Synth newbie: Owning Multiple DX7's - DX7II vs. DX5

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Synth newbie: Owning Multiple DX7's - DX7II vs. DX5

Post by amv » Tue Oct 06, 2015 4:17 am

Hello, I'm a piano player who's finally transitioning into the world of synth, and have decided to adopt the lovably cheesy world of 80's-era FM as my niche. Analog is awesome, but there's an allure about the dark, oft-ignored FM landscape that just appeals to me more.

Anyway, I finally got myself a practically mint DX7 (mark I) a few weeks ago (for a criminally low price, no less) and absolutely love it. I love programming it (despite the naysayers), I'm creating patches left and right, and it's fun as h**l to play. And having basically the entire landscape of mid-80's pop music in one box is like a coolness overload to me.

I then came across a nearly-as-awesome deal on a DX7IIFD, which I've been fascinated by, and picked it up as well. So within another week I should have my dual-DX7 rig mounted up and ready to rock. I'm really excited about the possibilities of layering, splits, and the other basic upgrades offered by the mark II.

Here's the thing, though. I can't identify a practical reason to keep the mark I. I am keeping it, mind you—the look alone is too cool to give up. But the mark II does everything the mark I does and more (aside from reading the original carts, I guess, but that's not a practical concern, and some subjective talk over 12-bit vs 16-bit sounding different, which I'm not losing much sleep over). I also record at home only, so live benefits won't really apply. So although I'm keeping it either way, are there any actual advantages to having both that I haven't thought of?

Thanks!

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DX7IIFD vs DX5

Post by amv » Tue Oct 06, 2015 4:24 am

I have a DX7IIFD on the way, and I'm wondering how much its voicing capabilities mirror the larger DX5. The DX5 is billed essentially as "two DX7's in one box", while the DX7IIFD is described as having the ability to layer two voices at once. In terms of building up a fatter and/or more nuanced sound, this is essentially the same thing, right?

I'm sure there are all sorts of subtle academic differences in their architectures, but I want to figure out if, in broad terms, they basically deliver the same general capabilities. Obviously DX5's are a lot less practical to buy, but I'm fascinated by their bulked up specs, and it'd be great if my DX7IIFD will more or less be able to do the same thing.

Thanks!

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Re: DX7IIFD vs DX5

Post by commodorejohn » Tue Oct 06, 2015 5:08 am

The main appeal I'd see in the DX5 would be getting the Mk.I DX7 sound with something approaching the DX7-II feature set, but yeah, I dunno.
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Re: DX7IIFD vs DX5

Post by Big Gnome » Tue Oct 06, 2015 10:39 am

commodorejohn wrote:The main appeal I'd see in the DX5 would be getting the Mk.I DX7 sound with something approaching the DX7-II feature set, but yeah, I dunno.
Not so--the DX5 sounds far, far cleaner than the original DX7 (I owned both for several years). I've never played a Mk. II, so I can't comment on that. However I did find the '5 far superior to the '7 Mk. I in every respect other than physical size (it is huge).

That being said, I went the FM8 route several years ago and never looked back. If you're exclusively a hardware guy, then more power to you, and the DX's have some of the best keys around; but if you're comfortable with software, then that's the way to go.
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Re: Synth newbie: Owning Multiple DX7's - Suggestions? Ideas

Post by HalloweenJack » Tue Oct 06, 2015 11:45 am

I was in your same boat about 15 years ago (sigh sigh :cry: time passes by :cry: ), I kept the MKII and sold the MKI...

I have to admit that at the time I had not enough space for both of them, anyway I remember I was thinking that in the end they have the same synth engine, so they were covering exactly the same sonic palette, I felt that owning 2 (quite) identical synths was a little redundant :lol: , ok there's the 12 bit vs 16 bit issue (and I have to admit that the MKI sounded a little bit "dirty" to my ears), but for me it was a negiglible issue, expecially considering the lots more options (split, layer, but also stereo vs mono, enanched midi, patch memory doubled etc etc) that the MKII had to offer compared to the MKI for the music I was playing in that period...

Just my 2 cents, other opinions may vary ;)
Last edited by HalloweenJack on Tue Oct 06, 2015 12:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Synth newbie: Owning Multiple DX7's - Suggestions? Ideas

Post by meatballfulton » Tue Oct 06, 2015 11:52 am

The DX7-II-FD has better MIDI implementation. It can layer sounds. Real buttons instead of membrane switches. That's off the top of my head. If it was me, I would take that over an original.

The DX5 MIDI is also inferior to that of the DX7-II.

The DX5 is basically just two DX7 engines in one unit, so double the voices, bitimbrality, It's also really huge ;)
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Re: Synth newbie: Owning Multiple DX7's - DX7II vs. DX5

Post by desmond » Tue Oct 06, 2015 2:44 pm

The DX5 is also sexy as h**l, and probably a nicer experience to play, with a larger keyboard (is it semi-weighted?)

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Re: Synth newbie: Owning Multiple DX7's - DX7II vs. DX5

Post by Rokk » Tue Oct 06, 2015 10:18 pm

There is nothing like too many DXs :)
I love my DX7 mk1 to death. But they are not for everything. They excel in percussive, metallic, plucky, piano-like stuff and glassy, kind of intimate pads. And of course in harsh metallic shredding if that's your thing ;)
I'm really looking forward to getting a DX7 IID, because I sometimes with the mk1 would not be so noisy and the extra features of the mk2 would really come handy. I don't think I'll sell the mk1, though. Both of them will dominate my world :)
And the keyboard is the best, so I enjoy using it as a midi keyboard, too, although you have to do something about the velocity range as it goes only up to 99. I fix this in Reaper with a midi plugin that shifts the velocity up.
DX5 is a monster and a rarity, so don't sell that one :) I mean, you can sell it to me :)

These synths are very underrated and misunderstood. Well, I can imagine that someone who is looking for bread & butter modern dance production sounds will be put off by it, especially when playing stock sounds as it sounds radically different than anything really.

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Re: Synth newbie: Owning Multiple DX7's - DX7II vs. DX5

Post by meatballfulton » Tue Oct 06, 2015 10:34 pm

Rokk wrote:These synths are very underrated and misunderstood.
They certainly were not underrated in the 1980s! Seems FM is getting it's due again now that everyone is finally satiated with analog. 8-)
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Re: Synth newbie: Owning Multiple DX7's - DX7II vs. DX5

Post by Re-Member » Tue Oct 06, 2015 11:53 pm

I'm in a similar scenario, only I own a DX100 and DX11. The DX11 blows it away in terms of extra features, extra waveforms, the performance mode, size and even looks, yet I can't seem to part with the DX100. The lower quality DACs does make a difference. Plus the DX100 has more usable preset sounds I enjoy tweaking out, and for the most part, I get tired with juggling through sysex files just to find one particular sound to load onto the DX11. Both still sell for cheap, so it's not like I'm sitting on a gold mine that should be immediate cashed in.

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Re: Synth newbie: Owning Multiple DX7's - DX7II vs. DX5

Post by zukskywalker » Thu Oct 08, 2015 4:50 am

Time Tunnel
Or, Yea though I walk through the valley of DX.

Lucky me, I couldn't afford much so I waited, and waited for the dust to settle as the prices of used gear plummeted to affordability, and all the new stuff remained out of reach. The gemstone that fell out of favor mostly because it was "dry" (read: no effects whatsoever) was the DX7IIfd, which is where I started.
Now, if you've never heard of the Grey Matter E! daughterboard you should probably leave. When installed in an mkIi the board is turned into a demon retard midi banshee monster. Sweet!
"Real" buttons, sleek, not too heavy, built like a tank, legendary keybed, standard wheels, LR out, and BC. I've kept at least one for the past few decades and it is powered and played almost daily(floppy spinning up kinda reminds me of tone gen startup...never mind).
A "few" years ago I stumbled upon a near mint mk1 and grabbed it out of curiosity and presumed eventual vintage value. Jeez!
Yes vintage, yes classic but...MUCH heavier than mkIi, membrane buttons, bad midi, better keybed actually IMHO, mono. Played it once after I bought it home to check it out and haven't touched it since. Gigging with it would be torture.
DX or FM seems to beget more DX and/or more FM...and its variants. Ooh look CZ PD (kinda sorta FM) for cheap. Weird FM beatbox DX200...worthless right?
And my all time favorite...(cost way too much at release, horrible interface, no samples) the fall of the FS1r.

Yea though you walk...
Too bad they're coming back. Have fun with programming and playing an agent.

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Re: Synth newbie: Owning Multiple DX7's - DX7II vs. DX5

Post by amv » Thu Oct 08, 2015 6:46 am

The DX7IIFD is finally here, and oh my god has this thing defied my expectations.

I got the mark-1 DX7 expecting it to be a tinny, lo-fi retro experience, and it mostly is. The factory patches are as squealy and cheesy as people say (although some of its simulated instruments remain remarkably realistic even by 2015 standards; the flute, organ, harpsichord and a few others could honestly pass for the real things in a full band mix).

I spent a while developing my FM programming skills, though, and have put together a library of patches I'm quite proud of. With effort, you can produce an amazing range of textures, and you can get a lot of the analogue depth that the DX7 is so often said to lack. From a sound design perspective, it can produce sounds that would still sound striking and abstract to modern ears. It's also REALLY rewarding getting cool, usable sounds out of a machine people claim is so hard to tame (hint for the uninitiated: it's so much easier than people say it is—JUST READ THE DAMN MANUAL).

But dear god, the DX7IIFD is 100x better. I can't stop playing this thing. It has such a huge, rich sound I can't believe some of these patches aren't based on samples. Even in single voice mode, the 64 new factory still sound like they come from a totally different machine than the mark-1. This doesn't feel like a revision of the original, but a totally new synth. And once you start layering them in Dual mode, the sound gets so thick that you'll totally forget you're playing FM.

Seriously, the DX7IIFD can still easily play a role in modern music production, especially as a synthy backup element in a pop or rock mix. Layered voices are so rich and organic it's staggering, but you're still working with pure FM the whole time, which means you can get remarkably clean output. No artifacts, aliasing, loop points, crazy stray harmonics, whatever. And as a piece of hardware, the keyboard itself is extremely comfortable and lightning fast.

As much as I love the mark-1, and defend its potential if you're willing to put in some work, I agree that it superficially lives up to part of its reputation as thin and 80's-sounding. But the IIFD deserves none of that baggage. Right out of the box you can get sounds thick enough to eat with a knife and fork, and god only knows where I'll be able to take this thing when I spend as much time programming it as I did the DX7.

Anyway, this has become a rambling NGD post, but no joke—TRY one of these things if you haven't. Whatever your style is, the IIFD is worth exploring at the very least.

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Re: Synth newbie: Owning Multiple DX7's - DX7II vs. DX5

Post by adamstan » Thu Oct 08, 2015 9:54 am

Yes, DX7II is a monster. I love it. If you haven't already, check out these patches - https://web.archive.org/web/*/http://ya ... 711_v1.zip

Some Amazing D50-ish and even PPG-ish sounds inside. And strings that sounds like sample-based.

HINT - there are some patches there (StaccatoHeaven, and some "Fairlight" voices for example), that use single layer in poly-unison mode. It sounds very thick, but eats up 4 voices per key. However, each of these sounds has its pair for standard layering in 33-64 bank - so if, say preset performance no. 7 "StaccatoHeaven" uses, say, patch 7 "StacHvnA" in unison mode, it is possible to convert it to standard layered patch, using 7 "StacHvnA" for first layer, and 39 "StacHvnB" for second one. The sound gets a little thinner, but becomes much more playable with 8 voice polyphony.
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Re: Synth newbie: Owning Multiple DX7's - DX7II vs. DX5

Post by zukskywalker » Thu Oct 08, 2015 7:45 pm

adamstan that link appears to be dead.

Dave Benson's page is still up and is probably THE singular greatest resource for all things DX.

https://homepages.abdn.ac.uk/mth192/pages/html/dx7.html

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Re: Synth newbie: Owning Multiple DX7's - DX7II vs. DX5

Post by adamstan » Thu Oct 08, 2015 10:31 pm

It works for me - it takes you to the archive.org website, which says, that the file has been captured once, on 4 March 2007. You click on that day on the calendar below, and there is the zip file. Direct link seems to be: https://web.archive.org/web/20070304182 ... 711_v1.zip
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