August 22nd, 2001 - I've decided to give these old pages a new home. The content is old, but perhaps it is still useful.

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Last Update: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 8:15 PM

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Be sure to visit: The Ultimate W5/W7 Information and File Page

9/29/2010: I am selling my W7. Anyone want to buy it? It is still in the original box, and has the piano expansion and v2 roms!

Unfortunately, I have not done much with my W7 for some time other than using it as just a keyboard. I do all my sequencing using an old Alesis MMT-8 hardware sequencer which seems to do alot more with less effort than the "modern" versions that come built in to these keyboards. While I have done alot of stuff in the past few months, none of it makes for very exciting news to report

The Disk Drive Saga (for posterity)

UPDATE 11/27/2004: Route 66 Studios ( is or will soon be offering replacement disk drives for the W5/W7 synths.

It is a well known fact by now that the floppy drives included in the 1995-vintage Yamaha W5 and W7 keyboards were ancient belt-driven 720K units of the type not found in computers for many years. It is difficult -- if not impossible -- to find blank media for these drives (and, as recent as January 1999, even Yamaha didn't have any advice on where to find them). Using 1.44 floppies may work great, or may cause problems, so unless you have a stock of 720K diskettes (like I do) you just have to take your chances. Anyway, what follows was my ordeal with replacing the drive when it went bad on me...

Dateline March 20th, 1997. I received my replacement disk drive from Yamaha (via a local dealer, Riemans Music), and have done a successful disk-drive-optemy. The new drive works like a charm, just as the unit did when it was new. So, it does appear that the old drive did physically crater on me. $130 was the replacement cost, and I did the labor so there is no telling what this would have cost if done via a repair center. I have pictures from the entire upgrade in case you want to see what all is involved.

The Problem:

I had been unable to use my keyboard for many months due to a problem with the disk drive. The unit would "think" the disk was in, but always error out with problems such as Disk Unformatted or No Disk Found, even though the disk was clearly in the drive. The drive LED would light up, but the motor would not spin. Various solutions were offered to me by readers of this page:

  1. The most obvious tip was to clean the drive - something that computer users do normally, but many non-computing musicians might not realize needs to be done. This didn't help.
  2. The next most offered tip involved "wrangling" the disk. Several variations of this were suggested, including "pushing up" on the disk as it slides in, or putting the disk in then pressing the drive eject button until it "almost" slides out but still catches. Sometimes this worked, sometimes it didn't. So, I investigated further.

I took my unit apart (the warranty was over anyway) and checked every connection out and all seemed fine. The low-density 720K disk drive (I think it was made by Toshiba?) was the kind that only has a single ribbon connector going to it providing both the address lines and the power. Since 1.44 meg floppy drives are not necessarily compatible with the older 720K models, it seemed unlikely I could go down to the local computer superstore and drop in a replacement and have it work. So... I finally gave in.

I called Rieman Music, a local Des Moines music chain where I purchased my synth, and asked to see if they could order a replacement. My most excellent sales guy got back in touch with me and a new drive shall arrive within the week. If you are having drive problems, this may be your only solution. Many people have reported the same problems, so I suspect a bad batch of drives. If yours is acting up at all and it's still under warranty, send it in for repair NOW or you may find yourself out $130-$150 (assuming you do the labor yourself). Yep, the wholesale dealer cost for the drive alone is about $120, so don't hassel your music dealer about it. (This is a pity since you can pick up new 720K name brand drives for less than $30.) If anyone can locate a compatible 3rd party drive that will work in the W5/W7, please let me know and I'll post the details here. Thanks!

Some Comments:

Although it normally won't cause "problems", try to avoid using 1.44 meg floppy disks in the W5/W7. The media is actually different (has a different magnetic "cohesion" or whatever they call it) and may not prove reliable in the long run. Some have been able to do this for years with no problems, others have nothing but headaches. It is getting difficult to find 720K floppies at stores, but mail order houses like MEI and Americal will sell them to you at great prices, even in color. I have also had luck finding them at catalog stores such as K's Merchendise or even places like Office Max.

Clean your drive regularly. RadioShack(tm) or any other computer type store will have good quality drive cleaners. Only use the wet systems, not the "dry" cleaners as they really might hurt your drive. Of course, I take no responsibility if a wet cleaner trashes your drive - if this happens, take it up with Yamaha and the maker of the drive cleaner.

And now on with the show... (a.k.a., the Old Stuff)

Yamaha, one of the pioneers in digital synthesizers, has a great value in the keyboard market with thier W5 and W7 synths. Yamaha released a Version 2 ROM upgrade giving more voices and powerful sequencer features to these machines. If you haven't checked it out yet, do so or, better yet, just order the upgrade. You won't regret it. For "live" performers, it is no significantly easier to access different banks of sounds thanks to new "hot keys". The sequencer is also greatly enhanced with new quantizing options and a generally easier to use layout. There is a demo disk that comes with the upgrade that shows some of the new ways to go in and alter your sequences and do some pretty neat things. (NOTE: Apparently this upgrade is no longer available, nor are the sound disks that Yamaha formerly offered.)

The upgrade itself is two ROM chips. You pop off a few screws from the bottom of the unit, remove the two existing ROMs (using a ROM remover from RadioShack(tm) or a small flathead screwdriver if you are careful), then put the new ones in. A new manual addendum is provided as well. This upgrade is what made me decide to keep my W7.


I've decided to start compiling a list of W5/W7 ROM bugs. If you have found anything particularly annoying you'd like to report, let me know and we'll begin compiling a list on this page. So far, the main thing is that my unit sometimes "misses" the end of a song when looping, and just counts to infinity and no buttons will work. I have to power down (and loose anything not saved) and start all over. Anyone else seen this? Solutions offered so far include stopping it with an external MIDI device, or just bumping up the "loop end" up to past the haywire counter. Confused? Don't worry - it's hard to explain, but it does work.

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