Vintage: Yamaha CE-20 – “the one before the DX7”


So which of these are you most familiar with?

Yamaha CE-20
or
Yamaha DX7

Yep, thought so.

Yamaha CE-20 synth

Continued below...

Not a huge commercial success, the CE-20 came before the legendary DX-7:

  • Introduced in 1982
  • Price: US$1395
  • Synthesis: FM (Frequency Modulation)
  • Voices: 20 (Piccolo, Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Saxophone, Trumpet 1, Trumpet 2, Trombone, Violin, Contrabass 1, Contrabass 2, Electric Bass 1, and Electric Bass 2, Brass*, Horn*, Organ*, Electric Piano*, Harpsichord*, and Strings*.
  • All voices are monophonic (high-note priority) except those marked * above which are 8-note polyphonic.
  • Keyboard: 4 octave, full-size, velocity and aftertouch sensitive.
  • Jacks: Sustain and expression pedals, audio line and headphone out. No MIDI.
  • Not programmable, but some editing of presets including vibrato, ‘tone initial’ and ‘tone after’ (for velocity and aftertouch sensitivity) and ‘slide’ for monophonic portamento timing.

Press Release

The original press release read:

The CE20 is another outstanding Yamaha keyboard that features FM tone generation technology. It offers 14 high-note-priority monophonic voices that are ideal for lead lines, and 6 8-note polyphonic voices for backing.

The monophonic voices are PICCOLO, FLUTE, OBOE, CLARINET, SAXOPHONE, TRUMPET 1 (classical trumpet voice), TRUMPET 2 (jazz tone), TROMBONE, VIOLIN, CONTRABASS 1 (bowed), CONTRABASS 2 (pizicato), ELEC TRIC BASS 1 (mellow), and ELECTRIC BASS 2 (funky).

The polyphonic voices feature BRASS, HORN, ORGAN, ELECTRIC PIANO, HARPSICHORD and STRINGS. All these voices are generated by the Yamaha FM tone generator system, and therefore have a remarkably “acoustic” feel. The CE20 has all the same touch response features as the CE25, so you have dynamic control with initial touch response, attack-dependent tonal variation with TONE INITIAL, and tonal varia tion according to key pressure with TONE AFTER. Vibrato can be applied via the after touch response function as well as independently with VIBRATO SPEED, DEPTH and DELAY controls. Also like the CE25 the CE20 has a PRESET selector which activates pre-programmed touch response sensitivity and vibrato parame ters for each individual voice. The CE20 additionally features a SLIDE CONTROL function that can be used with all the monophomic voices. With this function turned on, you first use a slide control wheel at the left of the keyboard to adjust the length of a portamento-like slide between each note played. The unique feature of this effect is that a slide occurs only when a second note is
played before releasing the first, thus allowing both pitch bend and portamento effects to be introduced through keyboard technique alone.

Overall, the CE20 offers tremendous versatility and expressive capability with surprising economy.