Synth Site: Yamaha: SY-99 Workstation: User reviews Add review
Average rating: 4.6 out of 5
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Wayne a professional user from Canada writes:
I will try and contribute something that hasn't already been said in the other excellent SY99 reviews contained here.

For those musicians and programmers that have taken the time and effort to learn the SY99, many of them will probably tell you this is one of the worlds great synths all time. There are a lot of reasons for this.

One is a sophisticated, "mature", and great sounding AFM section (unlike the FM based DX7, which was released too early as an immature product, and did a lot more damage to the evolution of the synthesizer than it did good).

Another is that the SY99 is actually 2 separate synthsizers (AFM and sample playback) that can be split or layered from the keyboard and/or dynamically.

But one of the real beauties of the SY99 is that the two internal synthesizers INTERACT. What this means in terms of improving the sound of resident or imported samples is hard to believe unless you've tried it and heard it. This interaction between AFM and samples is one of the best kept secrets in the world of sample playback and synthesis in general. There is simply no other way to do to sampled sound what the AFM section of the SY99 can do, which is to make them sound like MUCH better, more musically useful samples.

And if it isn't enough what AFM can do for samples, there is what AFM can do all by itself. If you're interested in finding out, log onto Michiel Buisman's SY77 site. Since any SY77 sound will work on the SY99, you might want to try out some of the 12,000 or more sounds available there. [You might need to adjust the effects wet/dry mix when using SY77 sounds on the SY99.]

Then there are SY99-specific sounds, and there's plenty of those on the internet too. The fact there are so many sounds available is a good thing for anyone who has neither the time or inclination to learn this monster. And without creative programming, the SY99 may not be worth the trouble. Try out the factory sounds and see if you don't agree.

Obviously it not going to hurt to have as much sample RAM as possible. Right now I'm looking into the Musitronics 5 Meg Sample RAM Expander from Germany. If it works as promised, it will give the SY99 a total of 8 Meg of sample RAM capability (not bad for a 1991 synth).

My rating for the SY99? Considering the number of some synths I see getting a rating of 5, the SY99 gets a 7.

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Thursday-Feb-08-2001 at 01:21
Svemir a hobbyist user from Germany writes:
I use only a SY99 with 2 MB-Sample-Ram for my tracks, the samples come from a Emu Esi32. You have to hear many different sound disks to be aware of the variety and capability of his synthesis. Programming is very extensive, better have lots of sounds into change some parameters. I exchanged sounds, which I never could have made by myself. This machine is predestined for experimental, metallic, biting, resonant sounds.Impressive for massive soundtrack-atmosphere. Some of them even come close to a microwave (?). Filter envelopes are not fast as in VA-Synths.RCM-Synthesis provides you a distortive effect; overall the sound: clean and dynamic. Why does Yamaha not produce an "extended" SY99- Version??(including VA,modular(?) more effects?) To hear songs only by a SY99, check out www.mp3.com/AtomicYears, 6 Songs for free download. Who knows where to find sounds like "Voltage Noise"??

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Saturday-Dec-16-2000 at 14:03
Filip a hobbyist user from Belgium writes:
Bought one second hand last week, paid +/- usd 730,- was a bit dirty and battered but after a good cleaning job it looks and plays o.k. first impressions are this is indeed a powerfull beast and capable of much more then the presets show. the RCM synthesis feature is very powerfull and capable of creating very weird sounds which is what i need and like. is there any on there who can advise on good literature on FM programming and RCM?

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Saturday-Oct-28-2000 at 12:27
D. Filips a professional user from U.S. (Chicago) writes:
I've used at at a friends house when I visited him in Canada and this thing is a solid piece of machinary. Infinite possibilities is the bottomline here. And now on for my quest to find one of these monsters, I wonder if it's capable of being used as a controller also.

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Friday-Oct-27-2000 at 11:40
x a professional user from United States writes:
The SY99 was a pleasant surprise. I was a FM hater and blew off the high end SY series because:

1. I used a TG33 and the sound was ok but pretty dirty in an aliased way.

2. I was pissed off at Yamamha for putting out a bunch of weak 4 OP synths for several years while treading water with the DX series.

Also, the price was astonomical! $3999 USD in 1991 dollars?!! However, being impressed with several of the synths Yamaha has been putting out recently and having spent some time using a SY85 I decided to look into the SY series and found a SY99 at a reasonable price used. It's frustrating that there isn't a lot of support for this synth or the SY77's as this is one hell of a synth. I play a lot of different styles of music, often within the same piece. So far the SY99 has been up to the challenge.

Weak areas: the drums although they are useful to me, actually I like how they sound, they're just formatted in a way that makes them more of a hassle to map to sequencers. Not great for dance but for other styles of music pretty good and very punchy. Some of the guitar sounds are weak and if anything I wish they wouldn't have burned any sound into ROM. That said I like several of the presets and will be able to get use from them as sound sources and templates for programming my own patches.

Strong areas: programability, there's a lot of it, a unique sonic character- the unit I got had a couple dozen disks of patches. Out of the box I was impressed but after listening to several disks I was amazed. This thing was unreal for 1991 and holds up well today although it's probably not going to be the best dance synth purchase made. Beyond that the SY99 is capable for just about anything else. Great animated sounds, pads, FX. Cuts through a mix and establishes itself nicely both live and when recording.

I'm coming from a FS1r (absolute worst manual ever foisted on the public and CS6x also with a horrible manual) so the SY99's manual was a surprise. It's far from great and takes some getting used to but at least it makes sense.

FM synthesis is the key on this synth but the sample data matters. That was the big thing in the late 80's and 90's, layer a DX7 with a warm sounding instrument. But the FM here is far less brittle and much more powerful. Not insanely powerful like the FS1r but also way easier to grasp.

The keys are excellent, great feel and control on other synths is fine. Velocities and aftertouch all work correctly. The synth is built like a tank which is great and a drag, kind of heavy to take on gigs.

Good sound, good synthesis, useful sequencer, interesting possibilties with the sample data, good FX. Really there's nothing about this synth that bothers me.

I have friends with EX5's and they are wonderful synths, especially if used live without sequencer. Several described nightmares when sequencing. I was told and used to laugh at people that said the SY99 was more worthwhile to them than their EX5. Now I can see why they'd feel that way.

Not for preset mongers or people uninterested in programming their synth but rewarding and a killer deal on the used market.

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Thursday-Aug-24-2000 at 15:56
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