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

The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings with more images, specs and information. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace. Our marketplace gets thousands of visits every week so make sure to check back often if you want to buy or sell a synth.

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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.

37 Visitor comments
September 26, 2012 @ 3:07 pm
I had the Yamaha FS1R many times too, but I couldn't keep it, it does sounding very too much "glassy" as below says, and thin, there's a reason why it didn't sell for very much monies well when I came to selling it on eBay. Despite very high sound quality it's not neutral and hard to put it in a mix. Good for FX and weird stuff but don't fall for the hype, any Emu racks is many more useful tool and much further for production, I think, maybe you like it, I much do not:

August 11, 2012 @ 6:35 am
I had it a couple of times but it was very hard to put it in a mix (as others said); it sounds great in solo (has a bit "glassy" sound though, not entirely neutral) but could seldom use it in a song. I tried to love it but I've mixed feelings about this unit since it's hard to place in a song if you're not brilliant at mastering. Would buy again for rainy days making sound FXs, lol.
Andrew Brown
June 6, 2012 @ 5:16 pm
Hi guys. Sorry for the sales link, but I've got an FS1R for sale on eBay. It's in amazing condition. http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Yamaha-fs1r-/180900982419?pt=UK_Musical_Instruments_Pr o_Audio_Synthesisers_CV&hash=item2a1e89ee93#ht_500wt_1169 - please let anyone know who's looking for one.
May 11, 2012 @ 3:14 am
And the free editor : http://synth-voice.sakura.ne.jp/fs1r_editor_english.html and the one for ipad: http://m.matrixsynth.com/2011/08/yamaha-fs1r-editor-for-ipad.html (requires a specific midi device "missing link" )
April 30, 2012 @ 5:36 pm
@agitprop : That seems kind of nice. But the knob twiddling would be a totally different thing than usual tweaking. Show us a video :) plz
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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