The CS-50 was released just ahead of its famous big brothers, the CS-60 and CS-80. The CS-50 looks like a scaled-down version of the monstrous CS-80, and it is! This will benefit those who crave the famous classic Yamaha synth sound without the struggle of lugging around the 215 pound CS-80! The CS-50 weighs in at about 100 pounds. The CS-50 is also just 4-voice polyphonic, and lacks the quality weighted 61-note keyboard of the CS-80. The CS-50 has just a 49-note standard keyboard. It does feature pressure (aftertouch) sensitivity route-able to several destinations, however.
The CS-50's sound is unmistakably related to other classic CS-series synthesizers. Originally released in 1976, Yamaha's 46kg CS-50 wasn't largely appreciated after the release of its bigger brothers CS's 60 and 80 in '77. Adding to its unpopularity could also have been the introduction to the public of Yamahas own brand of strangeness in its implementation of proprietary terminology and control. After all this and 24 years, the CS-50 would be hard to reproduce for anything nearly as cheap as you'll find one for second-hand, so rather than contemplate its past failings, get your head around some of its rich leads and solid, animated basses. It's also good for experimental sounds with resonant (12db sounding) HP and LP filters. Also adding to the expressive power of this design was a pressure-sensitive keyboard, with variable destinations and amounts. Seemingly only one oscillator per voice, only 4-voices and no Unison mode might be a tall hurdle to clear to bring this synth to redemption, but it has guts and in the end thats all that matters to the analog anorak.
Warm when called for, or very thin and minute with its filtering engaged, the CS-50 has a distinctive Yamaha sound to it that can be identified when heard. While the presets aren't really very close to sounding as described, they are interesting in their own right and help to make up for the lack of a programmable memory on-board. Not being of a 'standard' design plan, the CS's in general were capable of creating a fairly unique sound space worth the time spent. It's been used by Men Without Hats and Herbie Hancock.
Polyphony: 4 voices, monotimbral
Oscillators: Four (1 VCO per voice)
Filter: 12 dB/oct lowpass and highpass filtering
Keyboard: 49 keys (pressure sensitive, route to various destinations)
Memory: 13 preset, 1on panel