Yamaha DX7

The Yamaha DX7 is a synthesizer manufactured by the Yamaha Corporation from 1983 to 1989. It was the first successful digital synthesizer and is one of the best-selling synthesizers in history, selling over 200,000 units.

Yamaha DX7
Yamaha DX7
Digital programmable algorithm synthesizer[1]
ManufacturerYamaha
Dates1983–1989
Price$1,995 US
£1,495 GBP
¥248,000 JPY
Technical specifications
Polyphony16-voice
TimbralityMonotimbral
Bi-timbral (DX7 II)
Oscillator6 digital sine wave operators per voice, 32 patching algorithms[1]
Synthesis typeDigital linear frequency modulation /
Additive synthesis (alg. #32)
Filternone
Attenuator1 pitch envelope & 6 amplitude generators per voice
Aftertouch expressionYes (channel)
Velocity expressionYes
Storage memory32 patches in RAM (battery backup); front panel ROM/RAM cartridge port
Effectsnone
HardwareYM21280 (OPS) operator chip
YM21290 (EGS) envelope generator
Input/output
Keyboard61-note with velocity
and aftertouch sensitivity
Left-hand controlpitch-bend and modulation wheels
External controlMIDI in/out/thru, input for foot controller x2, input for foot switch x2, input for optional breath controller

In the early 1980s, the synthesizer market was dominated by analog synthesizers. FM synthesis, a means of generating sounds via frequency modulation, was developed by John Chowning at Stanford University, California. FM synthesis created brighter, "glassier" sounds, and could better imitate acoustic sounds such as brass. Yamaha licensed the technology to create the DX7, combining it with very-large-scale integration chips to lower manufacturing costs.

With its complex menus and lack of conventional controls, few learned to program the DX7 in depth. However, its preset sounds became staples of 1980s pop music, used by artists including A-ha, Kenny Loggins, Kool & the Gang, Whitney Houston, Chicago, Phil Collins, Luther Vandross, and Billy Ocean. Its electric piano sound was particularly widely used, especially in power ballads. Producer Brian Eno mastered the programming and it was instrumental to his work in ambient music.

The DX7 was succeeded by FM synthesizers including the DX1, DX5, DX9, DX11, DX21, DX27 and DX100.