Yamaha CS-50 Vintage Synth Review

The latest synth4ever is a review and demo of the Yamaha CS-50 – a vintage analog synthesizer originally introduced in 1977.

The Yamaha CS-50 is the 4-voice sibling of the 8-voice Yamaha CS-60 and Yamaha CS-80 synthesizers. Even with half the voices, the Yamaha CS-50 sounds fantastic, and offers that recognizable CS sound.

The Yamaha CS-50 features 13 presets, a single oscillator (square, PW/PWM and sawtooth waveforms), high-pass and lowpass filters (each with resonance, for BP shaping), sine wave, VCA and envelopes, ring modulation, white noise generator, LFO with multiple waveshapes, sustain & portamento and a 49-key keyboard with aftertouch.

“The Yamaha CS-50 is great for leads but can also do great drones, pads and textures. It is a pleasure to play and is very organic thanks to the 4 independent voice cards. Both the LFO and PWM go into audio rate which provide additional sub-osc sounds, and the LFO section provides independent modulation of VCO, VCF and VCA at varying levels. The famous ring modulator sound is also on-board, and can act as a 2nd LFO for tremolo, polyrhythms or additional texture.

The Yamaha CS-50 filters are not self oscillating, but if you push the HPF/LPF resonance + the overall synth resonance & brilliance controls to max, you can get some amazing distortion, grit and overdriven sounds. Gain staging is important with the Yamaha CS-50/60/80 and allows for subtle and extreme changes in sound.

The Yamaha CS-50 build quality is incredible — it is heavy (70-100 lbs), the faceplate is made of metal, and it comes build-in to its own wooden tolex case w/ lid and legs. It is a performance synthesizer and designed for tweaking on the fly with its many levers and sliders. As part of the Yamaha CS-60/80 family, the Yamaha CS-50 shares the same unique sound qualities and tonal characteristics of its bigger brothers.

If you can get your hands on a Yamaha CS-50, do not hesitate. They are becoming more rare on the 2nd hand market and prices are steadily rising. It is a triumph of Yamaha’s synthesizer engineering at the time, and is capable of many different analog sounds. It is a beautiful organic instrument, and full of emotion.”

All sounds in the video are direct from Yamaha CS-50 with no additional processing. MXR analog stereo chorus used for stereo width.


00:00 – Intro
00:58 – Overview
04:55 – VCO / PWM
07:44 – Filter
09:37 – VCA
10:38 – Ring Mod
12:35 – LFO
17:59 – Sustain / Portamento
19:08 – Noise Generator
22:37 – Final Thoughts
31:46 – Outro Jam

Check out the video and share your thoughts on the CS-50 in the comments!

5 thoughts on “Yamaha CS-50 Vintage Synth Review

  1. I bought one for 200 guilders shortly before we got the euro and sold it a few years later for 200 euros thinking I made a good deal. Talk about regret…

  2. I had one back in the 90’s I bought it from an old couple clearing their house paid them £100 for it
    Swapped it for an emu IV … with I still have it ??

  3. During that era, Yamaha would have sold many more synths & EPs if they hadn’t been bolted to a dense wood that half-broke the backs of owners. It was the bane of roadies, too. That 200-pound CS-80 didn’t seem to stay in tune better just because it was as heavy as f***all! I’ve played a few CS synths and its a creamy experience, but I’m glad to just have one as software.

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