3 – Yamaha CS-15
Years of production: 1979-1982
Spec: dual VCO analogue monosynth
Key features: dual multi-mode filters
Current second-hand price: £200-400
The huge success of the DX range and the 70s excess of the outrageously expensive CS-80 mean that Yamaha’s other synths are sometimes overlooked. Before their revolutionary digital synths of the 1980s, the Japanese giants produced numerous analogue classics.
One of the main reasons Yamaha’s analogue monosynths aren’t as well known as their rivals is that they don’t have such an easily identifiable character as funky Moogs, fat Rolands or aggressive Korgs. What they lack in distinctive sound, they make up for in flexibility. The multi-mode filters found on the CS range are relatively subtle thanks to their mild 12dB/oct slope and lack of self-oscillating resonance but they’re incredibly versatile, especially in the case of the CS-15 which offers two of them.
The CS-15’s strengths are fat but subtle bass, funky leads and an ability to slot nicely into mixes (a crucial but often overlooked factor when judging the real world practicality of a synth). For the best example of its versatility, check out the Human League’s seminal Dare album.
The more limited CS-5 and CS-10 are also worth a look (many would argue that the faster envelope generators on the CS-10 make it even better for bass), but in terms of value for money the CS-15 is the biggest bargain of the lot.