YAMAHA PortaSound PCS-500   Playcard keyboard with lid & key lighting

This Playcard System keyboard from 1984 was the successor of the legendary Yamaha PC-100.  The sound engine of both instruments is very similar, but quite unique with the PCS-500 is the suitcase- style case with the foldable keyboard lid mechanism.

The main improvement to the PC-100 is the stereo chorus effect and the larger speakers; the sound is warmer and makes more bass. Nice is that a simple fingered accompaniment was added, which also accepts non- standard chord, but unfortunately it lacks the lovely arpeggio of the PC-100. Also some preset sounds are different, but due to the many similarities I only describe here the differences to the latter.

different main features:

SER.NO. 027865


The Yamaha PCS-500 sounds warmer less harsh than the Yamaha PC-100; apparently the waveforms have less aliasing noise, but also the speakers are better. Like the latter, the sound generator itself is mono, but when enabled, the "stereo symphonic" effect gently pans the entire sound left and right with semi- random speed, which reminds to fluttering tape mess although the sound is not really howling. An unusual detail is that the red tempo LED cycles through 3 brightness steps and dark to indicate the beats of the rhythm pattern. Quite unique is the foldable key lid of aluminium, which is spring- loaded and can be used as a note stand when folded back. But unlike this, the case itself is of varnished plastic and its metallic paint scratches easily. It also neither protects the jacks nor the fairly bulky speakers; the external carry case of the PC-100 or Yamaha PS-2 was a much more reasonable design. The PCS-500 was shipped with these PlayCards. (I haven't examined the hardware yet.)

The "clarinet" and "vibraphone" preset sounds of PC-100 were replaced with "saxophone" and "music box". The "saxophone" has delayed vibrato. The "music box" contains sustain and ignores the sustain button. Unlike PC-100, the sustain button here adds rather a simulated reverb than sustain to the sounds. The duet mode plays a duet of the main voice when in single finger or fingered chord mode chord section keys are pressed.

The percussion employs the same electronic timbres like with PC-100, but here they are likely filtered through capacitors and thus sound duller and have much more bass. The manual chord timbre is less harsh than with PC-100; it resembles rather an e-bass that has percussive attack but doesn't decay. Unlike PC-100, there is only 1 fixed chord timbre that can not be switched with the "variation" button. The accompaniment patterns partly differ from the PC-100 and always employ "piano" for chords and "guitar" for bass. In fingered chord mode the chord section notes do not repeat within 1 octave (like a key split, but any notes are held until all chord keys are released together), which with the automatic accompaniment has the side effect that the octave of played chord differs from the same chords played in single finger mode. Strange is also that while the single finger accompaniment here has a fairly complex behaviour and e.g. inserts a walking bass pattern at certain chord changes, the fingered accompaniment behaves far simpler. It apparently does not recognize played chords at all but only inserts the up to 4 notes of pressed keys into a given pattern (a bit like the archaic Antonelli Star 2379). At least it permits to play any disharmonic note combinations instead of establishment chords. The walking bass pattern is triggered in this mode by pressing together 2 keys with 1 note distance (like 'C' + 'D').

The case style of the Yamaha PCS-500 somewhat resembles the big fullsize keyboard Yamaha PS-6100 (FM sound, velocity sensitive, MIDI), which had its control panel integrated into the keyboard lid.

 removal of these screws voids warranty...    
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