The sound of FM synthesis pretty much dominated the first half of the 80s.
Yamaha had been the top of the tree for some years in the '70s with their analogue polysynths such as the CS80 but that market was snatched away from them by the Prophet 5 and later, the Oberheims. As fabulous as the CS80 was, it was a big and heavy bugger and had to be treated with kid gloves on the road otherwise all the sensitive little trimmer pots could be knocked out of whack leaving the thing horribly out of tune. It was also extremely expenive. The Prophets and Oberheims were light and portable by comparison and a lot cheaper (if you consider £3,000 'cheap'!). Not only that, they were totally programmable unlike the CS80's somewhat kludgy programmable four patch memories. And so Yamaha fell from grace and despite valiant attempts, they couldn't compete with the Prophets and Oberheims.
But in 1982, they came back with a vengeance when they released their legendary DX7.
Almost everyone bought a DX7 (or one of its derivatives) and its sound was everywhere from back-street pubs and cabarets to headline stadium gigs. Every record you heard was littered with DX sounds until Roland and later Korg killed Yamaha's domination with their D50 and M1 respectively.
Yamaha tried to hang on with more and more variations on the FM theme but this eventually dwindled to nothing - Roland and Korg's sample-based instruments were the new standard and you could barely give away those FM synths that were once the height of musical fashion.
It was a surprise then when, in 1998, Yamaha released their FS1R.
Here was a new, 32-voice FM synth module with not a sample in sight! But this wasn't '80s FM - this was FM on steroids with more operators, more algorithms, new 'formant' operators, multi-mode resonant filters and multi-effects.
It was also a surprise when, with over a thousand almost uniformly stunning on-board sounds, the FS1R was not a commercial success and it sank pretty much without trace just a few years later. The FS1R's collapse in the market has largely been attributed to its impenetrable user interface but the polyphony wasn't generous (and halved if you used certain filter types) and it was a difficult concept for many to understand. The 1U rack mount form factor probably didn't help either and its fortunes might have been different had Yamaha released it as a keyboard with more knobbage and a larger, better screen. We will never know.
That said, an FS1R will fetch good money on eBay today and are much sought after and not without good reason - it can make THE most astonishing sounds. Even if you never hit the EDIT button and use it solely for its presets, there's a wealth of fabulous noises to be had, many of which are captured here.
In collaboration with Dutch FS1R owner, Martijn Buiter, I have a comprehensive collection of outstanding samples that cover the gamut of lush strings, sparkiling electric pianos, spiky clavs and basses, sonorous bells, swirling organs and the high spot of the collection - the expansive, spacious pads which are truly out of this world.
But these are not your typical two-a-penny FM sounds - this is FM with attitude! If you have ever fancied an FS1R but can't stump up the sometimes hefty eBay prices (or are intimidated by the programming), here's an opportunity to dip your toe in the water with this comprehensive collection of FM sounds, old and new with an easy to use UI for quick and easy tweaking.
|NOTE : It will work with the Kontakt Player but only in 'demo' mode and the session will be time limited.
What a great idea to have sampled the Yamaha! It was never a "must have" synth - maybe not user friendly enough - but you get the sound textures plus the power of Kontakt.
I particularly liked the pad sounds. I'm sure some of them will be part of my basic palette kit.
Claude Samard Polikar - MD, musician and arranger for Jean Michel Jarre and award winning film and video games composer
This collection is a broad illustration of the FS1R both in classic FM guise as well as its more unfamiliar, otherworldly personas; clanky basses, delicate electric pianos and shimmering bells rub shoulders with evolving pads, haunting sound effects and warm, analogue-style textures... the real inspirational content of this set is to be found amongst the various pads, organs and sound-effects-type textures.
The pads are all I expected them to be (lush and swirly and evolving and big and subtle all at the same time), but the bass sounds are the real surprise for me. There's something going on because normally, really big bass sounds make the windows in my studio rattle. These don't. They just punch me in the chest and hardly move the cones of the HR824s I use for monitoring. Wow.
Dean Morris - Australia
Getting the Hollow Sun FS1R collection was something of a treat. With every program having the envelopes, filters and what have you programmed to perfection, it's become an instrument with a life of its own. When you play it, you don't hear static recordings of an FS1R, you hear all the warmth of a real instrument.
Louis Van Dompselaar -
Oh man. These sounds are so freakin fantastic I dont know where to start
You got to do a new demo because it doesnt tell the story
Unsigned - via email