Yamaha W5/7 DSP effect processor?

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Yamaha W5/7 DSP effect processor?

Post by philip » Sat Oct 15, 2016 11:46 pm

So,I played( by chance) this keyboard today, and I was blown away by the quality of its internal effect processor. Is there any Yamaha rack equivalent?

Also, I have to say, the synth itself sounds amazingly convincing. What was the predecessor and successor of this workstation?

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Re: Yamaha W5/7 DSP effect processor?

Post by madtheory » Sun Oct 16, 2016 10:27 am

Probably the SPX-2000. Which is a very cool machine. It has SPX-90 emulation as well.

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Re: Yamaha W5/7 DSP effect processor?

Post by knolan » Sun Oct 16, 2016 11:27 am

Indeed the W7/W5 are very respectable workstations that slipped by under the radar a bit at the time. Like Yamaha's V50, the W series were an interim development between the SY99 and EX5.

Although they were AWM only, Yamaha had its strengths in the S&S department - their tuned percussion instrument such as Marimba, Harp and so on were good, their strings and choral sounds were excellent for the time but their pianos were less than convincing (up to the SY99).

What made the W series stand out were its improvements in the AWM department over the SY99, as well as its respectable sequencer (100,000 notes compared to the SY99's 27,000 notes) and incredibly easy edibility - the 16 coloured LED buttons below the screen provided instant access to sequencer track or multitimbral sound editing - a feature not on the SY series and unfortunately dropped for the EX5 and not even as well implemented on the Motif series (from what I understand)

I'm with you on the sonic quality - I'm a huge Yamaha fan and synth user, and for many years through the 90's I'd visit the Yamaha shop in central Dublin every Saturday afternoon and got to know them very well. There was a musician working there at the time called "Lar" - and he fell in love with the W series. I'd come in week after week and he'd have these astounding sounding "productions" coming solely from the W5 in the shop. They were incredibly impressive, I remember distinctly thinking just how superior its AWM voices - and effects processors - were to my SY99. It was they who indicated to me that Yamaha had at the time a tendency to release "interim" workstations between major developments ( the QS300 also came around at the same time) - but unfortunately many of the clever innovations of the W series never made it into the EX5; an over all the W5/7, as said, slipped under the radar in the perceived history of S&S workstations. I don't know the Motif range particularly well so perhaps much of the W series made it into the Motifs? Nevertheless - I agree with you - the W series were a quality act for their time with regard to quality of voices and effects, and well as quality and speed of edit-ability of the sequencer toward strong multi-track productions.

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Re: Yamaha W5/7 DSP effect processor?

Post by philip » Mon Oct 17, 2016 4:44 am

madtheory wrote:Probably the SPX-2000. Which is a very cool machine. It has SPX-90 emulation as well.
The SPX-2000 came out 10 years later as far as I know!?

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Re: Yamaha W5/7 DSP effect processor?

Post by philip » Mon Oct 17, 2016 5:00 am

knolan wrote:Indeed the W7/W5 are very respectable workstations that slipped by under the radar a bit at the time. Like Yamaha's V50, the W series were an interim development between the SY99 and EX5.

Although they were AWM only, Yamaha had its strengths in the S&S department - their tuned percussion instrument such as Marimba, Harp and so on were good, their strings and choral sounds were excellent for the time but their pianos were less than convincing (up to the SY99).

What made the W series stand out were its improvements in the AWM department over the SY99, as well as its respectable sequencer (100,000 notes compared to the SY99's 27,000 notes) and incredibly easy edibility - the 16 coloured LED buttons below the screen provided instant access to sequencer track or multitimbral sound editing - a feature not on the SY series and unfortunately dropped for the EX5 and not even as well implemented on the Motif series (from what I understand)

I'm with you on the sonic quality - I'm a huge Yamaha fan and synth user, and for many years through the 90's I'd visit the Yamaha shop in central Dublin every Saturday afternoon and got to know them very well. There was a musician working there at the time called "Lar" - and he fell in love with the W series. I'd come in week after week and he'd have these astounding sounding "productions" coming solely from the W5 in the shop. They were incredibly impressive, I remember distinctly thinking just how superior its AWM voices - and effects processors - were to my SY99. It was they who indicated to me that Yamaha had at the time a tendency to release "interim" workstations between major developments ( the QS300 also came around at the same time) - but unfortunately many of the clever innovations of the W series never made it into the EX5; an over all the W5/7, as said, slipped under the radar in the perceived history of S&S workstations. I don't know the Motif range particularly well so perhaps much of the W series made it into the Motifs? Nevertheless - I agree with you - the W series were a quality act for their time with regard to quality of voices and effects, and well as quality and speed of edit-ability of the sequencer toward strong multi-track productions.
Thanks for your story Knolan.

The W5/7 was in production quite a long time, 4 years,so I believe it was popular!? I'd like to hear the EX5 now, and if it is as good as W5 ( especially the effect processor) and more, I might be getting one. I don't care about the sequencer though..
It would be interesting to compare the overall AWM sound of the SY99,W5 and EX5. From what you have said I understood that the SY99 doesn't have that quality of the effects?!

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Re: Yamaha W5/7 DSP effect processor?

Post by meatballfulton » Mon Oct 17, 2016 3:02 pm

The Yamaha SPX series of processors were very popular for a very good reason...they all sounded great.

The original model was the SPX90 (1985?), then followed by the 900, 990, 1000, 2000. Not sure which one(s) would be concurrent with the W5/7 (mid 1990s).
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Re: Yamaha W5/7 DSP effect processor?

Post by madtheory » Mon Oct 17, 2016 7:52 pm

philip wrote:
madtheory wrote:Probably the SPX-2000. Which is a very cool machine. It has SPX-90 emulation as well.
The SPX-2000 came out 10 years later as far as I know!?
Ah you're right. So it would be the SPX-1000 or its lower cost variant the SPX-990. Or even the SPX-900, which was lower down the ladder again. All around 1992/3/4. AFAIK the main difference between the three is the amount memory so max delay times vary. Maybe the 900 runs fewer simultaneous effects, I can't remember. Check Yamaha's website for the specs.

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Re: Yamaha W5/7 DSP effect processor?

Post by knolan » Mon Oct 17, 2016 9:49 pm

Hi Philip -

I have both the SY99 and the EX5. The SY99 is all about it's AFM and indeed RCM synthesis (where AWM samples become modulators in the FM algorithm). I still use the SY99 today - in the '90s' I went through about 15,000 programs for it and selected the best 750 or so (for my uses) and the quality of that program set is still exceptional today.

The EX5 and indeed the EX5R are regarded as flawed masterpieces. You'll find lengthy descriptions of the EX5 by me and others on this forum for sure. The EX5 is, in my opinion, one of the best kept secrets in synthesis, still, because is offers essentially a VL70M virtual acoustic synth engine (but with superior editing features), a 2 Voice version of the AN1x Virtual Analogue synth, FDSP synthesis, and AWM2 synthesis. FDSP is a polyphonic effects system (a bit like Roland's COSM effects) - but geared toward incorporation into a program. One of the effects, for example, is Ring Modulator - so what you get is 16 Ring Modulators, each assigned to a note when playing (the synth drops from 124 note to 16 note polyphony for FDSP). And because the control of the ring modulator is polyphonic, you can assign, say, RM depth to note velocity, and then you hear the 16 RM's playing according to your note velocity. The available parameters for the FDSP Ring Modulator are significant, and in my opinion this Ring Modulator rivals the CS80 Ring Modulator in strength, and of course surpasses it in performance (because the CS80 only has 1 Ring Modulator). Applying FDSP Ring Modulator to an AWM Electric Piano, for example, transforms it, giving it a performance based metallicity that verges on virtual modelling for realism. Other FDSP algorithms of note include PWM - where yes - you can apply the equivalent of PWM to any AWM sample, and an intriguing "Water" algorithm that makes AWM samples sound like they are flowing like water, and works beautifully on bell and chime type sounds, for example.

The AWM sample set of the EX5 is still respectable to this day. Indeed many regarded the EX5's AWM set as a tad better than the original Motif - and I know of one keyboard player in a respectable Pink Floyd tribute band int he UK who still uses the EX5 Stereo Piano - being his favourite piano to this day - and I equally love it (and use it all the time).

That said - and I can't remember the quality of the AWM sample set for the W series - if its the AWM samples that interest you the most, I'd advise trying out an EX5 as well as a W7/5 as there may be differences important to you.

All I can say about the EX5 (and especially the EX5R which I also use) is that, having again gone through several thousand publicly available programs for it and having built for myself sound banks of the best VL, AN, FDSP and AWM programs for it, it is genuinely very impressive. The AN1x sounds for it alone make it worth it, but over all, the EX5R is a workhorse of significant relevance still today

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Re: Yamaha W5/7 DSP effect processor?

Post by madtheory » Tue Oct 18, 2016 2:38 pm

The water modulation sounds really cool. Could something similar be achieved with a vocoder?

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Re: Yamaha W5/7 DSP effect processor?

Post by knolan » Thu Oct 20, 2016 9:05 pm

It probably could with a vocoder on a digital synth or plugin, where you feed in something very fluid, like an S&H modulation source with the edges smoothed as the modulation source on whatever you wanted to 'waterize' (there's a new synth term :-) ).

the effect on the EX5 is convolved with the sample it's affecting, so it's a more unifying sounds. That said, when you consider how Roland's Vocal Design works (convolving you voice with choir samples) to make a singing choir - the OASYS (for example) provides a vocoder delivering quite similar results by vocoding your voice with a sampled base choir - so given how reliable and flexible / modifiable some modern digital vocoders can be, I'd say you'd ger very close to the FDSP water algorithm by vocoding a source with, say, a sample of flowing water.

to be honest, while it's a truly gorgeous effect (I used on a TG4 documentary on calligraphy, where the calligrapher crafted glass etched calligraphy onto very lightly frosted class, and then repeated that on multiple sheets and layered them, each offset from the next below by a small angle to produce a 3D frosted calligraphy effect. the EX5 water algorithm on a simple chord sequence on a pad sound worked wonders). But to be honest, it comes across a bit like digital wind chimes, so while it is beautiful, it has its place and its limits. But don't get me wrong - it's a beautiful effect.

But I think you're pointing toward a largely unexplored area of synthesis - digital vocoding with a wide choice of moduators and carriers - time consuming to get right, but likely to deliver all sorts of wonderful and unique effects.

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Re: Yamaha W5/7 DSP effect processor?

Post by madtheory » Fri Oct 21, 2016 9:34 pm

Ya, Plaid have mentioned doing a lot of that kind of vocoding on "The Digging Remedy" and "Reachy Prints". Both are amazing (even if you don't like the music- structurally it has issues IMO) for the sound design. Vocoding is something I must explore more. I've done a good bit of IR sampling. IRs can be unpredictable at times, in a great way. I have a pet IR that I sampled from the pitch shifter on a Lexicon LXP15. It comes out as a quite bizarre dub delay. Nothing like the source effect

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