Yamaha CS-80

The Yamaha CS-80 is a polyphonic analog synthesizer released in 1976. It supports true 8-voice polyphony, with two independent synthesizer layers per voice each with its own set of front panel controls, in addition to a number of hardwired preset voice settings and four parameter settings stores based on banks of subminiature potentiometers (rather than the digital programmable presets the Prophet-5 would sport soon after). It has exceptionally complete performer expression features, such as a layered keyboard that was both velocity-sensitive (like a piano's) and pressure-sensitive ("after-touch") but unlike most modern keyboards the aftertouch could be applied to individual voices rather than in common, and a ribbon controller allowing for polyphonic pitch-bends and glissandos. This can be heard on the Blade Runner soundtrack by Vangelis, in which CS-80 is featured prominently, as well as the composer's soundtrack for the film Chariots of Fire, and the bassline of Peter Howell's interpretation of 1980 theme tune to BBC sci-fi show Doctor Who.

Yamaha CS-80
Dates1976 - 1980
Technical specifications
Polyphony8 voices, dual layers
Oscillator2 per voice
LFO1 multi-waveform
Synthesis typeAnalog subtractive
Filter2 High-pass
2 Low-pass
Aftertouch expressionYes, polyphonic
Velocity expressionYes
Storage memory22 preset
4 user
Effectschorus, tremolo
Keyboard61-note with velocity
and polyphonic aftertouch (on a per note rather than per patch basis)
Left-hand controlRibbon Controller

Production of the instrument ceased in 1980. Vying with the Sequential Circuits Prophet-5, and Oberheim OB-X polysynths, the CS-80 is regularly described as the pre-eminent polyphonic analog synthesizer,[1][2] and commands amongst the highest prices of any polyphonic synthesizer.[1]

Software and hardware emulations

There are two plug-in instrument software emulations of the CS-80 for usage in digital audio workstation, music sequencer, and other software which supports the plug-in formats that these instruments were implemented and released in: the "CS-80 V" from Arturia[3] which was released in 2003, the "ME80" from memorymoon which was released in 2009.

There are no known hardware clones of the entire CS-80. At the 2014 NAMM Show, Studio Electronics premiered their new Boomstar SE80 synthesizer which includes a cloned filter section of the CS-80. At the 2018 NAMM Show, Black Corporation showed Deckard's Dream, a rackmount synthesizer with CS-80 inspired architecture and features and supports polyphonic aftertouch via compatible third party external keyboards.


The Greek electronic composer Vangelis used the Yamaha CS-80 extensively. He praised the instrument for its capabilities, describing it as "the most important synthesizer in my career — and for me the best analogue synthesizer design there has ever been. It was a brilliant instrument, though unfortunately not a very successful one. It needs a lot of practice if you want to be able to play it properly, but that’s because it’s the only synthesizer I could describe as being a real instrument, mainly because of the keyboard — the way it’s built and what you can do with it."[4]

Notable users

See also


  1. "The World's most desirable and valuable synthesizers and drum machines". attack magazine. Retrieved 2014-11-12.
  2. "The Schmidt synth and the CS80". synthtopia. 2011-04-07.
  3. Magnus, Nick; Reid, Gordon. "Arturia CS80V - Software Synth (Mac/PC)". Reviews : Software: ALL. Sound On Sound. No. April 2005.
  4. Dan Goldstein (November 1984), "Soil Festivities Vangelis Speaks", Electronics & Music Maker, retrieved August 22, 2016


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