Yamaha TX816

Yamaha TX816 Image

The TX816 is a monster of DX and FM digital synthesis. It is a unique system in that it is a rack unit that could take up to eight TF1 modules. A TF1 module is basically a DX7 condensed down to a single circuit board with almost no front panel controls. Definitely designed for use with external hardware and software controllers the TX816 allows you to easily carry around up to eight DX7s! Software such as MOTU Unisyn, Emagic SounDiver, or even another DX7 can be used to program the sounds in each module via MIDI.

Yamaha TF1 Image

Each TF1 module consists of a 16-voice, 6-operator digital FM synth engine. So a complete TX816 with all eight TF1 modules would offer up to 128 voices and 48 operators! Each TF1 also features an indepednent audio out (XLR) and MIDI I/O for a total of eight audio outputs and MIDI I/O's. It also has one global MIDI in/out port with 8-part multitimbrality, but no common stereo or mix output.

The TX816 was designed for demanding live use where portability, polyphony, and lots of outputs are a must! The TX816 is fully compatible with all other DX synthesizers including Native Instruments FM7 software-based plug-in. You can use the TX816 like it's eight seperate DX7s or mix and pan each module together to layer your sounds into one monsterous DX powerhouse! It has been used by Kitaro, Chick Corea, Michael Jackson, Europe, and Scritti Politti.

In the early eighties these sold for anywhere between $2,000 to $5,000 depending on how many TF1 modules were installed (from two to eight typically). Luckily for today's musicians you can get a software plug-in like FM7 for ten times less money and you still get everything the TX816 could do, and much more too!

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45 Visitor comments
Gil Sicuro
August 28, 2010 @ 3:31 pm
I must say that the FM7 doesn't even come close to the sound of the TX816. The TX816 sounds way deeper, warmer and fatter. I'ts much like having four DX1's in a rack (it features eight balanced XLR outputs). The FM7 only (sort of) reproduces the digital FM synthesis, but not the state-of-the-art analog converter and output preamp, which makes all the difference. Plus it's widely known that altough the FM7 can load DX/TX sounds they doesn't sound the same as coming from the real thing.
101 Force
July 21, 2010 @ 12:15 am
@Randy: The algorithms used by software and hardware, such as the TX816, aren't exactly the same. Even the algorithms used between two different hardware units aren't the same when different chips are involved. FM-7 has the ability to load DX-7 patches, but a straight-across comparison of the two with same patches loaded yields slightly different results. It's really a matter of personal taste. Some people like the hardware better, where as others like the software better.
June 27, 2010 @ 2:47 am
I understand where people are coming from when they compare hardware analog synths to their digital software plugin emulations -- there is a randomness factor when you're listening to real hardware oscillators, filters, and so on, because no two are exactly alike.

But I question how this logic applies to Yamaha's DX line of FM synths. All the FM sound generation in that architecture is done digitally, via software running in the microprocessor chips on the synth board. The end result of the FM sound calculations is sent to one or more D-A converters that drive the outputs. Until the output of the D-A converters, everything is just numbers inside a software algorithm.

Continued below...
June 27, 2010 @ 2:47 am
In a software emulation setup like FM7 or FM8, it's the same thing. The only difference is that the software algorithms run in your PC's processor chips rather than the dedicated processors on the Yamaha synth board, and the D-A converters are the ones in your PC's audio interface rather than the onboard ones on the synth board. (In most cases, today's A-D converters that you'd find on your computer audio interface are better and cleaner than what Yamaha had available back in the '80s when these units were made.)

Continued below....
June 27, 2010 @ 2:44 am
While it's always possible that the sound of the D-A converters alone could account for the differences people claim to hear in the earlier comments, it is hard for me to believe it could make THAT much of a difference -- especially the claim that the Yamaha DX/TX/TF converters result in a substantially warmer, better-quality sound than what today's high-end D-A converters can provide.

It would be useful and very interesting for someone to perform a true "double-blind" comparison -- where neither the person doing the listening or the person switching between the two, knows which is the Yamaha hardware and which is the FM8/audio interface hardware.

That said, I have nothing against owning lots of hardware -- hardware is always cool.
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  • 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.
  • Demos & Media
  • Manual - Download the original owner's manual from SoundProgramming.net.

  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - 128-voices via eight 16-voice TF1 module cards
  • Oscillators - Digital FM synthesizer with 6 Operators and 32 algorithms per TF1 module
  • LFO - Yes
  • Filter - None
  • Effects - None
  • Keyboard - None
  • Memory - 256 patches (32 x 8)
  • Control - MIDI 1 IN/OUT per TF1 card, 1 global IN/OUT (up to 9 I/O total) with 8-parts multitimbral
  • Date Produced - 1984

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