One of the surprise announcements at NAMM 2016 earlier this year was the new addition to the popular Volca series: the Korg Volca FM, which recreates the classic FM synthesizer tones made famous by the Yamaha DX keyboards, such as the DX7.
The newly-announced Korg Volca FM instantly got a lot of people excited... and rightly so. We wouldn't be surprised if it turns out to be Volca's most best and most popular product yet. It's a digital, three-voice, polyphonic FM synthesizer with some great features as you'd expect from the Volca series, such as 32 slots to store your own sounds, bult-in Chorus, arpeggiator, MIDI, Sync In/Out and, most importantly, it's also compatible with the Yamaha DX7 voices, which can be imported via SysEx - which makes this Volca a very exciting prospect indeed: basically, it's like a mini, very affordable DX7!
The Korg Volca FM is to be released in May, priced £129. To make sure you are one of the first to get your hands on one, we advise our customers to PRE-ORDER THE VOLCA FM.
What Was So Special About The Yamaha DX7?
To understand the appeal of the new Volca FM, we need to look at the importance of the original Yamaha DX7, which was the first mass-produced FM (digital) synthesizer, released in 1983. It pretty much helped to popularize digital synths, turning the tide against analogue synths, which only recently, in the past few years, have started to regain popularity.
Since then, the DX7 has acquired quasi-mythical status and is often mentioned as one of the best-ever synths. It certainly revolutionized the market... and the sounds are great, but only IF you like the sound of FM digital synths!
In itself, today, the DX7 is not *that* special as a synthesizer keyboard, to be honest: it's very complicated to program, and therefore not very versatile - most users never got past using its 32 preset sounds. And it was so popular, that they're not very collectible either - you can still find many second-hand units for sale, on sites like Ebay.
The best reason to get one is simply for its authentic 80's vibe: it was, after all, one of the defining sounds of Eighties music! So many top artists used a DX7, that a list reads like a who's who of Eighties music: U2, Madonna, The Cure, Brian Eno, Depeche Mode, Giorgio Moroder, A-Ha, Enya, Dire Straits, Queen, Jean-Michel Jarre and many, many others! And the FM synth sounds of the Yamaha DX-series are still in vogue today - Junkie XL, for instance, used a DX5 (a limited-edition precursor to the DX7) for the Deadpool soundtrack.
Best DX7 Alternatives
If you love the sound of 80's synths, a DX7-style sound is a must! But you don't have to buy a vintage DX7 - besides the Korg Volca FM, newer Yamaha synths also offer much more versatility and ease to use. They're a much better choice for the modern musician who's not a hardcore synth collector. Here's the DX7 alternatives from the brand who started it all.
This is the closest Yamaha will ever get to reissuing a DX7. If you don't mind the mini keys, the Yamaha Reface DX provides you with that authentic DX7 sound, and much, much more!
The Motif series keyboards can be loaded with FM synth Voice Library, and are a great choice for the pro who wants to also have that authentic DX7 sound, just in case!
The three new Yamaha Montage synths are the brand's new flagship keyboards and promise to innovate just like the DX series did in the Eighties. They are sure to be one of the hottest products released this year, and one of the biggest selling points is their FM-X synth engine. But those who want an authentic retro flavour, will be pleased to know the Montage synths will be compatible with the DX7 voices!
Purists may feel outraged with the inclusion of the Yamaha MX synths in our list: these are not FM synths, and they don't sound exactly like a DX7. But... if you don't want mini keys, and can't afford the much more expensive Motif or Montage keyboards, the MX synthesizers are a great choice: like the DX7 in the past, these are full-sized keyboards that offer great synth sounds at an affordable price. If you're not nostalgic about the past, then you could almost consider this like a modern-version of the DX7, or rather, a natural evolution.
Best DX7 Songs
Feeling inspired yet? Check some of the best songs which featured a Yamaha DX7 synth:
1) A-Ha, 'Take On Me'
Features a DX7 bass sound.
2) Madonna, 'Live To Tell'
Also features a DX7 bass sound.
3) Dire Straits, 'Money For Nothing'
The synthesizer intro featured a DX7
4) Berlin, 'Take My Breath Away'
The Oscar-winning song, produced by Giorgio Moroder, features the DX7 bass too, with some vibrato effect. Classic!
5) U2, 'Where The Streets Have No Name'
Producer Brian Eno loved the DX7 and used it on loads of U2 songs, such as in the intro for this 1987 hit.