Yamaha PSS-260 (digital keyboard with programmable blip rhythm & realtime timbre slider)

This keyboard from 1985 has very simple digital dual waveform timbres those imitate FM and resemble much the bright Yamaha PC-100 sounds, although these ones sound partly even thinner. The most interesting feature is the realtime programmable drum pattern ("custom drummer") with very electronic sounding blip percussion, which in a limited way can be also abused as a  tekkno drum computer.

The accompaniment also accepts non- standard chords. Although the Yamaha PSS-260 sound is nothing exceptionally great, it has unusual OBS controls with easy moving and quick responding slide switches those can be used like the crossfader by a DJ for interesting live play tricks to make bizarre granular sounds.

main features:

MODEL PSS-260 SER.NO. 47156


The (not really pretty) case style of this instrument has similarities with the small Yamaha TYU-40 and likely inspired the Letron MC-3 case design. The speaker grill even reminds to Testron CL-60910. An unusual feature of the Yamaha PSS-260 are the OBS preset sound & rhythm slide switches with sliding mechanical red marker dot, those remind to the odd mechanical "Multi- Menu" feature of Yamaha MK-100. A bit disturbing is the battery alarm, which plays 2 notes after a minute (using the current preset sound) even when a power supply is used. (I haven't analyzed the hardware further yet.)

The main voice sound is made from 2 layered static digital waveforms with independent very simple envelopes, those remind to very simple FM sounds. All preset sounds are quite bright and almost harsh, but (unlike e.g. My Music Center) don't sound rough by DAC frequency aliasing noise. The sound style resembles mostly Yamaha PC-100 but is even simpler. The "jazz organ" is a dull Hammond imitation, "flute" is fairly bright, "saxophone" too bright. "oboe" resembles a trumpet, while "trumpet" is too thin and resembles a mosquito with high notes. "violin" is similar, but duller (could be also an accordion). "pipe organ" is way too bright and rapidly fades duller during its slow attack phase; it shall likely imitate a metal pipe organ rank, but sounds too thin and harsh. "piano" is rather a nylon guitar (like with badly made FM instruments), while "electric piano" has a Rhodes timbre. "guitar" is brighter but similar like "piano", while "harpsichord" sounds harsh and way too thin and quiet, which makes high notes almost disappear during accompaniment. "synth" resembles "pipe organ", but is less harsh and has a percussive attack phase. All decaying sounds decay with the same speed. When sustain is switched off, all sounds stop immediately after releasing the key, which permits to play very short blipping notes. The easy moving "orchestra" OBS slide switch can also rapidly change the timbre of held notes, which can be used as a nicely grainy sound effect for live play. (When a decaying sound is selected and the decay phase has begun, the note continues decaying also after switching back to a holding preset sound.) The sound presets itself also contain neither vibrato nor tremolo. The sustain switch adds at position "2" normal sustain (about 1.5s) while at "1" it adds a quieter sustain to simulate distant reverb (nice for pipe organ sounds). The vibrato switch adds a delayed  6Hz vibrato, which is barely audible with decaying sounds since they decay almost completely before the vibrato starts.

The rhythms employ very electronic blip percussion (similar like with cheap FM keyboards, but the cymbals hiss more). The 8 rhythms and their accompaniments are nothing great, but sound rather neutral. Instead of the accompaniment, also a manual bass (monophonic "guitar" sound) can be played. Nice is that the fingered accompaniment accepts any disharmonic note combinations and not only a few establishment chords. Unusual is that the red tempo LED not simply flashes on and off, but indicates the bars by going alternatingly bright, dim, bright, off with 4/4 rhythms and bright, dim, off with 3/4 rhythms. With rhythm off, there is a manual chord mode, those timbre depend on the currently selected preset rhythm (5 different timbres); like with the preset sound slider, with rhythm off also the rhythm slide switch rapidly changes the timbre of held chord notes, which can be used for live play tricks.

The programmable drum pattern ("custom drummer") is programmed in realtime in a similar way like with Yamaha PSS-150, but has less flaws. You have to select one of the preset rhythms as a template and press the "program start/ end" button which makes the selected rhythm repeat  in a loop. Then you can add additional percussion in realtime with the rightmost 6 white keyboard keys. (The pattern length depends on the selected rhythm.) You can even delete individual percussion tracks by pressing "cancel" simultaneously with the corresponding key. The programming mode can in a limited way also be abused as a realtime tekkno drum computer and you can even play keyboard(!) during this on the remaining keys (with or without accompaniment). The pattern resolution depends on the selected rhythm and is high enough to get bizarre and complex "tribal" drum loops out of it. After finishing programming (press "stop" to stop the rhythm), the user pattern can be played by pressing "play/ stop". You can even change the accompaniment by simply stopping the rhythm, shifting the "rhythm" slider to to the rhythm with the intended accompaniment and re- start the pattern with the "play/ stop" button. The pattern length of the accompaniment (4/4 or 3/4) automatically adapts to the user pattern length. If you want to edit the pattern, simply press "program start/ end" while the pattern is running (otherwise it would be overwritten by the current preset rhythm) and now you can add percussion or delete tracks.

When "play/ stop" is pressed without recording (or after deleting all tracks of the user pattern), the instrument turns rhythm off and switches the rightmost keys into drumpad mode. Interesting is that although sound selection of this instrument is in no way OBS, you can play on the keyboard with rhythm and accompaniment, then program (and delete) in realtime a new user pattern and switch back and forward between the user and the default rhythm pattern all without stopping the accompaniment. (Move the rhythm slider a little to switch from the user pattern to the previous rhythm.)

A simpler variant of the PSS-260 was the Yamaha PSS-160, which has only squarewave sound and unfortunately lacks the great custom drummer. A way more versatile keyboard with similar sounds like PSS-260 was the great Yamaha MK-100.

 removal of these screws voids warranty...    
back to tablehooters collection