by velocity, note number or LFO. A band of 64 preset pan tables is provided along with memory space for 32 user-programmed settings.

Built-in Sequencer

The SY77 also comes with a 16-track sequencer built in, complete with all standard recording, editing and playback functions. Sixteen voices are available at any one time for sequencing in 'multi' (multitimbral) mode, sharing a maximum of 32 notes through Dynamic Voice Allocation. Fully orchestrated arrangements can be produced using the wide variety of sounds in the SY77. Four individual outputs provide flexible audio routing and mixing. Sequence data well as voice data can be stored on 3.5" floppy disks using the built in disk drive.

Digital Signal Processor

The SY77 contains four effects processors, two reverb and two modulation. The two reverb portions produce 40 different effects, including multiple reverbs, delays, tone controls, distortion, and com- bination effects.

Each of the two modulation effects processors produce chorus, flanging, symphonic, or tremelo. All effects parameters are fully programmable and may be bypassed using the Effects Bypass button on the front panel.




61 Note (C1-C6)
Initial Velocity and Aftertouch

Tone Generator:

AWM2: 16 bit linear
32/48 kHz sampling rate
AFM:6 Operator
45 algorithm FM
3 Feedback loops
16 Selectable waveforms
Allows AWM element to be used as modulator
Dynamic Voice Allocation
Many other new parameters


AWMII: 16 notes maximum
AFM: 16 notes maximum
Total: 32 notes maximum


Realtime digital filters (LPF, LPF/HPF, 12 dB/octave)
Eight per voice
Resonance function

Internal memory:

Two megaword sample waveform memory
Preset: 128 voices;16 Multi settings (previously called performance)
Internal RAM: 64 voices; 16 Multi settings

External Storage:

3.5" disk drive
Card slot for Voice parameter
Card slot for waveform data


Tracks: 16

Songs: 1

Patterns: 99

Resolution: 1/96th quarter note

Memory: 16,000 Notes

Polyphony: 32 Notes

Recording Operations:

Real time


Track edit: offset, merge, delete
Measure edit: copy, erase, insert
Velocity and note length adjust



Four configurable digital effects processors
40 reverb programs
4 modulation programs


Pitch bend wheel
Modulation wheel
Assignable mod wheel with center detent

Back Panel:

Two sets of stereo outputs (4 individual outputs)
Headphone output
Footswitch, foot volume, sustain, assignable foot controller
Breath controller
Click Volume


240 x 64 dot Backlit LCD
Graphics geared for 6 soft buttons underneath


Weight: 37 pounds

Specifications are preliminary and subject to change without notice.
Manuals & Documents

Product Links
Company Product Sites:
[+] usa.yamaha.com
MSRP List Price: $2995 - convert
Retail Street Price: $2750 - convert
Used Price: $300 - $500 - convert
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