Native Instruments FM7

Native Instruments FM7 Image

The FM7 from NATIVE INSTRUMENTS could be the best software synthesizer ever! The FM7 is based upon the classic and legendary sounds of FM synthesis found in Yamaha's DX-series, from the DX7 to the DX200! The FM7's brilliant user-interface makes FM synthesis understandable, and for the first time, visually intuitive. And since the FM7 can import SysEx patch files, of which thousands can be downloaded from the internet, you have virtually every Yamaha FM synthesizer and more available to you in an easy to use and totally modern software plug-in compatible with every major computer music program (ASIO, MME, DirectX, SoundManager, VST, DXi, Audio Unit, RTAS, MAS, DirectConnect)! The FM7 can read all programs from the original DX7, DX7-II, DX11, TX81Z, TX7, DX21, DX27, DX100, TX802 and it reproduces the sounds of these machines exactly, if not better!

As part of NI's Vintage Line, the FM7 not only recreates the look and sound of DX-synths, but in many ways it surpasses what those original FM synthesizers could do. To get you started, it ships with two 128-patch banks of new sounds, a set of 128 DX200 patches, and the factory and some additional presets from the original vintage DX7. The FM7 is not just a DX emulator in the form of another software plug-in. It is a genuine FM algorithm synthesizer that takes the concept to the next level! It adds distortion and filter operators, extensive modulation capabilities, a comprehensive effects section, audio input and much more to the traditional FM architecture.

Native Instruments FM7 Image

The FM7 has eight operators, each of which can be selected and graphically edited on-screen or via MIDI controller. The first six operators (A-F) are modeled after the DX-series. Operators are unique to FM synthesis. Each one generates a waveform which can be used as a carrier (the sound that is heard) or a modulator (like the way an LFO is a wave that modulates an audible carrier wave). Whereas the original DX-synths only used sine waves for their operators, the FM7's operators offer a choice of 32 waveforms from simple sine to complex TX and formant waves. Additionally, the original FM synthesizers had 32 preset algorithms for designating and routing which operators will be carriers and/or modulators. FM7 has a fully programmable FM matrix in which you can freely adjust the signal routing from one operator to another, and you can even make the operators modulate themselves in a feedback loop. The original 32 DX-algorithms can be chosen from the FM Matrix's presets menu.

Native Instruments FM7 Screenshot

The frequency range, output level, stereo panning, velocity sensitivity, envelope rates, and amplitude modulation assignments for each operator are all easily edited on-screen or via MIDI controller in a way no old DX-synth could ever display! A graphical multi-stage envelope section borrowed from Absynth allows up to 30 points--that's way more than just the four points of a standard ADSR envelope. It comes with many preset envelopes, and it can be tempo synced. The last two operators (X and Z) offer new features not previously seen on DX-synths. Operator X offers a sophisticated noise and distortion generator. Operator Y has two multimode resonant filters.

The FM7 has a remarkable user-interface. It looks like a DX-synth with its brown/black color, green and red membrane buttons (that look depressed when clicked on). There's also a three digit display next to some LCD emulated display screens and a 6-octave keyboard. Clicking on the main LCD display toggles through a variety of information such as the name of the current patch, CPU usage, or current polyphony usage. There's also a lot of screen space which has allowed NI to give FM synthesis programming the visual representation it has desperately needed for decades. Creating your own FM sounds has truly never been this easy! And what's more, an "Easy" page gives you access to 20 sliders for somewhat global but common-place parameters such as Brightness, ADSR, Detune, LFO and Output settings. A "Master" section provides equally simple control of master input/output levels (yes there is an audio input as well), Chorus/Delay Effects, and some other overall sound shaping effects.

One of FM7's coolest features is its MIDI Learn function...just click on the "Learn" membrane button, click on a parameter that you would like to have controlled by a MIDI controller, then wiggle the controller knob and voila! You have just assigned a knob or slider on your MIDI controller to a parameter in FM7! This makes using FM7 with your MIDI controllers a snap, for either live or studio use. As a stand-alone application, the FM7 is a monotimbral instrument. But when used as a VST plug-in, up to 8 instances can be instanciated for multitimbral or ensemble applications. FM7's "Pitch" screen lets you adjust global pitch effects like the portamento and micro-tuning. The micro-tuning feature lets you adjust each note up or down a half step. A menu of preset micro-tunings from "Bagpipes" to "West Africa" shows you the sort of ethnic key scales you can create for your more ethnic sounds!

Clean sounding, punchy, and alive! That's how one could describe the world of sounds FM7 can create. Classic Rhodes and Wurlitzer sounds, percussive sounds ranging from the acoustic to the digitally industrial, synthy basses, leads, pads, strings, bells, drones, pulsing and throbbing effects, and all kinds of ethnic sounds and effects are all just a click away! It is used by Hans Zimmer. Download the demo for your Mac or PC from NATIVE INSTRUMENTS now!

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20 Visitor comments
Bob
April 28, 2009 @ 11:24 am
Lostgallifreyan it'd be impossible for Mark Snow to write the theme with FM7, the show ran from 1993-2002. Last season was when FM7 came out. In a Keyboard mag interview with Snow he said it was an E-mu Proteus 2.
Lostgallifreyan
March 21, 2009 @ 9:04 pm
One more post... I deduced that the truth might not be so far out there.... If find old DX cartridges in SysEx form (Google knoweth where), find something called 'Whistles'. It's an also-ran on the dodgy end of the initial data set supplied by Yamaha. Load it into the FM7. Tweak the effects to simulate a reverb, using full diffusion, a fairly strong feedback, and some HF cut, so the effect is about as close to a realistic reverb as you can get it, and with a mix that doesn't swamp the pitch change in the attack. Add some modulation, enough to reduce the regularity of the basic detuning in the voice. Now play the X-Files theme lead line. It spooked me when I discovered this. It's amazing how strong the sound is once the FM7 uses it this way. It IS the actual sound, I'm fairly sure of it. Why use more, or other instruments, when the FM7 can do it alone? Given the tempo-related controls in the FM7 architecture, I suspect Mark Snow used the FM7 in plenty more parts of that theme too.
Lostgallifreyan
March 21, 2009 @ 8:44 pm
Not tried the FM8. Won't either. I have adapted and customised W98 SE so deeply I've made it my own in ways few can imagine, so as the FM7 runs perfectly on it, and the FM8 won't even install on it, I stay with the FM7. Don't knock it. Wille Nelson has kept the same guitar most of his life. And he can do more with it too than I can do with anything. A good instrument is one to stay with. And the FM8 colours [beep] . Has to be said.. If they allow W98 users to have at it, and allow a change to the old colours and style, I think they'll please more people than they'll know unless they try. I've read on the FM7 on many sites recently, and that colour scheme issue is a big one for a lot of people it seems.
Lostgallifreyan
March 21, 2009 @ 8:43 pm
The FM7 covers the known FM range well. The SY99's 'feed forward' and osc phase controls make strong 'analog' oscillators with switched polarity and saw/square waves, and noise generators. Native Instruments haven't topped that, but if you're not trying to squeeze every ounce of invention out of an expensive hardware synth, I guess that's not so tragic. :) The FM7 has some of the quirks of the old DX7, though not the mono LFO with a polyphonic voice. THAT is something whose power is hard to believe till you hear it. Normally you have to spend a bit on outboard modulation effects to do what that can do. No later Yamaha synth did it. Polyphonic LFO's are nice but when the mono LFO was lost, it took with it the power of weaving rolling modulations the likes of which Tangerine Dream made a name for themselves with. The FM7 gets close, given the control on polyphony, and given that it also does what an SY99 and FS1R can do with similar close approaches, that's a VERY wide range.
Lostgallifreyan
March 21, 2009 @ 8:28 pm
Martin, the DX100 and DX27 (and maybe DX21 and DX9 too?) could make harder edged sounds because they used a higher modulation index range, so the more you pushed a modulator output into a carrier, the more the energy was displaced into a greater harmonic range. You can make up for it though, with the addition of two equally set modulators into one carrier, with at least one with output level high, or at top of range. Even the old DX7 Mk 1 could do this trick, though the 'feed forward' control on the SY77 and SY99 might make it easier or more consistent.
 
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  • Check Prices on eBay
  • The link above will take you to a search for this synth to see active listings. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace or post a wanted classified.
  • Demos & Media
  • Audio Clip 1 - Flatron - FM7 Demo. Here's a great FM7 demo made using 8 VST instances of the FM7 only. Its percussion, synth leads, bass, pads and effects alone are enough to complete this entire trance track!

    Audio Clip 2 - Hear some more FM7 sounds, from Future Music issue 119.

  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - CPU Dependent
  • Oscillators - 6 FM Operators with 32 waveforms plus 1 distortion Operator and 1 dual resonant multimode filter Operator (with low/band/highpass)
  • LFO - 2 LFOs per voice, 32 waveforms each (same as in Operators), Sample-and-Hold, Modulation Matrix
  • Keyboard - 6-octave 73-note simulated keyboard (complete 12-octave 145-note keyboard range)
  • Effects - Stereo effects section with chorus, flanger delay, can be used for external audio signals; Unison mode, Portamento
  • Interfaces - Runs stand-alone with ASIO, MME, DirectX, Sound Manager, or as a plug-in using VST-2.0, MAS, DXi, Core Audio, RTAS, and DirectConnect
  • Macintosh - Mac OS 8.6 or higher, G4 400 MHz, 128 MB RAM, OMS or FreeMIDI
  • Windows/PC - Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, Pentium 450 MHz, 128 MB RAM, 16 bit sound card
  • Date Produced - 2002

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