Added: 27-Aug-99 | Author: admin
New price: £699 | S/H price: £450
YAMAHA FS1RTake an old idea like FM synthesis, increase the capabilities, fiddle with the algorithms, add a filter and some effects and that's pretty much what you have here.
However, that doesn't really sound like it would make a very good machine and yet the FS1R is a very original, flexible and superb sounding beast.
The FS1R's main "claim to fame" is the Formant Shaping Synthesis. This allows the creation of human-like tones such as aaahs and oohs, or by using built-in FSeqs (Formant Sequences) can actually synthesize speech, not to mention create some very bizarre noises. There is much more to this machine though.
The FM section is the most comprehensive yet on a synth. It is 8-operator with 88 algorithms. For comparison, the DX7 is 6-operator with 32 algorithms. Alongside the 8 operators are another 8 (called unvoiced as opposed to voiced operators) which work as independant noise generators (each with their own variable bandpass filter). The addition of these allow the creation of some superb punchy synth drums and hihats.
On top of this there are mutiple operator waveforms (the DX7 had only sine), a resonant filter (high-pass, band-pass, band-reject, and 3 types of low-pass), 4-part multi-timbrality, and a comprehensive FX section. All of which adds up to a very powerful synthesizer.
It comes with 256 new Voice presets (banks A+B) and 1152 Voices from the DX7 (banks C-K), with space for 128 user sounds. These are combined into Performances where you can add the FX and change modulation sources. There are 3 banks of 64 preset Performances and 1 user bank.
There are 4 unbalanced outputs at the back, and alongside the edit buttons and quite large display are 4 control sources. These are assignable to most parameters, and also send out MIDI data so you can record real time changes or control other synths.
The Formant Synthesis works as sort of a sub-set of the FM. The FM operators become formant frequency generators and the modulation of these frequencies via the Fseqs causes speech to be output. There is a good deal of control allowed. When using the Fseqs, you can use fixed or scratch mode, change the speed, the pitch, the offset, and use different loops. You can alter the voice while the Fseq is playing back to morph from a male into a female voice, for instance. There is a User Fseq mode which give you space for 6 user Fseqs, but they cannot be created on board (you need an external editor) and they use up half of the user programs. Of course, you can ignore the Fseqs altogether and just have nice choir patches that can be morphed in real-time by shifting the pitches and formants.
The Voice and Performance system is a clever, albeit complex one. In Performance mode, parameters can be set so that the voice settings are over-ridden. This allows you to change pitch-bend depth, control sources and destination, and other parameters without actually editing the voices themselves (something I've always wanted to Roland JV-1080 to be able to do).
As far as effects go, there are many available. There are 3 effect "units". The reverb unit, the Insert unit and the Vari unit. Voices can be routed to any or all of these, with the Insert unit being a direct switch into the output signal and the Reverb and Vari effects having the usual send and return parameters. The effects themselves have a good range from distortions to choruses and the usual stuff, and all are quite nice sounding.
So what does it really sound like?
Excellent is a word that comes to mind.
The sounds range across the whole spectrum from nasty and dirty to clean and glassy. It's got those quality FM bells, electric pianos and fat basses. It's got great pads and synth strings, as well as other contemporary dance sounds. And it can talk!
So who is this for?
Well there is not a sample in sight so if you only have sample-based workstations or just a sampler I would very much recommend it. Even if you have a bunch of analogue synths I'd still recommend as it's sounds are so original. It really does cover many bases in a tidy 1U rack.
Creating new sounds can be quite difficult depending on the complexity of the sound, but that is a problem with all FM synthesis. The thin manual is nothing more than a parameter guide and is severely lacking in detail. However, if you want, you can simply use the FM to create a simple soundwave and just use the filter for normal subtractive synthesis, or you can load in existing DX7 patches of which there are hundreds available.
All in all, a very impressive machine which fills a gap in my synths that I never even knew existed.
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Total stars: 50 | Total votes: 10