Yamaha SY77 Music Synthesizer

The SY77 somehow was the successor of the world-famous DX-7. However, it wasn't that kind of quantum leap everybody expected. Instead of featuring the long-awaited 8-operator FM synthesis it was just Yamahas answer to the beginning workstation boom which was started in 1989 by the Korg M1. But it couldn't really compete with the M1 since it didn't offer that kind of "bread & butter" sounds everybody wanted. But if you think of the SY77 being a really flexible beast being able to produce almost everything from typical digital sounds to somewhat warm and analog sounds (no kidding!) it's the right machine for you.

Technical Specification

Date of Birth1989
Sound GenerationRealtime Convolution Synthesis
AFM (FM) & AWM2 (Sampling)
Number of Voices16x AFM, 16x AWM2
Effects4x SPX50D equivalents

Goodies & Oddities

The AFM section is superior to the one known from a DX-7: It offers 45 algorithms instead of 32 and these are somewhat adjustable: You can program three individual feedback paths (DX-7 has only a fixed one) per algorithm. Also, you can route the AWM section into the AFM section and vice versa. Finally, the operators can individually choose one of 16 waveforms instead of the plain sine on the DX-7. And if that is not enough, you can feed the FM output into a digital multimode filter - which, unlike others of that time - is capable of self oscillation.

The AWM section is a pretty straight-forward subtractive synthesizer section, not much to say here - besides the already mentioned fact that instead of a sampled wave also the FM output can be used as an additional wave.

What I really like is the envelope section since envelopes can be looped. With that feature Wavestation-like or rhythmic sounds are quite easy to build.

On the minus side the built-in effects are of pretty low quality (well, SPX50D standard) and the samples are... Just forget them, at least for use as lead sounds. And the drum samples are just crap - if you want to use them, you have no chance getting around the Gated Reverb.

Hidden Functions

What only a few people know, the SY77 has three hidden menus:

Is it hackable?

Yes, however it will take a lot of time since the OS is just huge. Experienced H8/330 programmers will have fun, though. In the mid-90s TSI Waldorf offered a waveform expansion making the AWM section pretty usable, but to install that expansion you had to do some really heavy modifications on your SY77.