30 Years Later, Could The DT-7 Programmer Finally Make The Yamaha DX7 Easy To Use?

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The Yamaha DX-7 is one of the most successful synthesizers of all time – but it also has a reputation as being one of the most cumbersome synths to program.

DTronics has introduced a new hardware controller, the DTronics DT7, designed to provide hands-on control of the synthesis options of Yamaha DX series synths.

Key Features:

  • The DT7 runs it’s own software within it’s own processors
  • Firmware updates over MIDI
  • Supporting different types DX-series
  • Provides a knob for every parameter, no layers, no fuss!
  • Easily adjust envelopes of the appropriate operator’s Envelope generators, pitch settings, scaling…!

Pricing and Availability:

The DTronics DT7 is priced at 1249,- Euro and is expected to be available ‘soon’. See the DTronics site for more info.

83 thoughts on “30 Years Later, Could The DT-7 Programmer Finally Make The Yamaha DX7 Easy To Use?

  1. I know it’s pie in the sky stuff but it would be fantastic if the knobs moved as you changed patches.

    Still. An awesome DX7 programmer.

      1. “These retail for $400 – which is a little steep, but considering the keyboard controller is very very good”

        Please don’t misinform others.
        Minikeys are horrible as any other minikeys and touchpad sliders are unusable too.

        1. You’re right, I should’ve been more clear that I do not own, nor have I ever used the DX and I can’t speak to the touch sliders – I was praising the actual keys on the keyboard controller of the Reface line, because they are in fact very good IN MY OPINION. I should’ve been more clear about this, but I’m not misinforming anyone about my opinion of the mini keys on the Reface line any more than you are misinforming anyone about your opinion of mini keys – and your opinion is, of course, also valid.

          1. Theres no need for a controller. Lets get something straight the DX7 is more complex to program because it produces more complex sounds than Analogue thats a given.

            So people should stop complaining. If you take the time to identify the KEY parameters on the DX7 that effect and shape a sound.

            The mystery is gone very quickly. The point is FM will keep surprising you even after a quarter of a century. Analogue is more immediate but you already know the sounds it will do. Check my channel on youtube PROJECTDX to see what ive done with a DX7. Everything including the drums is DX7 on my tracks.

            You are not going to get that sound set on a Minimoog or JP8.

            The DX7 is virtually limitless.

      2. honestly if you want a 4 op FM synth, you can grab a TX81-z on eBay for under $150 usually. I was really disappointed to learn the re-face series wasn’t a full 6 op FM engine, and for $400 I don’t understand why they cut those corners. If they want sales, they either need to give us the same functionality with modern updates, or cut the key bed, make it desktop/rack and reduce the price. Korg’s volca FM is promising, but it’s only 3 voices. I’d happily pay any company like $250 for 6 op FM and 4-6 voices in a desktop or rack unit, but everyone cuts at least one corner, it’s a bit of a bummer.

        1. Ignorant comment is ignorant. You do realize there are 200+ potentiometers on this thing right? A pot costs about 1.75 each. basic math states thats at LEAST $350 just in pots, thats more than a quarter of the cost of the RETAIL PRICE. Compound that with the rest of the materials, ini pendent R&D startup costs, small demand, need to make a profit, I’m surprised it doesn’t cost MORE.

          As a die hard DX7 fan, I would gladly pay $1250 for a knob per function FM synth, this is a mythical beast that has never existed but in a few brian eno studio pics (if anyone remembers that (one off?) blue one) This person is bringing something to life that has never before been available in any form (again unless you are brian eno) and I for one am ecstatic that I have the chance to pick something like this up and i’m sure i’m not the only one.

          It never ceases to baffle me how much criticism any price more than $3-400 gets. Especially when its an indie startup focused on a niche market.

          To anyone who things $400 is steep for a Reface THIS ISN’T FOR YOU. can’t we all just appreciate how awesome (and how much of a small miracle) it that it even exists at all?

          1. I definitely hear what you are saying…. I agree that they are not ripping people off….. But from a reality standpoint….. I don’t think people are going to spring for it….. Sometimes just because something is at a fair price from a manufacturing standpoint, doesn’t mean it is realistically going to sell

          2. “It never ceases to baffle me how much criticism any price more than $3-400 gets.”

            It’s primarily not musicians, just gear-hoarders.

    1. “they need to get a programmer/ FM sound module down to roland boutique prices and THEN they’ll have a hit”

      Buy a few bcr2000s and print out an overlay. Otherwise you’re never going to find something with so much interface and so niche as cheap as the roland boutiques.

  2. Why don’t manufacturers realise having different sized or coloured knobs for different functions makes things a million times less confusing!! I’d have to count down and memorise the rows and columns for each knob just to be able to get to it quickly.

    1. Seriously! This is a fantastic idea but the design is horrible. If its primary job is to make programming easier, they missed the mark. I can’t see myself paying 1200 euros to have a mildly better workflow.

    1. Either you didn’t see that this is for the DX-series, or you don’t know what the better DX synths are going for nowadays.

    1. There were software editors available for it back in the 80s and 90s too, but this things has knobs for hands on control. That’s the difference.

    2. Plus that knob layout is far from inviting. Colour code things, use different sized knobs, block off envelope and operator sections, anything but a massive uniform grid!

  3. Hubba hubba! Since the Korg Volca FM is compatible with DX 7 programs and patches, it would be killer if this worked with the Volca FM. But that would require every parameter being assigned a cc#, and I doubt Korg would implement such a thorough midi spec for such a cheap synth. I hope Korg proves me wrong, it’s not like they haven’t already.

  4. I love stuff like this. Even if I’ll never be able to own it. Though I do agree with the comment above about knob color/size variations being incredibly useful.

    I know I’ve been reduced to a frustrated pile of shit trying to coax specific sounds out of a DX synth before but with no less than 439,631,852 patches available for DX synths, it makes me wonder if I just hadn’t slowed enough to learn it because obviously many many others are just fine with it.

  5. I can’t recall a single time in history when someone suggested adding 150+ knobs to a device would make it easier to use!!! Are you mad?

    The DX-7 is a lovely piece of kit that is a pain in the arse to programme, it always will be that. I am surprised that still hasn’t dawned on some people, except it for what it is, and for what it isn’t, and move on with your lives.

    You know that guy, the one that spent 18 months making a marble machine to play his tune, that was time better spent that the time spent making this, I am just saying… F*ck, you have a limited time on this planet, and do you want to be know as the guy that gave a DX-7 150+ knobs?

    1. to be fair , the marble machine can play different songs, it has a peg knob control set up, just have to change the pegs

      besides rather be known as guy who made a a women orgasm into a heart attack(fletch lives)

    2. I think because he made it he does want to be known as the guy who put 200 knobs on a dx7 (duh). People love different things, people love building things, maybe this guy isn’t even a musician and he just made it cause he LOVES dx7s and building things.

      I think a scathing attack on a guy for doing something that he loves (this is clearly a passion project he’s been working on it for years) reveals more about the above poster than than the creator of this thing.

      Also: “I can’t recall a single time in history when someone suggested adding 150+ knobs to a device would make it easier to use!!!” you must have had your head in the sand this past decade when EVERYONE is demanding knob per function synths.

      1. I don’t think it a scathing attack, and when we put stuff out in the world we can’t expect everyone to admire those efforts.

        This comes across as a act of sheer madness, and in itself I see nothing wrong with acts of madness, hence why I compared it to that Mable Machine. But that Marble Machine worked as an act of madness in that it was a pure paradox. It takes a romantic genius to have the vision and then to pull those skills together over a extended period of time while engaging in updates so the world can see any success or failure, yet shows lacking of any practical genius to pursue such a warped and pointless project. That paradox hits the viewer and they can’t begin to understand the process as it is beyond normal expression, and it works completely within its objective to mystify, entertain and promote.

        I think, stating that adding 200 knobs to a 30 year old pain-in-the-ass synth is not a constructive use of any ones time is really too far from the truth, I’d take that as sound advice. Someone could have done that in the last 30 years, the fact it took this long likely leans towards the side of it being unwarranted. Even Yamaha went with the ‘superknob’.

        And, Billfusion, fair comments. I’d like to be known as the guy that made people understand plastic recording wasn’t the pinnacle of music media recording.

    3. “I can’t recall a single time in history when someone suggested adding 150+ knobs to a device would make it easier to use!!! Are you mad?”

      It doesn’t make it easier to USE. It makes it objectively easier to PROGRAM.

      There’s a reason that people just gave up and stuck with the default patches with the DX series. We’re not mad, but you’re making yourself so.

  6. Amazing, but not quite feasible.
    The DX7 is actually not that cumbersome to program, people just never tried because we have been reconditioned over and over again that it’s impossible. Yes, it will never be like analog, but even with this programmer it’s an illusion to think that you’re going to get the same results and experience as with analog.

  7. My buddy has a mint condition DX-5 that just sits on a shelf in his basement. So far the swine’s resisted all my attempts to buy it. I think if the money would get high enough he’d go for it, but now I’ve seen this I think I need both. 🙂 That said, I never found the DX architecture that hard to program anyway. time-consuming, but not that difficult.

  8. I always thought the easiest way to edit a DX was to plug it into my Commodore 64.

    This thing is a little nuts…but hey someone might really want one, so what the hell.

  9. You don’t need knob per function on a DX synth anyway. Any time I see a knob per function DX controller I always scoff. I feel like they make it just to highlight how hard a DX7 is to program when realistically 1 set of controls and then an operator selector button would be perfectly adequate. Do you need 6 seperate envelope controls? No. Do you need 6 seperate coarse and fine pitch knobs? No. Its all pretty ridiculous if you ask me. If someone just made a controller with a set of sliders for the envelope (with 6 little buttons below so you could choose your operator) and a set of frequency controls (with 6 little buttons so you could choose your operator) then that would be a pretty effective DX programmer. Hell, only being able to edit one operator at a time would still be 10 times easier than programming with only 1 slider (and then you only need one set of operator selection buttons. Is that not totally obvious to everyone else?

    actually, fuggit, give me a motif style matrix programming interface, a touch screen, and one big light up knob that you can assign 1000 macros at once to… yeah… THATS the future of FM… right.

    1. This was my thought too. Why duplicate the individual controls six times? One row of controls, plus six buttons to select each of the six operators, plus three buttons (all carriers, all modulators, all operators) for editing multiple operators at the same time.

      I’d also use the saved panel space to use sliders rather than knobs. It’s far easier to edit two or three simultaneous parameters with linear than with rotary pots.

  10. Man, I have to agree with everyone else who said it needs different color knobs. At least different colors on the faceplate. I know you could buy your own knobs, but for 120 knbobs, separating them by category seems like a no brainer. Still looks cool though. It would be great if you could map it to a bunch of synths, and have every control for your whole setup in one place.

  11. I had a TX802 and it was pretty easy to program, it’s a DX7II basically, so not all DX7s are a pain to program. I also used a BCR2000 to program it with knobs, much cheaper than this, and way smaller and lighter.

  12. I know it says works. For the dx series does that still work for the six operator dx5 which I purchased last year? I’ve .had some troubles finding editors to work with it, maybe it’s me but if so this would make the dx5 So much more powerful which is saying a lot as its a wonderful synth, just a pain in the arse!

  13. Buy a DX11! Fairly cheap, small good keyboard with aftertouch, easy to program, preset waveforms, the only old FM synth with pitch eg and a sound that is even more “FM-like” than the DX7 itself. My everyday soundmachine for never heard before sounds. Others should go with Dexed-VST, but even with this it is still a pain in the ass to program. The DX7 is a six-OP sinewave bitch! No programmer will EVER compensate that fact. Otherwise Mr. Jellinghaus, the one that made that old blue programmer, would be insanely rich. 😉

  14. The site has been saying soon available for almost the past year since I saw this post on matrixsynth. Is there a reason you’re bringing it up again? Did you hear word that it’s coming out now? I’ve had the link to this site saved for almost a year now and nothing has changed.

  15. That looks amazing and I sure would pay that for a controller that edits EVERY god damn function on a DX7 regardless of the fact that I can pick up a DX7 for just over £200 or less even… That thing would be a monster! I will say though, it would be nice if they offered a kit too for us DIY types or even a PCB at the very least, are you listening DTronics? 🙂

  16. Nothing wrong with the price. Heaven on a stick for DX7 lovers.
    I love the fact that all the knobs are the same, conceptual continuity, nice.
    Never the less it won’t make FM sound any better to my ears.

  17. Yes, offer the DIY option and more and more people will get one and the product will be more successful then more and more rich lazy people will buy the built one.

  18. But.. Am I wrong, that you are not able to control the data coming in, without the DX begin to glitch? It’s not something you can use as a real time controller, so it’s only a programmer, right?

  19. Lol, releasing a programmer for a long dead synth for a ridiculous price isn’t the best business model. Who is actually going to buy this for that price?

  20. Good luck trying to sell this, especially since the Dx7 is way cheaper than the controller. How about making a “volca-sized” version to reduce costs?

  21. This is magnificent.
    Make one for the SY77 and I’m there.
    I might even be there for this one.
    I loved programming both. But what I wanted was access to every control while performing – including being able to control two at once. The minute I have to deal with a menu while performing, the trance is broken. But i always performed in “edit mode” anyway.
    To all of you naysayers, for some of us – and I suspect many of us who do experimental music and audio art – this is a wonderful and appropriately priced machine that turns a “play a patch synth” with a fantastic sound architecture into a “play the actual synth” instrument of the sort we rarely see outside of the modular world. When I look at the price, I see an absolute bargain compared to a modular that would have equivalent flexibility and sonic scope.

    Just because it doesn’t work for you or make sense for you doesn’t mean it isn’t gold for someone else. Music is a pretty vast and varied practice.

    1. Exactly!!! If this would work for my SY77 it would unleash a true beast with knob per function but to supplement another synth ala dx7 plus this controller is superfluous to what the SY77 can accomplish on its own.

  22. LOL. There was a company back in the 1990s that made this same thing, a DX7 programmer with one knob per function. I don’t remember their name because it was long ago. Who knows how many they sold.

  23. It’s nice to see but man it’s an expensive part for a $300 synth. I’d be just as happy with a DX-200, or keep happily using MOD-7 in my Kronos; I get nine assignable sliders, eight knobs, and sixteen switches per patch, macros, and a touch screen for routing. Oh, and the FM engine is at least as good as FM8 if not better when you add in the filter, waveshaping, and mod sequencing.

    As a matter of fact, you can get a used Kronos for the price of a used DX-7 and this controller.

    Just a thought.

  24. Yeah sounds good on paper but it’s always a copy of the real thing, it was done right, Yamaha 80s FM sizers, warm , gritty , punchy, cheesy, clangy, rude.. DT7 seems like overkill but hate using mouse and buggy iPads, think I’ll save up for this and actually program this beast with my own sounds.

  25. Does it work with the FB-01 (about $175 on Ebay)? It would totally make sense to buy a new $1400+ controller for a decades-old $175 synth box that I hardly use. 😛

  26. The Jellinghaus did this 30 years ago, as someone mentioned, but they’re impossible to find. I for one welcome this new version – the reason to have one, if you’re a Yamaha FM diehard, is the simple capability of having both hands adjusting two parameters at once while a sequence plays the DX. That allows for dynamic sound shaping that simply isn’t possible any other way, unless you want to laboriously program sysex.

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