New App, iYM2151, ‘The World’s First FM Synthesis Music Workstation’

Detune has released iYM2151, a new iPad music app that they describe as ‘the world’s first FM synthesis music workstation’.

Here’s what they have to say about iYM2151:

YM2151, aka OPM, is a single-chip FM synthesis implementation, an eight-channel four-operator sound chip. it was used in many 80’s arcade games and home computers.

iYM2151 is the The world’s first FM synthesis music workstation app, using YM2151 simulator engine for iApp.

iYM2151 not only tries to recreate the 80’s FM sound, but it also recreates the experience of working with an 80’s FM interface.


  • uses YM2151 simulator engine for iApp
  • 4 operators per 8 Algorithms
  • 8 voices
  • 3 software LFOs
  • max 99 scenes (1scene with 64 steps)
  • easy FM edit mode
  • MML mode : programable huge FM parameters in every steps
  • DUMP mode : realtime all FM operator parameters viewer
  • song data file sharing and mail attachment
  • 80’s design user interface

We’ll let readers be the judge of whether ’80’s design user interface’ is really a feature or not.

Here’s a video, via lkk, that may give you an idea of what they’re going for with the ’80’s design user interface’:

iYM2151 is $34.99 in the App Store.

If you’ve used iYM2151, let us know what you think of it.

35 thoughts on “New App, iYM2151, ‘The World’s First FM Synthesis Music Workstation’

  1. If it were a single FM synth then I’d agree about the price bring high, but this is 8 in one package. This is a full-on workstation. Devilishly complicated, and I’m not sure they did themselves any favors with the archaic interface, but deep… so deep! Lots to explore and a bargain for all you get.

    If you think of the typical synth app running $5-10, this would be worth $40-80.

    1. Tim – we’ve been spoiled by a few excellent synths that have gone for under $10.

      But it’s a good thing that developers are pushing the price envelope a bit. If they don’t do this, they won’t be able to justify developing deep synths for a niche audience of serious synthheads.

  2. I’m not to fond of the pricing but the developers who made this are good. Can’t wait for a @TimWebb review.

    Those Old School Sound Cards with these chips are not cheap and some require old hardware to run so this app will come in handy to fans of that DOS game sound.

  3. As a fan of many Sega Genesis games’ soundtracks, I’m loving this app. Once you understand a couple things, the workflow is quite good.

    1. It would be cool to import those midi files into this app. The ability to do so would make the app a little more appealing. The lack of midi at the current pricing is kinda hard to swallow though.

  4. $35 is ridiculous. It sounds old, it looks old, and I’m sure it’s not a lot of fun to work with given the legacy design. Is this a nostalgia price, or does the creator really feel it’s worth that much?

    1. Actually, not as legacy in design as you think. Changing params is easy. For many params, touching the number brings a nearly full screen selection of values to choose from; Tap and you’re done. The workflow is one of the most surprising parts of this app. As for looking and sounding old, well, some of us are into that. In a sense, it looks and sounds a lot newer than most analog sims… lol.

  5. Might have been better for business to launch a cheaper cut down version too like Fairlight did with their regular and Pro version. And also an iPhone/iPod version as well. It would make the app less exclusive. Perhaps throw in a few extra skins so the user can choose between retro and futuristic looks and it’s good to go.

    1. I matter what they do, people are going to bitch at manufacturers that charge what they need to in order to stay in business.

      People have been complaining about Retronyms’ in-app purchase approach from day 1.

      1. Yeah, but I’d rather pay $35 for TableTop with all the goodies instead of purchasing small additions one-at-at-time.

      2. >people are going to bitch at manufacturers that charge what they need to in order to stay in business.

        You need to do a little research on just how much money people can actually make when selling apps for $5 or less. The mobile market is HUGE! Pair that with more intelligent and modern options for running a business, like not renting an expensive office full of rented furniture, etc, and you have the potential to do amazing things while selling at a low price and making tons of profit.

  6. Actually, the Synclavier was probably the world’s first “FM synthesis music workstation”. And the Yamaha CX5M was the first affordable one (with the same voice chip that this app emulates, but in stereo). In my opinion, $35 is not bad for an iOS app, if it has low latency MIDI support. Why not add 2 more operators and bundle some awesome DX7 patches? Probably it was easy to snitch the YM2151 code from an arcade game emulator library.

  7. Great sound, not to hard to understand I’m sure there’s more to uncover love the interface, missing midi though and not sure about the sharing options? I’m sure updates will come I hope they install midi rather than just wist sync. The sound is wonderful and the interface is very intuitive

  8. Drop it to $1 and I’ll get it. Until then, I’ll stick with DXi, which seems to have nice potential as a 4-operator synth, and hope that the bugs/glitches get fixed eventually.

    One thing that does give me pause is the number of synth apps that seem to be a repackaging of some existing library. I have to say: if I make a synth app, I’m actually going to write the audio code, for better or for worse!

    1. DXi is great; totally recommend it. But this particular app is a workstation. You can make a whole track in it,

      1. What makes a workstation?

        Because DXi also has sequencer. It also seems to have much better facilities to make sounds and a ton better interface. I haven’t yet bought it, but even as I’m Detuned fan, I recommend DXi.

        Is 6 operators impossible on iPhone or is it just too much to ask.

        Nice to see Detuned on the warpath after a bit of silence, but I was waiting them to make something ambitious rather than silly little things.

        1. aaa…edit
          Is the DXi’s sequencer one track? Can’t find such specs.

          Still recommend DXi though. I feel its better foundation for improvement, than emulation of archaic chips.

          1. And if Takashi Mizuhiki is reading this, never mind the track amount, potential of sound is more important(to me).

  9. Looks cool, might be of interest to those that paid 50$ for fairlight. Not my first priority for a synth though. I paid a lot more for he alchemy synth after all of the iap’s but more my flavor.

  10. I just bought this, and own DXi. To me, this feels much more instantly usable than the DXi. Right out the box there’s a bunch more presets, simple and in-depth edit modes which make patch editing fun and easy. I just couldn’t get into DXi’s patch editing, and the clunky looking but quite usable sequencer in this app is a win. My only lament is that it seems impossible to get actual audio clips out of iYM2151 without recording the ipad headphone out. No way to render down audio or audio copy.

  11. The app looks amazing! I own DXi, which I find excellent. Given the fact, that the DXi is not a workstation, I find it hard to compare them. The price seems high, but what I would like to be changed is the absence of MIDI. For some of us it really matters, I would like to use with an external sequencer. If it had MIDI support (including MIDI CC) I would buy it immediately.

  12. A lot of DXi owners here.
    A little comparison would be nice:
    -number of tracks. polyphony and multitimbrality?
    -which has more editing parameter?
    -Sound quality?
    -Other features?

  13. I’m having a hard time believing the people thrilled with a 4-op FM “workstation” without MIDI are real. DXi FM is great. Record it and pop the audio into another app if you really want tons of FM tracks on the go. I recommend Sunvox.

    1. Same here. I just purchased the DXi, because those who were supposed to have both were not able to share information, and let me just say, that anyone who says, that “I just couldn’t get into DXi’s patch editing” sounds dubious. This is ridiculously nice synth to program; You can tweak the envelopes graphically and DXi has a filter too, although it lacks LFO’s which is shame(had only two minutes to try it though). Anyone, even your grand mother, can program this thing.

      I cannot do a comparison, because I’m not sure if its worth of its price, but heres what DXi has:
      -No LFO’s!!!
      -Change the sample rate between 44100hz or 22050
      -Can toggle anti-aliased oscillators on/off
      -Unison mode
      -Graphical editing of envelopes
      -Master effects:
      filter with resonance
      delay with LPF
      -X-Y pad, that you can play with two points simultaneusly(cutoff/resonance and Delay time/depth)
      -Slide on keyboard on/off
      -Sequencer seems to have only one track

      Wish list:
      -6 operators, or even more!!!!
      -All the other stuff after that

      1. I just sent a request to the developer for LFOs, sequencing the envelopes, etc. yesterday. 🙂

        You can stack 3 sequencer tracks by going to the X/Y page and hitting the top white circle. The sequence that you are on will highlight either red, green or blue. Start the sequencer, then by pressing and holding in the other areas (divided by 3rds) you can turn the other 2 tracks on or off. It is weird, but turns out to be pretty interesting and fun, especially because you can combine it with the realtime cut off and delay controls.

        1. Thanks! I didn’t notice it first, and couldn’t in a million years. Its much more usable now.

          I sent my request long time ago, but I could update those LfO’s to my request.

    2. I’m quite serious about the patch editing. Within a few moments of playing with the iYM I could recreate all those good megadrive bass and lead sounds, but I flounder with the interface on DXi and I don’t really understand how to achieve a specific sound. It feels pot luck to me if I arrive at what I want- I’m sure I could if I spent more effort, but the point is I don’t want to.

      iYM does have its share of flaws, lack of audio export being a big one in my book, but for me it’s still an upgrade. Midi, I’m personally not that bothered about- the sequencer is just fine to create the riffs I want.

  14. You wouldn’t be able to make anything near as tight as what this app does with its internal sequencer if you tried to use MIDI. I don’t see it as a major omission since current iOS midi jitter and latency are very poor, making it impossible to use the iPad as a synth module. Best to stay with in app sequencing if you care about timing!

  15. So, This thread has been here a while now. I do have both DXi and iYM2151 both are 4-operator FM synths and they go at it in different ways.

    On DXi, you pretty much make the adjustments to the patch by using the ADSRs on the app, but you have the option of changing the sine wave to other waves. Volume is linear.

    On iYM you are treated to an 80s interface (my thought is that Detune, who worked iMS20 with Korg, wanted to use the same winning formula for their app) which you will need to select the ADSR parameters by fiddling with the numbers. Voume and Pan on the mixer are not linear for example, panning is either hard right or left, and Volume drops considerably with just a slight touch.

    The polyphony for DXi stands at 4, iYM is mono per channel, so if you want to do a chord, you are using three of you 8 channels in iYM. That being said, you have access to 8 channels on iYM which you can create a robust 8bit song.

    DXi has MIDI support, ACP, Audiobus and can record your audio and send it via iTunes if so inclined. iYM on the other hand, lacks MIDI, no audio support (no ACP/Audiobus) thus negating the capability to use this app with your mobile DAW, in my opinion, rendering it a toy.

    Both lack something that I have been asking to both devs for a while. The capability to support SYX files as there are thousands of them around. For example how cool would it be for any of these apps to load SYX files from a Yamaha TX81Z?

    While DXi has been kept updated with regularity for their minimal $2 price, iYM seems to have been abandoned, which is a shame for Detune because they have never lowered the $35 price tag on their app. I was written on Detune’s facebook page asking for updates like MIDI and at least ACP, but nothing has happened. This leads me to believe that iYM will not be supported and will die off.

    Even though I can create some good-old game console sounds on iYM, the lack of support has pushed me to delete the app from my iPad and I have kept DXi as my pure FM synth of choice.

    There are others that have FM in their arsenal, Thor and Cassini come to mind, but for FM operator action, my choice is DXi.

  16. Just got this app, seems to work fine on iOS 9. This app is a BEAST, and seems to be so underrated it’s not even funny! lol @ “confusing UI” & “lack of feature X”. This is techno at its purest form <3

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