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The DX7

Weapon of Choice: DX7

The Yamaha DX7 was a synthesizer manufactured by the Yamaha Corporation from 1983 to 1986, based on FM synthesis. It was the first commercially successful digital synthesizer, with its sound included in many recordings from the 1980s. The DX7 was the moderate priced model of the DX series of FM keyboards that included the smaller DX9, DX100, and the larger DX5 and DX1.
One major reason for the success was the precision and flexibility of digital sounds. Although the DX7 was not a sampler, its bright sounds were much clearer than the analog synthesizers that preceded it. Although the DX7 claimed to use FM, it actually implemented phase modulation synthesis, an 'upgrade' on the FM technique. The DX7 is well-known for its electric piano, bells, and other "metal striking metal" sounds. It was monotimbral and capable of 16-note polyphony.

The synthesizer included MIDI ports, but was released shortly before the specification was completed, and has incomplete support for the standard.

Several improved models were released in later years, most notably the DX7IID which improved sound quality and allowed bi-timbrality. Third-party products for the DX7 also flourished in the 1980s, including Grey Matter Response's E! expansion board, which added sequencer functions to the keyboard. The DX7 family remains popular to this day with many recording and performing artists.

Rack mount versions of the DX7 also exist, ranging from the TX7 (a simple desktop DX7 unit, with limited editing abilities) to the TX802 (a DX7II in a 2-unit rack mount unit, with 8 outputs) and even the TX816 (eight DX7s in a large rack unit, with individual MIDI ports and balanced outputs for each module (via an XLR connector), giving the musician a massive 128 notes of polyphony).

In 1988, in celebration of the company's 100-year anniversary, Yamaha released the DX7II Centennial. It was a DX7IID with a silver case, gold painted buttons and sliders, and 76 glow-in-the-dark keys. Only 300 were made and were priced at US$3995.

Software Emulation
Native Instruments have developed a popular software synthesizer, FM8 (2006) (previously FM7 (2001-2006)), that emulates the DX7's digital circuitry and can load original DX7 patches.

-- courtesy of wikipedia

The DX7 in Action

The DX7 was one of the best selling synths of all time! Its popularity made it part of essentially every keyboard player's rig in the 80's. At the time, it's percussive, metallic sound was a refreshing departure from the analog synth sounds of the day. The sound of the DX7 goes hand in hand with the sound of the 80's as you will hear.
Listen Further/Buy
Classic DX7 Rhodes patch on Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love of All"
Classic DX7 bass patch on Michael Jackson's "Another Part of Me"
More DX7 on Chicago's "Stay The Night"
Chick Corea "Light Years"
Theme to Doogie Howser -- This had to be the beginning of the end for the DX7
The use of the DX7 quickly faded in the 90's as the earthier sound of grunge rock took hold. Now the digital sound of the DX7 can be heard more in Electronica than in mainstream productions. I dumped mine on ebay a few years ago because I just wasn't using it. And besides, Native Instrument's FM8 software version allows you to load in original DX7 patches. The last time I used it was in "In Defense of Chaos" from my Innocent Bystander CD. The DX7 is playing the computer sound at the start of the track.
DX7 Software Emulations

Native Instruments currently makes the best emulation.
Product Name Manufacture Comments
FM8 Native Instruments Goes way beyond the capabilities of the original DX7. And it can load DX7 Patches if you have any left. The Native Instruments site has a lot of great MP3's to check out. It's sounding kind of hip again.
Links to DX7 Parts, Maintenance and more

Here are a few links to some great Sampler Sites good DX7 resource site provides lots of links to DX7 resources
Dave Benson's DX7 Page great DX7 resource discussing many technical issues

Current Releases

Rodney Lee -- The Satellite Orchestra

Innocent Bystander

Alien Chatter
Satnam Ramgotra &
Rodney Lee

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