THE ART OF SOUND DESIGN

To demonstrate the awesome power of the DX7 V, we teamed up with some of the finest sound designers in the industry, including some of the original crew behind the sounds of Yamaha's original.

Nori UBUKATA

The DX7 V offers huge improvements on the original

Nori Ubukata is a veteran synthesist and sound designer, and was involved in creating sounds for the original DX7. Inspired by the soundtrack for "A Clockwork Orange", Nori went on to become a professional musician, specializing in synths, and composed music for TV-CM. After his years at Yamaha, Nori moved to France where he works as a freelance musician, sound designer, and all-round synth guru.

From my experience with the original, FM synthesis is a familiar tool for creating sounds. The DX7 V offers two huge improvements on the original, firstly that it's so much easier to operate, allowing you to set specific values, and secondly that it sounds much, much cleaner. There is less aliasing and noise compared to the original.

I suppose I'm in a unique position when it comes to creating sounds for the DX7 V. I like to think that I'm just trying to make my original sounds even better than they were by using the additional features. Like transforming sketches into full, finished paintings.

Additive Piano

When working on sounds for the "Shoufuku ROM" of the DX7 II, I found that FM+ additive approach was a really effective way of creating synth piano sounds. To get the best effect at the time, I would have needed to use 12 operators. Unfortunately, the original DX7 only featured 6. Because of the new architecture inside DX7 V, my original ambitious ideas can become a reality.

House in the Forest

This is a simple patch using only one carrier and a modulator. Operator 2 uses a variation of a waveform found on the TX81Z and DX11 (called Alt Sine x2), which is a useful waveforms to try on modulators as it produces a timbre that is slightly more complex than the original DX7 sine, yet stays easy on the ear. The added delays and reverb makes it very cool for ambient music. Boards of Canada is an obvious inspiration for this one !

Victor MORELLO

The smallest change can have a huge impact on the timbre.

Music producer and in-house sound designer at Arturia. He has been experimenting with sound for as long as he can remember, from school with a plastic ruler and a desk, then later on by abusing my electric guitar. Computer programs and synthesizers were the logical follow up. Lately he has been looking to merge club music with more experimental structures and textures.

I think the main part of the commercial success of the original instrument was that it was able to quicky dial up a large range of sounds, without the hassles brought by analog synthesis which was promeninent before this. But the way the sound was generated was actually pretty unique ! The main strength of the DX7V for me are the added modulation sources as well as the MSEG envelopes that allow to quicky try out very precise shapes which is primordial for this kind of synthesis, as the smallest difference of level or rate can have a very important impact on the timbre that is created.

Working on this project was a perfect opportunity to get deeper into FM synthesis, which is something that I wanted to do for a long time. It was a bit hard to start at first but Klaus (Summa) gave me some very useful tips that helped. One of them especially helped : start with only a Carrier and a modulator. Experiment only with the modulator level, then try different ratios, and only then, start tweaking the envelopes. After that, perseverance and curiosity is the key ! It took a fair amount of hours of experimenting but I discovered along the way that it was possible to make very realistic and organic sounds, more expressive than what substractive synthesis can offer. Another tip for the road : if you keep getting harsh and metallic tones, keep your modulator level between 50 and 75, this is usually the most musical range.

House in the Forest

This is a simple patch using only one carrier and a modulator. Operator 2 uses a variation of a waveform found on the TX81Z and DX11 (called Alt Sine x2), which is a useful waveforms to try on modulators as it produces a timbre that is slightly more complex than the original DX7 sine, yet stays easy on the ear. The added delays and reverb makes it very cool for ambient music. Boards of Canada is an obvious inspiration for this one !

Allert AALDERS (Sonar Trafic)

There is so much creative potential

Allert Aalders is a musician, instructor, and live sound engineer based in Utrecht, Netherlands. He runs Sonar Traffic, an electronic music studio with over 50 mostly vintage synths. He was a member of 90s ambient-techno act Human Beings, and has engineered for the likes of David August, T. Raumschmiere, Thomas Azier. With a focus on electronic sound design for other live acts and synth manufacturers, Allert also tutors people in subtractive, FM, and modular synthesis.

I have to admit, when I first heard the DX7 in the 80s I hated it. I though it was cold and it couldn’t do what a Prophet or a Jupiter could. Then I started studying music technology at Utrecht School of Arts, and Ernst Bonis introduced me to FM synthesis. The DX7 suddenly became incredibly inspirational, it had so much creative potential once you got your head around it! It’s a world of it’s own, there’s almost no way you could do these sounds with a subtractive synth. I love the fact that the DX7 V expands on that with a great modulation matrix, excellent new envelope generators, and great added FX.

First and foremost, I wanted to do a balance of “Typical FM” sounds and more organic sounding stuff. If you set modulator levels beyond a certain point you start hearing the “bessel functions” in the sound; a sort of harsh movement that’s typical of many abrasive FM sounds. Although this sound is in itself an important feature, taming them leads to a more natural quality. While programming I was looking for usability, expressiveness through the use of the velocity parameters and the macro sliders, and of course a bit of experimentation.

Silicon Mallets

With Silicon Mallets, I wanted to create a good, expressive mallet instrument sound because this is where some of the real strength of the DX7 lie. So I had to do one.

Sillicon Mallets was an exercise in changing the sound quality from metal, using a 2:7 carrier/operator ratio with equal falling envelope, to wood, which uses a shorter envelope for the modulator and tuning of modulator levels. After that, it was getting some scaling parameters just right to get the organic feel. I wasn’t going to pretend it was a real Marimba so I called it Silicon Mallets which also happens to be the title of a track I did in the 90s.

Clément BASTIAT

Simple things done well are often the best

Clément Bastiat is a musician and mastering engineer. Starting out on violin at age 5, Clément became heavily involved in electronic music. Always creating new and unusual sounds for his dark psytrance project Cubic Spline, Clément also applies his golden ears and sonic vision at Storm Mastering.

I feel that the original DX7 is thought to have democratized FM synthesis, even though technically it uses a type of synthesis called ""phase modulation"". I was pleasantly surprised to see that the DX7 V also utilizes this rare form of synthesis! I would say the main strengths of the DX7 V are its new features: the additional waveforms which greatly enhance its versatility; better envelopes than the original ""hard-to-predict"" ones; great new filters; and the Mod Matrix. All those things make it possible to do old school DX7 sounds, as well as modern PM-subtractive hybrid synthesis.

As the factory sounds of the original DX7 are already inside the DX7 V factory bank, and thousand of DX7 Sysex presets can be found online, I decided to experiment with the more modern tones available in the emulation. Most of the time I had specific sounds in mind, but I also let myself ""float"" and explore.

The first thing I do is find a great operator sound, without using the envelopes or anything else. Just tweaking the ratios and making sure your first ingredient is great. From there, you can start to 'freestyle'.

"I tried my best to cover the whole range of the sounds the machine could create. From complex percussion sequences to skull shaking aggressive bass sounds, but also softer ambient pads."

Mysterious

It's quite a simple preset, but as always, simple things done well are often the best. My goal here was to have 3 different layers. Two of them are dark tones: one classic synth saw, and the other an iconic FM tone created with two sines, full FM, and a modulator 2 octaves below. This was then put through a lowpass filter, with an LFO moving their cutoff frequency. One has positive amount, and the other is negative, so it alternates the emphasis provided by that modulation. Then you have a third layer which is a piercing, high-pitched, scary night sound. Together, they give that dark, mysterious, threatening feel. For maximum effect, play a dissonant chord. It's the perfect example of working the tone first. Here, I didn't even need to tweak complicated envelopes, they are very, very simple. Then I added a small amount of chorus and reverb to get it a bit more washy. As you can guess, I already knew what I wanted from the preset. It's the kind of mood I like to put in my tracks: dark, sparse, perfect for a night-time walk. Maybe through a graveyard.

Mark GIJSMAN

This instrument is in a league of it's own

Mark Gijsman is the mastermind behind FMBass.com, a hub for soundbanks dedicated to the various different Yamaha FM synthesizers. He has also created factory sounds used in many contemporary instruments, including the Nonlinear Labs C15, as well as expansions for Yamaha's Reface DX and CS synthesizers

What made the original DX7 special in my opinion is that it sounded like nothing else out there, it was ahead of it's time, it is a very dynamic synthesizer. The DX7 V expands on the original, not only the new waveforms but also the inclusion of the modulation matrix, in which this instrument is in a league of it's own. The coolest thing is that the YM3812 sound chip waveforms are included, a brilliant move!

"Because the DX7 V can be programmed in the same way as the original, I could approach it exactly like I was programming my old DX7 Mark 1. I like to give the user a wide palette of sounds, so that no matter what genre you favor, you can always find something to use in your production. Pads and emulations of acoustic instruments are my favorites."

6-String Shamisen

One of my favorites is the 6-String Shamisen, I wanted to create this sound from the get go, I always start with an initialized voice and program the parameters per operator, imitive synthesis is very interesting. I used the classic way of programming FM to get the sound right and used the modulation matrix for the panning effects and tuning of the strings.

Reversed Sustain

Everything I do involves some form of experimental approach, even if I have a clear concept at the beginning it takes that element of surprise to make me truly love a sound. ""Reversed Sustain"" began its life while I was experimenting with the BPM synced envelopes to create rising textures and FX. When I added the bell-like attack and played polyphonically with a sustain pedal it was just beautiful.

As I mentioned the BPM synced envelopes are the most important feature of this preset. Due to the ability to create lots of envelope points I could add a nice detailed attack portion of a sound that then gradually releases into a big flourish of reversed tones. The tempo syncing means it always sounds clean and in time, and as the sustain point is after the reverse, the player can use a hold pedal to choose when to add flourishes.

Matt PIKE

It takes the original depth and diversifies it.

Matt Pike is a UK-based electronic musician, sound designer and interactive audio artist. Previously releasing music under the name Aer, he now spends his time focusing on mixed media interactive education and play therapy projects, production music composition, sample pack creation and preset design.

The original DX7 opened an entirely new sonic palette to musicians with its approach to synthesis. It's routing, envelopes, and keyboard scaling options allowed for an extremely broad range of timbres, from the natural to the extreme. What the DX7 V does exquisitely is take that original depth and diversify it. The modulation matrix and alternative waveforms let you combine modular and subtractive synthesis techniques with the power of digital FM.

I tried to free my mind from the sounds people expect to hear from the DX7, as classic presets are available online for SYSEX imports and sound fantastic on the DX7 V. Instead I wanted to push the sonic capabilities the extra features enabled and explore textural themes that felt synonymous with the era of the original synth. Some sounds came about by building new timbres, some from heavily modulating and breathing new life into classics.

Reversed Sustain

Everything I do involves some form of experimental approach, even if I have a clear concept at the beginning it takes that element of surprise to make me truly love a sound. ""Reversed Sustain"" began its life while I was experimenting with the BPM synced envelopes to create rising textures and FX. When I added the bell-like attack and played polyphonically with a sustain pedal it was just beautiful.

As I mentioned the BPM synced envelopes are the most important feature of this preset. Due to the ability to create lots of envelope points I could add a nice detailed attack portion of a sound that then gradually releases into a big flourish of reversed tones. The tempo syncing means it always sounds clean and in time, and as the sustain point is after the reverse, the player can use a hold pedal to choose when to add flourishes.

Summa

The DX7 V is so close to the original

Summa has been working as a professional sound designer since 1999, and has created sounds for countless virtual instruments from the likes of Native Instruments, Ableton, LinPlug, Loftsoft and Virsyn. You can find his sounds in the preset libraries for both FM7 and FM8, as well as Massive, Absynth, Razor, Kontour, Monark, Octopus, MorphoX, Komplexer, Tera, Cube, FMHeaven and more. Summa also writes articles about synths and sound design for various publications and sites, including Keys Magazin and Amazona.de.

In my opinion, the DX7 is what I tend to call the Minimoog of FM synths, with just the right amount of depth and complexity. Due to its imperfections, it has a wider sweet spot than most of the other hardware FM-Synths, it always seems to sound 'right', or at least 'interesting'. In a way, it's a perfect synth to get into FM.

The DX7 V is pretty close to the original. So close, you can copy the parameters manually from a DX7 to the DX7 V. I tried that with my manual TX81z -> DX7 "Lately Bass" conversion.

Since there are already lots of DX7 sounds available, I tried to make as much use of the additional DX7 V functions as possible. I made the most of the multimode filter and feedback for every Operator, the loop- and syncable multi-point envelopes, and the additional Operator waveforms. Other than that, I assigned macros for realtime-control and tweaking the sound on the fly.

Most people think that you can't program a specific FM sound on purpose, that most results are rather random or need lots of math to achieve the sound you want. For me, this just isn't true. If you master the learning curve, even if it's a little steep, it's possible to program an FM synth pretty intuitively. Math-wise, just tiny bit of fractional arithmetic will suffice.

Moving 5th

Especially when it comes to new synths, or in this case an expanded version of a known synthesizer, I test how the synth reacts on certain parameter combinations. Especially in conjunction with the additional functions. The results sometimes remind me of familiar sounds, and I start to push the sound further into that direction.

When I created the “Moving 5th“ patch, my intention was to create a wavetable synthesis type of sound. I experimented with a bunch of frequencies that I knew would create interesting timbre transitions in different carrier/modulator combinations, and added the additional filters of the DX7 V to the modulators. Inspired by the sound of one of those experiments, I decided to tweak it a bit more towards those famous 5th Pad presets like Soundtrack. So one could say that “Moving 5th“ sound is a very much pimped version of that famous D50 preset, due to the additional timbre changes and stereo movements.

With DX7 V at your fingertips, you'll have instant access to hundreds of superb presets. Presets that will inspire your creativity, and tempt you to dig deeper and start creating exploring the sound-shaping power of this iconic synth yourself.