Yamaha DX7 Classic Synthesizer

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Hi there,

I recently got back into music creation and bought a DX7 off e-bay.

Now, if you're looking at this chances are that you know what a DX7 is? If not, I'll be brief and say that this is one of the best selling Synthesizers ever and it sounds like nothing else. There are lots of guides and pages on the internet if you want to have a look.

I'm no expert, so please be gentle with me if you are, but I just want to let you know some things if you're thinking of purchasing one.

There are really 3 types of musical "keyboards" out there, not including organs:

1. Analogue - An electrical signal passing through oscillators and filers to make a sound - early / classic / modern homage synths (MiniMoog etc) are like this.

2. Digital - Basically, controlled by computer chips to make the sound, usually from sampling real sounds and modifying them.

3. Anaglogue Modelling - Like digital, but trying to emulate how analogue synths made their sound, but by using computer chips.

The DX7 is one of the 1st "digital" type of synths. But it's a special one. Look at  TOTP2 on "UK Gold", a lot of 80's hits on there will have the keyboardist playing one of these, they are special and of their time.

You see lately, a lot of synths are trying to be a full band in a box. You've got your strings, vox, bass, drums, guitars etc all in one unit.

The DX7 tried to do this...but that's not a reason to buy one. The reason to buy is that the DX7, like it's analogue forefathers, is an instrument in its own right, it sounds like itself. It doesn't sound much like an "orchestra", it sounds like a stand alone instrument. It sounds like an electronic instrument, not an electronic instrument trying to mimic something else.

So, the DX7 isn't really for you if you want to run an entire song from it, unlike with say a "workstation" keyboard like a Roland Juno-G.

However, if you're a child of the 80's, and loved it's pop music, chances are you'll love the DX7. Along with the Roland D-50, Korg M1 and maybe the Prophet 5, it is one of the defining synths of the 80's. It was originally launched in 1983. It makes sounds that are it's own and if used for leads or bass, it is still brilliant.

Native Instruments made a virtual version (VST) to run on PC's called "FM7". But the thing is, you can buy a DX7 for little more than this piece of software would cost.

MODELS

There are I think 3 DX7 models.

DX7, DX7 II and DX7 II FD.

The main difference is that the MK2 has full 16 channel Midi capabilities, you can "split" the keyboard (2 different sounds from different parts of the keyboard) have proper switches (MK1 has a printed membrane) and the FD has a floppy drive that you can load sounds from.

I think that the original MK1 (which is what I bought) is the best (but then I would wouldn't I) Don't get me wrong, if you can get a MK2 for the same price as an MK1, go for it, but I don't think they're worth lots extra in this day and age.

There are lots of other "DX" synths and apart from the very rare DX1 & DX5, this is the one to go for. The rest are "consumer" synths that don't sound as good. The DX7 was made for professionals and is built and sounds like it was.

BUYING

So why go for the MK1? My reasons are, even thought it has a "membrane", instead of buttons, for the controls, it means that there's been less chance of 25 years worth of dust and dirt getting into the switches. The MK2's have proper buttons, but these are more fragile.

You're not really going to use any of the DX7's now a days for a complete song, when computers etc can do the sequencing so much better, so buy it for it's unique sounds. The MK1 has "the sound" and will cost you less than the MK2's.

If looking at a MK1, make sure that the membrane isn't damaged and ask the seller if all the buttons work.

The DX7 itself is a heavy keyboard, made out of metal, and they're fairly bulletproof.

Ask if the battery is ok and if it's been replaced recently.

They have Midi implementation (channel one only I believe on the MK1) but that's useable enough, more to send patches than anything else, but more on that later.

They are heavy, but I bought one for £142 all in, (if you're in the USA, they'll be even cheaper) nice condition (not mint but tidy and fully working) in a flight case, shipped in 24hours. These are such iconic keyboards that I don't think that if you buy around this sort of price, you'll ever REALLY lose money unless you damage it or it breaks. But like I say, when you see one, you'll realise there's little chance of that.

USING

Now, the DX7 had 32 "banks" to store sounds (patches) and these could be overwritten. You could also get cartridges with extra sounds or storage space. Not a lot by todays standards is it? And it's commonly said that they are b**ch to program and alter the sounds. They are.

So, What if someone messed all the sounds up? Well, don't be scared.

There are several programs, the one I use is called "DX Manager" which are brilliant. You can connect the DX7 to your PC via Midi (if you don't know what I mean, google it, then buy a "Midi to USB cable") and then download thousands of different sounds (patches, this ISN'T a sampling keyboard) off the net. You simply "audition" the sounds, see what you like then put these in compilations in the program (32 sounds in each surprise surprise) and send them to the keyboard. Find a sound you like, put it in a "compliation" (patch list) in the program, save it for future, then send it to the keyboard. Simple.

Also the original factory sounds can be downloaded and sent this way too as well as you being able to edit the sounds on your PC as opposed to having to painstakingly do it on the keyboard itself.

Thousands of great, some instantly recognisable, sounds are yours to enjoy.

CONCLUSION

For the price, this is a bargain. Yeah, it's not as easy as modern synth to use, and doesn't have all the modern features, but it's sound is timeless and brilliant and nothing today sounds quite like it...and you can have it for less than the price of a modern Casio keyboard.

If you're at all into electronic music, you should try one out. It brought tears to my eyes at one point, but that's because it's so heavy and I dropped it on my foot :-)

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