FM7 full review

The Native Instruments FM7 is based on the design of the DX7 synthesizer first produced by Yamaha in 1983. This became the biggest-selling model of its era, due to its relatively realistic simulations of acoustic instruments. Now available as a plug-in, the FM7 has 32-bit resolution – so the FM7 sounds much ‘cleaner’ than the ‘hissy’-sounding lower-resolution audio produced by the original hardware. The FM7 also provides much more flexible programming, more extensive modulation and effects, a filter module, and multiple waveforms. There’s an ‘easy’ programming page to complement the more complex original programming pages, and polyphony has been upgraded to 64 voices rather than the 16 or 32 voices of the original DX range. The FM7 can also be used as a plug-in to process incoming audio signals. The Yamaha DX200 Desktop Controller Synthesizer is recommended as a hardware MIDI controller for the FM7 – and you can transfer voice data from this into the FM7. The stand-alone version of the FM7 can receive voice data from any of the classic Yamaha DX-Series synthesizers – including the DX7, TX81Z and DX7-II – though not from the TG77, SY77 or SY99. At the top of the plug-in window are displays for the Preset number and name, the spectrum, and the waveform. Immediately below, a row of buttons resembling the membrane-type switches on the original DX7 lets you select between the different programming ‘pages’. The first eight pages let you control the eight FM ‘operators’. The next six open pages for the pitch; LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator) and modulation parameters; the Master controls; the Easy Edit controls; and the Preset Library. When you switch to the Library page, you see 32 labelled presets. Another three sets of 32 presets are accessible directly from this page, and you can load new ones from the generous library of sounds provided with the software – which includes many of the original classic DX sounds. The original DX7 had six operators. The FM7 extends this to eight. These operators can be arranged in various configurations or algorithms to produce different types of sounds. You can view the current algorithm from any Operator page by clicking the Matrix button to the top-right of the Envelope display. You can use the FM7 in stand-alone mode, or as a plug-in with Steinberg VST 2.0 and ASIO interfaces for use with Cubase VST, and Nuendo. It also works with Logic Audio, Mark of the Unicorn’s MAS for Digital Performer, or with Digidesign’s Direct Connect for Pro Tools systems.
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