This review of the Yamaha SK 30 symphonic ensemble was published in International Musician (UK Version) May 1981.
We have OCR’d the article, the full text can be found below. Should you want to hear the capabilities of this string machine: here is a nice demo.
SYNTHCHECK YAMAHA SK30 Symphonic Ensemble £1650
Here’s hardly an area of musical instrument manufacture in which Yamaha do not take a leading role. From acoustic and electric guitars, through brass and drums, to home and professional keyboards, Yamaha have the unique distinction of a reputation which marks them as being a Jack of all trades, while being master of them too! The SK range of keyboards is relatively new, and aims at combining the established virtues of the organ with the comparatively newer facilities of the synthesizer. The model under scrutiny here comes near the top of the range. DESCRIPTION The SK30 is most concisely described in the manual which accompanies it: ” … combination of organ, polyphonic synthesizer, solo synthesizer and strings in one keyboard. . such features as keyboard touch response and split keyboard modes … thus the SK30 is a multifunction instrument.” It is, in fact, one of the most logically arranged keyboards to appear on the market for a very long time. Recent innovatory technology has, in many cases, seemed to have accelerated faster than the basic designs – the physical appearance – of many synths which, while offering into eight sections with clearly defined legends: Output, Pitch, Solo Synthesizer, Organ, Poly-synth, Vibrato, plus the main pre-set/manual function controls, and tremolo/ ensemble. The organ, strings and poly-synth sections (offering 7 note polyphony) each have three pre-set sounds – obtainable by simple touch switches incorporating LEDs – a manual and cancel options. The solo section has no pre-set at all. OUTPUT On/off switch, Master volume, and four sliding faders are provided in this section. Here the overall sound mix of the four sources can be pre-set, for it is possible to cancel any or all of the four sources independently of this volume setting. PITCH Three rotary controls are provided: Tune adjusts the overall pitch of the organ and poly-synth sections; polysynth detune offsets the tuning of the poly-synth (strings) section, and ‘solo’ tune adjusts the overall pitch of the solo synth. Careful use of this section can create special harmonic effects. MAIN CONTROL BLOCK 22 touch buttons with LEDs are :irrnnnPrl immPrlir1tP.lv ;ihovP. the committed to the solo synth section: Normal provides solo synth on the upper C3-C6 keys (single note, high priority), Manual Bass provides solo synth on the lower C3-F4 . Bass requires the optional bass pedal unit, and the three remaining controls trigger brilliance, vibrato and modulation. These three are operable by using increased pressure on the individual notes of the keyboard. Two buttons serve as keyboard splitters – the organ and poly-synth sections can be routed to the left and light of the keyboard on either side of the split marker (at G3): when this function is operating, the SK30 retains 7 note polyphony on both halves of the keyboard. The organ section has five buttons: cancel, pre-set 1, 2 and 3, and a manual selector. The strings have cancel and three pre-sets only, and the polyphonic synth, cancel, three presets and manual.
SOLO SYNTHESIZER The solo synth contains VCO, VCF and VCA circuitry: the waveform fader moves from Sawtooth progressively to Square wave. Obvious facilities – i.e. portamento, modulation, footage selector, resonance etc. are available. All functions, with the exception of Slow attack and Sustain. are ooerated ice of square or sawtooth waves on eight and sixteen foot positions. s with the Poly-synth block, all -ictions, with the exception of decay sustain, are operated by fader ~trols. In effect, these become – ·cal draw-bars. There are three rs controlling percussive attack in 2nd, 3rd and 5th harmonics, and a iher nine tone levers operating on : 8, 51/a rd, 4, 22 /3, 2, 1 %, 11/a, and 1 tages. -he vibrato block has three faders trolling the speed, depth and : ayed entry of vibrato operating on , poly-synth section only. -here are five press switches in this 0ek: tremelo speed electronically ~ ·es the internal tremelo, and uires the switching off of a back c’lel switch accompanying a feed tput for use with an external Leslie :.Oinet. remelo and ensemble are available _. both the organ and poly-synth _ tions, but cannot be operated . ether. Switching on the synthesizer results ·t adopting a pre-set starting . JSition. Pre-set 1 on the organ, ·ngs, and poly-synth blocks become -mediately operable. This function advantages and disadvantages. – ~hough the SK30, by virtue of this “clngement, will produce an :ceptable sound immediately – spending on the volume pre-sets of -,e individual sections – it does mean -at the last setting used before .itching off is cancelled. While the faders, obviously, are not :.=.ected by this function, all the presstton electrics are. Complex routings, :olving all parts of the instrument luding for example, tremelo on . gan, sustain on strings, vibrato on o-synth etc., must therefore be ·itten down, should their use be : uired two playings in a row, so to oeak. The organ section emerges as the ·,mtre-piece of the SK30. Pre-set 1 osely resembles that elusive -ammond sound complete with clicks, if the keys are not released each e a note is played the percussive effect is cancelled. Pre-set 3, with ensemble, is the flat-out sound beloved of home organists and regular visitors to Blackpool pier! In the manual mode, the organ is very versatile indeed, with fine tonal variations easily obtainable. Strings are a little disappointing at first, in that each pre-set basically moves the setting one octave higher – from cello to viola to violin, with comparatively little option to change the basic sound. With further familiarisation, however, they become extremely good for overall orchestral backing sounds to complement the organ and poly-synth, although it is unlikely that they’d be used for the lead voice. The poly-synth pre-sets are brass orientated – very effective, and very realistic. Once manual control is taken of this section a great deal of variation is made possible despite the comparative simplicity of the circuitry – compared to a CS80, that is! The poly-synth will create truly superb clarinet sounds. The solo-synth is equally pleasing, producing clear, sharp tones with plenty of power and punch to them often sadly lacking even in specialist monophonic synths. . The piece de resistance, however, is the incredible versatility produced by combining these four individual sections – as evidenced by Yamaha’s own description of the SK30 as a ‘symphonic ensemble’. While it will function independently as an organ, mono and polyphonic synthesizer, and string machine, it was obviously intended from the start that it should be used as an overall concept. ndently as an organ, mono and polyphonic synthesizer, and string machine, it was obviously intended from the start that it should be used as an overall concept . With practice and familiarisation (both of the controls and the playing technique necessary to make the most of the available functions) the SK30 becomes an impressive machine. For example, with the keyboard split operating the poly-synth and string section in the left hand side of the splitter (one cannot use the term ‘bass’ in this instance, as the independent footage controls on the poly-synth can raise this section way above middle 6!) producing string and brass accompaniment, the organ providing right hand rhythm, and the solo-synth the lead voice (with touch variable vibrato and modulation) the SK30 is virtually a full orchestra/synth on one keyboard. Its inherent versatility is further enhanced by a comprehensive back panel incorporating a number of in/ out functions for triggering external synths, footswitch options for sustain and portamento, brilliance, volume, bass pedals and external tone cabinet.
CONCLUSIONS The SK30 is certainly an adventurous instrument which responds best to an inquiring mind: an uninventive player is likely to use it without actually getting the best from it, and probably never knowing it. An inventive player, one who is continually searching for that extra sound, will undoubtedly find it immensely satisfying and creative. Its overall sound – especially through a large system – is fat and rich: as stated throughout this check; however, it is in its variability that its real strength lies. The ability to finely tune a setting, to mix the volumes, colours and timbre of each section is virtually infinite. A month’s frequent acquaintance with it has still not exhausted the possibilities. £1650 is a lot of anybody’s money – but try adding together the cost of an organ, mono synth, poly-synth (however basic) and string machine and the money falls into perspective. April 1981 89