Yamaha CS01 Keyboard / Synthesizer Reviews 5

I got my first CS01 synth back in the '80's, from a buddy of mine that bought it and never bothered to learn how to use it. I paid $35 cash for that one, and later (after using it on my second album) sold it back to him for the same amount ('cause I was broke). I've just gone way out of my way to find another of these cute little synths. The one I now own is the rare red-color one (as opposed to the much more common black ones.) I got it at auction for $225.

This miniature synth may look like a toy, but it was the last full-analog monosynth that Yamaha ever made before re-tooling for the digital synth revolution. With it, you can create an infinate spectrum of sounds--like beats for hip-hop, white noise wind and waves or helicopter effects, howling analog tones--sharp or as thumpy as you can stand. With the pitch and mod wheels, and the cool features like variable glissando, it's every bit the synth that the first Moogs were, but this one is TINY! It has pegs for a guitar strap, too, so it can be played as a solo instrument. Layer these voices on a multitrack recorder, and you've got genuine analog synth magic. I am happy with the CS01 from a musical standpoint, and from an investment standpoint. This was one of the great monosynths, and it got steamrolled by the digital synth revolution. Now that analog sounds are "cool" again, this is a very sought-after keyboard, and hard to find.

The limitations of the CS01 are simple and obvious. There's no provision for midi. The keys are small-size, and therefore somewhat awkward for players used to full-size keys. No velocity sensing either, and only one note at a time. But it does have a built-in speaker (in addition to the line output) and cranks for hours on batteries. There's no way to recall a set-up once you've created a special sound, so if you need to be able to faithfully re-create the same sound, you'll either have to become very knowledgeable about waveform shaping, or you'll be taking handwritten notes. The power indicator is the only thing that lights-up, so if you are inclined to use it as a solo instrument on a dark stage, you'll need to bring a penlight to view your settings. Though designed for stage use, it's not more at home as an idea starter in the studio.

The CS01 is just one of the fine sets of keys made by Yamaha. These particular units are no longer made, but if cared-for properly, they will probably outlast the average DX7. Production ended in the 1980's, so if you spot one of these in mint condition (red or black) don't hesitate to add it to your collection.

You probably won't be able to find a manual for the CS01. I've never seen one. Fortunately, even complete amateurs can navigate it's straightforward controls. What a fun little KB.

Scotty Matthews, Syracuse NY rated this unit 5 on 2001-06-29.

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