Yamaha Reface DX vs DX-7, Mano a Mano

This video, via muzykujkropkacom, pits the new Yamaha Reface DX mini synth, head-to-head against a vintage Yamaha DX-7. 

The DX-7 is one of the biggest-selling synths of all time – and, ironically, one of the least-loved, because of its minimal, menu-driven interface. The Reface DX gives FM synthesis a more user-friendly interface, but pairs it with a mini-keyboard.

But does the Reface DX deliver the classic FM sound? Check out the video and let us know what you think!

65 thoughts on “Yamaha Reface DX vs DX-7, Mano a Mano

  1. I don’t know if it’s the extra operators but the dx-7 definitely sounded like it had some extra beef on some of those patches. but overall the reface sounded pretty good; I’ll be interested in picking one up when i can get one for $250.

      1. ““I’ll be interested in picking one up when i can get one for $250.”

        The DX7 or Reface?”

        @mikkel The Reface DX, duh… I don’t understand why people only skim the comments rather than reading them completely, or have we all become dumber, with shorter attention spans like in ‘Idiocracy’?

    1. Like the Reface DX! Sounds great, but not $500 worth of like. More like $250 like. Looking at just the Yamaha line, you can get a MX49 for $500. Yeah I know, not the same, but it is a full-size keyboard with lots of firepower. I’m sure they will sell at their asking price, just not to me.

      Anyway, the built-in effects and speakers are cool. Wish it had an arpeggiator. Phrase seq. looks neat though. I’m with Zafo. Will wait till they come down a bit.

    2. Hmmm, it would help if all the sounds were identical on each machine as opposed to just being close enough for comparison.

  2. again you need to plug in a full size with velocity keyboard
    that way you can factor out the adjust to keyboard thing

  3. Are we debating over what can more accurately recreate the Doogie Howser theme song or which one most of us will actually be able to effectively program original sounds on? For the latter my money is on the Reface but too much money. Great new take on FM but too damn much money.

  4. To my ears the DX7 blows the Reface out of the water. It clearly has either more complex patches or more nuances in the output that side-by-side ring true of that classic sound palette you want FM for. The Reface doesn’t sound bad in isolation and at a high level it sounds similar, but by comparison it just doesn’t deliver the way the DX7 can. The classic problem of trying to emulate a master. They didn’t quite get close enough. Agree with another commenter that perhaps the Reface is more friendly to get to grips with, but not sure that’s what matters most to me when it comes down to it. I’d prefer the DX7 dancing on my eardrums.

    1. More friendly to “come to grips with” isn’t an important factor in sound design? HUHH?
      User friendliness is a MUST for ANY sound designer. This is why I sold all my original DX’s, CZ’s and Kurzweil k2000’s. TERRIBLE INTERFACES!!

      The reface, although knobless, is about 50 times easier to program and that alone is worth my $500.

  5. A true judgement is to compare Reface DX with SY’s 77/99 FM engine,
    because Reface DX has effects and DX original or mKII doesn’t.

      1. Wrong. The DX7 II had the same algorithms as the original DX7. The SY77/99 had 45 algorithms to the DX7s 32. The SY77/99 had 16 waveforms to choose from, for each operator. The DX7’s operators only had sine waves. The SY77/99 had 3 flexible feedback loops for each algorithm. The DX7 had only one feedback loop, for each algorithm.

        1. What you say is true, but we should note the actual differences as well. Among these the DX7 II D series instruments are bi-timbral, allowing 2 patches played at once, have stereo outputs rather than mono, have 15 bit output rather than 12 bit with 2 bits of analog companding (so about 8x lower noise), support full keyboard microtonality, and have an assignable performance slider, and two each of continuous and discrete footpedals rather than one.

          But yes the sound engine is essentially the same as the original and is patch compatible, the later revised engine of the SY series was called AFM for advanced FM.

          1. What you say is true, but out of context to what I was saying. If you look at the post I was responding to, I was explaining that the DX7 does NOT have the same FM engine as the SY77/99. The FM on the SY keyboards is called ADVANCED FM for a reason.

    1. Nonononono!

      No it isn’t! The Yamaha’s cheapo FM synth YS200 from 80’s would be more appropriate comparison model. It is 4op, has effects, but full size keys.

      If the original 6op DX7 is more complete FM engine, the even more advanced SY77 blows the whole Reface product line out of the planet.

  6. This seems like an odd comparison as one is a 6 OP synth and one is 4 OP’s. I have a DX7ii-D and love the sound of it but it’s obviously a lot more powerful than the Reface. Maybe a better comparison would be to something like the DX100 as they are similar spec and size?
    If I was in the market for an FM synth I’d definitely consider the Reface given the price and size but if you have the space then I would recommend a DX7 as the second hand price is probably cheaper and will give you a lot more options in the long run.

  7. Wouldn’t it be a better comparison to play the Reface against antoher 4 operator FM synth…like the DX11, DX21, or DX100?

    Comparing it to a 6 op synth is dumb.

  8. …or try the free plugin “Dexed”. It sounds like a real DX-7 (not static like FM8). It has the DX-twang just like the original. Very expressive. It opens all original SysEx files (millions of Whitney Houston EPianos for you). And all you need is a midi-keyboard and a cheap PC-Tablet (<200 $).

  9. and of course, everybody here is listening to this A/B comparison on proper studio monitors, not on the computer speakers…

    1. of course not, Sir! I’m listening on my single iPad speaker to have that Phil Spector-esque monosural appreciation… Real producers here 😉

      Seriously, Reface seems quite expensive to me, when some folks are selling dx-11’s for 80 euros in my town

    2. can confirm on studio monitoring (yamaha NS10M + subwoofer) that DX7 sounds fuller and more detailed.

      test is not quite fair, though, because reface is lower in volume. also sounds do not match 100%, maybe due to 4-op/6-op difference.

      1. by the way, happy with your sub + NS 10M? I’m looking for a sub for mine. And I only listen to FM, on the radio…

    3. Actually, even on computer speakers we can already hear how better the DX7 actually is… And of course, it’s night and day on studio speakers.

    4. Yeah, it’s pretty amazing how obviously different they sound even on laptop speakers!

      The ReFace seems inferior in every way other than controls and portability..

      It baffles me that after nearly thirty years they have done nothing to build on the DX engine!

  10. You want beef? Get a Yamaha TX-816 – eight DX7’s in a rack-mount unit! And yes, it can be found for around $500.

    I am so over Reface.

      1. I just have my pool cleaner do it for me at the same time he’s programming my VCR to record Miami Vice.

        Super cheap..pay him in coke…and I get sick multi-layered sounds.

  11. The Reface DX actually does not sound too bad. Yes the DX-7 IID sounds better – more depth, but the price you pay for the original is a fairly cumbersome and hostile interface, and the potential of maintenance issues on a much older keyboard bought second hand. In terms of having something ‘like a DX-7’ in my studio, a Reface DX might be just the ticket providing the price comes down a bit. To my knowledge there is no hardware programmer for the DX-7 like there is for the Roland D-50, so you are stuck with menu diving – whereas I get the impression the user interface on the Reface is easier to manage. I’d look at a Reface DX if the price is right.

  12. lets see …full sized keys DX7 with 6 operators…$150, or mini-keys replica with only 4 operators…$799?

    Yamaha do you see a problem here?

    1. Are you taking into the account feedback on all operators? So in essence, the sounds you get are beyond what is possible on a 4 op, and possibly also a 6 op?

  13. Man I was so excited about them coming out with something for the PLAYERS. But then I saw mini keys…… and I cried. And then I saw the stripped down features. Cried a little more. Who has a DX7 they want to sell me? PLEASE STOP MAKING KEYBOARDS WITH MINI KEYS!

  14. What’s the use of the lower body, the soul is not the same ? The components not evolved to the point of doing the same and with the same sound quality that was done before? Evolve to regress?

    The old Dx7 is the great synth, since 30 years!

  15. It would have been neater if the incorporated the FSR1 features into it

    Look it up, it added a vocoder like sound to the FM and more

  16. If they did a comparison of presets that only use 4 operators and had similar settings, it could be a fair comparison. And since they are both digital synths, they could be sending literally the exact same MIDI notes to each so the keyboard action wouldn’t be a factor as it was with the EP & Wurly.

    What bugs me about this “near-faithful-reproduction” paradigm is that with modern tech, it should be easy to take what the DX7 had, and truly enhance it. So keep the 6 operators, add resolution (reduce aliasing), better DACs, add modern FX, more voices, improve the envelopes, lfos, and mod matrix with depth control, curves, etc. Make it a deep synth.

    Then we could say, “Well, for $500 you get a modern version of a DX7, with a monster synth engine that takes you well beyond the original.”

    With this, Yamaha seems to have done some nice development in some areas but didn’t push very hard in others.

  17. DX-7 = $2000 USD in 1983.
    Reface DX = $500 USD in 2015.

    It’s a complement to technological advancement and a courtesy to the consumer that the two can even compete at all.

  18. A very good comparison video.

    The reface sounds good but the DX7 sounds glorious. No wonder they were so successful. They sound fantastic. I do miss mine.

  19. I think people should stop saying we need to compare the DX to a 4-op synth: We don’t.

    Yamaha must have known that if they launched an FM synth *everyone* would compare it to the DX7, especially since the entire lineup plays on infamous legacy synths. Either that, or this is just one more way in which they have seemingly mispredicted market sentiment.

  20. All these comments, and almost unanimous about the DX7 sounding superior.

    I don’t get Yamaha’s logic on these little keyboard nuggets.

    They had an opportunity to show up Roland and Korg… and instead made 4 over-priced, under-performing meh…. What market are they even aiming at?

    Are people so delusional that they will buy a reface and then claim “I’m playing a classic keyboard”?

    What a giant fail.

  21. Only 4 operators in 2015? The Reface should have all the operators and all the polyphony for what they are asking. I’ll stick with my FS1-r for noe.

  22. they sound very different. the reface sounds like a plugin thin and bright, the dx7 sounds warmer kind of but with a different kind of tone slightly, much more pleasing to listen to. perhaps if they used a nice transformer or different circuitry they could have improved a classic instead of make it worse. The reface wont replace Abletons Operator.

  23. I can never understand the “sounds thin” brigade. Better high frequencies to my ears. Both seem to put out plenty of bass. You’re not going to get a great audio demo with YouTube compression unless you encode it properly though.

  24. rerface is brighter on some patches but overall the DX7 just wins by a mile every time, note the m/cycle thing..4 ops are not enough to get that patch working and the pads on the DX7 have a beefy bottom end compared to the reface effort…which were thin and weedy

    4 ops are just not enough
    I’d like to get a dx7 or a sy77 if they are a similar price.

    I used to have a SY77 ack when they came out…this comparison just gets me interested in having one again..no so the DX reface really…4 ops only 8 note polyphonic..no splits….really?…maybe they’ll bring out a proper on in Jan 2016 at Namm

  25. DX-7 is superior….has 6 operators….
    DX-21 is more comparable, and I’d rather get the original (have one and I love it).

  26. Why is the reface being compared to the DX7? The reface is 4 operator. DX7 is 6. Shouldn’t the reface be compared to OTHER 4 operator synths in the DX line such as the TX81Z, DX100, DX21, etc.

    Furthermore, the reface has feedback on ALL of it’s operators, allowing sounds not possible on any other DX instrument.

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