go back to main studio page

Yamaha DX21 1985

Digital FM synthesizer
This is like a Yamaha DX7 but then more ghetto because it uses less operators (4 instead of 6 and also less algorhythms). That is not a bad thing because it has a completely different character, with a more wild and rough temper then the DX7. I hereby claim that the DX21 is the best of all the old 4 operator budget FM synths (the Dx100, 9 and 27...except the DX11 but that is a whole different synth altogether) because it has a really creamy build in analog chorus effect, pitch envelopes and you can layer two different patches together for some complex dual 4 operator FM sounds (making it sort of 8 operator...uh)

The DX21 uses FM (Frequentie Modulation) synthesis, I could explain how that works but its basicly just a bunch of sine waves (called operators) modulating eachother in different "algorhythmic" structures. The classic DX7 has 6 operators and 32 algorhythms, the DX21 has 4 operators and 16 algorhythms.

The best thing to "understand" it is just program the synth and see what happens...it all sounds more difficult then it really is and you really don't need to comprehend any indepth FM theory, just know what the buttons do to change the sounds.

This is my first ever synthesizer, I have it since the early 90s and its pretty much beaten up after all those years.I still use it a lot because somehow you can always get some new sounds out of it. You get weird fantastic soundscapes but also classic old school Chicago house & Detroit techno sounds such as the famous solid synth bass, the model 500 infoworld portamento bass, the haunting rich & 5th strings etc.etc.etc. It gets even more exciting when you put the DX21 through an external analog filter (like the Korg MS20 or Moogerfrooger). This is probably one of my favorite synths.

Program dabbling MP3s:

Church ambient pad - A church bell sound is programmed into a very british sounding "country life" ambient pad, only the frequencies of the operators and envelopes are changed. Notice the rough grainy harmonic frequenies at the end.

DX21PWM - A Pulse width-like synth sound is programmed into chaos, changing the operator output levels, the algorhythms and frequencies.

DX21 Bass - Fiddling around with some bass presets and turning them into metallic mayhem.

DX21 Flute - A very rural mesmerizing synthetic flute

DX21 Interval synth -  a PWM synth sound layered with a sort of string sound

Some tracks with the DX21:

Space DX21 - The classic detroit bass sound from the DX21. From the Legowelt - Dark Days 2 album.

Ricardo Mirando Legowelt Remix  The  typical beautifull haunting tearjearking strings from the DX21, no other synth can make them so emotional!

Silent Service Those noise sounds and the portamento-ed lead are the DX21. From the Legowelt - Dark Days album

We can watch Alf in the hotel room The bellish flute sound is the DX21. From the Smackos - Pacific Northwest Sasquatch Research album

Boarding Cat lush typical PWM notes from the DX21
. From the Smackos - Pacific Northwest Sasquatch Research album

Follow the Clouds Bigfoot the weird brassy synth riff is the DX21
. From the Smackos - Pacific Northwest Sasquatch Research album

The unbearebale Sadness of Dimensions A double layered DX21 patch going everywhere through a Moogerfrooger. From the Smackos - Computer Day album

DX21 Links:

Synthseal page about the DX21 with cool sound demos

go back to main studio page