Vintage Digital

Yamaha SPX Effects Processors

It all started way back in 1985, when Yamaha released the first SPX effects processor, the Yamaha SPX90, which has since become legendary, even more so than the models that came after it.
Yamaha SPX Effects Processors

Yamaha’s range of SPX effects processors would have to be one of the longest running effects processor series in history. Having begun life in 1985 with the Yamaha SPX90 right through to the Yamaha SPX2000 which was first introduced in 2003 and is still in production today. Thirty five years is a long time, so we thought it was time to honour this highly successful series of effects processors.

Yamaha SPX 90 Multi-Effects Processor

The one that started it all, the Yamaha SPX90, introduced in 1985 it took the world by storm and cemented it’s place in effects processor history. That same year the equally legendary Lexicon PCM70 was released, but the Yamaha SPX90 was more affordable and found it’s way into just about every effects rack of every PA system of the day. The Yamaha SPX90 was a mono in, stereo out effects processor that offered just about every effect you could ask for including reverb, delay, modulation effects such as chorus, flanging and phasing, as well as gates, compressors, vibrato and panning. It was a true tour de force in the day.

In truth, those PA systems of the day would usually have more than one SPX90 in their effects racks with each doing different effects. Home studios found the Yamaha SPX90 an indispensable tool too, it was the effects processor to have, unless you could afford the Lexicon PCM70 of course as the Lexicon was a more desirable brand purely because of their dominance in the big studios in the 1970s through to the 1980s.

While the effects were not the best of class, they were very usable. Reverbs were pretty good for their time and certainly when used for a Portastudio demo or for snare reverb on a live band, they sounded great. The effect it is most revered for however is the Symphonic preset. This effect is a complex chorusing effect which is great for solo instruments, in particular guitar. I am sure Yamaha had no idea what they had started with the release of the SPX90, but many manufacturers chased after their success from that day forward with companies like Alesis and Roland seeking to emulate the enormous success of the Yamaha SPX90.

Yamaha SPX 90 II Multi-Effects Processor

In 1986 Yamaha updated the SPX90 to the Yamaha SPX90 II. The Yamaha SPX90 II was exactly the same in terms of being a mono in and stereo effects processor, and it had the exact same electronics inside. So apart from the obvious change to a teal colour trim on the fascia, the only difference was in the amount of memory inside for delays. The half second of delay in the original Yamaha SPX90 simply wasn’t enough to satisfy most people, and increasing the memory afforded a 2 second delay time which was just what the market wanted. The success continued for Yamaha.

Yamaha SPX50D Digital Sound Processor

In 1987 Yamaha used the existing SPX platform to release a multi-effects processor aimed at guitarists. Apart from the very obvious red fascia trim, the Yamaha SPX50D added distortion effects to the already full list of features the SPX series offered. The Yamaha SPX50D may have been an attempt to compete with the success Eventide were enjoying with their incredible H3000 effects processors. The Yamaha would have been significantly cheaper than the Eventide, but it would seem they failed to make an impact as the Yamaha SPX50D is a little known processor and they rarely come up for sale.

Yamaha SPX900 Professional Multi-Effect Processor

By the time 1988 rolled around, digital converters were more affordable, so Yamaha pushed the sonic prowess of the SPX series to new levels. The Yamaha SPX900 featured full bandwidth for the first time. While earlier SPX effects processors where limited to 12kHz bandwidth, the new SPX900 extended all the way to 20kHz and the dynamic range went from around 80dB to 90dB.

This made the Yamaha SPX900 a real contender in more professional applications such as top end recording studios. (Mind you, the Yamaha SPX90 found it’s way into many top end studios regardless) The Yamaha SPX900 remained a mono in and stereo effects processor, but it’s sound quality was miles ahead of it’s predecessors.

Yamaha SPX1000 Professional Multi-Effect Processor

Three years after the release of the original SPX90, Yamaha released their first stereo in and out effects processor, the Yamaha SPX1000. Not a lot changed from the SPX900 released in the same year, so stereo in is the real party piece here. The success continued…

Yamaha SPX990 Professional Multi-Effect Processor

In what can only be described as a strange move, in 1993 Yamaha released their next SPX processor, the SPX990, which was the longest gap between models to date. The Yamaha SP990 sounds like a step backwards from the SPX1000 it replaced, so the naming convention is odd, however the SPX990 took what was great about the SPX1000 and gave it more preset memory locations.

However the real upgrade here were the converters being used. The Yamaha SPX990 went to 20bit converters, thus increasing the noise floor to 106dB, but keeping the bandwidth to 20kHz. In addition, Yamaha gave the SPX990 a memory card slot on the front panel to allow further storage, and for front of house engineers to take their presets with them to the next gig.

Yamaha SPX2000 Professional Multi-Effect Processor

Yamaha’s SPX990 was the last effects processor Yamaha made in the 1990s. It was a long wait until 2003 before Yamaha took everything they new about effects processing and in particular, reverb , and released the powerhouse SPX2000. The Yamaha SPX2000 featured 24bit converters with much higher sampling rates than any previous Yamaha effects processor. The SPX2000 offered 44.1-48kHz at 128x oversampling, or 64x oversampling at 88.2-96kHz. This provided the SPX2000 with 20Hz-40kHz bandwidth, a first for the SPX and gave the SPX2000 pristine sound quality.

The fact that the Yamaha SPX2000 is still being sold is testament to the quality of the processor. Seventeen years is an awful long time for any product and with a retail price of US$1349 it is a real bargain as you are getting the very best of Yamaha effects including all of their top end reverb algorithms with stunning clarity. Bravo Yamaha!