In fact, it's fair to say
that FM dominated the synthesis arena during these years (augmented
by the emerging sampling technology of the era). However, all things
come an end and Yamaha's dominance of the synthesiser market was
ultimately usurped by the Roland D50 and (later) by the Korg M1,
both of which offered (yet another) new form of synthesis known
as 'S+S' (or sample and synthesiser), products where samples formed
the basis of the sound which was then 'shaped' using traditional
synthesis techniques of filters and envelopes. Even Yamaha eventually
relented to this trend with the release of their SY85 S+S keyboard
and module derivatives. To all intents and purposes, FM synthesis
It was a surprise then when, in 1998, Yamaha released
their FS1R - a new, 32-voice FM synth module with not a sample in
But this was no ordinary FM synth! 8 operators instead
of the usual 6 (or 4) and plenty more algorithms (combinations of
operators) to choose from. Also, each operator offered more waveforms
than the originals' sine wave for greater tonal complexity. The
FS1R also offered 'formant' operators and filters and multi-effects
and more, all of which were designed to elevate FM synthesis to
a new level.
The FS1R came with the best part of 1,500 preset sounds
and sounded fantastic. But that was not enough to save it.
As you can probably tell from the photo above, the user
interface lived up to Yamaha's reputation of providing arcane and
obtuse screens and menus and it was difficult to use. Even with
the bundled editing software, serious programming was not a task
for the faint-hearted with so many parameters to adjust. Even a
simple tweak was a chore for most people.
Multi-timbrality on the FS1R was also limited to a mere
four parts and there were other 'restrictions' (for example, if
the filters were used, polyphony was halved!). In fairness to Yamaha,
they never proclaimed the FS1R to be an 'all-singing, all-dancing'
workstation - they saw it more as an adjunct to an existing setup
- but, in a market dominated by 'all-singing, all-dancing' workstations,
the FS1R was not the success that Yamaha had (presumably) hoped
for and the product pretty much died although it reains a popular
item on eBay where it can still fetch a good price.
The FS1R samples in Nostalgia have been kindly provided
in close association with Martijn Buiter.