Yamaha DX7 synthesizer

Yamaha DX7

The arrival of the Yamaha DX7 in 1983 heralded a brand new form of synthesizer. It was the first commercially successful digital synthesizer and introduced a whole new type of synthesis call Frequency Modulation (FM). Before the DX7 most commercially available Synthesizers had used mainly subtractive synthesis where an oscillator generated waveform was attenuated by a filter to remove specific frequencies until the desired tone was achieved. The DX7 creates sounds by using additive synthesis where multiple sinewave oscillators are combined to modulate each other using one of the 32 algorithms. This gives the DX7 the capability of producing a wide variety of a wide range of both imitative and purely synthetic sounds. This gave the DX7 the ability to produce complex sounds that subtractive synthesis just couldn’t create and is well known for its electric piano, bells, and other "percussive" and "plucked" sounds.

Programming of the DX7 was seen as difficult due to the complexity of the FM architecture and it required a whole new mind set to that required for subtractive synthesis. Instead of the more intuitive use of sliders and knobs on most subtractive synths, programming on the DX7 is achieved using membrane switches and data slider to enter numeric values for each parameter. As a result most users settled for the factory preset sounds instead of taking advantage of the 32 voice rom patch memories. This reluctance for user programming created a huge market for 3rd part programmers to sell their sounds, creating the "synthesizer programmer" as a new entry in music production credits

Despite the tricky programming the DX7 was relatively affordable so it became hugely popular and it became one of the best-selling synths of all time. It features 16-voice polyphony with 6 sine wave operators per voice and 32 algorithms. It has a 61-note keyboard with velocity and aftertouch sensitivity. It also has built in MIDI which was added late in the synth’s development so isn’t as fully implemented as keyboards that followed.

The DX7 was hugely popular and its users included: Kraftwerk, Underworld, Orbital, BT, Talking Heads, Brian Eno, Tony Banks, Mike Lindup of Level 42, Jan Hammer, Brian Eno, Sir George Martin, Supertramp, Phil Collins, Stevie Wonder, Daryl Hall, Steve Winwood, Scritti Politti, Depeche Mode, D:Ream, U2, A-Ha, Enya, The Cure, Vangelis, Elton John, James Horner, Toto, Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald, Chick Corea, Queen, Yes, Julian Lennon, Jean-Michel Jarre, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Herbie Hancock…. And the list goes on! 

 

Yamaha DX7 Specifications:

Polyphony - 16 Voices

Oscillators - 16 bit Digital 6 operator FM.

Instruments - (1) Monotimbral

LFO - Sine/Square/Tri/SAW up/SAW Down/Random

VCA - 6 Envelope generators 8 parameters each

Keyboard - 61 keys (w/ velocity and aftertouch)

Memory - 32 Patches

Control - MIDI

Date Produced - 1983-87

 

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DX7 image By Finnianhughes101 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Posted in 1980s Synths, Additive Synth, polyphonic, Synthesizers.