Tuesday, 21 February 2017

The Yamaha FX500 - distortion hates me. Modulation loves me. And it does reverse reverb!

I bought one of these about ten years ago and really liked it (yes, it was sold. Just like most of my gear). The bypass isn't great but it has so much going for it. The operation is simple and there are plenty of good sounds within this unit. 

None of the distortion sounds are good. About half of the presets you will skip over within seconds. The compressor has the ability to be a bit crunchy in a very digital way that sometimes works but mostly doesn't. 

But the modulation.. oh, the symphonic modulation. It's fabulous. If I want reverb from a rack unit of this era, I'm jumping on an Alesis Midiverb II, Quadraverb, or one of the cheaper Lexicons like the Reflex. The biggest strength of the Yamaha units like the FX500 and SPX90 (if you're not into the reverse reverb) is the modulation options. 

To start with, I'll go through some of the presets I like. As ever, it's straight DI recording with a small amount of compression to balance out the audio at the end supplied by the Kotelnikov compressor plugin.


  1. hello. soft focus is awesome for slowdive sound, no doubt, but what do you think about other reverbs like hall? are they any good, big or warm (what is the maximum decay time?)? i heard some dude said that reverbs were kinda cold and mettalic, is that true? how about delays? btw, why don't you like strymon reverbs? thanks

    1. I think the reverbs are perfectly usable on the FX500. Initially they do sound brighter than the SPX90 but I'd put this down to the increased sampling frequency of the FX500 over the SPX90. Once you start tinkering with the reverb settings, you should be able to get what you want.

      Max reverb time: 40 seconds. Have a read of the manual.


    2. The delays are OK, nothing special there. That's actually why it's hard to replicate the Soft Focus sound with plugins. There are few plugs that basic now in terms of sound. The delay and reverb are pretty average really but it's the modulation (the Symphonic effect) which provides that lovely swirl.

      As for Strymon reverbs... the older stuff like the SPX90 and Midiverb II, they seem to knit the dry sound and the effect sound together much better. I've had the Big Sky at least three times, sold it every time. It just sounds like there's my guitar sound with this synthetic sheet of admittedly lovely clear reverb over the top. I don't like it. It's too polite for me. Give me some of the old filthy lower spec reverb sounds :)

    3. hey, thanks for your reply. yes, the early shoegazers did use these alesis rack reverbs like midiverb and quadraverb. i still wanna get quadraverb because of some of the bands i love like early the verve or lovesliescrushing and of course kevin shields used midiverb ii. must say thoguh, i don't really like so called natural reverbs bcause they sound kinda cold to me, i dunno. been thinking about big sky, sounds pretty warm and lush. still don't know , though. actually right now i have zoom ms70cdr and i love it. i think it's very nice. also boss rv-5 on modulate mode is awesome.

    4. btw, have u heard that loomer pedal by keeley ? inspired by my bloody valentine but also has soft pocus mode.i i've been listening to this mode and it ssound nice but not exacly like yamaha's one. what do you think?

      so, u wanna say that strymon reverbs sound too sterile nad clear for your liking or do not blend well with guitar sound? i can understand , i liked choral, bloom and cloud setting, thoguh. also looking for empress reverb, i dunno, still wanna get that Robin Guthrie sound, it's so perfect.

    5. The Big Skly isn't what I'd call especially warm as reverbs go. It's got that high end sheen characteristic of Strymon reverbs that really turns my ears off.

      Quadraverb sounds quite different to the Midiverb. Listen to Jeff Buckley's Grace LP, so much of the delay and reverb on that comes from the Quadraverb. A really good unit in its own right and one I'll end up owning again.

      The Loomer does sound quite interesting. The reverse reverb is pretty good, although I don't think it's much different from the sound you can get out of a SMMH. Soft Focus is a bit shit though. I really think the limitations of the FX500 with regard to reverb quality and processing ability actually make that sound. Valhalla DSP brought out a plugin last year called Space Modulator. It was distributed free to existing customers. The Soft Focus presets on that are pretty good but still not quite the same. Sometimes it's pretty hard getting the more low tech sounds.

    6. quadraverb seems dope. i think the stone roses first album had it too as well as early aphex twin and autechre albums