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Why FM? (Yamaha style)
Old 2nd February 2018
  #1
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zerocrossing's Avatar
Why, FM! Post your tips, tricks and tribulations here!

I think this thread could be a lot more useful to GS in general if we shifted course from the “give me proof” (which was useful to me, but maybe not to the wider audience) to a more general discussion of all things FM and Phase Modulation.

Last edited by zerocrossing; 7th February 2018 at 10:37 PM..
Old 2nd February 2018
  #2
Gear Nut
There's always a more intuitive way, but if you wanna go for exactly this sound (hardware) FM is the way. There was an article on reverb.com which I totally loved. Leaving the link here if you've missed it. It's a fun read.
Old 2nd February 2018
  #3
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synthguy's Avatar
Yamaha style FM, which I believe strictly speaking is phase modulation, delivers timbres which verge on physical modeling. If you've heard some of the eerily authentic bass patches, particularly upright bass, you'll understand. The way harmonics decay is much more inline with how they decay in physical objects.
Old 2nd February 2018
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zerocrossing View Post
So we had the Deluge come out, and now the Digitone, but why? Does it really offer a lot more than a wavetable or additive synth? It seems like there are just more intuitive ways to skin that cat. I’m I missing something?
its a certain flavour , different from wavetable or additive synths , its more for me due to the presence of sound though with fm and especially the yamaha dx synths , they have a certain energy as much as a unique sound or character , i just keep a tx7 / dx7 module for dx sounds and edit it from a computer and its never been beaten for Fm , most modern fm like the elecktron stuff sounds hanky panky , as i am always complaining they sound to clean and new and compressed and precise and lack what made fm great .

I loved the idea of the Digitone but its sound is shallow and pale compared to a real dx7 , and please the fm / dx softsynths sound terrible compared to the hardware versions also , the sound of synths has been dumbed down over 20 years more and more , it ended with softsynths a bit but even new hardware rarely has the sonic quality of older synths , i worked recording mixing and releasing electronica for 25 years so i should know , its not my imagination , if a new synth i find sounds good i say it does , a lot sound terrible when you compare them to older synths doing the same forms of synthesis.

if you want to know fm sound you really need to start with a dx7 or tx7 rack and then you get what the magic is about with fm
Old 2nd February 2018
  #5
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WozNYC's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by crystaldon303 View Post
The

There was an article on reverb.com which I totally loved. Leaving the link here if you've missed it. It's a fun read.
That Reverb article makes it seem like the bass on "Everything She Wants" is the DX7. Everything I've always read seems to indicate the chords and bassline were Juno-106 and Minimoog. I think George himself even said so on Twitter?
Old 2nd February 2018
  #6
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monomer's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by zerocrossing View Post
So we had the Deluge come out, and now the Digitone, but why? Does it really offer a lot more than a wavetable or additive synth? It seems like there are just more intuitive ways to skin that cat. I’m I missing something?
How can you not see the potential of the unholy marriage of PM and an Elektron sequencer?
Old 2nd February 2018
  #7
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Originally Posted by monomer View Post
How can you not see the potential of the unholy marriage of PM and an Elektron sequencer?
i could see the potential if the elektron fm engine sounded any good , it doesnt have the balls of yamaha dx fm at all to my ears , way to clean and precise but that seems the modern sound and some like it , if the Elektron Digitone sounds exactly like a original dx7 with those features it would be insane but you have to start with the sound , it just sounds a bit weak to me , it will stream better on spotify with that style of sound i guess ...instant upload ready mixes with no need to master .

why does so much new gear sound w..k ? it all sounds midrangey and the low ends to precise and its like everythings compressed without compression , i dont get why so much new gear sounds like this.
Old 2nd February 2018
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by zerocrossing View Post
So we had the Deluge come out, and now the Digitone, but why? Does it really offer a lot more than a wavetable or additive synth? It seems like there are just more intuitive ways to skin that cat. I’m I missing something?
I personally think the strength of FM lies in using more than a couple of operators, and in its ability to create non-harmonic overtones which IMO are especially nice with filters and such. With FM you can get lots of those overtones with relatively little DSP, and the whole structure of the overtone distribution can change rapidly (or slowly) over time. This IMO is harder to do with additive synthesis, assuming you're picking individual partials.

Wavetables are interesting, because you can essentially do FM with a sine wavetable by using a sawtooth wave to "read" it back. Inasmuch as you can put more complex waves into a wavetable, I suppose you could get even more complex overtones, but in that case you're using wavetables as FM anyways, essentially, just with a different transfer function. I'm curious, actually, if there's any math to prove one way or another that a set of wavetables using the sawtooth/sine combo can create as complex a waveform over time as fewer wavetables with more complex waveforms (like sawtooth/square, for instance, or if you're doing a real wavetable, then some combination of single-cycle waveforms that you can morph over time). It seems to me that this would be the case, but that's largely an academic matter. Anyways, I think using wavetables as an FM "substitute" works fine, and IIRC that's essentially how all "PM" works anyways. So, I suppose that's all a long-winded way of saying wavetables and FM can do many of the same things, and I wonder if there's ultimately an actual mathematical difference between the two.


Edit: and, as per differences between "modern" and "vintage" FM, I think it may have more to do with how that FM is implemented in software, as Dexed is pretty great at matching DX7 tones, and comparisons are relatively easy to do as patches transfer 1 to 1:

Old 2nd February 2018
  #9
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zerocrossing's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by crystaldon303 View Post
There's always a more intuitive way, but if you wanna go for exactly this sound (hardware) FM is the way. There was an article on reverb.com which I totally loved. Leaving the link here if you've missed it. It's a fun read.
Thanks. I’ll give that a read later.

I’m also thinking that in terms of a dance oriented hardware box, it seems like you end up with a somewhat lobotomized implementation (Digitone), or you offload interface to a computer. (DC200).
Old 2nd February 2018
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zerocrossing View Post
Does it really offer a lot more than a wavetable or additive synth? It seems like there are just more intuitive ways to skin that cat. I’m I missing something?
Most wavetable synths have only one dimensional wavetables (+ in software some fun "oscillator fx" like basic phase distortion stuff (that is again a close relative to Yamaha style FM)).

FM basically gives you two degrees of freedom for each modulator and carrier beyond the 1st one (amplitude and ratio with respect to the 1st carrier). You can therefore e.g. create a two dimensional wavetable that "emulates" a two operator stack.

So....wavetables are a bit limited, if you don´t create them yourself. If you create them yourself you need to use some more complex form of synthesis, so it stops being more intuitive than FM.

Additive is not really more intuitive than FM.... Once you have to adjust a few hundred envelopes for the partials by hand it stops to be fun. Of course there are some shortcuts, but then you don´t get all the options.

Also: FM spectra (with dynamic modulation depth) are rather annoying to map to additive spectra. Simple envelopes will probably not do the job...

Also: FM is pretty good at doing inharmonic stuff and subharmonics. This will not work with wavetables and will need a different approach to additive than a simple harmonic series.

Obviously FM is not the most intuitive form of synthesis. But it provides a pretty large "sound space" with a limited (but not always intuitive) parameter set.
Old 2nd February 2018
  #11
Quote:
Originally Posted by zerocrossing View Post
Thanks. I’ll give that a read later.

I’m also thinking that in terms of a dance oriented hardware box, it seems like you end up with a somewhat lobotomized implementation (Digitone), or you offload interface to a computer. (DC200).
Or, you get a DX200:

Old 2nd February 2018
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crystaldon303 View Post
There was an article on reverb.com which I totally loved. Leaving the link here if you've missed it.
That article doesn't exactly get off to a good start:

Quote:
Frequency Modulation’s is based on a principle that’s elegantly simple in theory, and mind numbing to the uninitiated in practice. In its simplest form, FM uses two sine waves. One is the carrier wave, which is the one you hear, and the other is a modulator wave, which shapes the carrier to create a complex wave shape and, in turn, a variety of tones.

The combination of a carrier and a modulator is referred to as an operator.




If someone is going to write about how confusing / frustrating FM is, they should at least get the terminology right.
Old 2nd February 2018
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by babsbosney View Post
I loved the idea of the Digitone but its sound is shallow and pale compared to a real dx7
You'd have to compare it to a DX9/11/21/27/100, because the Digitone is a 4-operator, 8 algorithm FM engine. I liked the direction Elektron went, but would rather have seen them emulate the TX81Z architecture which has 8 available waveforms per operator instead of just a sine wave. What would have really been awesome is if they'd skipped past the 6-operator DX1/5/7 emu and went straight into 8 (or even 10!) operator FM with user-definable algorithms, multiple waveforms per operator, 32 (or more) note polyphony.

Quote:
Originally Posted by babsbosney View Post
and please the fm / dx softsynths sound terrible compared to the hardware versions
I really like Arturia's new DX7. Then again I really liked NI's FM7, mostly because of the new X/Y operators, the ability to create your own algorithms and the insane Absynth EGs. Oh yeah, easy on the CPU too. But for my purposes, Arturia gets it as "close" to hardware as I need.
Old 2nd February 2018
  #14
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dx100 over dx200

Last edited by whatever17; 2nd February 2018 at 09:16 PM..
Old 2nd February 2018
  #15
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Why ask why?
I just bought a Casio CZ 5000 because the sound is so cool, maybe not in an 'OMG I have never heard such a beautiful sounding musical instrument!' way but in a, "What a nice sound that is by way of contrast in an ensemble of analog, digital, samples, etc"
I love this dudes patches:

Old 2nd February 2018
  #16
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now you need an atari + CZartist
Old 2nd February 2018
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlanC3 View Post
That article doesn't exactly get off to a good start:







If someone is going to write about how confusing / frustrating FM is, they should at least get the terminology right.
[removed because I see the error now, operator is incorrectly defined]

Last edited by krylenko; 2nd February 2018 at 09:31 PM.. Reason: got it
Old 2nd February 2018
  #18
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I kind of wish Yamaha hadn't invented the "operator" term for their combination of an oscillator + dedicated EG. It's like having a separate term in a subtractive synth for the combination of a filter and its dedicated EG -- it implies that there IS a dedicated EG, which however customary is not an architectural requirement either in subtractive or FM synthesis.
Old 2nd February 2018
  #19
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I'm not sure why there's a question. I think if you've used a Yamaha FM synth you know it sounds vastly different than other digital and offers different possibilities.
Old 2nd February 2018
  #20
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Originally Posted by Rimwolf View Post
I kind of wish Yamaha hadn't invented the "operator" term for their combination of an oscillator + dedicated EG. It's like having a separate term in a subtractive synth for the combination of a filter and its dedicated EG -- it implies that there IS a dedicated EG, which however customary is not an architectural requirement either in subtractive or FM synthesis.
Maybe I'm completely misunderstanding your question/statement (questment? station?) but Yamaha implemented their brand of FM synthesis so the essential sound-producing element has both a sine wave oscillator and a dedicated envelope generator. I'm pretty glad they did include this in their FM architecture.

An LFO that can oscillate at audio frequencies isn't an architectural requirement of any synthesis method, yet people here howl about not having one...
Old 2nd February 2018
  #21
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From the creators of " analog is better" and "vintage analog is even better" here is the new unapologetic wave of hype: "vintage FM is way more warm than modern".

Old 2nd February 2018
  #22
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zerocrossing's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by bug2342 View Post
Most wavetable synths have only one dimensional wavetables (+ in software some fun "oscillator fx" like basic phase distortion stuff (that is again a close relative to Yamaha style FM)).

FM basically gives you two degrees of freedom for each modulator and carrier beyond the 1st one (amplitude and ratio with respect to the 1st carrier). You can therefore e.g. create a two dimensional wavetable that "emulates" a two operator stack.

So....wavetables are a bit limited, if you don´t create them yourself. If you create them yourself you need to use some more complex form of synthesis, so it stops being more intuitive than FM.

Additive is not really more intuitive than FM.... Once you have to adjust a few hundred envelopes for the partials by hand it stops to be fun. Of course there are some shortcuts, but then you don´t get all the options.

Also: FM spectra (with dynamic modulation depth) are rather annoying to map to additive spectra. Simple envelopes will probably not do the job...

Also: FM is pretty good at doing inharmonic stuff and subharmonics. This will not work with wavetables and will need a different approach to additive than a simple harmonic series.

Obviously FM is not the most intuitive form of synthesis. But it provides a pretty large "sound space" with a limited (but not always intuitive) parameter set.
Right. I guess I am sort of thinking of making your own wavetables. I've been working with Icarus a lot lately and it's very easy to make your own and do all sorts of shenanigans to them with their "3d" wavetable effects. It's fun and fast to work with and you can quickly take a found-sound sample and turn it into something pretty special and malleable.

I guess I need to maybe force myself to dig in a bit more. Sadly, every FM synth I own (all software at the moment) seem to come with a healthy set of presets that are a few tweaks away from being unique, or useable as they are. I've gone into a few basic tutorials a handful of times and I always come away thinking, "Oh, yeah, I get that..." and then I abandon it, in terms of "rolling my own" from scratch. OTOH, I love digging into wavetable stuff, and synths like MPowersynth make additive really intuitive, though it's a simplified implementation. I hear what you're saying about dealing with modulation for all the partials, but while that's a PITA, at least I easily wrap my head around that, where with FM I feel like I'm fumbling around the dark hoping I hit gold. I remember installing an app on an SE30 (I'm old) that would take a floppy disc and write a bank of random DX7 patches to it. You'd then load it up and see if any were good. It was about as fruitful as trying to make your own. I remember the first time I was holding down a chord and making changes yelling, "DO ANY OF THESE PARAMETERS EVEN MAKE A DIFFERENCE?!" It was much later that someone told me that the parameters only update after then next key press.
Old 2nd February 2018
  #23
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Originally Posted by dluther View Post
Maybe I'm completely misunderstanding your question/statement (questment? station?) but Yamaha implemented their brand of FM synthesis so the essential sound-producing element has both a sine wave oscillator and a dedicated envelope generator. I'm pretty glad they did include this in their FM architecture.
I guess it's a part of a more general lament that the DX7 implementation of FM synthesis has become for many people the standard of what FM is. It's a completely general digital technique that lends itself to a lot of different implementations -- just in software, look at FM8 vs Aalto vs Kontour vs Bazille vs the arbitrary configurations you can put together in Pd -- yet there's a common mindset of "4 op meh, 6 op good, 8 op better" as if that means something in the face of all the other variables.

In particular, that we talk about FM in terms of operators and algorithms rather than oscillators and configurations just adds, I feel, to the common mystification about what FM is.
Old 2nd February 2018
  #24
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zerocrossing's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by login View Post
From the creators of " analog is better" and "vintage analog is even better" here is the new unapologetic wave of hype: "vintage FM is way more warm than modern".

Yeah, I'm not buying into that. I feel like FM8, Octopus (RIP), Blue 2, Syrtus, etc are great. Maybe not the same as "the good old days" but good in their own way. Now we have DX7 V and Synclavier V that really even seem to capture the vintage flavor as well.

I also happen to think the new Digitone sounds great too, in it's own way. Not deep and rich like a DX7, but a really nice character. I do like the Elektron aesthetic though. I've got other tools for "fat" and "warm."
Old 2nd February 2018
  #25
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One two-oscillator FM stack is roughly equal in power to a VCO+VCF+VCA group in analog synths. Modulator volume and envelope correspond to VCF cutoff and envelope, carrier volume and envelope correspond to VCA cutoff and envelope, the ratio between carrier and modulator frequency corresponds to VCO waveform. They each have relative advantages:

Analog:
- Resonance! (impossible on FM)
- PWM is possible
- Filtered noise is possible
- If you add multiple VCOs, it makes it very easy to stack detuned oscillators and create lots of phasing (supersaw etc)

FM:
- Bells, xylophones and similar sounds are very easy
- Can create reedy modulated sounds by using high modulation and low feedback
- On synths with multiple waveforms, edgy distorted sounds are easy
- You never have the "lag" of a filter, so all your sounds are tight (especially good for basses)
- If you add more oscillators, you can create large FM stacks that evolve in very complex ways because each modulator has its own envelope (which is what makes the DX7 so good at Clavi sounds)

Generally, Analog is better at layered detuned sounds with simple wave structure (saw waves etc), FM is better at sounds with complex harmonic structures (bells, saxophones, clavi).

Wavetable has similar possibilities to FM (you can load an FM wavetable after all), it does the Analog stuff a lot more easily (most Wavetable synths have filters), but it doesn't to complex multi-oscillator sounds as well (less modulation options).

Additive is even better than FM at bells and similar glassy sounds (you can get insane blippy modulated pads on the k5000), but much less good at distorted gritty sounds with lots of modulation (because essentially it doesn't have ANY distortion going on). It's also substantially harder to edit than FM (since you have so many parameters because of all the partials).

So yeah, FM generally shines in moderately complex synths, since you're not limited to only adding more layers and you can always add more oscillators to a stack and build it up in gritty components. You can build insanely complex patches just by adding more and more oscillators, you get tons of control over how your sounds decay over time, and there's just more depth to it overall.
Old 3rd February 2018
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by poserp View Post
Or, you get a DX200:

I had a DX200, but to be honest, the PITA of dealing with the software editor, didn’t justify the sound quality, which I was never quite convinced was better than some of the good software FM. There were some aspects of it that were not that great, like syncing the delays was problematic. It was fun to mess with the knobs while running a sequence but that’s not how I roll.
Old 3rd February 2018
  #27
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rids's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rimwolf View Post
I kind of wish Yamaha hadn't invented the "operator" term for their combination of an oscillator + dedicated EG. It's like having a separate term in a subtractive synth for the combination of a filter and its dedicated EG -- it implies that there IS a dedicated EG, which however customary is not an architectural requirement either in subtractive or FM synthesis.
Yeah, it is kind of silly in a sense and would probably be easier to understand by breaking it all down and show people how it's just an extension of the subtractive synthesis methods we already know. But I think they wanted to get fancy and coin their own technology like a lot of companies want to do.
Old 3rd February 2018
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by babsbosney View Post
i could see the potential if the elektron fm engine sounded any good , it doesnt have the balls of yamaha dx fm at all to my ears , way to clean and precise but that seems the modern sound and some like it , if the Elektron Digitone sounds exactly like a original dx7 with those features it would be insane but you have to start with the sound , it just sounds a bit weak to me , it will stream better on spotify with that style of sound i guess ...instant upload ready mixes with no need to master .

why does so much new gear sound w..k ? it all sounds midrangey and the low ends to precise and its like everythings compressed without compression , i dont get why so much new gear sounds like this.
I hear it too. The Digitone is not the FM I'm used to. However, I think the Digitone will offer new opportunities. I don't like the tone of it that much unfortunately. But I'm always intrigued when you pair an Elektron sequencer with something. Elektron has people hook line and sinker ever since they created their own sequencer.


Quote:
Originally Posted by login View Post
From the creators of " analog is better" and "vintage analog is even better" here is the new unapologetic wave of hype: "vintage FM is way more warm than modern".

Is it not true? (Half joking, half not) There's a definite smoother tone to newer FM that I've not been a fan of. But my preference doesn't take away from the fact that everyone has their own sound they like, whether it be modern polite FM crap (j/k ) or a little edgier older FM.
Old 3rd February 2018
  #29
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zombieman's Avatar
 

I think FM is just the latest "old thing" everyone is rediscovering... However this time editing is not every single individual parameter yourself (as least for most part) - the engine/ui takes values you put in and then does conversion or parameter mapping deemed appropriate. Based on that new generation of Mega-ROMplers or Wavetable synths must be due in 3... 2... 1.... ...
Old 3rd February 2018
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by login View Post
From the creators of " analog is better" and "vintage analog is even better" here is the new unapologetic wave of hype: "vintage FM is way more warm than modern".

I wouldn’t argue it’s “more warm” but I hear a clear difference between older FM synths like the DX7, TX7, and TX81z and newer implementations like Dexed, FM8, and even the DX7II.

The older stuff has a stronger percussive attack than anything I’ve heard from newer synths and also audible artifacts that, to me anyway, produce a sound I’d describe as more characterful than the cleaner sound of the newer versions. @ acreil has posted a bunch of analysis of the tech tradeoffs in the various DX incarnations and how they affect the sound. Have you compared those sets of synths against each other for yourself?
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