Yamaha A5000 Sampler:
A phoenix from the ashes…

You’ve just picked up the deal of the century, but how do you fit your old-new hardware unit into your state-of-the-art modern studio setup? Read on to find out more…

Maximizing the A5000 within the limits of the OS...

Yamaha samplers by design run off of SCSI cables which by today’s standards may be seen as pretty old-skool. Also SCSI hard drives have the tendency to be hard to come by, and those that can be found are either too noisy or potentially not large enough for today’s standards. 


So what can we do about it? Well, fortunately we can use today’s tech with the help of a clever PCB combined a Raspberry Pi Pico board, allowing us to use SD memory cards to keep costs and more importantly noise down in our studios.

BLUESCSI is the name of the PCB, which are readily available, mainly aimed at, but not excusively for, older home computers such as early Apple Macs (pre- and up to OS9), and other systems.

But, fortunately for us, BLUESCSI also works in samplers that have SCSI connections.


There are however some limitations still within our modern-times-SCSI HDD emulation system, which is down to Yamaha’s (and SCSI’s) configurations and limitations.

Yamaha samplers (A3000 with OS 2, and A4000/A5000 with OS1.5) can only see a maximum hard drive size of 8Gb, and can only use a partition size of 1Gb max. Earlier versions of the OS can only see 512mb, so make sure you get your sampler upgraded to get the best possible experience (and that ever useful hard drive visibility).


“Ok so that’s good, we could have technically 64 partitions across 8 virtual HDD images with the BLUESCSI card, right?”


Well, unfortunately no. Firstly, the sampler has its own SCSI ID (normally ID #6, but can be changed), so that’s one of the eight SCSI locations we can’t use. The sampler manuals advise SCSI 0 as a HDD location, so that’s good, allow 8x1Gb partitions (using a HDD ‘image’ file as 8Gb in size).

If we added in another HDD ‘image’, we can potentially have another 8 partitions, showing 16 visible partitions available on the sampler…. and that’s your lot regarding hard drive possibilities, likely down to the time when the samplers were made. Back then, the A5000 would have cost you a cool £1500, enough to damage any wallet, before you even had a hard drive installed.


We think that it was likely unheard of having more than one hard drive installed in a sampler, especially considering how big 1Gb felt back in the 90s; 1000Mb would have been around 1000 floppy disks, which seemed impossibly vast, so having two 8Gb hard drives in a sampler meant you had money to burn or you were sampling massive amounts of sound. So, Yamaha probably thought the same, and only set up the OS to see 16 partitions at most. On top of that, CD drives could be seen on the SCSI ribbon too, but again you could only see one disc content at a time with 1 hard drive / 8 partitions.

It’s not the end of the world though, because you can still have multiple image files (hard drive and CD ISO images, Bluescsi can see both and so can the Yamaha sampler), all you have to do is mount and unmount a couple at a time, so you don’t max out the 16 visible har drive partitions.

So that’s the skinny on what’s possible, but how do we set the sampler up and get it all working? Luckily, on our affair with this sampler and Bluescsi, we’ve taken time to see what can be done, pitfalls and any other issues you may come across and we’ve neatly tied it all up in a easy to follow step-by-step process, to help you get the most out of your sampler.

To find out more on how to do that, go HERE.

If you want to jump in and get your own BLUESCSI card then visit BLUESCSI.com and begin your adventure into retro computing in the 21st century.

Written by Fresha, 27th June 2024