Ready-made + drag-and-drop USB floppy emulator for SY99+SY77

The Yamaha SY99 is a synthesiser combining frequency modulation synthesis (branded as Advanced FM) and sample-based synthesis (branded as Advanced Wave Memory 2) and the direct successor to Yamaha's SY77/TG77

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db7

Ready-made + drag-and-drop USB floppy emulator for SY99+SY77

Unread post by db7 » Sat Mar 30, 2013 12:32 am

Preface: This post will be long, as mine tend to be, whether I want them to or not! However, all the info I have is here, which I hope will be more than enough for other users and will preclude my having to repeat myself ;), and plus, those who like to read stories about experiments and rare successes might find the background interesting. I’ll be happy to read people’s thoughts, particularly as my eagerness to have a ready-made 26-pin emulator that preferably worked without additional software meant that I effectively became a guinea-pig for other users, who are now lucky that I am selfless enough to share this information instead of keeping it to myself and marvelling at my totally unique SY99… :lol: But in reality, it ends up as just a way to give something back to an extremely helpful community. Anyway…

The past

I’m sure many of us have read EX5_etc/DrF’s account of installing a USB floppy emulator, in that case by SuntekStore, to his SY99. In outline, this replaces the floppy drive with a same-sized device that takes a USB drive of your provision and accesses up to 100 virtual floppy disks stored on said USB drive. The same method was also applicable to the SY77, which uses an identical drive (as well as various other shared parts, such as the keys and the button-boards).

The emulator used by EX5_etc required making an adaptor/cable to convert between the 26-pin interface in the SY99 and the 34-pin interface on (more) standard 3.5" floppy drives and, hence, emulators. It also stored the virtual floppy disks on the USB drive as image-files or separate partitions (the mechanism is unclear, although users on unrelated forums have begun to document the formats of one or two such emulators), which required custom software to create and access, of which all the available programs had their own quite serious limitations or quirks: being for Windows XP, working on Windows 7/8 but requiring the user to disable Driver Signature checking manually at each startup, not necessarily writing properly working disks beyond the first few of the 100, and so on.

The present

I post today with an easier method, albeit one that is still inspired by EX5_etc’s various generous contributions to the community and its knowledge-base, as well as mirroring his tendency towards longer posts. ;)

I say “easier” because this type of emulator does not require that you provide a cable/adaptor. It also does not require software: files are simply stored as normal files in a FAT(12/16/32)-formatted USB drive: in the root directory for virtual disk 00, and in folders named 01–99 for the other 99 that the emulator is capable of accessing. In other words, you just plug the emulator into your SY99, and then you just drag and drop files from your PC onto the USB drive for use on the SY99 or vice-versa.

The background

I’ll now go over the history of how I figured this all out, since it took me quite some time, a fair amount of detective-work both before and after receiving the device, and a large gamble financially since I had no way of knowing whether it would definitely work.

Some months ago I saw that a seller on eBay, floppy_drive_emulator, has been offering a 26-pin emulator for Tajima embroidery machines among the various emulators in their store, albeit a 1.44 MB version. I also found a thread by a different seller of USB floppy drive emulators, the massively overpriced PLR Electronics, in which the administrator said they had noticed their 26-pin emulator, also for Tajima machines, had the same pinout as the SY99.

Anyway, to cut a long story as short as I’m capable of, this piqued my interest. I eventually began a conversation with the aforementioned seller on eBay, floppy_drive_emulator, asking whether the 26-pin emulator was available in 720 kB/DD mode and with a black faceplate, and whether it used image-files. Short answer: yes, those options were available, as was an emulator that used simple FAT32 files and thus did not require image-files and software.

Once I was sure that all the details I requested had been understood, I bit the bullet and placed an order, including a high premium for expedited international shipping from Vietnam. The price was the same as that of the original Tajima-targeted emulator that first got my attention all those weeks ago: $95 (before P&P).

The emulator

I received the emulator yesterday (or was it the day before? :?) and tried it out. The first thing I noticed was that the jumpers were as EX5_etc had described on his emulator and were in the same positions as his had been before he altered them – probably because, as far as I know, there are only a few types of emulator board going around, which were originally copied from one or more of the first such emulators, and which various sellers now copy from each other, albeit with subtle differences in how the virtual disks are stored (image-files vs. simple files and folders) or accessed (the buttons used, and so on).

My emulator also has the switch installed on the front: this controls whether the emulator is in disk-choosing mode or in disk-reading/writing modes. The same could be done without a switch by plugging the USB drive in and out, but the switch turns out to be very useful, despite EX5_etc removing it from his emulator.

Anyway, back to the issue with the jumpers. I (re)moved the plastic jumpers to the positions recommended by EX5_etc in his guide, but that did not solve the problem. The SY99 still consistently told me “Error: Disk not ready”. It turns out that the same jumpers had been soldered together on the underside of the board. So, I removed those connections.

In the end, jumper JA must be unconnected. The emulator shipped with this and one of either S0 or S1 – which I presume control the Drive Select signal(s) to which the emulator responds – connected. I am not sure whether the S? jumper that shipped connected was wrong or OK, but it shouldn’t be soldered anyway, especially when the emulator already ships with plastic jumper-heads (or whatever they’re called). So, one of those has to be connected, and I can’t be sure whether it was the opposite one from the one that had been soldered or not. Anyway, you can figure this out whilst installing the emulator by simply testing both yourself; I am certainly not going to open my SY99 again until I absolutely have to! I suspect it’s the same jumper as EX5_etc documented, but again, it’s easy to test.

This shows the folly of the jumpers having originally been soldered beneath the board, which is the only thing I can complain about with the product; I presume it is a holdover from the Tajima machine upon which I based my requests for this, so I can’t complain too much. I have advised floppy_drive_emulator that such soldering is not appropriate for the SY99. It makes very little sense for any product when headers are provided to enable the user to select their own configuration using plastic jumper-heads.

The emulator then began to work fine to let the SY99 read files that I had copied to the USB drive from the PC. However, I had trouble getting it to write files – or at least ones that weren’t 0 kB in size. Again to cut a long story of trial-and-error and rudimentary detective-work as short as possible: it seems the problem was that I was saving files with the default blank name, which, for some reason, the emulator did not like. I then tried to save files with only characters A–Z and 0–9 in the filename, and for all 8 characters, which then allowed me to save files properly, which could be accessed fine on the PC afterwards.

Thus, do not use the default file name “- NEW -”, as the emulator does not seem to agree with it. I had never tried saving from the SY99 before, so I cannot say whether the original drive would also have written useless 0 kB files (called just -.T01, etc.) if I had saved in the same way.

The future…

I have contacted floppy_drive_emulator and advised them not to solder the jumpers together on the board itself, and I have recommended that they create a new listing for this specific type of emulator so that the many keen SY99 and SY77 users still active today can benefit just as much from the product as the seller will do from the additional custom. I have pointed out that the absence of requirements for a user-made cable and for awkward software and image-files will make their product look very attractive in comparison to the method previously described by EX5_etc.

I dare say they will be happy to take the opportunity now that I have made myself a guinea-pig for other users of the SY99/SY77 and luckily had success! Hopefully they will soon create a public listing for other owners of these classic synthesisers to buy the emulator and future-proof their keyboard with ease.

Mine sits in my SY99 so well that one would almost think it belongs there! Like EX5_etc in his thread, I have no more whine from the old LCD inverter, and no more whirring and chugging from the floppy drive… it’s all very serene. :)

Again, your thoughts are very welcome! I hope to be able to update this thread quite soon with the link to a public listing for ready-made emulators.



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Re: Ready-made + drag-and-drop USB floppy emulator for SY99+

Unread post by EX5_etc » Sat Mar 30, 2013 2:57 am

Nice post and nice detective work. Glad to see that I am not the only one that bites the bullet often. If I am not mistaken the first 1.44MB emulator I bought was from the ebay seller you mentioned, floppy_drive_emulator. I did not buy more from him due to high shipping costs and high emulator prices.

It's good to know that you don't need specialized software. I have heard of something similar where you simply plug a USB stick in, format the first "drive" with the emulator, read/write on it, format the "second" drive with the emulator, etc, etc.

The long post is not an issue, at least for me. In my classes the students that received high grades in the lab were those with long, detailed and professionally written reports. Good work always pays in the end.

DrF


Motif XF6, SY99, SY85, QS300, PSR1000, WX5, EX5R, A5000, TG500, TG55, RM50, QY700, QY100, QX5FD, MJC8, YDP2006, REV500, EMP700, EQ500U, MCS2, AW16G, Axiom Pro 49 and a few other things by Behringer, Evolution, Philips, Tascam, Technical Pro, Yamaha, etc, etc,... I wish I had time to use all this stuff; I am not even pro. :-)

db7

Re: Ready-made + drag-and-drop USB floppy emulator for SY99+

Unread post by db7 » Sat Mar 30, 2013 3:09 am

EX5_etc wrote:Nice post and nice detective work. Glad to see that I am not the only one that bites the bullet often.
I couldn’t help myself! That same statement describes all my experiences buying the SY99 and anything related to it, though, as do my frequent ponderings about how much financial pressure they’ll put on me shortly down the line. :lol: Oh well…
If I am not mistaken the first 1.44MB emulator I bought was from the ebay seller you mentioned, floppy_drive_emulator. I did not buy more from him due to high shipping costs and high emulator prices.
Yes, some may think the $95 is expensive, but to be honest: for me, with no skills/confidence to make my own adaptor, it was either spending that or spending $30ish more on the combination of Suntek’s emulator and a replacement drive on eBay that would come with the required adaptor. If that sounds wasteful, I knew it would be, but I had so little confidence in my ability to make an adaptor, and no one was going to sell one separately. The decision to get this one was sealed by the fact that it would be already adapted for the 26-pin interface and fully drag-and-drop, two things about which I myself was quite sceptical but that proved to be true.

Specific to the former factor there, I can’t see how their modifications to the 34-pin input correspond to the well-known adaptations described by yourself and Martin Russ… but they do work! I’m happy to remain ignorant on the reasoning in this case. :D

Anyway, your mention of the price is relevant: I don’t wish in any way to detract from the contribution you made with your guide – which, as I said, inspired me to write this one – and it could save people money if they are willing to make the adaptor and don’t mind using the necessary software and dealing with its quirks. Now there are simply more options available depending on users’ preferences and priorities.
It's good to know that you don't need specialized software. I have heard of something similar where you simply plug a USB stick in, format the first "drive" with the emulator, read/write on it, format the "second" drive with the emulator, etc, etc.
This is even easier than that. The user doesn’t even need to create folders 001–099: the emulator can create them itself as needed. It holds a virtual disk image constructed on-the-fly in its built-in RAM and converts between this and the purely file-based storage on the USB stick whenever reads or writes are invoked. Formatting is not necessary and would only clear the relevant folder on the USB stick anyway. The way the buttons and read/write modes work is a little different from instructions that I found elsewhere… before I realised the seller’s email of instructions had gone to my spam box! The process is a little idiosyncratic, but no more so than you documented in your previous instructions.

Overall, usage is easy and certainly worth the effort to avoid having to rely upon media with a finite lifespan that Verbatim presumably will not keep making forever. ;) It’s all quite cleverly done for such a small board. Of course, these are the sort of things that only need to be programmed once and then cloned ad infinitum by any seller thereafter who wants some quick money, but they remain useful products. The ability to transcend the ball-and-chain that is the requirement for stacks and stacks of floppy disks and their limited lifespan is pretty priceless for those who have older equipment but don’t want it to go defunct in the future.

Sure, on the SY99/SY77, most of their functions from disk can, in theory, be accomplished over MIDI instead. But in practice they aren’t all achievable, at least not yet, and there’s no point leaving the interface useless when one can effectively have a 100-disk (or more, with multiple sticks) library of voices, songs, samples, etc. in the same space as the old floppy drive.
The long post is not an issue, at least for me. In my classes the students that received high grades in the lab were those with long, detailed and professionally written reports. Good work always pays in the end.
Well, as I said, part of the reason I didn’t shorten my post was due to inspiration from your own previous guides! Plus, as I also mentioned, there are bound to be some users who want this info, some who want that info, etc., and maybe even some who just like reading about the process; all in all, I think it’s better to write as much as I can whilst I still have it in my mind. It’s better than me just writing a short summary now and possibly having to reply with lots of additional info later. Besides, in the course of writing this and making the inevitable 5490 edits, I’m adding quite a bit of information that might also be relevant to readers.

As for the importance of writing in a detailed way, I agree. I’ve been told I can be a very good communicator, which has paid off in the past in a limited range of academic and professional senses, although sadly I’ve never made enough use of it, especially recently! But oh well: it’s not something that fades with time, quite the opposite; I’m always learning new things in all areas, whether I want to or not. 8)



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Re: Ready-made + drag-and-drop USB floppy emulator for SY99+

Unread post by Miks » Sat Mar 30, 2013 1:08 pm

Well done db7,

excellent description of what you were going through! Looks like I have to upgrade my SY99 once again in the near future... :wink:


My (key related) gear (in alphabetical order):
Kawai: K1 II
Korg: M1 (up'd to EX, w/ 'Cool Blue'), M1REX (w/ 'Cool Blue'), Poly-800
Roland: D-50, D-110, D-550, PG-1000
Yamaha: AW1600, DX7IID (w/ 'Cool Blue'), EX5R, RM50, RX5, SY99 (w/ 'Cool Blue'), TG500, TX-802, YMM2
Sector101: SYEMB05 (5x), SYEMB06 (3x), EXFLM2 (1kit), MCD Sweet16 (1x), WaveBlade 8MB Card (1x) & 1x Programmer Unit for WaveBlade


http://rescuer-uslar.de/
https://www.facebook.com/Rescuer.Uslar/

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Re: Ready-made + drag-and-drop USB floppy emulator for SY99+

Unread post by EX5_etc » Sun Mar 31, 2013 7:16 am

db7 wrote:Yes, some may think the $95 is expensive, but to be honest: for me, with no skills/confidence to make my own adaptor, it was either spending that or spending $30ish more on the combination of Suntek’s emulator and a replacement drive on eBay that would come with the required adaptor. If that sounds wasteful, I knew it would be, but I had so little confidence in my ability to make an adaptor, and no one was going to sell one separately. The decision to get this one was sealed by the fact that it would be already adapted for the 26-pin interface and fully drag-and-drop, two things about which I myself was quite sceptical but that proved to be true.

Specific to the former factor there, I can’t see how their modifications to the 34-pin input correspond to the well-known adaptations described by yourself and Martin Russ… but they do work! I’m happy to remain ignorant on the reasoning in this case.
I can see your point here and sympathize. It's like when I don''t feel confident doing some SMD soldering and prefer to use a design for my 4MB expansion that costs 4 times more than the design with the cheap but difficult to solder components. As I may have said I thought about making some 26-pin to 34-pin adapters for sale at the price of $25 (S/H included). But that would require me to open the SY99 and test each adapter individually. I cannot sell something untested. I do not wish to open the SY99 all the time. It's heavy and it was not made to stay without open for long periods. Plus I was out of 34-pin connectors and I don't like to take PayPal payments, only personal checks.

Their adaptation to the 34-pin interface may have something to do with the fact that 17 of those 34 pins are simply grounded. My opinion is that it is the firmware inside the emulator that matters. Now, who stole it from whom and put it in there is another story. I'll give you a little hint on a similar subject: while working with CCD sensors recently I was able to get access to some confidential documents by the leading manufacturer in the field. All came from Chinese web sites after many weeks of online searching and they were not supposed to be available to anyone but a few developers. They guard CCD documents in a way you wouldn't believe, and yet I got them and I was able to work on my modifications.

Anyhow, I have a long thread about emulators that can be used with Yamaha instruments on ex5tech.com and I have included a link to this post. You get to answer the questions that some users might send you about the information you posted above.

DrF


Motif XF6, SY99, SY85, QS300, PSR1000, WX5, EX5R, A5000, TG500, TG55, RM50, QY700, QY100, QX5FD, MJC8, YDP2006, REV500, EMP700, EQ500U, MCS2, AW16G, Axiom Pro 49 and a few other things by Behringer, Evolution, Philips, Tascam, Technical Pro, Yamaha, etc, etc,... I wish I had time to use all this stuff; I am not even pro. :-)

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Re: Ready-made + drag-and-drop USB floppy emulator for SY99+

Unread post by Rigo » Mon Apr 01, 2013 4:00 pm

Hey all,

after checking this forum from time to time for some years, I finally registered ((i))
Floppy emulator, extra memory in the other thread ... maybe it is time I show my SY99 some love. Have it 20 years or so, bought it as good as new with 50% reduction being end of line and a demo unit in the shop.
It has company of an AN1x, FS1R, C-605-P, PS20, Korg Delta and a EuroRack modular synth.

Will follow this thread closely, all those floppies I have laying around won't stay in perfect condition forever.

Rigo (from Belgium)



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Re: Ready-made + drag-and-drop USB floppy emulator for SY99+

Unread post by Clyde » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:53 pm

Rigo,
Welcome to the Forums! This is a great site for SY77/99 info and also for other synths, hope you become a regular participant.
Clyde


DX7IIFD, SY77, SY99, Hammond C3, Steinway L, CP300, AW1600, etc.

db7

Re: Ready-made + drag-and-drop USB floppy emulator for SY99+

Unread post by db7 » Wed Jun 12, 2013 10:58 am

Well, after an extended delay without any news, I see that the same seller, floppy_drive_emulator, now has a listing up for what should be the same device: “Floppy Emulator for Yamaha keyboards SY77, SY99” Apparently, only three were listed, and someone has already bought two at once. I see no reason why they wouldn’t offer more for sale, either by request or perhaps automatically after the current batch sell out; perhaps they’re trying to gauge interest.

I would like to assume that my caveats about the jumpers have been taken into account during the assembly of these new ones since I made my purchase and reported the changes that were necessary. Prospective buyers reading this might want to enquire to confirm. As for the picture, I presume they will again be happy to supply it in black instead! :lol:

I now direct prospective buyers to my paragraphs in the opening post about the jumpers and their (re)configuration. This is to make sure that everyone buying this is aware of what they need to know. To be honest, even if it arrives exactly as mine did—which I assume it won’t because the seller has OK reading comprehension!—it’s not difficult to rectify; if I can manage it, anyone should be able to! ;)



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Re: Ready-made + drag-and-drop USB floppy emulator for SY99+

Unread post by creative69 » Sun Jun 16, 2013 8:58 am

Those who believe they can change the world often do"

Well done!


Yamaha:Motif XS8, 02R, 01V, SY77 (x2), DX7IID, SY99!!!!
Roland:D-50, JX3P, Fantom G8, MKS-20, JV1080
Korg:TR Rack
Oberheim:Matrix 6

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Re: Ready-made + drag-and-drop USB floppy emulator for SY99+

Unread post by Rigo » Thu Jun 27, 2013 8:08 pm

db7 wrote:Apparently, only three were listed, and someone has already bought two at once.
And somebody else bought the remaining one 8) Or will have bought once the shipping costs are known ...



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Re: Ready-made + drag-and-drop USB floppy emulator for SY99+

Unread post by Rigo » Mon Jul 08, 2013 3:59 pm

package arrived today, should try to install the emulator one of the days ...



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Re: Ready-made + drag-and-drop USB floppy emulator for SY99+

Unread post by Miks » Mon Jul 08, 2013 5:59 pm

Please let us know how you go on with the emulator! I'm highly interested in eventually swapping my SY99 floppy by an USB floppy emulator... :mrgreen:

P.S. taking some pictures would be fine... and tell us about the issues whenever they may appear...


My (key related) gear (in alphabetical order):
Kawai: K1 II
Korg: M1 (up'd to EX, w/ 'Cool Blue'), M1REX (w/ 'Cool Blue'), Poly-800
Roland: D-50, D-110, D-550, PG-1000
Yamaha: AW1600, DX7IID (w/ 'Cool Blue'), EX5R, RM50, RX5, SY99 (w/ 'Cool Blue'), TG500, TX-802, YMM2
Sector101: SYEMB05 (5x), SYEMB06 (3x), EXFLM2 (1kit), MCD Sweet16 (1x), WaveBlade 8MB Card (1x) & 1x Programmer Unit for WaveBlade


http://rescuer-uslar.de/
https://www.facebook.com/Rescuer.Uslar/

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Re: Ready-made + drag-and-drop USB floppy emulator for SY99+

Unread post by Rigo » Mon Jul 08, 2013 7:54 pm

Miks wrote:Please let us know how you go on with the emulator! I'm highly interested in eventually swapping my SY99 floppy by an USB floppy emulator... :mrgreen:

P.S. taking some pictures would be fine... and tell us about the issues whenever they may appear...
I'll try to remember to take pictures, a visual enhancement to db7's original post might not be bad.
But it's too late to make a picture of the unboxing :lol:



db7

Re: Ready-made + drag-and-drop USB floppy emulator for SY99+

Unread post by db7 » Mon Jul 08, 2013 8:49 pm

I’m mostly interested to hear confirmation of whether or not the seller has heeded my stipulations about the headers and how they should be connected, preferably not by soldering. Firstly, soldering them the way they did on my emulator is wrong for these synths, but secondly and more basically—since the seller shouldn’t have been expected to know that before I bought it for my experiment—, why solder these connections when you provide jumpers to cap them with in the very same package? Let the user decide. In cases like this, s/he probably knows better.

As for pictures, suffice it to say that it looks just like the emulator photographed in all the listings above, except it’s black. :P But I guess you want to see it installed in an SY99, which would be a very nice sight after all. I’d upload a picture myself, but my camera was sold off to fund other things long ago. ;)

I also wonder whether the seller will list any more. As far as I’ve ever noticed, there’s only been my original one, which obviously wasn’t listed for this purpose, and the batch of three from the past few weeks. Are they trying to gauge interest or something? Since I suspect these things are made to order by throwing together parts from bulk, I’m not sure why you wouldn’t just make a listing and leave it up indefinitely.



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Re: Ready-made + drag-and-drop USB floppy emulator for SY99+

Unread post by Rigo » Mon Jul 08, 2013 9:16 pm

db7 wrote:As for pictures, suffice it to say that it looks just like the emulator photographed in all the listings above, except it’s black. :P
No, the picture in the listing is correct ... it will be clearly visible in the SY99, beige on black.



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