Yamaha V50 Four Op FM Synth Workstation

Yamaha V50 Introduction

Definately an underdog synth, the Yamaha V50 is a forgotten synthesizer from 1988. Originally meant to be the little brother to the Yamaha V80 (that never made it to market) the V50 came at a time when PCM based synths like the D-50 and M1 were slaughtering Yamaha's FM line in the big synth marketplace.

The V50 is a keyboard / workstation version of the Yamaha TX81Z, complete with sequencer, effects, drum machine and a floppy drive. In fact, some have said that it was Yamaha's first true workstation keyboard.

I own a V50 primarily for nostalgia purposes (half my synths share that same purpose), but i actually like the machine and occasionally use it as a master controller.

Yamaha V50 Build Quality

The whole V50 is built like a steel war machine. It feels as though you could drop it off the roof the the Chrysler building and still be able to play the pieces that would end up scattered below. The buttons stand several millimeters proud of the V50's case and have a genuinely firm, positive feel, as though they are actually connected to something underneath. Ever open up a Korg M1 or S3 and find that the little round clear buttons are not even designed to push down in the middle but that they actually make contact on the side of the button, that's why the M1 buttons feel like crap. The V50's buttons are the exact opposite.

The keyboard action is excellent, beating out that of several much more expensive synths of the time and later. This is the reason that i still use it as a master from time to time.

Yamaha V50 Tech Specs

Synth Type / Synthesis Branding 4 Operator FM Synthesis with 8 Carrier Waveforms and 8 Algorithms
FM Chip Yamaha OPZ-II FM chip a.k.a YM2424
Waveform Data 61 Sampled Waveforms for Rhythm
Waveform ROM whatever small amount is dedicated to the drum samples
Stock Patches 100 in ROM and 100 user programmable (expandable via ROM cards)
Low Frequency Oscillator two LFOs are supported by the OPZ-II
Filter none (Yamaha did not add filters to their FM synths until much later)
Polyphony 16 Notes
Timbrality 8 Part Multitimbral
DAC Resolution 16 bit Digital to Analog Convertor (Yamaha YM3017)
Sequencer 8 Track, 8 Song, 16,000 Notes
Floppy Drive 3.5" DD Drive (you may need to replace the rubber drive belt)
Built-In Effects 2 effects units, each with 16 possible effects
Keyboard 61 standard size keys, velocity and channel pressure sensitive
Production Years 1988 to UNKNOWN

How to Reset the Yamaha V50 to Factory Default Settings

First power on the V50, then in this order press the and hold down these three buttons SEQ, then CARD, then DEMO. Keep the buttons held down and watch the LCD. When a dialog box appears in the LCD, release the buttons. At first it will show you the V50 test program and ROM versions, but shortly after that you will see “Test Entry Manual”.

Once you see “Test Entry Manual” press the DEMO button and the screen will change to say “Factory Set?”. Press the +1/YES button and “OK” will appear once the reset has been completed.

Yamaha V50 Documentation

Feel free to download the owner's manuals from our Yamaha V50 manuals page.

Common V50 Repairs and Maintenance

Like most old Yamaha double density floppy drives, any V50 you find these days may well require a floppy drive belt replacement. The rubber gets tired on the old belts and breaks. People have been known to use twisted rubber bands as makeshift drive belts, but if you do so i would not suggest leaving the rubber band in for an extended period of time. A rubber band will degrade much quicker than a true replacement and the dried particles could wreck havoc inside the drive.

Aside from the floppy belt, the only common issue is the possible need to replace the internal battery.

Rumors Around the Yamaha V50

Below are a few things that are suspected to be true of the V50, but have not yet been confirmed.

The Yamaha V50 is actually the 16 bit version of the TX81Z

TRUE and FALSE: The V50 is a 16 bit machine (meaning it has a 16 bit FM chip, the YM2424 and a 16 bit DAC, the Yamaha YM3017), but contrary to very popular belief, the TX81Z is also a 16 bit machine. The TX81Z clearly has the Yamaha YM3012 chip inside, which is also a 16 bit DAC.

The V50 is the most advanced four op FM synth ever produced by Yamaha

PROBABLY TRUE: The V50 is the only Yamaha four OP FM synth to use the OPZ-II chip. The problem is that no one seems to know what the exact differences are between Yamaha's OPZ and OPZ-II FM chips other than the fact that the OPZ-II's polyphony is doubled at 16 and the fixed low frequency goes all the way down to 1 Hz.

The V50's rhythm section is based on the Yamaha RX8 or RX17 drum machine

UNKNOWN BUT EXPECTED TRUE: The V50's PCM rhythm samples probably did come from those used in their previous RX series of drum machines. Which RX is a more difficult question. The RX8 contained 16 bit PCM samples whereas all previous units in the RX line used 12 bit samples.

A Few V50 Links

Jim Atwood has some very useful info on the V50 sequencer at this post on SynthJapan.

Great 80's Style Yamaha Demo of the V50