A recent thread on the Fusion forum prompted me to do this post.
The question in the thread was…
“If you could have one more synth, and money was no object, what would it be? Your absolute fantasy synth in pristine condition. The one that haunts your dreams.”
Of course, my initial response was the Fairlight CMI IIx. Without question.
However, I also hanker after the Yamaha Uber Synths. Well, Yamaha never called them the “Uber Synths”. That’s just my description. So what are they ? Well, there’s the GX-1, the EX-1 & the FX-1. Most people know the GX-1. It’s the big 3 manual analogue precursor to the CS-80. Emerson had two, Stevie Wonder also had 2 ! As big as a house and twice as expensive ! John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin had one as well (although he sold his to Emerson).
So what’s so special about these big boys ? Well, these were the indulgent test beds that future synths were derived from. It’s just that Yamaha actually released these for sale or use by the public, even if you had to be a rock superstar to be able to afford one. The original Korg OASYS…
…was a one off device, housed at KORG HQ, from which the Prophecy, Z1 and other MOSS (Multi-Oscillator Synthesis System) based instruments were derived. The eventual release of the OASYS synth 2 years ago was nothing like the original, fabled machine of the 90’s.
Yamaha released these three machines under their Electone brand. They were seen as niche, performance instruments, in the mould of theatre organs. The GX-1 was Yamaha’s major foray into the world of polyphonic analogue synthesis. The EX-1 was an extension of that, and the FX-1 was derived from the FM test bed. The CSDX…
…was also the first proper DX synth that eventually morphed into the DX1. And then there was the GS1, the first true FM synth from Yamaha, presented in a wooden stage piano housing with a splendid, but completely out-of-character programmer that could sit on top…
So why do they hold so much fascination for me ? Well, I guess it’s the sheer size of these things. They represent that 70’s/80’s over indulgence that we don’t see anymore. It’s too risky and costly for a company to produce a behemoth of a synth merely to prove that they can. Nowadays, it’s all costed and modelled in a computer before a single part is constructed. In fact, most synths are now software based so the chances of seeing anything like this again are rare. True, the Korg OASYS is a throw back to that era, but we are unlikely to see more of the same.
So, indulge in these pictures and enjoy the links :o) By the way, if anyone can tell me how to recreate the GX-1 string sound used by Stevie Wonder in Village Ghetto Land, from his seminal Songs In The Key Of Life album, in the Arturia CS-80V, or better still, provide me with the patch itself, I’d be most grateful :o)
UPDATE: The boffins at GForce Software recently released an expansion pack for their Virtual String Machine instrument that contains a bunch of genuine GX-1 samples, including the strings!!
You can watch Stevie playing his GX-1 in the Classic Albums episode on the afore mentioned album.
And a great demo of the GS1…
An article on the GX-1 in Sound On Sound by Gordon Reid – Pt.2 (Gordon bought my old Godwin Symphony 849, fact fans !)