RVEN Yamaha SY99 procedures


  1. Working with samples

Working with samples


A SY99 voice consists of 1 or more (up to 4) voice element(s). A voice element can apply the Frequency Modulation (AFM) synthesis method or the sample playback (AWM) method. Cross-modulation, in which an AWM element can be used as an operator in an AFM element, is also supported.

This concept is very similar to that of the Synclavier II. In spite of that similarity there are huge differences in user interface between the SY99 and the Synclavier. Further the envelope generators and filters provide by the SY99 are significantly more advanced than those in the Synclavier.

Each single SY99 voice can use one of the following combinations of AFM and AWM synthesis elements:

Summary of SY99 voice modes
Voice Mode AFM elements AWM elements Polyphony AWM / AFM cross modulation
Drum voice

A SY99 drum voice has no AWM or AFM elements, but instead consists of a different audio sample for each of the keys of the SY99 keyboard.

The scope of this section, working with samples, is limited to voice types that use one or more AWM synthesis element and to the drum voices. A drum voice has a different audio sample, if any, associated with each of the 76 keys of the SY99.

Audio samples

What is a sample
A sample is an audio recording of finite duration
MIDI SDS property SY99 specific remarks
Multiple channels of audio (usually 2 for stereo). The SY99 supports only 1 channel of audio (e.g. mono recording) in each of its samples.
It is possible to upload a multi-channel sample to the SY99, but then only the 1st audio channel in the sample will be stored.
Quality, e.g. the accuracy with which the audio is recorded. Common accuracies are known as 8, 12, 16 or 24 bit resolution.
16 bit accuracy is CD / DVD audio quality.
24 bit accuracy is modern recording standard.
Note: Samples with a higher bit resolution require, obviously, more memory storage.
The SY99 supports accuracies from 8 to 16 bit.
From experience I can tell that samples with accuracies of 8, 12 and 16 bits will be uploaded to, and used by, the SY99 successfully.
Be not surprised when samples with other bit resolutions give unpredictable results.
Sample frequency, the number of measurements per second of the original audio signal.
A sample frequency of 44.1 kHz is CD / DVD audio quality.
Sample frequencies of 48 kHz or even 96 kHz are not uncommon these days.
Note: Samples with a higher sample frequency require, obviously, more memory storage.
The SY99 supports sample frequencies up to 48 kHz, which was exceptional for its time (1990).
From experience I can tell that samples with frequencies of 22.05 kHz and 44.1 kHz will be uploaded to and used by the SY99 successfully.
Loop properties
  • Loop start
  • Loop end
  • Loop type
Loop start: is fixed to the beginning of the audio recording
Loop end: is fixed to the end of the audio recording
Following loop types are supported:
  • Forward once
  • Forward loop normal
  • Forward loop alternating directions
  • Backward once
  • Backward loop normal
  • Backward loop alternating directions

SY99 audio sample memory

Thus, using a waveblade card with a 2 Mbyte slot and adding all extensions, the SY99 can access 13 Mbyte of sample memory.

Overview of SY99 sample and MDR RAM sizes

SY99 with full memory extension
The picture above shows a SY99 with full memory extension: 2.5 Mbyte RAM in addition to the internal 512 kbyte RAM. The rightmost slot (slot #1) holds an original Yamaha SY99 memory extension module. The leftmost 4 slots (slots #2-#5) hold sector101 SYMB05 modules. Each of these modules, whether Yamaha or Sector101, offers 512 kbyte battery backed-up RAM.

Loading samples into the SY99

An absolute maximum of 99 user samples can be loaded into the SY99 RAM. The actual number of samples that can be loaded may be smaller, depending on:

The most reliable and easiest way to upload user samples into the SY99 is as follows:

  1. First ensure that 'bulk protect' is Off:
    Utility -> Midi -> Settings -> Bulk protect page.
  2. Connect a MIDI cable from the output of any external sampler or PC to the input of the SY99
  3. Disconnect any MIDI cable from the SY99 output !
  4. Select a sample or audio file and upload / send / transmit it to the SY99 (using MIDI Sample Dump Standard ofcourse).
In this manner I have successfully loaded samples into the SY99 from a Sequential circuits Prophet 2000 and from PC using any of the following software:

Applying audio samples in an AWM element

AWM element waveform

Each AWM element in a SY99 voice has exactly 1 "AWM Waveform" An AWM Waveform is not identical to an audio sample. Instead it is a collection of audio samples. To be able to use a sample in a AWM element, two assignments must be made:

  1. Assigning a set of samples to the AWM Waveform
  2. Assigning each sample in an AWM Waveform to a keyboard region
These assignments follow some specific, not immediately obvious, rules.

Assigning samples to an AWM Waveform

The SY99 has 64 user editable AWM Waveforms in addition to its preset AWM Waveform and the AWM Waveforms on a waveform card.

Initially the process of assigning samples to these AWM Waveforms is rather confusing and tricky. Main cause for this is that this process is a system-wide task while the edit window for the assignment can be accessed only via the AWM edit section of any individual voice ...

This becomes somewhat more understandable when applying "reverse thinking". Suppose you want to edit a voice or create a new voice and use one of the loaded user samples in it. Then the following would be natural steps to take:

Now comes the ultimate tricky part, in the rules that apply to memory management of the user samples:

  1. User samples can only be loaded in continous areas of the memory. You must not leave or create gaps into the user sample memory.
    Example: When you have 4 individual user samples loaded, they will always be visible as samples 1, 2, 3 and 4 in the sample directory. The sample loading process will always enforce this.
    Note that it is possible to create gaps in the sample directory. For instance you select the first empty location, which would be 5 in this case, and copy sample 4 to that location. Next you select sample 4 and delete that. Now the sample directory shows, as expected, samples loaded in 1, 2, 3 and 5 and indicates area 4 is empty. This operation will however cause unpredictable results in application of the samples and in the contents of the sample memory!
  2. User samples can only be assigned to AWM Waveform as a continuous set, there cannot be gaps between them.
    Example: When assiging samples to a specific Waveform the set of samples 1, 2, 3 (numbers refering to sample directory entries) is allowed, but the set of samples 1, 3, 4 is not allowed.
    Note that, as a (now) obvious consequence, this requires planning on the order in which you load user samples in memory and how and when you will be using them.
This is not what you would, nowadays, expect or want and what frustrated be back then (the 1990's) and also recently when I solved this puzzle.
What can be said in favour of Yamaha is that in those days memory management units were hardly known or available. Embedded systems with "large" amounts of memory were also an adventure. Around that time Bill Gates gave his famous statement: "640 kbyte of memory should be sufficient for anyone", not envisioning computerized multi-media at that point.

Assigning a sample in an AWM Waveform to a keyboard region

Each sample in an AWM Waveform must be assigned to a specific keyboard region. A special rule applies to this assignment:
The high key of a sample in a Waveform is always one semitone below the low key of the next sample in the AWM Waveform. It is not possible to overlap samples in an AWM Waveform or to leave gaps between them.
What is somewhat confusing is that the on-board editor of the SY99 does not enforce this rule. It allows you to place any samples in the AWM Waveform in any region of the keyboard resulting in undefined behavior of the writable sections (if any) of both the waveform memory and the user sample memory.
Note that it is not mandatory to assign a sample to every area of the keyboard, as long as the above rule is satisfied. The AWM element will not produce sound for keyboard areas that do not have a sample in the AWM Waveform assigned to it.

Applying audio samples in a drum voice