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FM7 Virtual Software Synthesizer
by Native Instruments

Native Instruments


Native Instruments Vintage Line "The Power of Digital. Back to the future!"

Beat Mode gives FM7 a 9 out of 10 star rating!

Native Instruments FM7 software synthesizer takes FM Synthesis to a whole new level with extended sound processing and effects that makes the FM7 more than just a vintage synthesizer emulation. It can reproduce the classic FM sounds to a T and also whip up completely new sounds never heard before, all with a quality the old Yamaha classic synths would be envious of. Not only can it read the entire sound library from the classic Yamaha synths, FM7 adds distortion and filter operators, extensive modulation capabilities, a comprehensive effects section, audio input and much more to the traditional FM architecture.

I must admit that I missed my old trusty Yamaha TX81Z Rack FM Synthesizer when I ran out of midi ins and had to remove it from my midi set up a few years ago. I had a few favorite patches like Dark Bass and others that I had become accustomed to using in my compositions. I reluctantly removed the TX81Z from my studio setup to free up the midi ports and on occasion I have missed it.

But now along comes the new FM7 from Native Instruments Vintage Line. A brand new take on FM Synthesis in a software environment. I never dreamed that FM could be as invigorating and as exciting as Native Instruments FM7! From the moment I installed the software (painless) and clicked through some of the excellent included factory presets, I was blown away by the pristine sound quality of FM7 and the broad range of sonic capabilities this new twist on FM Synthesis has brought us. Best of all FM7 comes loaded with banks of stunning new presets and even banks of old DX7 classics. There are a ton of fresh new sounds to explore right out of the box.

A little background on FM Synthesis and details of some of the features of the FM7 before we get into analyzing it.

FM Synthesis took the market by storm in the early 80's with the Yamaha DX7, one of the best selling synthesizers of all time. The DX7 became an instant classic with a trademark sound that became a staple in popular music. You could spot that FM sound a mile away and everybody seemed to want in. Along with new midi capabilities the DX7 represented a new trend in music and soon Yamaha had offshoot products like the DX21, TX81Z and TX802. It seemed that most all professional musicians had at least one of these synths in their arsenal of tools. I first bought a DX21 (which was stolen) and then replaced it with a TX81Z. It added a nice edge to my music with basses that cut through a mix and excellent plucked instruments and bell & mallet sounds like the standby Kalimba and Vibraphone patches.

In more recent times the sample playback synths like the Roland D50, D70, Virtual Analog synths and Samplers in general, seemed to take away some of the thunder of those classic Yamaha synths. In my case I simply had too many other cool synths and modules that outgrew my 8 ins & outs on my midi interface. So I decided to remove the TX81Z from my rig. But I did miss it every once and a while!

Nowadays musicians are ever increasingly discovering the power and flexibility of virtual software instruments. I know that I prefer the hassle free environment that software instruments offer compared to the external hardware synthesizers that are somewhat difficult and cumbersome. Just the other day I was trying to get my old editor librarian to resurrect some of my old favorite patches and it was a nightmare getting the synths and editors to communicate. It reminded me how easy it is to store presets on your computer hard drive and load them as needed. None of that slow midi communication that hardware forces upon us.

Enter the FM7 by Native Instruments. FM7 is a virtual software synthesizer for the Mac & PC that runs standalone or as a VST, MAS, DirectConnect or DXi plugin within your main sequencing program. The FM7 has 32 bit resolution and a host of modern features that makes the old FM obsolete.

Among the FM7's features are:

Full matrix frequency modulation with 8 operators, no fixed algorithms
6 operators with many waveforms plus distortion and analog filter operator
Sophisticated graphical editors with many convenient edit functions
Flexible graphical envelopes with unlimited number of stages and looping
Stereo effects section with chorus, flanger delay, can be used for external audio signals

FM7's Easy Edit Page

To make programming easier, FM7 has a page of dedicated analog-style controllers (above). Here, one knob can change the sound in drastic but intuitive ways, for example by turning up the Brightness, overall Decay Time, or Effect Depth.

FM7 has 6 identical Waveform Operators labeled A to F which are the basis of FM synthesis. Each Operator is sensitive to velocity for highly expressive control over the sound. The Operators are controlled with 32-bit accuracy and their frequencies can be set with 6 digit precision.

Each of the Operators A-F can have a different digital Waveform. The instrument contains 32 different Waveforms, including Square and Sawtooth, giving each operator a huge sonic potential even before it is Frequency Modulated by the others.

FM Matrix

FM Matrix
In the FM Matrix, the signal flow between the Operators (the "FM-Algorithm") is displayed and edited. Each Operator is represented by a box and the wires also show the connections. The output (what you hear) is the bottom line of the graphic. Each Operator can have a different stereo position to give a lively, spacious sound.

Each operator has its own Envelope and Keyscale. The high-resolution display can be switched to show the Envelope or the FM Matrix. The Envelopes are exceedingly powerful, with up to 32 stages, an adjustable curvature in each stage, and sustain looping. The Envelopes can also be synchronized to the song tempo.

Distortion: X Operator
There are two additional Operators in FM7: The X Operator and the Z Operator. The X Operator provides distortion and noise for adding grunge to the sounds. It can be used to modify a signal going through it, or it can be used without input as a noise source.

Filtering: Z Operator
The Z Operator contains analog style filters to make the sounds warm and fat, as desired. You'll find two separate filters (each a 2-pole 12dB/oct multimode filter), which can be combined in almost any imaginable configuration.

There are two identical LFOs. In fact, there are 2 LFOs per voice, which means that each note can be modulated at a different rate. You can choose different waveforms for the two LFOs. All the 32 waveforms used by the Operators are also available for the LFOs.

FM7 Modulation Matrix

FM7 has a huge Modulation Matrix where the two LFOs and the Performance Controllers can be routed to control all the operators and the pitch, for expressive playing. On the Operator Page you see the part of the Modulation Matrix that relates to this Operator.

On the Master Page are the controls for Unison Mode which plays more than one voice for each key pressed for an extra powerful sound. You can also give the sound more character by adjusting the amount of analog and digital imperfections. Analog style detuning gives a warmer sound, while digital noises make the sound gritty. By default, the sound is perfectly clean with 32-bit precision.

FM7 has a very flexible Multi-Effects Processor on board which gives you Chorus, Ensemble, Flanging, Echo, Multi-Tap-Delay, Pseudo-Reverb and combinations of effects. The Effects unit has four independent LFOs for a rich spacious sound.

I can say without a doubt that the new enhanced FM Synthesis provided by Native Instruments FM7 far and away transcends the capabilities of the old Yamaha TX-81 and DX-7's etc. This is Native Instruments take on FM Synthesis and it has a lot of new sound sculpting capabilities.

The rhythmic patches are awesome. Modulating rhythmic sound like you have never heard on a DX7! So, all in all I would say that FM7 is not simply an emulator of that old CLASSIC FM sound, but rather a new twist that takes FM to new levels of quality and diversity in sound. It is very easy to find a place for sounds generated with FM7. Not just those metallic bells or kalimbas and rhodes type sounds that Yamaha was famous for, but new unique and gritty thick fat sounds that are as comfortable in today's techno and drum and bass genres as well as good old rock and roll.

Tweaking and creating new patches is pretty intuitive and much easier than those old hardware synths. You'll find a host of parameters to tweak. If you like you can also take advantage of FM7's terrific RANDOMIZATION capabilities. You have a mask of the parameters and can even individually adjust the AMOUNT of randomization for parameter groups. The result is incredible new mutations you may never have programmed from scratch. It's easy to click your way to new patches and it is fun to randomize patches on the FM7. It's what RANDOMIZATION should be on all our other favorite software!!!

So, I'd recommend FM7 for two purposes. 1. To get back those good old sounds of FM Synthesis and put them into your modern day rig. 2. To take the classic FM sounds and mutilate them into a new and exciting direction.

You get both with FM 7. Old and the new wrapped in one powerful software music instrument. Hey, and you can even import your old DX7 patches into FM7 (they included a ton of classics with FM7 plus there is an abundance of DX7 patches available free on the net).

And oddly enough, we find it worth a smile that FM7 offers features to DEGRADE your sound, so you can optionally go back in time and get that AUTHENTIC LOW FI FM sound (less bits on them old Yamaha synths). The new FM in FM7 is sparkling and bright sounding, but hey if ya wanna you can degrade the sound! Cool!

So all in all we say FM7 is a great buy for most every type of computer musician and very capable of competing for your sonic attention against the other software synths out there. You'll find places for FM7 in your music. It's easy and fun to utilize in loop creation and composition.

Native Instruments FM7 gets an 9 out 10 star Beat Mode rating.
"INDISPENSABLE - must have - the cream of the crop!"

Check out our review of FM7 Sounds Volume 1 - an all new collection of FM7 sounds.

Listen to our Beat Mode MP3 samples from the FM7's included banks of presets:

click the link to listen the mp3 sample 01-exciting-128.mp3 118k
click the link to listen the mp3 sample 03-BEF+HPFPAD-128.mp3 118k
click the link to listen the mp3 sample 04-industrialbells-128.mp3 118k
click the link to listen the mp3 sample 06-chordpad-128.mp3 118k
click the link to listen the mp3 sample 08-mwboost-128.mp3 118k
click the link to listen the mp3 sample 09-tronflute-128.mp3 118k
click the link to listen the mp3 sample 10-warmatmos-128.mp3 118k
click the link to listen the mp3 sample 10-warmatmos-b-128.mp3 118k
click the link to listen the mp3 sample 123-gammameld2-128.mp3 118k
click the link to listen the mp3 sample 13-punchypercsynth-128.mp3 118k
click the link to listen the mp3 sample 14-eurosynth-128.mp3 118k
click the link to listen the mp3 sample 15-spacepark-128.mp3 118k
click the link to listen the mp3 sample 16-glassyepiano-128.mp3 118k
click the link to listen the mp3 sample 17-dnb-128.mp3 118k
click the link to listen the mp3 sample 20-chuggintime-128.mp3 118k
click the link to listen the mp3 sample 21-glass-strings-128.mp3 118k
click the link to listen the mp3 sample 22-soft-strings-128.mp3 118k
click the link to listen the mp3 sample 23-nativepercussion-128.mp3 118k
click the link to listen the mp3 sample 23-nativepercussion-b-128.mp3 118k
click the link to listen the mp3 sample 25-darkness-soundtrack-128.mp3 118k
click the link to listen the mp3 sample 26-minimalrhythm-128.mp3 118k
click the link to listen the mp3 sample 27-sciencefriction-128.mp3 60k
click the link to listen the mp3 sample 29-andromedar-128.mp3 118k
click the link to listen the mp3 sample 30-axe-128.mp3 118k
click the link to listen the mp3 sample 91-trancelead-128.mp3 118k

Click HERE to play all of the above FM7 MP3 files in succession.

Wanna use some of the above BEAT MODE FM7 LOOPS in your own music?
All 25 accompanying WAV files are available for FREE DOWNLOAD.
Go ahead and snag the ones you like! Perfect for Acid or Live!

Beat Mode FM7 Links

Native Instruments FM7 Product Page

MacReview FM7 Review

Free Essential DX7 Patches

Dave Benson's DX7 Page with info and free patches

DigiFreq FM7 Review

Vintage Synth review of FM7

Cool Wallpaper - free wallpaper, pictures and video links to the sexy singer Pink.

Free MP3 music!

Free Electric Weasel Music Tracks

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