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Worst. FM. Synth. Ever.

If a question comes up about the DX9, it usually isn't long before someone will mention that it is the worst of the Yamaha DX synths. Wikipedia echoes that sentiment with an interesting phrase:

"It is the least complex of the DX range of synthesizers"

Today there are two things that have sealed the fate of the DX9: the first is the above phrase (the origins of which we will describe below), the second is ironically the DX9's only real strength. 

After the DX9, Yamaha produced several generations of popular 4 Operator FM synths. Such as the DX100, which had iconic patches such as "Solid Bass" and "Talkbox". These synths were designed to be a lot less complex and expensive than the DX9. They had cheaper chip sets, simplified envelopes and reduced operator parameters. However, because the DX9 is really just a DX7 with features removed, it is not compatible with any of these later 4 Operator synths and cannot load or use patches from them.

So... DX9 owners had something less than a DX7 that in addition could not take advantage of the huge library of sounds created for the later 4OP Yamaha FM synths. This is pretty much the definition of the "worst of both worlds".

However, let's start by going back to the origins of that Wikipedia quote, after which we'll look at how we can convert all those later 4OP sounds back to the good old DX9

"The Least Complex of the DX Range"

The above phrase from Wikipedia, which has since been repeated around the internet, seems to have first appeared in an Electronic SoundMaker May 1984 article (and yes that is what YES really looked like). Ironically, it was written as part of a glowing review of the DX9. It compares the DX9 to the Juno 106 and contrasts the limited sonic palette of Roland's single oscillator synth with that of the 'brave new world' of FM synthesis. 
The comment itself was comparing the DX9 with the other models in the DX range as they existed in May 1984, which were the: DX1,  DX7 and DX9. Patently the DX9 was the least complex of those synthesizers.

Here is the quote in full:
"The DX9 is the least complex of the DX range; it basically has less of everything compared with the slightly more expensive DX7. The irony is that whereas the Roland Juno 106 has 128 memories for a synthesiser that is by comparison very simple and whose ability to create a large variety of sounds is, again by comparison, strictly limited, the DX9 has just 20 memories on board — not nearly enough for the imagination of the average synthesis"

So, the complaint in the review was actually this - although the DX9 could produce a far wider palette of sounds than the 'simple and limited Juno 106', there were only 20 slots into which these creations could be stored.
In truth, the DX9 is one of the most powerful 4 Operator FM synths that Yamaha has produced, purely because it is really just a DX7 with 'crippled' firmware.  Its initial failure was almost entirely down to price point and this was then compounded by its lack of compatibility with all subsequent 4Ops. The initial reasons for the failure of the DX9 obviously can't be changed but the subsequent incompatibility can be - by converting the later Yamaha 4Op patch libraries back to the DX9, one of the reasons for the creation of this site. 

Just for reference, below is a list of the features of the DX9 that, prior to the Yamaha DX Reface, exceeded all other Yamaha 4 Operator FM synths.

DX9 vs. other DX 4OPs

16 Note Polyphony

The DX9 has the highest polyphony of all the Yamaha 4OPs

4 Stage (Rate and Level) Envelopes

Prior to the Yamaha DX Reface - the DX9 was the only Yamaha 4OP FM Synth to have the same complex envelopes as the original DX7; all other 4OP FM synths have simplified ADDSR envelopes

Coarse and Fine Operator Frequency Settings

The DX9 has the same frequency range and fine control as the DX7 operators, something that was simplified and reduced in the later 4OPs

The DX7 Chipset

The DX9 has the same chipset as the DX7, meaning the exact same FM tone generation and DAC

Now. let's take a look at converting all those other 4OP DX patches to the DX9


The Story of the DX9

Where it came from and why it failed

Worst FM Synth Ever

Is it really that bad?

How it got that label and why we believe it

Patch Conversion

From the new to the old

Applications for generating DX9 patches

The Library

The fun stuff

Collection of original and converted DX9 patches

The 4Op Algorithms

There can be only 8

The how and the why of those algorithms

Data Tape 2

The Missing Patches

Why the initial DX9 data tape patches didn't match their descriptions

Patch Manager

Creating your own DX9 library

Application for managing and converting DX9 patches

Servicing 101

Getting your DX9 up and running

Fixing the most common issues with a DX9