Our coverage of the Yamaha Montage synthesizer introduction generated a lot of questions from readers about FM-X – the company’s ‘modern, pure Frequency Modulation synthesis’ engine.
So, we talked with Yamaha product specialist Blake Angelos, right, to find out more.
“Although it’s is based on the same type of synthesis as the DX-7,” said Angelos, “It is very different in terms of how it works, the flexibility of the FM-X engine and so on.”
Angelos shared details of the new FM-X synth engine with us. Here is an outline of the main differences between FM-X synthesis, as implemented on the Yamaha Montage keyboards, and the FM capabilities of a keyboard many readers will be familiar with, a Yamaha DX-7:
- 8 Operators (vs 6 Operators on a DX7).
- 128 note polyphony (The DX7 has 16-note polyphony)
- 88 Algorithms (DX7 = 32 Algorithms). “This is a huge difference as the Algorithms, or the arrangement of the operators, offer way more sonic possibilities,” explains Angelos.
- 7 Spectral Forms (DX7 = only sine). Angelos notes, “The Spectral Forms in Montage (Sine, All 1, All 2, Odd 1, Odd 2, Res 2) give you much more sonic possibilities as well. The All 1/2 are different types of sawtooth waveforms, Odd 1 and 2 are pulse or square type wave form and Res 1 and Res 2 give you a cool spectral resonance parameter to shift the harmonic peaks like a resonant filter (but at the operator level..there’s a filter as well!)”
- Spectral Skirt (Broadening the Harmonic Curve). This is a powerful editing tool to change the harmonics present.
- Spectral Resonance (Shifting the Harmonic Peaks)
- Frequency Envelope Generator (DX7 did not have this)
- Comprehensive Controllers. “Remember membrane switches and a single data slider on DX7? Zero real time control,” notes Angelos. “Montage has a mind-blowing level of real time control, with Motion Control and the Super Knob alone, but then you also have the knobs, buttons, assignable switches, etc.”
- Random-controlled Panning (The DX7 was mono…and 12-bit)
- Filter with multiple types (DX7 had no resonant filters)
- Additional Common LFO (in addition to the Part LFO
- 3-Band and 2-Band EQ (at the Part level…No EQ on DX-7)
- Multiple FM Parts can be used in a Performance (Again, the entire architecture of Montage is completely different and a Performance can have many FM parts, not just one in the “mono” timbral DX7).
- Insert and System Effects (The Montage has a huge range of effect options; the DX7 had none).
- Motion Sequences (This allows for many options for rhythmic control over the deeper FM-X engine in Montage)
- Much more intuitive sound editing with sliders, buttons, and knobs
- Deep real-time sound sculpting – “The real time sound sculpting possibilities over the FM-X engine is super deep,” according to Angelos. He highlights uses the ‘Super Knob’ (A large macro control knob with a ‘mind-numbing’ number of control destinations, that you can affect in different ways simultaneously.)
- Sound can be modulated by other Parts or external audio signals using the Envelope Follower. The Montage has a stereo A/D input, so you can modulate parameters with an external source, or you can use one part to modulate another with the Envelope Follower. Utilized with FM-X you can explore some very different and new possibilities.
FM-X Is One Half Of The Picture
While advances in technology have made much deeper FM synthesis practical, FM-X is just one of the Montage’s two synth engines. The Montage keyboards also offer the AWM2 engine, a 128-note polyphonic synth engine that’s an evolution of the one in Yamaha’s Motif synth line.
The Montage architecture, above, lets you create patches that combine sample-based AWM2 sounds with FM-X pure synth sounds, and then animate the sounds with motion control, motion sequencing, envelope followers, an arpeggiator and more.
“Overall, the FM-X sounds in Montage are just way fatter, have much more detail, can do some really amazing morphing things, have stunning pads and leads…It just sounds entirely different than anything else on the planet,” says Angelos. “I’m pretty excited about this instrument, as you can tell!”
Here’s a playlist of Yamaha’s official audio demos for the Montage, which features examples of both FM-X & AWM2 synthesis:
The Yamaha Montage is expected to be available in May, with 61-, 76- and 88-key configurations. See the Yamaha site for more info.