WOLF retro DESIGN Comparison. 15th February 2021
In my opinion a synthesizer is incomplete without its protective carrying case. Over the years I’ve actually become rather obsessed with the idea that every synthesizer should have its original factory case. Further to complimenting the synthesizer I actually find factory cases quite beautiful. This review seeks to share the different cases produced by Yamaha from 1983 to 1999.
A beautiful trio.
This comparison review is between the different factory cases produced by Yamaha for their synthesizers from 1983 to 1999. Only original genuine Yamaha cases are considered in this review. All factory cases had the YAMAHA logo on one side, with the exception of the EOS models that just had EOS printed instead.
Yamaha produced hard cases, flight cases and soft cases, usually designated by code with an H, F or S in the name. Soft cases were an affordable way to transport synthesizers but offered the least protection. Hard cases were significantly more substantial with their hard shells, metal edges and handles. Flight cases were the most expensive and offered the best protection. They are as the name suggests, intended for travel, more particularly on aeroplanes. Most synthesizers had a least one type of case, but in some cases two case types were available. The DX7’s were the only synthesizers to have all case types.
Price and Availability.
We understand that Yamaha produced all their cases in Japan, which could explain why they are quite rare to find outside of Japan. While most musicians value the importance of a protective cases, they often settled for aftermarket brands that were more affordable. This made original factory cases significantly rarer. It’s unusual to find a case selling on its own but when it does happen, they range can from $50 to $1000 depending on the rarity of the case.
The early days
This story begins with the Legendary DX7 released in 1983. As Yamahas most successful instrument it had the most variety in cases. The most popular was the LC-7S a semi- hard case clad in brown vinyl with golden letters and brass metal trimmings. It looked like an over-sized 1970s brief case. It also had a unique opening that meant that the DX7 had to slide in place. The four operator DX9 synthesizers shared the same cases as the DX7.
Alongside the brown vinyl case was the LC-7H Flight case which sold at almost three times the price. In bright blue it was a bold and beautiful statement.
The early cases were considerate of accessories with a place to store the music stand, cables and even a foot pedal.
LC-7H case had a fiber-glass shell with thick hairy texture.
To our knowledge the original DX7 did not have an official soft case. However, there was a silver soft case which we believe was a factory product but produced in limited numbers as a special edition.
This silver soft case is actually the most rare of all the cases available for the original DX7.
Later in the life of the DX7, Yamaha introduced a new hard case known as the LC-DX7, with different handle and smoother textured body. This case became shorter by removing the accessories compartment. The new handle design would carry over to the next generation of DX7 synthesizers in 1986
The LC-DX7 was a lot sleeker and almost a blue print for the cases that would follow in the DX7 mk II models.
A new handle design.
This page of a 1986 Japanese catalog shows all three different Yamaha cases for sale at the same time.
The Shibuya music store in Japan was Yamaha’s flagship store and they had an exclusive flight case. This case dropped the DX logo with the Stores details printed under the YAMAHA logo.
The Shibuya music store case was a kind of hybrid case as it had heavy duty latches (made in USA) with a smooth hard shell and classy handles. This store continued to offer the same design case for the DX7 Mk II.
Another case available at the same time as the DX7 was the LC-1H made specifically for the legendary DX1. The DX1 is one of Yamahas largest and most magificent synthesizers. With only 140 said to have been produced it’s an extremely rare beast but even more rare is its original factory hard case. The LC-1H was bright red and sold for 120,000 Yen. Very few DX1 synths had its original factory case, which meant that these cases are more rare than the synths themselves.
So large was the DX1 and its case that YAMAHA cleverly gave it wheels. It is the only Synthesizer case we know of to have wheels.
Above is one of the few places the DX1 case can be seen in an old Japanese catalog
At 120,000 yen the DX1’s Red factory case cost more than some synthesizers at that time.
The DX1 case had the same logo and hairy fibre-glass surface texture as the DX7 flight case.
A size comparison between the cases of the DX1 and the DX7.
In 1985 Yamaha released the DX5 which was essentially a more compact and affordable DX1. Once again, these cases for the DX5 are rarer than the synths themselves. The DX5 hard case was made of the same materials as on the DX7, and DX1 but was black in colour. It marked the end of bright colours and the beginning of Yamaha’s preference for black coloured cases. The DX5 case was known as the LC-5H and is the next largest of all Yamaha cases after the mighty DX1.
For some unknown reason the LC-5H dropped the big DX logo and only had the name YAMAHA.
The DX5 in its black case with its matching black interior.
Curiously this Japanese catalog showed the DX5 case to be blue, but all the ones we’ve ever seen are black. Could that be an early or prototype case used in the photo? Note also the red coloured case for the PF15 digital piano, made of the same material used in the DX1 case.
Following on from the DX7 were several more affordable FM synthesizers and they all had factory cases.
The DX21 & DX27 had two case types. Above is the LC-21S, a semi-hard case that was very similar to the DX7’s semi-hard case (LC-7S), but in black.
The LC-21S was the last o have the retro brief case look.
The DX21 & DX27 also had a soft case that was sporty in design with black canvas and a front pocket for accessories.
The DX21 & DX27 Soft case is the only Yamaha case we know of that sports a bright red interior.
The SC-27S was specific to the longer DX27S and looked rather out of place as the only non-black case in the Yamaha range at that time.
The DX27S was significantly longer due to it’s built in speakers so its case was like a stretched version of the soft cases made for the DX27 & DX21. Curiously Yamaha used a rather old-fashioned cream coloured canvas with brown trim. The DX logo was also dropped.
The DX100 only had the SC-100 soft case.
With the introduction of the DX7MkII, Yamaha went all out to offer cases that also looked great. The DX7MkII synths had three case variants from the onset- a Soft case, Hard case and Flight case. All three cases also fit the DX7S.
The second generation DX7 was all about black colour. Not only were the cases black, but so too were the interiors and all the trimmings.
The LC-7IIH continued the tradition of bearing the DX logo. The edges are all black anodized aluminium and the chromed components have a black tint.
Yamaha used a new material that looks like creased paper and is slightly rubberized. The black tinting over the chromed corners, handles and latch pieces can ware over time and it’s hard to find cases where these components still looking fresh like new.
The SC-7II Soft case looked very much like a larger version of the ones for the DX27 & DX21.
The LC-7IIF Flight case was the most expensive and rare of all cases made for the DX7mkII. While it looks similar at a glance to the hard case, it is almost entirely different. The aluminium edges appear to be painted rather than anodized, and the main body has reverted back to the hard fibre-glass type material seen on the DX5.
The same surface materials as on older DX1, DX5 & DX7 cases.
The Flight case (top), had more heavy duty handles and latches than the Hard case (bottom).
The Yamaha Shibuya Music store was the company’s flagship store and had their own unique hard case. This was the case on offer for the DX7 Mk II. It is identical in design to the one they had for the original DX7 but with white coloured text rather than silver.
In 1987 Yamaha celebrated it’s 100-year anniversary with the DX7 Centennial. A very limited version of the DX7IIFD in silver with gold buttons, glow in the dark keys and an extra octave. This synthesizer is believed to have its own case though we have yet to see one in the flesh.
For many years this image courtesy of digital_studio_japan, was evidence of an original Yamaha case made specially to carry the DX centennial.(The LC-DX7IIC).
The factory case for the DX7C looks like a longer DX7IIFD flight case, but in fact has quite a few subtle differences. The surrounding plate of the latch is painted in flat black. The logo is in silver rather than white. The handle is borrowed from the original DX7 case.
In 1987 Yamaha also introduced the DX11 as a smaller brother to the DX7II. This was a very beautiful synth that is also one of the thinnest to date. The case for the DX11 was the LC-V, and apart from being one of the thinnest ever cases, it boasts being the first to use a new smoother material than would be continue to be used on other Yamaha synthesizers for decades.
The LC-V, with the “V” standing for V2 which was what the DX11 was known as in Japan.
The SC-V was a stylish soft case for the DX11. It had a ribbed lowed section in tough vinyl material. In Japan there was another more basic Soft case with a V2 label on it, but this has never been featured on any official Yamaha literature so it may have been a limited edition, or aftermarket product.
Rear side of the SC-V
The Soft case design for the DX11 was quite cool with its two tone effect. They had a similar design for the cases specific to the YS200 & YS100 synthesizers but with slightly different textures in the vinyl.
The YS synths had a semi-hard case that looked similar in design to the SC-V (DX11 soft case), but had a thick leathery textured vinyl.
This is a rare image from a 1989 product catalog that features the full range of synthesizer cases.
Post DX cases
In 1989 Yamaha moved into a new range beginning with the SY77. All cases began to look rather uniform in black with silver trimmings. Only the Flagship SY77 & SY99 models had hard and Flight cases though the flight cases are extremely rare.
The standard look into the 90s first seen in the DX11. This SY77 case was known as the LC-SY1H.
The Flight case (above left) is extremely rare and we have yet to see one in the flesh. The LC-SY1F does appear throughout many Japanese catalogs and often is depicted with a slightly different colour that we think suggests a different texture or finish.
This flight case came with an SY77 Purchased from Japan. We believe that it could be the elusive LC-SY1F. It is the exact same size as the hard case, with the same edges, corners and handle. It also uses the same surface material found on the DX7II series hard case, except in a dark blue. The only doubt we have comes from the fact that this case does not say YAMAHA on one side. It’s possible that it wore away as many DX7II hard cases lost their logos due to a poor adhesion between the label and the rubberized surface. Or perhaps Yamaha simply did not put their logos on this flight case. If we ever find another SY77 flight case, we may be able to confirm.
Size comparison between the SY77 and SY99 hard cases.
This accessories list from a Japanese Catalog is the only reference we found to a factory flight case for the SY99- the LC-SY99F
Throughout the 90s, Yamaha faced fierce competition from Rivals Roland and KORG. Compounded by economic pressures cost cutting measures were also required, so for simplicity, most synthesizers beyond the SY series had only one case available. The available cases were usually a hard case and they all had a similar look.
Following the SY series were the W synths which both had just a hard case. They are quite rare to find. The Beautiful VL1 and VL7 synthesizers were also advertised with cases though we have yet to even see an image that proves their existence.
The rare SDX2000 had its own case which was another exemption to the rule of having YAMAHA on the front. It just had SDX2000 in the bottom corner
Above- catalog images of rare cases for the W- series workstations.
Above- this Japanese catalog above is the only evidence of cases for the VL1. The cases were listed as the VL1F & VL1H, but no images or photos have been seen in all of our research.
Around 1995 Yamaha added in their traditional three tuning forks in a circle symbol. This was placed in front of the Yamaha name. We believe the first synthesizer to have this new Logo on their cases was the QS300. 1995 also saw Yamaha’s very first grey coloured case which was for the B900 EOS. That was the only deviation from using black.
The QS300 shared to same case as the W7. The case shown here(above) may have been the first to have the circle logo in front of the name.
In 1998 Yamaha introduced The EX5 and EX7 as their new flagship models. The EX5 was a relatively big instrument and the case had two grab handles on the top side- a first for Yamaha cases.
An EX5 snugly fit into its factory hard case.
In all of our years of collecting and learning about cases it’s fair to say that mint in box examples are unlikely to exist. Hard and Flight cases in particular will always have signs of use with some significantly more worn than others. The aluminium edges tend to scratch and the corners often rust. The edges can be polished back to some extent, and steel wool normally goes a long way with the corners and latches. A bit of effort can bring a tired case back to looking very nice, because Yamaha did use high quality materials to begin with. Further to durability a Yamaha hard or flight case is relatively air tight and will help to prevent moisture or tiny creatures from entering.
Desirability / Collectability
It’s interesting that in virtually every instance the factory cases are rarer than the actual synths themselves. Finding a synthesizer with its original case can be quite exciting as it usually indicates a no expense spared purchase. Such synthesizers tend to be well loved and cared for. In every instance a factory cases is a perfect fit which translates to best protection.
Further to complimenting the instrument a genuine factory case will add value, especially with the rarer instruments. Not everyone realises this so there are bargains out there in situations where the seller may not mark for the original case.
Word of the Wolf
As most Yamaha synthesizers from 1983 to 1999 are now considered vintage or collectible, an original factory case is the perfect way to protect your instrument in transport. However, these cases in themselves are rare and special, so we would advise additional protection to the case itself if possible, even if was just a layer of bubble wrap or cardboard.
When not on display a synthesizer should only be stored away in its original case. In our opinion the original factory is a must and any synthesizer without one is lost like a vampire without their coffin. We understand that not every synth will come with a factory cases, and in some instances, we have had to buy a second instrument for the original case. Rest assured an original case is well worth the effort.
The information in this review is intended for informational or educational purposes to provide readers an understanding of how something may be seen from a certain design perspective. In this case it is from the view point of WOLF DESIGNS. As design is subjective this review should only be considered as an independent opinion. Information further to being of an opinion is provided to the best of our knowledge based on our own research at the time of doing the review. We cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies or inconsistencies and reserve the right to change or update any content as appropriate.
The final responsibility of the design resides with the original manufacturer.