Looking for a truly great virtual instrument? Well look no further. The designers at Arturia, the company who came up with the amazing simulation of the classic Moog Modular earlier this year, have surpassed themselves with this even more amazing simulation of Yamaha’s classic CS80 synthesizer. I remember this beast well! It was one of the first polyphonic synthesizers available in the late 1970s and early 80s and was highly regarded by synth players at that time. The trouble was it weighed 80kg, and undoubtedly contributed to my subsequent back problems. Also, tuning involved a special and fiddly procedure, and it was difficult to keep in tune. Yamaha had so many complaints about this that it decided to stop producing analogue synths from the early 80s onwards in favour of digital units that don’t suffer from tuning problems. The company couldn’t take the loss of face.
The CS80 is a junior version of the legendary Yamaha GX-1 used by the likes of Stevie Wonder in the early 70s. The good news is that Arturia’s CS80V can emulate the GX-1, too. The design team added a MultiMode that lets you assign the eight available voices to four keyboard zones and four different MIDI channels. It is also possible to layer the eight voices to create huge sounds. They also added extra waveforms to the oscillators and a sophisticated Modulation Matrix that modulates a range of destinations from a wide range of sources. These include the LFOs and various envelope generators as well as the usual controllers and pedals.
The install CD contains Mac and Windows versions of the software and you get a standalone version along with a selection of plug-in formats. These include Audio Units, Pro Tools HTDM, RTAS, VST and MAS for Digital Performer on OS 9.
The CS80 comes with a great selection of presets produced by an international team of sound designers. My favourites were created by Katsunori Ujiie, whose sounds showcased the stereo features and new modulation possibilities. With ringing endorsements from the likes of Roxy Music’s Eddie Jobson, the CS80V is hard to resist. And the detail of the user interface is a work of art in itself. Disadvantages? It’s CPU-hungry. The persuader for me is the extremely reasonable asking price.