From WikiPedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yamaha_DX7 – The Yamaha DX7 is an FM Digital Synthesizer manufactured by the Yamaha Corporation from 1983 to 1986. It was the first commercially successful digital synthesizer. Its distinctive sound can be heard on many recordings, especially Pop music from the 1980s. The DX7 was the moderately priced model of the DX series of FM keyboards that included DX9, the smaller DX100, DX11, and DX21 and the larger DX1 and DX5. Over 160,000 DX7s were made, and it remains one of the best-selling synthesizers of all time.
Tone generation in the DX7 is based on linear frequency Modulation Synthesis (FM) based on research by John Chowning at Stanford University. The DX7 was known for precision and flexibility of its bright, digital sounds, which were much clearer than those of the analog synthesizers that preceded it. The DX7 is well-known for its electric piano, bells, and other “struck” and “plucked” sounds which emphasize complex attack transients. It is capable of 16-note polyphony.
While the instrument is mono-timbral, the manner in which the sound of a single DX7 patch can change either subtly or wildly along the length of the keyboard or when played with different velocities can make it sound multi-timbral. The DX7 features 32 algorithms, each being a different arrangement of its six sine wave Operators, allowing for a great deal of programming flexibility.
Voices can be programmed by a user, and stored into a 32-voice RAM internal memory, or corresponding 32-voice DX7 RAM cartridge inserted into a front panel access door/port. Pre-programmed ROM cartridges could also be inserted here and the original DX7 shipped with two of these cartridges with two banks of 32 voices (sounds) each, for a total of 128 voices available. Several computer applications exist for various operating systems (Atari, Mac OS, and Windows) that can enable a user to load different presets into the keyboard from a computer via MIDI; most computer based midi recording software can also load to or save from the DX7.
The DX7 includes MIDI ports, but was released shortly before the specification was completed; thus, its MIDI implementation is quite modest: It only transmits information on MIDI channel 1; it can receive information on any one of the sixteen MIDI channels at a time, but lacks the OMNI feature that enabled later DXs in the series to receive on all MIDI channels simultaneously. Very early DX7s manufactured in 1983 were distinctive for not having “MIDI Channel” inscribed next to the button that opens this function (button 8). This lack of marking was corrected by 1984.
Additionally, the maximum MIDI velocity value that the DX7 will transmit is 100 (of the 127 maximum value defined by the standard). The DX7 will, however, respond to the full range of velocity values when sent from an outside MIDI source. This means that when using the DX7 as a MIDI controller to play external sound modules, the patches on these modules will have to be adjusted to be more sensitive to velocity. It also means that when playing the DX7’s own sounds using an external MIDI controller or sequencer, the velocity values will have to be rescaled before input to the DX7, or the DX7 patches would have to be adjusted to be less sensitive to velocity.
From Vintage Synth Explorer – http://www.vintagesynth.com/yamaha/dx7.php – One of the most popular digital synths ever was the DX7 from Yamaha, released in 1983. It featured a whole new type of synthesis called FM (Frequency Modulation). It certainly is not analog and it is difficult to program but can result in some excellent sounds! It is difficult because it is non-analog and thus, a whole new set of parameters are available for tweaking, many of which seemed counter-intuitive and unfamiliar. And programming had to be accomplished via membrane buttons, one data slider and a small LCD screen.
Still the sounds it shipped with and that many users did manage to create were more complex and unique than anything before it. Percussive and metallic but thick as analog at times, the DX-7 was known for generating unique sounds still popular to this day. The DX-7 was also a truly affordable programmable synth when it was first released. Almost every keyboardist bought one at the time making the DX-7 one of the best selling synths of all time! It also came with MIDI which was brand new at the time – Sequential had already released the first MIDI synth, the Prophet 600. Roland had just released the JX-3P with very basic MIDI implementation, and wouldn’t get around to adding full MIDI for another year with the Juno-106, and it would be three years before Roland can counter the popularity of the DX7 with a digital synth of their own, the D-50.
The DX-7 has been used by the Crystal Method, Kraftwerk, Underworld, Orbital, BT, Talking Heads, Brian Eno, Tony Banks, Mike Lindup of Level 42, Jan Hammer, Roger Hodgson, Teddy Riley, Brian Eno, T Lavitz of the Dregs, Sir George Martin, Supertramp, Phil Collins, Stevie Wonder, Daryl Hall, Steve Winwood, Scritti Politti, Babyface, Peter-John Vettese, Depeche Mode, D:Ream, Les Rhytmes Digital, Front 242, U2, A-Ha, Enya, The Cure, Astral Projection, Fluke, Kitaro, Vangelis, Elton John, James Horner, Toto, Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald, Chick Corea, Level 42, Queen, Yes, Michael Boddicker, Julian Lennon, Jean-Michel Jarre, Sneaker Pimps, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Greg Phillanganes, Jerry Goldsmith, Jimmy Edgar, Beastie Boys, Stabbing Westward and Herbie Hancock. Pretty impressive for just a partial listing!
Following the monaural DX-7 came the stereo DX-7 mkII – just as popular and much more advanced. Its unique sounds are very popular for industrial techno type music as well as ambient and electro. The TX-7 is essentially a desktop module form of the DX-7 but is even harder to edit or program since it requires external editors or software. The monolithic DX-1 and DX-5 models which packed two DX-7 synth engines into one instrument were the epitome of the DX line of synths created by Yamaha. There have also been a few budget spin-offs like the DX-9, DX-100, DX-21 and DX-27. FM synthesis has also made its way into the TX-81Z & TX-802 and software synthesizers like Native Instruments FM7.
Still the DX-7 has remained the all around best and most popular DX synth due to its affordable price, professional features for studio and live performance and its excellent range of sonic possibilities and extensive programmability. In fact the reason the DX-7 is always so affordable (usually under $500 second-hand) is because there are so many of them out there, still being used and traded! And they are reliable, still functioning well over 20 years later unlike older analog gear.
|Synthesis Type:||Digital FM|
|Typical in use:||8|
|Oscillators per Voice:||Min : 1Max : 2|
|Controllers:||Breath, sustain, foot 1, foot 2|
|Number of Keys:||61Can send on 1 simultaneous MIDI channelsResponds to velocity, after-touchSounds can be split by keyboard|
|MemoryPatches: 64Performances: 32|
|Inputs and OutputsNumber of Audio Outs (excluding Phones): 2Number of Audio Ins: 0MIDI In, Out & Thru|
There is something curiously interesting about the DX7. After its introduction every manufacturer including Yamaha tried to surpass its design (a very normal thing to try and make it better) in terms of sound and looks. So they added the capability of layering and even effects and even took synths a step further and turned them into sample playback devices producing real sounds such as pianos, guitars, sax, etc. All really great, except that now we are re discovering that the DX7 had such an attractive and amazing sound characteristic which does not need any effects to enhance its sonic beauty. The DX7 is highly sought after now. The magic never left. It’s as though time allowed every one to do what they thought were improvements and here is a dedicated site proving that the DX7 ranks among if not the best synthesizer in history. I predict that many musicians that own the Motif Es’, Fantoms, and the Tritons and Oasys keyboards will hit those great music spots around the world and start playing their DX7’s with NO EFFECTS so that the world can once again hear the sonic beauty of this vintage phenomenon. THE YAMAHA DX7!!
Andy, Hobbyist, USA
This is a really great synth of which I have reviewed at least twice before here, and at Harmony Central. I am back to offer some advice and a few words of warning when you inevitably have to have a new backup battery installed. I had this done a couple of months ago and was altogether not satisfied with the result. Luckily, due to research I managed to rectify the problem myself.
When I got the synth back, one of the keys (second A# from the top) was stiff and felt as though it was sticking or, even worse, the key pin or spring was damaged. I had to open the bonnet and lift out the keyboard unit and beneath, there is a wide ribbon cable that connects the keyboard into the internal CPU. This cable had not been replaced in exactly the right place (there’s not a lot of room so it has to be put back in exactly the right place so as not to get caught in the key mechanism). Once I managed to get it in the right place it was good as new but for anyone who has to go out to a technician for a new battery, before you come away, check ALL of the keys (I think I checked them all except this one!) and if you experience anything wrong make them put it right!
One final endnote, there really is no other synth out there like the DX7. Well done Yamaha, even all this time later!
Mather’s Studios, Hobbyist UK
What a curious synthesizer! I got my Mark 1 DX-7 last year and I like it a lot. First of all, right now I am doing industrial tracks, and since it can make sounds that sound like hitting metal, well that is very useful. And then there are those digital harsh sounds it can make which is also very useful in industrial music. But, its is also GREAT at other odd sounds that only FM can bring. Like, stormy pad sounds (“St. Helens”), or unique metallic PWM sounds. Or droney pads or nasally, buzzy sounds (Like “Wasp Sting”) It’s great with basses, and can reproduce a slap bass sound almost flawlessly. The keys are a whole lot like the ones on my Dad’s Ensoniq EPS. I love those membrane buttons and how they click. It is very heavy, but not too heavy, and is a headache to program. But I don’t do it manually, I use DX manager. I actually did see how bad it was to program, and I programmed the Fulltines sound with a datasheet. It gave me a headache, and I had to take a break. But it sounded like Fulltines, and I was happy. This is a cheap, historic, interesting synth and you need to buy one before Trent Reznor breaks them all.
Alex, Professional, USA