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Yamaha FS1R


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Yamaha FS1R

Category:  Products / synthesisers / fm & digital synthesisers

Added: 27-Aug-99  |  Author: admin

New price: £699  |   S/H price: £450

Yamaha FS1R

Take an old idea like FM synthesis, increase the capabilities, fiddle with the algorithms, add a filter and some effects and that's pretty much what you have here.


However, that doesn't really sound like it would make a very good machine and yet the FS1R is a very original, flexible and superb sounding beast.


The FS1R's main "claim to fame" is the Formant Shaping Synthesis. This allows the creation of human-like tones such as aaahs and oohs, or by using built-in FSeqs (Formant Sequences) can actually synthesize speech, not to mention create some very bizarre noises. There is much more to this machine though. The FM section is the most comprehensive yet on a synth. It is 8-operator with 88 algorithms. For comparison, the DX7 is 6-operator with 32 algorithms. Alongside the 8 operators are another 8 (called unvoiced as opposed to voiced operators) which work as independant noise generators (each with their own variable bandpass filter). The addition of these allow the creation of some superb punchy synth drums and hihats.


On top of this there are mutiple operator waveforms (the DX7 had only sine), a resonant filter (high-pass, band-pass, band-reject, and 3 types of low-pass), 4-part multi-timbrality, and a comprehensive FX section. All of which adds up to a very powerful synthesizer.


It comes with 256 new Voice presets (banks A+B) and 1152 Voices from the DX7 (banks C-K), with space for 128 user sounds. These are combined into Performances where you can add the FX and change modulation sources. There are 3 banks of 64 preset Performances and 1 user bank. There are 4 unbalanced outputs at the back, and alongside the edit buttons and quite large display are 4 control sources. These are assignable to most parameters, and also send out MIDI data so you can record real time changes or control other synths.


The Formant Synthesis works as sort of a sub-set of the FM. The FM operators become formant frequency generators and the modulation of these frequencies via the Fseqs causes speech to be output. There is a good deal of control allowed. When using the Fseqs, you can use fixed or scratch mode, change the speed, the pitch, the offset, and use different loops. You can alter the voice while the Fseq is playing back to morph from a male into a female voice, for instance. There is a User Fseq mode which give you space for 6 user Fseqs, but they cannot be created on board (you need an external editor) and they use up half of the user programs. Of course, you can ignore the Fseqs altogether and just have nice choir patches that can be morphed in real-time by shifting the pitches and formants.


The Voice and Performance system is a clever, albeit complex one. In Performance mode, parameters can be set so that the voice settings are over-ridden. This allows you to change pitch-bend depth, control sources and destination, and other parameters without actually editing the voices themselves (something I've always wanted to Roland JV-1080 to be able to do).


As far as effects go, there are many available. There are 3 effect "units". The reverb unit, the Insert unit and the Vari unit. Voices can be routed to any or all of these, with the Insert unit being a direct switch into the output signal and the Reverb and Vari effects having the usual send and return parameters. The effects themselves have a good range from distortions to choruses and the usual stuff, and all are quite nice sounding.


So what does it really sound like?

Excellent is a word that comes to mind.

The sounds range across the whole spectrum from nasty and dirty to clean and glassy. It's got those quality FM bells, electric pianos and fat basses. It's got great pads and synth strings, as well as other contemporary dance sounds. And it can talk!


So who is this for?

Well there is not a sample in sight so if you only have sample-based workstations or just a sampler I would very much recommend it. Even if you have a bunch of analogue synths I'd still recommend as it's sounds are so original. It really does cover many bases in a tidy 1U rack.


Creating new sounds can be quite difficult depending on the complexity of the sound, but that is a problem with all FM synthesis. The thin manual is nothing more than a parameter guide and is severely lacking in detail. However, if you want, you can simply use the FM to create a simple soundwave and just use the filter for normal subtractive synthesis, or you can load in existing DX7 patches of which there are hundreds available.


All in all, a very impressive machine which fills a gap in my synths that I never even knew existed.


(review by Mike Clark)

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User Comments

Product:  Yamaha - FS1R
Name: AndyChristianBrewer
Email: Email supplied but hidden
Activity: Hobby-ist
Date: 29-Aug-99

gosh, i am so pleased to see this synth getting props!!! Solid review too, Mike.

Just to add a bit of my own opinions about the FS1R:
The magic of this beast really appears when you strip the FX and start working at the ground level. With any preset, simple experiments like adjusting algorithms, changing operator waveforms, slight detuning, and you get wild results without having to start from scratch.

Then add the FX back in...

Also, the fseqs are much more than they seem (even the preset fseqs). I really thought the fseqs were entirely useless until i started syncing them to midi clock... take those vocal phrases and set loop points or reverse them or use an algorithm with many modulation routings. We're talking seriously unheard sound! a few adjustements and you've got this odd pattern to use behind your beat or whatever, and you can use your panel knobs for some serious timbral alterations while this alien pattern just chugs away...

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Product:  Yamaha - FS1R
Name: realtrance
Email: Email supplied but hidden
Activity: Hobby-ist
Date: 17-Dec-99

you're not going to regret getting the FS1R -- except maybe for the extra sleep you're going to have to forego now. It's an _amazing_ little instrument.

I would advise reading up a little on FM synthesis to the point where you're comfortable with the jargon of operators, skirts, 8-operator algorithms, etc. etc. -- but don't let all that scare you away from digging into the FS1R.

Basically, the thing allows for a kind of additive/FM/FOF synthesis technique and sound analysis which _nothing_ else out there can compare with.

True, you get some marvelous drums, marvelous ring-y DX-y stuff (nobody else's VA-analog EPs come even close, and nothing in the ROMpler category touches the FS1R's EP/bell sounds for "liveness"), interesting varying sounds right out of the default presets; but it's in the figuring out what you can do with the operator arrangements via the algorithms, with the looping and setting of start- and end-points on the FSEQs, and so on, that you _really_ start to get some wild stuff.

Everyone seems to knee-jerk assume you need Sounddiver to dig in and start right off writing your own FSEQs; well, lemme tell you, doing a _useful_ FSEQ is about as easy as creating a useful wavetable for an MWXT....!!! What people (and reviews) fail to mention is that, among the 90 FSEQs included, you're not stuck with just playing them back the way they come by default in the instrument -- there's all sorts of ways to rearrange, even reverse them, so that you are using them very much like the way you work with wavetables on an MWXT (though they're nothing like latter in theory or result, just in the way you can work with them).

I think it could be a good six months' project just sculpting the existing 90 FSEQs into variations alone, so don't let the "you can't edit the FSEQs!!" hysteria worry you if you hear it.

Getting to terms with the operators, figuring out how to usefully configure voiced vs. unvoiced operators in interesting ways, via stacking, carrier/modulator/feedback relations of all kinds generated by the 88 different algorithms included (why hasn't anyone complained that you can't edit or add more of these algorithms? -- they're elaborated nicely in an included card, BTW, so you can see at a glance what, say, algorithm 32 is doing for you by way of associating your 8 operators), is another major project.

This is definitely a "study it" synth; it'll be awhile until I really start turning out interesting results with one and I've been fiddling with it for months already. That would be the only major downside for some -- _mastering_ an FS1R is a non-trivial task (!!!!), so if you're a control freak and get frustrated easily, and don't want to spend the time it takes to really learn about formant and/or FM synthesis (the thing is a major voice emulator, too, btw, because of its incredibly detailed formant control ability, not just because of the FSEQs which say "Everybody" and the like... -- making this thing sing like Pavarotti is almost imaginable), stay away.

On the other hand, if you realize (at least at a vague theoretical level, to begin with) that this kind of dynamic formant synthesis control is giving you access to an aspect of music and sound synthesis which is fundamental to what distinguishes a wide variety of "natural" instruments from each other, and that, combined with that, you have an instrument which makes the high-end 6 operator FM synths of yore look puny by comparison (8 operators, and you can use a range of different oscillators, not just sine, for each of them, including interesting detailed control of noise for non-voiced ops), well, this thing's basically theft at the price you can get it for right now.

The other possible downside is _four_ knobs and a bunch of tiny buttons obviously designed for tiny Martian fingers. If you have a spider in the family she'll be a great help in accessing the various features with the tiny buttons. If you have short, stubby fingers you may want to invest in a set of toothpicks to help you access the button-controlled features.

I suspect ultimately that's how Yamaha managed to provide such massive synth technology at such an amazing price -- they nourished the mind and soul, but punished the body with this thing. And they realized the interface would, along with the rest of FM/Formantstuff/FOF, drive most people nuts.

Go to www.teklab.com to download some useful stuff for the FS1R, I believe they have the Cake .INS def there.

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Product:  Yamaha - FS1R
Name: Michael Alexander
Email: Email supplied but hidden
Activity: part-timer
Date: 14-Jan-00

I've had this about a week,and it continually blows me away.The presets are both amazing and usefull (and believe me,you will be mostly using the presets).It sounds incredible: an awesome combo of trippy digital and warm fat analog(ish). It even has good drums! (not whole sets,but four sounds mapped across the keyboard).It excells at vocal-type things.It does great fat heavy squelchy basses.And of course it can do everything a DX7 can do,times a million.
The 4 knobs are a definite plus,and the midi control is flexible enough to easily use my phatboy with it.The OS,while deep and complex,is also logical-you're not going to program sounds from scratch on the front panel (I hope!),but you can get around pretty well.I'm using it with sounddiver,and the implementation is complete-you can even edit Fseqs (well,you can try).

If I could,I'd give it a 4.5 not a 5,cause the manual bites,and cause the effects and LFOs can't be synced to midi.The whole Fseq thing can be usable,but I've had to record bits and bring them into Soundforge to try and figure out the bpm so I could bring them into Cubase and add drums,etc. Many of the parameters,in fact all except the effects,are based on arbitrary numbers,and the ONLY correspondence to real life values EVER mentioned in the whole manual is "0 is the slowest speed setting,producing an LFO speed of approximately 0 Hertz"!!Thanx for that bit of illumination Yamaha!

Still,I love this synth!

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Product:  Yamaha - FS1R
Name: Mike Clarke
Email: Email supplied but hidden
Activity: Professional
Date: 15-Jan-00

This was posted on the Tech forum by sitar:

"The sound production has this incredible clarity to it that I wouldn't be able to describe."

I had to post it here as this was the first thing that I noticed about it when I started playing around with the machine. It's really true, the sound does have an indescribable sharpness to it. Not harshness, but cleanliness/clarity. In Japanese you could say "sore wa kire desu", so go and look that up. :)

I've had an FS1R for about 6 months now, and it has become a major workhorse in my productions. It has every type of synth sound that I've ever needed for all manner of music, and is a good source of inspiration to start a track.

I can't recommend them highly enough, especially with the price they are at these days.


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Product:  Yamaha - FS1R
Name: cyclop@music
Email: Email supplied but hidden
Activity: Professional,Hobby-ist
Date: 17-Jan-00

how can i not say anything about this magicbox..(as if i didn't do that yet)
this machine is 200% satisfaction.
if you are thinking about getting a new synth for your setup, choose this one,
and you will never be sorry.other synths in your rig will start to blush if not shortcircuit with yealousy when they hear this mother.especially if you play it LOUD....my god.

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Product:  Yamaha - FS1R
Name: Nazar
Email: Email supplied but hidden
Activity: part-timer
Date: 18-Jan-00

is it better then K5000s sounds, i am not really interested in the synhesis part but only the factory patches

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Last added comment

Product:  Yamaha - FS1R
Name: J.B.
Email: Email supplied but hidden
Activity: Professional
Date: 27-Jul-03

absolute fantastic machine

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