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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Are you looking to buy or sell a Yamaha FS1R? Post an ad in Gear For Sale or a request in Gear Wanted. For spare parts and repair services check out Gear Services & Other Goods. Our forums also has a Buyer’s Guide section where you can ask for advice on buying synthesizers.

36 Visitor comments
March 24, 2012 @ 11:44 pm
I recently got an FS1R off eBay, and I am dumbfounded by how amazing it is. I have a Jupiter-8, Moog, Chroma Polaris, Prophet, Blofeld, Virus TI2, MPC3000 and a bunch of other synths and samplers. But, after getting the FS1R a few weeks ago, I haven't even turned on the other stuff--I have been having so much fun twiddling knobs.

You MUST get the ZeeEDIT editor to have any sense of what is going on. The Sakura editor is soooo slow that I don't enjoy using it--even if it is Mac-native. ZeeEDIT runs great on a Mac, under Windows 7 running in Parallels 7 emulation.
Dave Hartl
January 25, 2012 @ 9:54 pm
I bought this new when they were new. It's a keeper. There's plenty of regular workman synths, but I keep the secret weapons that are totally unique: Oberheim Xpander for analog, Waldorf Microwave for wave table, and this beast for FM. Sure it's hard to program. It helps weed out the non-serious folks. The results are worth it if you want to sound unique. Don't buy this synth if you don't want to work with it, it really is as hard as they say.
DX Junkie
November 6, 2011 @ 10:27 am
A capable machine. That is as long as you want entirely Digital sounding noises. It's ability to imitate real instruments or analog synths is non existant. It has a nasty habit of vanishing in a mix. But that's a problem that occours with almost all Yamaha FM synths. They produce too wide a frequency spectrum on any sound and consequently the sounds they produce get swamped by other sounds.

Programing: You have to use a PC based editor, the on board interface is the worst on any synth EVER!! It just wasn't one for me and the way I like to work. I still prefer the original DX7 to this.
September 22, 2011 @ 2:00 pm
unbeleivable! Very expressive synth!
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/
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Rated 4.2 (428 Votes)

  • 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.
  • 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

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