Yamaha's SY35 has been a consistent best seller since its launch, but when you try to find software for it, such as editor/librarians, or even program cards, you find it isn't as well represented as its sale figures might suggest. Fortunately, when it comes to program cards, the SY35 will accept SY22 RAM cards and the data they contain without argument, and because the SY35 is equipped with a vector joystick, which may be used to change the balance between the (two or four) tonal components that make up a sound, you can work with variations on the patch without having to enter edit mode at all.
The two cards sent in for us to try out were the Metrasound Soundcard I (Pop Mix) and the Soundcard II, which contains a higher proportion of 'stock' sounds, such as acoustic and electric pianos. These are standard battery‑backed‑up RAM cards containing 16 single patches plus 16 multis or combinations, and because they are RAM rather than ROM cards, you can opt to replace some of the sounds if you want to.
Rather than each card being based on a single theme, such as textures, pianos or whatever, both cards contain a variety of sounds, most of which are new versions of familiar faces such as electric pianos, strings, orchestral instruments and so forth. There are also textural pads, some nice analogue‑type sounds, and the odd esoteric instrumental sound to be had, and though there's nothing hugely new on offer, the actual quality of the sounds is generally very good, with many improvements on the sounds supplied with the machine. Soundcard I probably provides the greatest variety — I particularly liked the growly Hammond organ and Solina strings emulations — though Soundcard II does contain a number of excellent pianos, including some convincing DX7 emulations and a rather nice Rhodes. Unlike some cards, which include a number of impressive but largely unusable, gratuitous sounds, these patches are obviously designed to be played and I found that I wanted to hang on to more than half of them — which is a pretty high score for me. The only thing that is lacking, for me, is a good acoustic piano patch, but I'm beginning to think that the synth itself falls short here in not providing the right raw material.
The bottom line is that these cards are about average in price, but, I feel, rather better than average in content. Neither the SY22 or 35 is difficult to program from scratch, but when you hear what a good programmer can come up with, you might find it gives your machine a new lease of life. Paul White