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Archive for October 26th, 2010

Yamaha PSS-380

Posted by brunorc on October 26, 2010

Even if it can be perceived as a toy keyboard – mostly because of the tiny keys, auto-accompaniments and so on – it is actually a synthesizer as well. As you may see on the picture, it features the “Digital Synthesizer” section in the center of the front panel. Those seven sliders give you the instant control over the 4 operators FM synthesis of PSS-380. So, if you’ve ever dreamed of an FM synth with hands-on control typical for analogs – here you go!

How does it sound? Peculiar. Some sounds are terrible, and no combination of sliders could have improved them. I spent a lot of time with it, tweaking the sounds (of course there’s no memory for this “digital synthesizer” settings, so I had to write them down on paper). I also liked the idea of auto-accompaniment, having maybe 5-6 bearable styles, though. This instrument has three song memories as well, which can record both the accompaniment and the performance (but still they cannot save the synthesizer settings), and you can even play on top of it (if the polyphony – 9 voices – allows). It was my early sketchpad and I found it quite useful.

This synth also features “Dual Voices” – meaning one could lay one patch on top of another, and the “top” patch could have even been processed through the synthesizer section. Actually, PSS-380 is capable of producing a lot of weird 4-OP FM sounds… of course it has no MIDI, and the output (phones only) is quite noisy. Or you can use the built-in speakers…

It was my first “synthesizer” and from today’s perspective I’m really glad I started with it. I learned a bit about the nature of the sound and I knew that my next piece of gear should have the ability of editing patches, since only playing with the use of the preset sounds was not enough for me.

Unfortunately, the PSS-380 wasn’t actually mine. I borrowed it from a friend, who eventually wanted to take it back. I remember being reluctant to give it away, but after all it was his property, so one day I put it back in the box and we parted.

Would I like to have it back? Of course! But mostly because of the sentiment… and maybe those weird sounds could be useful, after some processing. The auto-accompaniment – although crappy – was surprisingly handy for some quick sketching.

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