KQ DIXIE FM Synthesizer For iOS

KQ Dixie is a 6-Operator FM synthesizer that is modeled on the Yamaha DX7.… Read More KQ DIXIE FM Synthesizer For iOS

Arturia V-Collection 6 mit DX7, Buchla Music Easel und Fairlight!

Arturia V-Collection 6

Drei wirklich fette Klassiker sind neu dabei! Arturias V-Collection mit der Versionsnummer 6 bekommt zwei digitale Klassiker und einen analogen dazu: CMI Fairlight, Yamaha DX7 und Buchla Music Easel.

Bei Arturia werden Klassiker nicht nur simuliert, sondern sie bekommen meistens noch einen Zusatz wie einen weiteren LFO oder eine spezielle Funktion oder sogar etwas total Neues angebaut.

Arturia V-Collection 6

So auch hier. Neben den bekannten Klassikern aus der V 5.0 bekommen im Einzelnen der DX7 eine neue Optik mit Easy-Edit-Page hinzu, was spielerisch das Ändern von FM-Sounds einfacher macht. Außerdem hat er einen zweiten LFO hinzubekommen, der bekanntlich auch Audiogeschwindigkeiten erreichen sollte. Zudem sind selbstdefinierbare Hüllkurven an Bord, die eh beim Original schon komplexer waren. Das ist für FM wichtig und angesichts der Konkurrenz auch passend.

Beim Easel ist etwas, das Arturia Gravity nennt, hinzugekommen. Der Easel ist sehr stark ein spielbares Instrument, ähnlich wie der Minimoog. Er lebt sehr stark von der direkten Performance mit allem. Er bekommt eine Abteilung, die entweder etwas Physical Modeling oder aber spezielle Knöpfe enthält, die Reibung und Ähnliches beinhalten wie damals Lemur. Dies ist die wahrscheinlichere Variante der Interpretation, bis weitere Informationen bekannt werden. Das passt und ist total sinnvoll, wie eine Spielhilfe zu sehen – so kann man einen Knopf anschieben und er benötigt eine gewisse Zeit, um sich zu bewegen! Sehr gute und sehr passende Idee.

Spektral Synthesizer im Fairlight

Als letztes wäre der Fairlight CMI zu nennen, der durch seine Sample-Library und seinen Sequencer sehr bekannt wurde. Man erinnere sich an das Erdenklang-Album mit der computerakustischen Sinfonie oder einfach die Arbeiten von Kate Bush und Peter Gabriel oder später auch Cabaret Voltaire oder Eberhard Schoener. Neu ist ein Spektral-Synthesizer, der möglicherweise auf das 3D-Darstellungsmodell aufsetzt. Er kann Wavetables herstellen, was das Original natürlich niemals konnte.

Der Preis für alles zusammen wird 399 Euro betragen und es gibt auch Upgrade Angebote.


  • Details zu jedem Synthesizer findet man hier.


Yamaha may have the best workstation synth, now quietly improved

The workstation keyboard hasn’t died in the age of the computer and the analog revival. Instead, it’s just gotten, well, more workstation-y. Advances in embedded computation have gone alongside general purpose computer hardware, making the workstations from Japanese giants like Yamaha, Korg, and Roland do more than before, with expanded functionality, memory, and sound.

These instruments do so much that it’s hard to describe them. But I know even some serious synth enthusiasts who have a lot of respect for Yamaha’s Montage. That may come as a surprise, partly because Yamaha’s marketing is aimed squarely at other groups. So yes, the Yamaha Montage has a bunch of arrangement features that could replace a computer. And it can be a piano – keyboard clinicians are likely to show off its Bösendorfer, for instance. (With good reason – the combination of the instrument model and reverb sound better than rivals, I think.) And Yamaha seem to think things like a vinyl break effect (uff) will appeal to EDM fans.

But what the Yamaha also has, true to the company’s legacy, is a deep FM engine. And then, all those architecture features make some sense. You can not only dial up powerful FM synthesis sounds, but animate and switch between them seamlessly. There’s also a reason for bands to add this to a tech rider: the control panel, performance features, and fluid, no-dropout sound switching mean the ability to call up sounds reliably onstage.

And there, I suspect there is a market. Having been on deadline wrestling with Kontakt libraries and computers, I absolutely can see the appeal of being able to focus on scoring with a powerful keyboard workstation. There are some thoughtful additions, like an envelope follower hooked up to input. And that FM-X engine sounds terrific.

Here’s the best example I could find of what actually mucking about with FM sounds like (skipping over some more tedious Montage demo vids):

So on some level, actually, I’m surprised that the Montage hasn’t gotten more awareness in synth lover circles. For anyone complaining that there isn’t a new entry in FM synthesis – this is it. It’s got the architecture and control to make it a worthy successor to the DX series. Korg’s Kronos might be a rival there, but it doesn’t have this level of control. It just happens that the best FM synthesizer in years is disguised as another over-designed workstation – even though that’s not actually what it is.

Yamaha is showing some commitment to this model, too, with a 1.5 update that comes just a year after the keyboard’s introduction.

  • Better Rotary Speaker effect, new organ Performances, and new dynamic processor effect for more tonal character
  • More ways to use the Assignable buttons and Super Knob; greater control and tracking of USB audio input volume
  • Auto Beat Sync lets MONTAGE sense and jam with live drums or tracks
  • Create or recall Favorites with the press of a button; improved backup file system leters users store and recall all their data in one file

I just wish Yamaha made a small desktop unit version of this – maybe just the FM-X synth portion. I’d buy that in a heartbeat.

“Wait a minute. Something’s amiss here.”

Hmmm? Yes, dear CDM reader?

“Not to question journalistic integrity, but – I smell a conflict of interest. You didn’t just post this in part as excuse to include that South Park montage song, did you?”

You know me so well…

Yamaha Montage

The post Yamaha may have the best workstation synth, now quietly improved appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Go full retrowave with a magical FM synth library for Ableton

FM is a conundrum. On one hand, it’s the ideal form of synthesis, capable of a rich range of sounds and transformations. On the other, it’s hard to actually get all that sound under control – the very thing that range would make you want to do. And accordingly, a lot of sound libraries have just skipped over FM altogether.

Not our man Francis Preve and Symplesound.

Here’s the concept: make FM fun and playable again. Make FM something where you want to start toying around and turning knobs, without fear that you’re going to get lost in a muddle of sound. And as usual, integrate those sounds with Ableton to inspire you to play with a controller (or Push) and get into automation and song making right away.

The Symplesound take on FM comes with a deep library of three instruments:

Yamaha DX7
Yamaha TX81Z
and Ableton Operator

That covers two original vintage hardware instruments and one more contemporary Ableton instrument, respectively. (The latter requires a copy of Operator, the others don’t.)

And it’s exactly what you want. It’s got loads of attention lavished on instruments you want, and skips over obscure stuff you don’t. So for the DX, you get Electric Bass, Electric Piano and Marimba multisampled, in a form you can tweak and play to your heart’s delight. There’s even chord select. It’s retro friendly, for sure – but could also be a staple for something new.

The 81Z selection for me is the real standout, in that it lets you cover a lot of vintage territory but in a way I think could be really versatile. The “Lately Bass” (“Solid Bass”) alone could be worth the price of admission, but then you get Perc Organ, Reed Piano (Wurli) and EZ Clav – now as beautiful for their distinctive simplicity as once for their realism. And there are Leads and Plucks, some velocity multisampled.

But then there’s Operator. Having a library for Operator might sound like overkill, but as beautiful as Robert Henke’s panel design was for the original, it’s still a sound designer’s instrument – it doesn’t quite reach that level of being able to turn a knob and immediately get a satisfying result. That’s where this collection comes in.

And then because it’s Symplesound, this isn’t just a collection in presets. It’s a lesson in history and sound design – both historically in music you know and for modern creative use. So you get complete tutorials. You get presets and macros that themselves tell a story – you’re learning something from Francis’ approach to sound design when you just turn a knob. The MIDI loops, rather than just giving you some dull stock building blocks, will genuinely demonstrate what the parameters are for and how to use automation. You’ll get a sense of where recognizable sounds come from — which might prompt you to recreate something you know, or to move beyond that and find some new hit.

If you just want to play around, you can go do that.


US$14.99 for the sampled Yamaha libraries, $24.99 for the Operator library, or get the bundle for $49.99.

And if you care about the history and technique here, you can nerd out with the creator. Francis Preve is a regular on this site precisely because his experience in sound design, teaching, and production spans decades, and … let’s be honest, because he likes to nerd out about his passion as much as we do. So it’s worth reading the blog post for some background.

The Making of The FM Collection [Symplesound]

I mean, how else would you curl up for a nice evening with a set of FM synthesis presets?! That’s why we love you, Fran.

The post Go full retrowave with a magical FM synth library for Ableton appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Listen to John Chowning tell how he invented FM synthesis

To this day, it’s a synthesis method capable of producing wonderfully otherworldly sounds. And now as its applications on cell phones and cheap PC audio fade into distant memory, FM synthesis is left as one of the great achievements of musical invention, full stop – let alone being a key milestone of 20th century technology. So perhaps it’s time to revisit its significance.

Who better to do that with than the person who first discovered the technique?

At an event hosted by CTM Festival and HKW Berlin, with CDM as media partner, we got to do just that, inviting John Chowning to recount FM’s evolution. I have to say, it was one of those uniquely inspiring moments, where you get to feel you understand how the sounds you make connect to musical history.

Part of that feeling came from the fact that artist Holly Herndon, who herself has studied with John at Stanford, hosted the interview – one sound experimenter and composer to another, student and teacher.

Photo: Udo Siegfriedt / CTM Festival.

Photo: Udo Siegfriedt / CTM Festival.

Photo: Udo Siegfriedt / CTM Festival.

Photo: Udo Siegfriedt / CTM Festival.

It’s worth giving the whole interview a listen. Some of this has been recounted before, but it finds some unique clarity here.

The scene starts with a comparison of Paris’ avant garde music scene to Berlin’s today (something I got to talk to John about a bit over dinner), tracing his path from there to the fertile ground for technological invention that was Bell Labs. (If something cool and futuristic was invented in the 20th Century, there’s a good chance Bell was where it happened.)

At Bell Labs, John talks about finding the “open door” of the computer – the unlimited possibility for that machine to produce sound as envisioned by Max Mathews, coupled with the expertise to harness that power.

But it took a musician’s curiosity and brute-force trial and error to find what would become a seminal means of synthesizing sound. And at first, John thought it might be a mistake. (From about thirteen minutes in, you get the story, complete with sound examples.)

It’s what John himself describes as a “happy accident.” Perhaps that’s the best kind of musical discovery.

John recalls:

“Was it distortion? …. I thought, well, maybe this is an artifact of the system. But I did more experiments and realized that I was hearing … a complex wave using two oscillators that I imagine probably had eight or ten harmonics.”

“I didn’t yet understand the applications of the mathematics of FM to what I had done. So with a set of examples I went to an engineering friend and asked if this was some sort of unique, surprising but interesting result. I pointed out that it transposed; it seemed to behave in a proper way.”

“We looked up the mathematics for the equation for frequency modulation radio broadcasting, and it all fell out and was perfectly explained. So that was the beginning.”

Here’s the 1971 piece Holly mentions, Sabelithe. I’m finding a lot of these early computer pieces are starting to sound weirdly contemporary today. I think our ears are ready to revisit them in a new cultural context, with new works likely to go different directions – especially as we routinely now hear these sounds in festivals and clubs, whereas they were once restricted to sit-down affairs in academic concert halls. (Believe me, I know – the latter is where I started, so I’ve watched this shift first-hand.)

There’s also a great video from Berklee that features John talking about his work:

And if you need still more history, here’s an historic meet-up between John Chowning, Max Mathews, and Curtis Roads:

The post Listen to John Chowning tell how he invented FM synthesis appeared first on cdm createdigitalmusic.

KORG volca FM is here – and does some unexpected tricks

KORG’s runaway-hit volca series has proven small can be fun. But the volca FM promises more power in a small package. The volca FM, teased in California in January and demoed in early prototype form, is now official. And part of why we’re eager to get our hands on one is that it’s more than just another little synth box. Okay, so it’s a 6-operator FM synth that’s fun to play with – that you probably got right away. But it’s also a way of loading vintage FM patches, and has powerful editing features. Let’s look and listen.

Here’s a listen to some early sound samples.


The basics: it’s 3-voice polyphonic, capable of 6-operator synthesis. That gives it some classic 80s bass and electric key sounds, as well as more far-out metallic timbres.

And being a volca, you get quick access to a sequencer – now with WARP ACTIVE STEP and PATTERN CHAIN. PATTERN CHAIN lets you create longer patterns, up to 256 steps. Also, the volca now includes an unexpected arpeggiator, too.

Of course, there’s hands-on, twist-and-see-what-happens control of parameters. Modulation/carrier moves are one way to do that quickly, and you can also mess around with actually switching presets as you play. There’s also an onboard chorus effect.


But it’s the editing side where you might be surprised.

It loads vintage patches. SYS-EX/SYX dumps from an original Yamaha DX7 work here on the volca. Of course, that also means any editor capable of producing those works, too.

You can go deeper into editing. Thanks to the multi-segment display, you can menu dive into full parameter edits – and there’s a Parameter List included to guide you, just like on an original DX.

You can clone settings between units. Designer Tatsuya told me about this one – and it’s now officially announced. You can connect sync and MIDI in on the volca FM just as on the other volcas. But now you can also connect one volca FM to another volca FM via minijack connection and clone units – so you can copy settings and parameters to other volca FM instruments.


Oh, yeah, and if you’re wondering how that happens: it seems the volca FM likely uses the same data encoding feature that the volca sample used to load samples. Huh. So … that seems like it might open up the possibility of mobile editing or hacking, right?

Check out the official volca product page:

The post KORG volca FM is here – and does some unexpected tricks appeared first on cdm createdigitalmusic.

Hands on with KORG’s new volca FM

Surprise! In addition to the hit minilogue, KORG are unveiling a volca series that does FM synthesis. And KORG are even making a friendly nod to their Japanese rival with a DX7 color scheme.

I got to play with the new volca FM, and – well, there’s a lot of cool things I can already share about it.


It’s a real 6-operator FM synth. 3 voices, 6 operators. It really is like a DX7 that fits in the palm of your hand.

It’s also a volca. So it’s got MIDI in, sync in and out, and the classic volca rectangular form factor and battery power.

It’s got a volca sequencer – and that got more powerful. Like the other volcas, there’s touch access to step sequencing and motion recording (for automation). But there are new features, too: WARP, ACTIVE STEP, and PATTERN CHAIN.

There’s chorus onboard, plus an LFO. That adds extra sound control features, so you aren’t restricted to just playing back presets.

Extra visual feedback is available on the display. Amazingly, a full alphabet gets crammed ono the 7-segment display. (Hey, this is a product from Japan, after all.)

There are tons of presets. The FM staples are all built in, but KORG also says you’ll be able to load in DX7 sound files via SysEx.


You can dive into programming settings. Yeah, okay, this is a surprise. If you want to get deep into actually programming FM presets, you can.

There’s a lot you can control hands-on live – combined with the step sequencer. Now, just having a little box that could dial up classic FM synth sounds would be fun, but let’s say we want more. I got to grill designer Tatsuya about how you might use this live. After all, it is a volca – messing around with knobs while you play and improvise is the whole joy. Here are some tips:

  • You can muck about with transposition as you play. I was curious about that big octave fader on the left and why KORG chose it. Turns out it’s actually a lot of fun transposing up and down by octave as a sequence is playing.
  • You get dedicated attack/decay controls for the modulator and carrier.
  • You can automate the algorithm. Let me just say that again. You can automate the algorithm. So as a sequence is playing, you can twist the algorithm knob and radically impact the sound, then record that as automation. This feature alone will probably have you buying one.

I’m already insanely addicted to the volca sample and have gotten a few tracks out of the volca keys. So I’m looking forward to this one, yes. It’s an unexpected gem of NAMM.

No word yet on availability (I’m not sure even KORG know); stay tuned.


The post Hands on with KORG’s new volca FM appeared first on cdm createdigitalmusic.

DX-7 Blaze – free sound library from Yamaha

Tweet Yamaha has launched DX-7 Blaze, a free sound library for the Beat Zampler//RX instrument. Depeche Mode, Underworld, Brian Eno, Phil Collins, Front 242, Queen, Beastie Boys, Herbie Hancock & many more adored their DX7 keyboards. And now it’s up to you! Get your own DX7 pianos, bells & basses for free and ready to […]

Hands-on Video of the Yamaha Reface Series

SonicState got an exclusive hands-on with the new Yamaha line. And the story is becoming clear: the word for these is convenience. You get sleek, minimal design that reduces hands-on control to the essentials, while providing real-time effects and the ability to dial in loads of sounds. The mini keys aren’t a full-sized keybed, but it seems what Yamaha hasn’t done is make something cheaply. Both the sound and apparently physical form are top-of-range, and you don’t sacrifice essentials like MIDI ports. So that bucks some industry tendencies to a race to the bottom. And even if you don’t like these Yamahas, I think it’s important that someone in the industry is doing that apart from boutique Eurorack.

Another reason I’ll defend mini keys – provided these feel good – is that piano-sized keys are just enormous. Recall that part of the reason they’re the size they are is nothing to do with ergonomics and everything to do with the size required by acoustic strings and so on.

We’re hearing US$799 list, but that’d mean a street closer to US$500.

Now, the downside is, you have to choose. Then again, it seems Yamaha is betting on each model appealing to a different audience/genre, which is rather what I’ve gotten chatting with people casually – and this focus also means, unlike the do-anything SYSTEM-1 from Roland, these keyboards are focused on a particular range of controls. That helps keeps the control complement to a minimum.

Prediction: these will be huge sellers, precisely because they aren’t huge. Devices like the iPad have finally convinced people that luxury doesn’t have to mean big, and gigging keyboardists have struggled with luggage long enough. They’re not cheap, fun ways into synthesis in the mold of the Arturia MicroBrute or the KORG microKORG, but they are a chance for people who formerly bought big keyboards just to get the sounds they want to finally downsize. And it seems they may have nailed sound, access, and design. People without the cash will be shouting loudly on the forums, but people with the cash will be quietly making money for Yamaha in the kind of segment the company had more or less ceded lately to competitors.

Kudos to the SonicState lads for shooting this in such detail.

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