Yamaha CS80: The Most Iconic Sound Machine of All Time

Synthesist Andy Whitmore shared this hands-on demo of the Yamaha CS-80 synthesizer – ‘the most iconic sound machine of all time’.

The CS-80 is a recent addition to Greystoke Studio and while Whitmore notes that “it wasn’t cheap…but it really is ticking the boxes I was hoping it would.”

Whitmore demonstrates a variety of CS-80 sounds, recorded dry. He also showcases how the synth’s knobby interface allows for immediate control over sounds and expressive performance control, with polyphonic aftertouch and the ribbon controller.

20 thoughts on “Yamaha CS80: The Most Iconic Sound Machine of All Time

  1. ‘.. it really is ticking the boxes I was hoping it would’

    Proceeds to play first sound in the demo video: ‘fart fart fart’

  2. Of all time? But we haven’t lived through all of it yet! Good demo, Andy. It needed some reverb/delay here & there to show off how broad it gets, like any synth, but all in all, a proper overview.

    I got to take one for a ‘road test’ and the feel is legendary for good reason. I don’t think the *sound* is as iconic as the interface, though. A lot of its best sounds can be recreated on modern instruments. That poly aftertouch & creamy pitch ribbon, though, wow. Sitting at the real thing is a fun bong dream.

    Get a Hydrasynth & Arturia’s CS-80V as a surrogate and call it even. Look at the inside of a CS-80. Its like a squirming mass of squid. It can be a money pit of repairs. I know that’s a gut punch to the fantasy, but its like owning a muscle car. Go modern, its safer.

    1. you can fix most muscle cars with a 1/2 inch and 9/16 spanner, a chain, and a good solid tree. :0)

      the old wax-wire-bundle hardware was a mess to work on; give me a single board design, or a main, knobs, and voice card set any day. but I like the old synth stylings, like playing a good vintage organ, or a respectable piano. nearly every synth was 5 octaves :0) these days, it seems like it’s got to be a flagship to get a serious keybed on it.

    2. If he had added reverb/delay the commenters would have given him hell for obscuring the actual sounds of the synth

  3. My Polybrute sounds pretty much exactly the same with even more modulation, and the same real-time controls (+morphee), for what… 10% of what these go for now?

      1. If you don’t own one and aren’t recording simple patches from it through a good DI, then you just don’t know. Either that, or you simply enjoy worshipping high-priced items like the rest of us in the synth community! Just tryin’ to save the mortals some cabbage here with a hot tip…

        1. i’m not into vintage synth much and i only worship the sun but i do think that you are just trolling or really don’t know what you are talking about, maybe violin sounds like guitar to you or maybe you watched the video TimS suggested, possibly both but sure, you must saved some money to somebody who just wanted to buy cs80 but because of your comment here will buy polybrute, “pretty much exactly the same with even more modulation” 🙂

  4. These are obviously iconic instruments. I encourage anyone interested in one of these to check out the ASM Hydrasynth – and especially the Deluxe – first. I don’t think I heard anything here that could not be replicated pretty closely with the Hydra while also offering the main performance benefits people associate with a CS, namely the polyphonic aftertouch and the ribbon.

  5. I know Behringer is working on a ‘DS-80’ – not sure where that project is. But I hope its as good as the CS-80 and much more affordable (and easy to carry!).

  6. Being an owner of the CS-80 and using it quite often, it is outstanding in every way. Contrary to popular belief, the CS80 is NOT plagued with oscillator/tuning issues. If you have a CS80 and have tuning issues, it either has problems or could be one of the very few first units that didn’t have the temperature stabilization mod (serial numbers 1001~1169). A good working CS80 in good working order or a unit that has been serviced/restored is very stable, much more stable the others. My personal CS80 has been serviced and restored, I set the tuning knob right in the middle a year ago and have not touched it since. This synth is over 45 years old and is still considered the top pre-eminent synthesizer of all time. Released in 1977. It supports true 8-voice polyphony, with two independent synthesizer layers per voice each with its own set of front panel controls, in addition to a number of hardwired preset voice settings and four parameter settings stores based on banks of subminiature potentiometers. It has incredibly exceptional and complete performer expression features, such as a layered keyboard that was both velocity-sensitive (like a piano’s) and pressure-sensitive (“after-touch”) but unlike most modern keyboards the aftertouch could be applied to individual voices rather than in common, and a ribbon controller allowing for polyphonic pitch-bends and glissandos. This can be heard on the Blade Runner soundtrack by Vangelis, in which the CS-80 is featured prominently, as well as the composer’s soundtrack for the film Chariots of Fire, and the bassline of Peter Howell’s interpretation of the 1980 theme tune to the BBC science fiction show Doctor Who. You can play songs live while changing sounds seamlessly without any hiccups, clicks or other abrupt sound switching while playing it live (see https://youtu.be/2ukvaeSoDnY for a great example of this) The modern clones although good, just simply cant compare when a true keys player is actually playing it. Production of the CS-80 ceased in 1980 with less than 800 units built. (based on serial numbers starting at #1001 with the highest known number today being #1791 The CS-80 is often described as the pre-eminent polyphonic analog synthesizer, and commands amongst the highest prices of any polyphonic synthesizer.

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