SSS002: Out Now - The FM Synthesis Collection

     Coming up next and out a bit ahead of schedule is a killer collection of classic FM synthesizer sounds.  FM synthesizers are famous for their incredible versatility, being deftly capable of cold, sterile pads, warm, thick basslines and everything in-between. Yamaha's DX7 is definitely the most famous vintage FM synthesizer, and has been used on countless hit records since the 80s. FM synthesis has been making a bit of a comeback in recent years, with manufacturers like Korg releasing new models capable of playing DX7 presets like the Volca FM.

 

The Yamaha TX81Z

The Yamaha TX81Z

     The Yamaha TX81Z with Eventide FX

     We decided to sample chords, basses, one hits, pads, and more from both a vintage Yamaha unit and a modern Korg unit. First, we ran a beautiful-sounding Yamaha TX81Z through a high-end Eventide reverb unit. The TX81Z is a rackmount version of the Yamaha DX11, and was Yamaha's very first multi-timbral FM synthesizer, taking their then 4-year old DX series and greatly expanding its capabilities. The DX7 gets all the fame, but the DX11 takes the same design even further. The TX81Z features the same 12-bit digital to analog converter (DAC) which is responsible for a good bit of the aliasing, grit, and crunchiness of earlier DX models. When you take these sounds and run them through the swanky Eventide reverbs (Halls, Rooms, Plates, Springs, and even Eventide's famous Blackhole and Shimmer algorithms were used) they become incredibly lush, 3D, and full.

     To further emphasize the depth of the Eventide effects, we patched it's stereo output into a Mackie CR1604 mixer.  This was to take advantage of the 3D-enhancing effect that panning out left and right on a pair of console channels imparts. The CR1604 (NOT the VLZ version, the original) is the quintessential mixer for 1990s house music and was very popular in its time. Don't let the name fool you - this mixer is a classic that has been used by discerning producers like Brian Eno, The Prodigy, and Aphex Twin. It was designed and built in the USA, and -- when panning a pair of channels out into left+right /stereo -- creates a sense of space and 3D-ness (it's a word)  you simply cannot achieve in the box. We pushed the channels on the Mackie to just under the point of clipping to further warm up the sounds. From here, the sound traveled through the console's master buss section and on out through our SSL-style mastering compressor, including a pair of hard-driven Cinemag output transformers. Finally, the sounds went through our mastering equalizer where we EQ'd each and every drone, stab, chord, and note to sound it's best. The notes or chords are all clearly marked in each file name so you can quickly find what you need when working with these sounds. The audio was played once and recorded on the spot at 24 bit, 88.2 kHz, giving you incredible dynamics, detail, and fidelity. 

Music legend Brian Eno with his Mackie CR series mixer in view.

Music legend Brian Eno with his Mackie CR series mixer in view.

 

     The result is a simply incredible sounding collection of patches. We even included the famous 'Lately Bass' patch for which the Yamaha FM synths are most known. But, all of that is just a part of The FM Synthesis Collection.

    Volca FM multi-sampled through Akai S1000

An Akai S1000. Check out that floppy disk drive on the front. Yass.

An Akai S1000. Check out that floppy disk drive on the front. Yass.

     After we got everything we could out of the Yamaha, we hand-crafted custom sounds on the newer Korg Volca FM for some variation. To widen and warm them up, we started by recording the Volca straight into a vintage Akai S1000 sampler to then be played back from there. The Akai sampler gives the Volca the crunch and redux of the old ladder DAC chips - similar to what the Yamaha TX81Z has but a bit cleaner (16 bit). We recorded each sound we dialed up at different, clearly-marked notes to capture the aliasing effect the sampler makes when you repitch sounds. Once we loaded the Volca into the Akai, we sent the sounds through a vintage, heavily-modified Lexicon LXP-1 reverb, on to the Mackie for the width, then compressed gently through an FMR RNLA 7239 opto compressor, and finally polished to perfection with the Vintage Audio Skyline M3D mastering equalizer- one of only seven in the world. The end result: amazing.

      To make things even more awesome, all of thesounds will be available in Ableton Live Instrument Racks - Ableton users will be able to drag a ready-to-play instance of Sampler to a MIDI channel and play their own chords and basslines instantly!

     The FM Synthesis Collection is the first in a new series of Synthesizer sample packs. A free sampler pack will be made available. Looking into the end of 2017, we are planning on releasing Analog Percussion Vol. 1 and two more synth collections - The Vintage Rompler Collection featuring old PCM romplers from EMU, Roland, and Korg, and also The Analog Synthesizer Collection. Eventually, all drum and synth sounds will be available as larger bulk packages at even more savings. Also in the future, we will be adding sample packs with full support for Korg Volca Sample, Soundfont, Reason, Kontakt, EXS24, SFZ, and more. In the meantime, our first release is still hot too - Analog Kicks Vol. 1 - 108 kick drums to help you get your next track started.