Voice Crystal SY77 Disks 1 & 2
Martin Russ takes a break from programming sounds and auditions someone else's instead.
As disk prices continue to fall and disk drives become more widespread on musical instruments, memory cards begin to look less attractive except for specialised applications such as adding extra samples to instruments. However, memory cards score in speed and immediate access, which means that many third party sound programming companies now produce cards and disks, so that the end user can choose between speed at higher cost, or whirrings and lower cost. Let's look at a whirr!
Eye & I Productions currently produce two disks for the Yamaha SY77, as well as two for the SY55/TG55 and another two for the SY22/TG33 (the latter instruments don't have disk drives, so the sounds come on computer disk along with a utility program to handle data transfer). To make things more challenging, I tried the SY77 disks in both an SY77 and an SY99, to see how well they transferred to the recently released big brother of the SY77. There were no problems — the effects translations worked well and the only major difference was a slight increase in high frequency content due to the greater bandwidth of the SY99's effects section.
The disks come in 'environmentally unfriendly' clear plastic covers with a printed insert listing the contents of the disk, and giving succinct but clear instructions about how to load the sounds. The sounds are stored in both 'All Data' and 'Synth All' formats, which provides the option of loading individual voices or a complete set of 64 voices. Unlike some SY77 disks there was no demo song included, which is probably a good idea since it forces you to play the sounds yourself, instead of just listening to someone else's music.
Disk 1 contains some 2-element AWM and AFM sounds, some single element sounds, and a few more complex explorations of the SY77's programming depth. Since this is the first disk of SY77 sounds, the lack of a strong RCM synthesis content is probably forgivable, although the pure FM conversions could have formed the basis for a little experimentation by the programmers. Less understandable is the poor support for the second modulation wheel — it is rarely used for anything other than controlling pan. I would have preferred it to be used for controlling something like the filter cut-off, thus providing front panel brightness control of the sounds. Volume was mapped to MIDI Controller number 14, which is unusual in my experience.
The sounds are organised with pianos first, followed by organs, wind, strings, brass, guitars, ethnic and then bass. A miscellany of more synthetic sounds follows, with the sparkly FM bells of 'Chromilium', 'LEXUS's atmospheric Mark Isham chord pad with trombone solo split, and '01 Glory's military snare and penny whistle instant American Civil War accompaniment being my personal highlights. Lowlights included the programming flaw in 'DoubleReed', where R2 and R3 need to be changed to a value near 30 to avoid the click around C3, 'Cyber Slap's straight translation from a familiar DX7 FM sound, and 'Mr. Robot', an unwelcome return to sample and hold filter modulation, and a waste of a bank D memory location. 'India 1' was unusual and interesting in its suggestiveness, whilst 'Pleades' are probably merely mis-spelled stars!
Disk 2 has a few RCM sounds, with the same ordering of sound types. In the guitar section, 'J.L.Ponty' took me back to my youth, recalling Jean-Luc abusing an electric violin on the Old Grey Whistle Test. 'Dornier' is an unsubtle analogue synth power pad with Mod Wheel 2 controlling filter cut-off very effectively. 'SteamChior' just has to be an eye-catching misprint! 'ProphetVox' sounded much more like a JD800. Overall this is a slightly less 'forward' and more synthetic selection of sounds than Disk 1.
Both disks have the effects mix set quite high: the reverb level is typically set at about 50%. This makes the sounds immediately appealing on a first hearing, but they may need some adjustment for actual use. No descriptions of the sounds beyond their name was included in the packaging — some sort of guide to their use and controller assignment would have been useful. Volume levels were consistently good — I seldom needed to radically change level and there were no unexpected loud surprises.
Overall, both disks have quite a different feel from the factory presets, with more synthetic textures and enhanced FM conversions. Thankfully, there are very few 'yet another' acoustic piano sounds, only a few distorted electric guitars and a limited number of bank D 'complete performances on one note' specials. In fact, there were quite a few sounds that I would have been proud to have programmed!
Eye & I also produce a blank 64K RAM card for the SY77 which is apparently sourced by the same company who supply Yamaha's own MCD64 RAM cards, and so they should be 100% compatible. If you need instant access to sounds then this could be very useful.
SY77 Voice Disks £39.50 each inc VAT
SY77 64K RAM card £79 inc VAT
Eye & I Productions UK, (Contact Details).
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Review by Martin Russ
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