Yamaha DX7 – The Synthesizer that Defined the ’80s

One of the most popular digital synths ever was the DX7 from Yamaha, released in 1983.

It featured a whole new type of synthesis called FM (Frequency Modulation).

It certainly is not analog and it is difficult to program but can result in some excellent sounds! It is difficult because it is non-analog and thus, a whole new set of parameters are available for tweaking, many of which seemed counter-intuitive and unfamiliar.

And programming had to be accomplished via membrane buttons, one data slider and a small LCD screen.
Its distinctive sound can be heard on many recordings, especially pop music and dance music from the 1980s.

Its preset sounds were particularly popular due to the difficulty of FM synthesis programming combined with the immediacy of the stock (preset) DX7 sounds, meaning that players tended to perform and record with the sounds they had at their fingertips.

Polyphonic shared this video essay, looking at the synthesizer that defined the sound of the ’80s, the Yamaha DX7.

The video covers some of the histories of FM synthesis but focuses primarily on some of the DX7’s key presets and how they were used in the music of the ’80s.

DX7 stock sounds ultimately proliferated to the point that they were regarded as clichéd by the end of the 1980s.

The DX7 has been used by the Crystal Method, Kraftwerk, Underworld, Orbital, BT, Talking Heads, Brian Eno, Tony Banks, Mike Lindup of Level 42, Jan Hammer, Roger Hodgson, Teddy Riley, Brian Eno, T Lavitz of the Dregs, Sir George Martin, Supertramp, Phil Collins, Stevie Wonder, Daryl Hall, Steve Winwood, Scritti Politti, Babyface, Peter-John Vettese, Depeche Mode, D:Ream, Les Rhytmes Digital, Front 242, U2, A-Ha, Enya, The Cure, Astral Projection, Fluke, Kitaro, Vangelis, Elton John, James Horner, Toto, Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald, Chick Corea, Level 42, Queen, Yes, Michael Boddicker, Julian Lennon, Jean-Michel Jarre, Sneaker Pimps, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Greg Phillanganes, Jerry Goldsmith, Jimmy Edgar, Beastie Boys, Stabbing Westward and Herbie Hancock.

Pretty impressive for just a partial listing!

The Yamaha DX7 has remained the all-around best and most popular DX synth due to its affordable price, professional features

for studio and live performance and its excellent range of sonic possibilities and extensive programmability.

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