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Vintage: Yamaha TG500 sound module

Yamaha TG500 MIDI module

My first serious synth purchase was the Yamaha TG500 sound module. Although it cheated somewhat, it was heralded as the world’s first 64-note polyphonic synth, and used Yamaha’s Advanced Wave Modulation (AWM) sampling technology.

Of course, I already had a keyboard to control it – I think it was a Yamaha home keyboard. Hardly a master keyboard, and unable to control such deliciousness as aftertouch or modulation, but still enough to get me playing with the amazing on board sounds.

I particularly remember that it had the best acoustic pianos I’d ever heard on a synth, some great strings, and some really bizarre sound effects including a hyena on steroids, and some speaker-killing bass rumbles.

Programming it was a bit of a pain, with it only having twelve buttons to play with. I never did expand it with more memory or ROM cards, but even so it has served me well. It is still my primary piano and strings sound on the road, and I still have the desire to work out what extra things it can do – I am sure there are still things I haven’t done with it in its 15 years with me.

Main Specifications

  • Synthesis type: AWM2
  • Polyphony: 64 (2 x 32 poly sound generators, called (originally) A and B)
  • Multi-timbral: 16 channels
  • Effects: 2 units with 90 different effects
  • Oscillators per voice: 1-4
  • Drum kits: 6
  • Sample ROM: 8Mb
  • Patches: 384
  • Performances (collections of patches): 252
  • Audio Outs: 6
  • Upgrade options: 2 slots for data cards, 2 for wave cards, up to 1Mb expansion RAM.

Many original and second-hand users have said that this is still a top-notch module – the AWM2 sound technology is still used by Yamaha today. Editing can be a pain (unless you can find a decent computer-based editor) but is definitely worth it.

Resources and Interesting Info

  • Here are some useful user reviews at Harmony Central.
  • Vintage Synth has written this article:

    The TG-500 is basically a box-o-sounds. It is based on Yamaha’s SY-85 (1992) and doubles the polyphony but loses the sequencer and most of the buttons and controls for real-time and patch editing. You can go with just the stock sounds, their sound quality is excellent, using AWM2 (Advanced Wave Memory), Yamaha’s synth-engine of choice since the days of FM-synthesis. You can also add external ROM cards for many more sounds in various styles. Despite the lack of controls, the TG-500 has edit capabilities as extensive as the SY-85, and is easiest to program using an external or software based editor.

    The TG-500 was a great and economical way to get Yamaha’s AWM2 style sounds, but may seem limited today.

  • Kid Nepro has a list of sound patches for the SY-85 / TG500
  • A small TG500 Discussion Group on Yahoo!Groups.
  • SoundQuest’s SY85 and TG500 Editor/Librarian for Windows and Mac OS 9/X

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