I’ve recently come upon two vintage PortaSound keyboards – one at a thrift store, and the other in a dumpster. In this post, I’m going to tell you about what I found. Then, I’ll share what I’ve made with these nostalgic devices.
Yamaha PortaSound PS-3
I’m not going to try to give a full review of either of these keyboards. There are enough people making YouTube videos along such lines – and they’re thorough! Nor will I pretend to know how to elegantly circuit bend; rather, I will say this – Vibraphone plus sustain is my favorite setting on the PS-3. Yes, partly because it is nostalgic… but it sounds good enough to record mess around with in an actual composition (as you will see).
I paid $10 for this at a local thrift store, cleaned out the rancid C batteries, and plugged in a 9V wall adapter that I had kicking around. Works great!
Download the official PS-3 manual from Yamaha.
Yamaha PortaSound PSS-480
This thing is so great, because it’s got a built-in digital FM synthesizer. Pick any of the built-in 100 voices, and modify: attack, decay, frequency, feedback, and modulation across two “operators” (oscillators). As unoriginal as it may sound, I just love to start with a sine wave, add some reverb and sustain, and go from there. You can save up to 5 custom banks.
I found this sitting on top of a dumpster that shall remain nameless. Thank you, person who threw this away so carefully. My PSS-480 is clean and fully functional. It even has MIDI ports. Nerd party, commence!
Download the official PSS-480 manual from Yamaha.
These finds inspired me to write a Secondhand podcast episode exploring the rise of the consumer electronic keyboard, with an emphasis on these Yamaha products. Listen to the episode below, or visit the Secondhand Podcast main page for more information and/or to subscribe.
Check out and subscribe to my Secondhand podcast.
Offshoot Synth Music
And, of course, these devices have also inspired me to create some actual music/sound and add it to my Offshoot project. More specifically, I used these keyboards (and some other technologies) to create this episode of the Offshoot Synth Music Podcast. You can follow my links for more info and/or to subscribe via your preferred podcast collector.
If you are enjoying, vicariously, my secondhand discoveries and the things I’ve made with them, please let me know – and tell other like-minded friends to check out this post. Leave a comment, share your similar projects and preoccupations, and subscribe to stay connected.