Yamaha FS1R

Yamaha FS1R Image

In 1998, after several years without producing a single FM synthesizer, Yamaha released a new FM powerhouse...the FS1R. This little beast is far from your average FM synthesizer. Not only is it an eight-Operator variant, as opposed to the six- and four-Operator FM of the DX/TX lines, but it also features a new technology called Formant Shaping Synthesis. Formants are the spectral patterns making up the sounds of human speech. This allows for the creation of vocal like timbres but can also be applied in many different ways to create incredibly unique sounds that you won't find on any other synths.

DX7 aficionados will like the fact that the FS1R has almost complete compatibility with 6-Operator FM synths: you can send, via MIDI, a patch from a DX7, for example, and the FS1R will convert it to an identical-sounding patch in the new synth. A lot of the preset Voices actually come from the DX7's library. It's also possible to program sounds from DX7 sound charts, finding an algorithm that has an equivalent layout to the DX algorithm and turning off the unwanted Operators.

The downside to the FS1R is the complexity of the user interface. With a tiny LCD screen and hundreds if not thousands of menus and sub-menus, editing from the front panel is tedious and nearly impossible. Thankfully, there are now software editors available for both the Mac and PC platforms to make the process quite a bit easier (though still not perfect). All that said, the complexity of working with the synth is far outweighed by the amazing sounds that it's capable of. It truly sounds like nothing else out there. From huge evolving pads, to shimmering EPs, fantastic organs, screaming leads and booming basses.. this synth can sound industrial and cold one minute, and then warm and almost analogue the next. With some time dedicated to learning how to edit the patches, or create your own from scratch, there's really no sound that this synth isn't capable of making.

After an abysmal showing on the market, the FS1R was discontinued after only about one year. These days, more people have discovered what this synth is capable of and it has seen a resurgence in popularity and has reached an almost cult-like status. It is rare to find one for sale these days, and when you do, the prices seem to be climbing.

If you have a short attention span and no patience, this may not be the synth for you. If you're someone who doesn't mind programming a synth to get the most out of it and you're looking for some of the most amazing and unique sounds ever produced by an FM synthesizer, the FS1R is a must have. It has been used by Squarepusher and Sin.

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37 Visitor comments
Dan Findlay
March 28, 2009 @ 2:54 am
Easily - by far - the most extensive hardware FM synth in existence.

Eight voiced operators (think: oscillators) plus eight non-voiced operators (think: noise generators) per Part / Voice ... Four Parts / Voices per Performance. On top of that some fairly decent digital effects and the all-powerful (but poorly implemented!) Formant Sequence.

If ONLY there was a cross platform PCM to FSeq Convertor & Dump utility. There is one for PC I think ... but I'm on pre-Intel Mac. Doh.

Can the link below be added to the right panel? Cross platform FS1r editor which really makes the unit much more workable. Saving Voices & Performances to the unit itself is a bit confusing, but all created Performances can be stored on the computer.

January 12, 2009 @ 9:13 pm
Sounds are great. Does sound like MU patches, but with FM. Except for Format and Fseq sounds, they sound like sample playback presets.
Format Sequencing is stand out. Never tried importing sounds yet. Has most original DX-7 patches. I did not know these are growing in popularity,but same thing happened to the SY-77. It sounds nice with vocoder type sounds. Have not experimented much like I thought I would. The manuals are great one set French,one set English. The sounds are great. Never used it multitambarally. Haven't played it in over 2 years now.
This was a good idea. I don't know what happened. Maybe no demos models. If you wanted to play one you had to buy one. Stil have orig brochure. I know at the time Kawai was selling the K5000 which sounded different and was additive..
Like precursors difficult to edit especially in a rack. You need computer or place on bed to edit. Characters are large.Great Blue Silver housing. FS1R is a super DX-7!!!!!!.
December 11, 2008 @ 1:04 am
Fwiw, the keyboard controller you use for the FS1R can make a big difference with how certain parameters are controlled in real time. I've been using the Wavestation EX more recently and have been able to get 4 distinctly different sounds from the vector joystick. This has made it possible to produce some killer sonic mayhem without having to rely so heavily on the 4 knobs.

Also, I remember reading a small article years ago that Yamaha had planned a keyboard version - the FS1 ? Does anyone else remember this ?
December 1, 2008 @ 7:09 am
This is possibly not just the pinnacle of FM synth design but is about as far as "real" synth design goes. Pads, strings, keys, woodwind, FX, flutes, brass, choirs, basses, I could go on. Shame they never made enough of the formant feature - it could have been a killer (where's the FS-2?). Great filter so analogue emulation is covered, too. If you see one grab it - you'll use it on everything!
November 11, 2008 @ 7:16 pm
I had two of these and sold them. Regretted it the second I sealed those boxes. As far as digital goes the FS1R can be quite thick and warm sounding. It's a great synth for strange noises and ambient soundscapes. I've been trying to track down another because I miss it so much but in the last year they've become crazy expensive. I bought mine for $300 in 2007 now they go as high as $1000.
VSE Rating


User Rating

Rated 4.21 (439 Votes)

  • Check Price
  • The link above will take you to an eBay 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.
  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - 32 (without Filter) / 16 (with Filter)
  • Oscillators - Digital FM synthesizer with 16 Operators (8 Voiced, 8 Unvoiced) 88 algorithms
  • #Instruments - 4-part multitimbral
  • LFO - 2 LFO
  • Filter - Dynamic Resonant physically modeled 12/18/24dB/oct low/band/hi pass filter (AN1x type)
  • Effects - 15 (Reverb), 28 (Variation), 40 (Insertion), Equalizer
  • Keyboard - None
  • Memory - 1536 Voices, 512 Performances, 96 Formant Sequences
  • Control - MIDI IN/OUT/THRU (16-channels)
  • Date Produced - 1998
  • Resources & Credits
  • Images from

    Review by Dave Kuhn.

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