Exploring the FS1R – 1. Preset surfin’

February 1, 2011

In keeping with Yamaha’s habit for obtuse organisation, patches are played in performance mode. 4 patches (voices) can be layered in a performance. I already can predict that my initial noodlings will only use one voice per performance. Don’t want to overwhelm myself just yet…

Each voice can be made-up of 16 operators: 8 voiced operators a-la FM, and 8 ‘unvoiced’ operators that act like noise generators. from the manual:

The voiced operators produced pitched sounds which can be played on a musical scale via a MIDI keyboard or other MIDI controller. The unvoiced operators can be used to produce noise components of speech-like sound, or they can be used in much the sameway as noise generators in more orthodox synthesis systems (e.g. to produce percussive sounds or sound effects).

I’m not going to delve into the Formant just yet, only to say that the manual alludes to the interplay between the voices and unvoiced operators to create more ‘musical’ synth sounds with subtle harmonics under realtime control.  What looks like the icing on the cake will be Formant sequences (FSeqs):

FSeqs are sequences of formant frequency, fundamental pitch, and level data which have been createdby analyzing the formant content of actual sounds. FSeq playback speed can be set at a fixed value, controlled viaa MIDI clock signal, varied by note velocity (e.g. keyboard dynamics) or varied manually when the “scratch” Fseqmode is selected. And since the sound of formants is not pitch dependent, FSeq playback speed and pitch can bevaried over an extremely wide range without altering the basic timbre of the sound (something that even the bestsamplers cannot do).

Lots of interesting possibilities! Let’s start…

Setting-up the FS1R was painless – plug it in and connect midi and audio to the trusty X-station. Filter controls are conveniently pre-mapped, however editing will be restricted to the laptop for consistency, and to prevent me mucking-up any developing patches.

I didn’t buy this for the presets, but there are plenty of usable ones in there. As standard, all the presets are drowned in reverb – but I haven’t quite found how to switch if off yet :/ Gimme some time there now.Quickly flicking through the Performances: The Ep’s are very nice indeed – they respond beautifully to the weighted keys of the Privia. Organs are OK – will require some tweaking. Some of the brass patches are surprisingly realistic. I was surprised by the bass presest – mostly quite weak and not the solid tones that FM is noted for. They seem to have tried to replicate that tired old TB sound.

Now the Pads – quite a few ‘samey’ whooshes that sound very cold and digital. On many pads and choirs the modwheel is mapped to the formants, so yes, there is a nice effect when used with sight pitch-bend. Turning-up the ‘Formant’ and ‘FM’ knobs alone provides some really delicious variations. Very interesting control possibilities here. Some very nice pads indeed.

I think the filter is the same as that on the AN-200 and An1x. Certainly sounds like it. It’s a modelled filter and it shows at high resonance. Not the worst, and certainly a bonus for an FM synth.  Let’s see how it goes….

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