above photo from the collection of Joseph Rivers, Audio Playground, Orlando, FL
other synths in the Audio Playground Collection
Introduced in 1982, at a list price of $1395, the CE-20 Combo Ensemble followed up Yamaha's GS-series digital pianos with a more portable and affordable source of FM sounds.
Of the twenty preset voices, fourteen are monophonic (high-note priority): Piccolo, Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Saxophone, Trumpet 1, Trumpet 2, Trombone, Violin, Contrabass 1, Contrabass 2, Electric Bass 1, and Electric Bass 2). The remaining six are eight-note polyphonic: Brass, Horn, Organ, Electric Piano, Harpsichord, and Strings.
The four-octave keyboard is both velocity and aftertouch sensitive. The unit features both line and headphone outputs and jacks for expression and sustain pedals. It does not have MIDI.
Though the instrument is not programmable, it does offer limited editing of the presets. The vibrato section offers controls for speed, depth, and delay. The TONE INITIAL and TONE AFTER sliders adjust the velocity and aftertouch sensitivity, and SLIDE controls the portamento time for the mono voices. Pressing the PRESET button resets these values to their defaults.
The CE-20 was not a big commercial success. Less than a year after its release, Yamaha unveiled the now-legendary DX series, and the CE-20 fell by the wayside. Still, it is an important milestone in the evolution of FM synthesis.