Vintage Digital

Yamaha SPX Effects Processors

Classic Recording Studio Equipment

The journey began in 1985 with the launch of Yamaha's inaugural SPX effects processor, the SPX90, which quickly ascended to legendary status. Spanning decades, Yamaha's SPX effects processor series stands as one of the longest running in history. From the pioneering SPX90 to the enduring SPX2000, introduced in 2003 and still in production today, Yamaha has continuously refined and expanded its lineup, leaving an indelible mark on the world of audio processing.

Yamaha SPX 90 Multi-Effects Processor

In 1985, the Yamaha SPX90 burst onto the scene, making waves in the world of effects processors and securing its place in history. Despite the release of the equally renowned Lexicon PCM70 that year, the SPX90’s affordability made it a staple in every PA system’s effects rack. Offering a plethora of effects including reverb, delay, chorus, flanging, phasing, gates, compressors, vibrato, and panning, it was a powerhouse of versatility. PA systems often boasted multiple SPX90 units, each assigned different effects.

Home studios also relied on the SPX90, unless they could afford the coveted Lexicon PCM70. Though not top tier, its effects, particularly the Symphonic preset, were highly usable and revered, especially for solo instruments like guitar. Yamaha likely didn’t anticipate the impact of the SPX90’s release, but its success spurred other manufacturers like Alesis and Roland to follow suit, seeking to replicate its immense popularity.

“When the SPX came out in 1985, I grabbed one straight away. It was roughly half the price of a Rev 7 and did a similar job, but with a few additions of pitch shifting and a crude short sampling mode that I can’t remember if the option to control by midi was available. The reverb and multi effects were the main attraction for me and it did those very well. Infact when put in comparison to the Rev 7’s reverb, it’s very close indeed. I still have two SPXs in my studio today and occasionally they get used on percussion sounds but are only relegated to secondary use because I have a lot of other reverbs to choose from. As a general summary, they are well worth the money they go for today.”

The Yamaha SPX90, introduced in 1985, has found its way onto numerous albums over the years. Notably, it featured prominently on two iconic albums: Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” and Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill.”

Yamaha SPX 90 II Multi-Effects Processor

In 1986, Yamaha introduced the updated version of the SPX90, known as the Yamaha SPX90 II. Functionally identical to its predecessor, this iteration maintained its status as a mono in and stereo effects processor with unchanged internal electronics. The primary alteration was the shift to a teal colour trim on the fascia, offering a visual distinction. However, the significant improvement came in the form of expanded memory for delays. Addressing the limitations of the original SPX90’s half-second delay, the SPX90 II now provided a generous 2-second delay time, meeting the demands of the market. Yamaha’s success with the SPX series persisted, bolstered by these enhancements.

“So, everyone loves the Yamaha SPX90, but almost nobody talks about the SPX90 II, the forgotten effects box. It is essentially the exact same box as the SPX90 but with more memory, what’s not to like? But that is OK, it simply means I can buy an SPX90 II for less money that the SPX 90, ha!”

Yamaha SPX90 Impulse Responses For Altiverb

The Yamaha SPX90 Reverb Impulse Responses for Altiverb are a complete package of this classic Yamaha effects units reverb presets. A total of 8 reverb patches are included. The recording of these impulse responses was done with very careful calibration, through a Focusrite digital audio interface, and recorded into Harrison Mixbus 32C.

Yamaha SPX50D Digital Sound Processor

In 1987, Yamaha leveraged the existing SPX platform (SPX90 II) to introduce a multi-effects processor tailored for guitarists: the Yamaha SPX50D. Distinguished by its unmistakable red fascia trim, this iteration of the SPX series expanded its repertoire by incorporating distortion effects alongside its comprehensive feature set. The introduction of the Yamaha SPX50D may have been a strategic move to challenge the dominance of Eventide’s highly acclaimed H3000 effects processors. While Yamaha aimed to offer a more affordable alternative to the Eventide, it appears that they struggled to gain traction in the market. As a result, the Yamaha SPX50D remains relatively obscure, with rare appearances in sales listings.

Yamaha SPX900 Professional Multi-Effect Processor

In 1988, with the increasing affordability of digital converters, Yamaha elevated the sonic capabilities of the SPX series to unprecedented heights. The introduction of the Yamaha SPX900 marked a significant milestone, boasting full bandwidth for the first time in the series’ history. Unlike earlier SPX models limited to a 12kHz bandwidth, the SPX900 extended all the way to 20kHz, while also enhancing the dynamic range from approximately 80dB to 90dB.

This advancement positioned the Yamaha SPX900 as a formidable contender in professional settings, including top tier recording studios. Despite the widespread use of its predecessor, the Yamaha SPX90, even in prestigious studios, the SPX900’s superior sound quality propelled it to the forefront of the industry. Remaining a mono in and stereo effects processor, the SPX900’s exceptional audio performance set a new standard for excellence in the SPX series.

Similar to its predecessors, the Yamaha SPX900 became a staple in many recordings. Notably, it was prominently featured on Midnight Oil’s “Beds Are Burning,” where it handled chorus duties with finesse.

“Lots of effects and up to 5 simultaneous with some algorithms. You still see these for sale in excellent, working condition highlighting the superb build quality and reliability of these units at 30 years old. It’s a professional unit for professional applications though has been superseded by so many other modern equivalents that have been based on this original format and design. Even with its age, it still holds its own and is still a sought-after vintage effects processor.”

Yamaha SPX1000 Professional Multi-Effect Processor

In 1988, Yamaha followed up the success of the original SPX90 with their groundbreaking stereo in and out effects processor, the Yamaha SPX1000. While much remained unchanged from its predecessor, the SPX900, which debuted in the same year, the introduction of stereo input capability was the standout feature of the SPX1000. This enhancement opened up new creative possibilities and marked a significant advancement in Yamaha’s line of effects processors. Building upon the success of its predecessors, the SPX1000 continued to solidify Yamaha’s position as a leader in the world of affordable audio processing technology.

“Lots of effects and up to 5 simultaneous with some algorithms. You still see these for sale in excellent, working condition highlighting the superb build quality and reliability of these units at 30 years old. It’s a professional unit for professional applications though has been superseded by so many other modern equivalents that have been based on this original format and design. Even with its age, it still holds its own and is still a sought-after vintage effects processor.”

Hugh Padgham is a highly successful and influential mixing engineer in the music industry, best known for his work with artists such as Phil Collins, Genesis, The Police, and Sting. Born in 1955 in Bath, England, Padgham began his career in the music industry in the late 1970s as a tape operator at the Advision Studios in London.

It’s evident that the renowned mix engineer Hugh Padgham held a strong affinity for the Yamaha SPX series of effects processors. His effects racks boasted a collection that encompassed the SPX90, SPX90 II, SPX900, and SPX1000.

Yamaha SPX990 Professional Multi-Effect Processor

In a rather unexpected move, Yamaha introduced their next SPX processor, the SPX990, in 1993, marking the longest gap between models up to that point. Despite seeming like a step back from its predecessor, the SPX1000, the naming convention is peculiar. However, the SPX990 retained the qualities that made the SPX1000 great while adding more preset memory locations.

The significant upgrade came with the converters: the SPX990 featured 20-bit converters, elevating the noise floor to 106dB while maintaining a bandwidth of 20kHz. Additionally, Yamaha equipped the SPX990 with a memory card slot on the front panel, allowing for expanded storage and enabling front-of-house engineers to carry their presets to subsequent gigs.

The Yamaha SPX990 played a significant role on Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill” album. Instead of opting for the Lexicon 480L or AMS RMX 16, they specifically selected the Yamaha SPX990 for its Symphonic and Thin Wood Room presets, which added depth and character to Alanis’s vocals.

“Just ask yourself: Why can the SPX990 be found in 8 on 10 studios? Why can it be found in 8 out of 10 PA-systems?”

Yamaha SPX2000 Professional Multi-Effect Processor

Yamaha’s SPX990 marked the end of an era for Yamaha’s effects processors in the 1990s. It wasn’t until 2003 that Yamaha unveiled their next masterpiece: the SPX2000. This powerhouse was the culmination of Yamaha’s expertise in effects processing, particularly reverb. With 24-bit converters and significantly higher sampling rates compared to its predecessors, the SPX2000 offered unparalleled sound quality. Featuring 128x oversampling at 44.1-48kHz or 64x oversampling at 88.2-96kHz, it boasted a bandwidth of 20Hz-40kHz, a first for the SPX series. The enduring availability of the SPX2000, even after seventeen years, speaks volumes about its quality. Priced at US$1349, it remains a bargain for those seeking the pinnacle of Yamaha’s effects, including their top-end reverb algorithms renowned for their clarity. Bravo, Yamaha!

“Had this for about three years now, it is everything that came before it (from Yamaha) in one box. Sound is typical Yamaha ‘clean’, it is quiet and at the prices these go for these days, a bit of a bargain.”