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.

Lookup Yamaha FS1R Prices

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37 Visitor comments
May 5, 2011 @ 6:39 am
Undoubtedly an unique and powerful machine, but not perfect.
At heart a straight-up 8-op FM synth with tweakable waveforms, plus 8 noise generators per voice. The Formant sequencing functions are interesting but esoteric. So far.
This is a machine to be savoured and takes much time, reading and experimentation to become familiar. It's potential is best appreciated by dissecting the factory presets, which can be incredibly detailed.

You will need both patch editors - Zeedit for speed and Sakura for precision. Some related info and vids at http://stimresp.wordpress.com/
April 19, 2011 @ 4:37 am
I wish this synth was released with a fantastic front panel.
April 7, 2011 @ 9:02 am
@rib: This wasn't supposed to be a workstation module to emulate "bread and butter"sounds. It came out roughly at the same time as the EX5 with which it makes a perfect pair, because the EX5 lacks FM/FS.
I wouldn't use more than one sound of this in a song at a time, for them being too dominant otherwise. Mostly I use the 'multis' for stacking, not multitimbral use.
This is a synth and 'nothing' more and it doesn't want to be more. Although it's interface is quite crappy the sounds make up for it IMHO
Got mine since 99 or so and won't part.
February 11, 2011 @ 2:22 am
I just bought one of these babies and can't wait to get it in my setup and start working on it. I hope it will be in perfect order, as I got it form ebay.

What is the best editor to use from those mentioned? Zeedit or the sakura one? I already use MIDIQUEST XL with my other synth modules but if there is something dedicated to FS1R, worthwhile using it.
January 31, 2011 @ 11:46 am
Why did Yamaha drop the AWM section that the TG77/99 and SY77 had? To me, formant filters have limited use, even if they are really good, they sound more like a sound effect than an instrument - did FM synthesis need this so badly? Why is it only 4 part multi-timbral? What's with the silly knobs on the front? Bad design, pure and simple.
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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