Rollicking Good Tunes

This is an album I made a couple years ago almost entirely with the Yamaha FB-01.

Click here to have a listen (via Bandcamp).


Roland JV-80

There's not a lot of information out there about the JV-80, it's basically known as the precursor to the hugely popular Super JV/XP series of Roland ROMplers/workstations (and then XV, which turned into Fantom) and that's about it.  I've had the rack version (JV-880) and one of the keyboard variations (JV-90) for a while now so I thought I'd share some information about these synths and what they're good for.  They are fairly capable synthesizers that are often overlooked as just simple ROMplers.


Roland's first digital synth, the D-50, was released in 1987.  It was a very good sounding synth that was capable of covering digital and analog type sounds.  They designed a couple other synths with this technology (the MT-32, and D-5, 10, 20, 110) while at the same time they introduced some semi-pro ROMplers (the U series).  These ROMplers were just that, very simple single voice ROM playback instruments with no filter.  Their next step was developing what was to be their top of the line U series, the U-50.  This synth was basically a U series x4 voices plus filters, so now approaching the synthesizing depth of the D-50.  Hearing that the D-50 was still selling quite well, they decided at the last minute to call it the D-70.  Unfortunately it was plagued by unnecessarily complicated interface and poor documentation.

The D-70 not being that successful, they took the technology and experimented with a couple of different directions.

Polysynth Guide

I've attempted to include all the commonly found polysynths of the late-70s to the late-80s.  I didn't bother including anything that was too rare (so no Chroma Polaris, or Korg PS series), early ones that were too rudimentary (so no ARP Omni, or Moog Polymoog), and late era ones that relied heavily on rom samples (so no Korg M1, or Roland D-70).

The '80s saw the release of many useful and great sounding semi-pro polysynths.  All of these are MIDI capable and fully programmable synths.  This category contains the best options for small, light, and portable synths.

Part A - This category contains many fine synths.  They're especially good for cheap sounds that work well as blippy arpeggios, chip-tunes, and gritty bass sounds.

  • Casio CZ-101
  • Casio CZ-1000
  • Yamaha DX9
  • Yamaha DX21
  • Yamaha DX27
  • Yamaha DX100
  • Yamaha FB-01 (CX5M)
  • Roland D-5
  • Roland D-10 (D-110)
  • Roland D-20
  • Korg Poly-800 (EX-800)
  • Kawai K-1 (K-1r) - notable in that it has a nice playing keyboard with velocity and aftertouch.

Part B - Similar to Part A but more capable sound generation abilities.

  • Casio CZ-3000
  • Casio CZ-5000
  • Yamaha DX11 (TX81Z, TQ5)
  • Roland Alpha Juno (MKS-50) - unlike others here, this is a quite nice sounding analog.
  • Korg DW-6000
  • Korg DW-8000 (EX-8000)
  • Oberheim Matrix 1000

Professional - Many of the synths here were either flagship models or considered very competitive with other synths in this range for their time.  They all have very capable sound generation capabilities and most have velocity and aftertouch keyboards.

Part A - Most in this category are from an era when everything "digital" was hip and hands on controls were disappearing from synthesizers.  They can be rewarding if you are willing to put some effort into learning their interface because they all sound very good.

  • Roland JX-3P (MKS-30) - does not have velocity and aftertouch.
  • Roland JX-8P
  • Roland JX-10 (MKS-70)
  • Roland D-50 (D-550)
  • Yamaha DX7 (TX7)
  • Yamaha DX7II (TX802)
  • Yamaha DX5
  • Yamaha DX1
  • Korg Poly61
  • Kawai K-3 (K-3r)
  • Sequential Six-Trak
  • Sequential Prophet VS
  • Oberheim Matrix 6
  • Oberheim Matrix 12
  • Akai AX80
  • Akai AX73
  • Ensoniq ESQ-1 (ESQ-M)

Part B - These are among the most highly regarded polysynths and are beloved for both their capable sound generation and intuitive interfaces that assist the creative process.

  • Roland Juno 6
  • Roland Juno 60
  • Roland Juno 106
  • Roland Jupiter 4
  • Roland Jupiter 6
  • Korg PolySix
  • Korg Mono/Poly
  • Korg Trident
  • Sequential Prophet 600
  • Oberheim OB-8
  • Oberheim OB-Xa
  • Akai AX60

Classic Greats
For the most part these can do everything the other professional synths can do, and do it best.

  • Roland Jupiter 8 (MKS-80)
  • Oberheim OB-X
  • Sequential Prophet 5
  • Moog Memorymoog
  • Yamaha CS-80

Roland D Synths

So no one really knows what “Linear Arithmetic Synthesis” is.  Roland never fully explains it, perhaps so it's specs couldn't be easily compared to competing digital synths.  As far as the user is concerned all parameters are like a standard subtractive synth, but underneath I think the sound is being generated by putting sine waves together additively or maybe using FM.  All the filter is doing is individually fading out harmonics as the LPF goes down.  This also might be why the resulting wave is so quiet when the filter is all the way down because it actually continues fading out the fundamental instead of just stopping at a perfect sine wave.

On paper the D-10 (and others with the same sound engine such as the D-20, D-5, and D-110) and the D-50 seem very comparable.  And actually, the MT-32, D-110, and D-550 all use the same tone generator (LA32 on all except pre-'88 D-550s that used a functionally identical older chip) and D/A converter (Burr Brown PCM54) on the output.  But in sound there is no comparison.  The difference is they are all implemented in greatly different ways.  They all have different CPUs and program data, and they all have different analog output circuitry.

In my personal subjective opinion the D-50 is an excellent sounding synth.  It is one of Roland's great pad machines capable of thick massive whooshing wall-of-sound pads.  However, the interface is one of the worst synth interfaces of all time.  You can understand it just fine if you put the time into it, but the tiered menu system creates a painful working situation of constantly backing in and out of menus just to adjust a few parameters.  The whole process becomes extremely masochistic.  If you have access to a software editor it's worth it, otherwise forget it.  The D-10 with the cheap PG-10 programmer is a fairly workable situation.  The sound quality is fairly poor though.  It consistently sounds almost distorted with a metallic ring to all the sounds.  I much prefer the Yamaha 4-Op FM synths, at least you can dress them up with processing to sound pretty good.


Yamaha FL-10M II Review

just got this...

Gotta say, didn't really expect too much from this pedal. I have an old MIJ Arion flanger and it's neat enough but kind of one dimensional. I saw this pedal on eBay for $15 and just bought it out of impulse. I've always thought these Yamaha pedals looked cool. well, what do you know, this is a really great pedal. The shit thing about most modulation type pedals is that when you step on them your guitar goes all thin and reedy. This is not like that; it has a really deep lush modulation. It's made me reconsider Flanger pedals entirely. It's easy to get a great sounding chorus sound out of it as well as crazy-go-nuts siren noises. Tweaking the feedback knob adds harmonic overtones to the sound allowing you to get some weird sounds from steel drum sounding tones to almost organ sounding tones. The noisemaking possibilities with this pedal are really great; you can get all kind of dying whale noises and crap by combining it with delay and twiddling the knobs. You can add a hefty deal of clang to your guitar by putting it before your distortion.

That graemy fellow did an demo showing some more normal uses for it. It's a pretty good demo but doesn't really show the sonic mayhem this thing is capable of.

I had pretty much written off things like phasers and flangers as sort of cheesy 'sound effect' pedals but this is a much more useful pedal than that. I guess it goes to show that there are a lot of the modulation pedals out there that aren't very good. You have to really get a good one to get an idea of the functionality of these types of pedals.