Welcome to the Yamaha* TX81Z Homepage

If you're getting sick of making patches that sound like this. then this page is for you!

* This page is not affiliated with or endorsed by Yamaha, but it probably should be given the awesome scan I did of their TX81Z.

Obligatory Story and Introduction

Yamaha came out with the DX7 in 1983, which used a new type of synthesis technology at the time called "FM synthesis". It was the first widely used FM synthesizer and it turned out to be the best selling professional synthesizer of all time. These synthesizers featured six sine wave operators that could be routed in 32 different arrangements, which are called algorithms. They produced a few different models using this synthesis engine, including the DX1, DX5 and TX7. They also produced a line of four operator synthesizers, like the DX9, DX100, DX27, and DX21. These were less expensive and a little more limited than the six operator synths, since the operators also produced only sine waves. But in 1986 they introduced the four operator TX81Z, which was the first FM synth that could use different operator waveforms. The TX81Z's operators can each be configured to use one of eight different waveforms and this is what gives the TX81Z the ability to make sounds that the six operator synths aren't capable of making (although the converse is also true).

This page is dedicated to this synthesizer and I hope it will help you get the most out of it and FM synthesis in general. I'm here to put it to the test, to run it through the paces, to push it to its limits, and maybe even put it through the wringer. I'm going to post articles, patches for download, and all kinds of stuff that's fun for the whole dog gone family. So, grab some sticks and marshmallows and gather round the LCD!

TX81Z Product Literature

Yamaha TX81Z product brochure A post over at the Retro Synth Ads blog covering the original product brochure from 1986!
Feb 1987 issue of Yamaha AfterTouch magazine The AfterTouch introducing the TX81Z! It has a very in-depth description of its features. Also interesting is how it relates to other Yamaha gear of its day.

TX81Z Trivia

Did you know that the TX81Z was invented by an Icelandic llama herder when he regained consciousness after he fell and hit his head on a tree stump?

Well, that's completely false! There are no llamas in Iceland! This section is dedicated to debunking myths about the TX81Z like these.

The Greeting Message The hows and whys of synthesizer module salutation.
Firmware Revisions This contains a complete list of the TX81Z revisions that exist and their differences, as well as how to find the revision and do a factory reset.
Frequency Ratio Mysteries More than you ever wanted to know about the "Edit Frequency?" menu

TX81Z Programming Articles

I thought I would write up some little articles on programming the TX81Z. You should be able follow along with a different type of FM synth, too, since the basic concepts are pretty much the same behind all of them. I'm not a great synth programmer or anything, so you probably won't be blown away by the sounds I make, but I'm willing to write about it anyway.

The way I see it, synth programming is part of the art of playing the synthesizer. Only using the presets is kind of like playing the piano with one hand all the time. You can do it, but it's a lot more fun with two because you can do so much more. And not only that, using two hands on the piano puts you more fully into your musical expression. With a synthesizer you can put yourself into the expression with both hands and with the timbre of the sound you're playing. So the synthesizer gives you unprecedented power to make your music an expression of what you are in your own uniqueness!

An Overview Of FM Synthesis This is an article on general FM synthesis where I try to explain how it works and some of the tricks and quirks about it.
An Analog Lowpass Filter Sound My attempt to simulate an analog filter with the TX81Z.

TX81Z Patches

Yamaha Classic Corner Yamaha's Classic Corner has been removed their site, but it lives on at archive.org. There are some free TX81Z patches at the bottom of the page.
ManyMIDI TX81Z/DX11 Sound Library A commerical collection of over 2200 patches!

TX81Z Editor Programs

These make editing the TX81Z a heck of a lot easier! There are quite a few of them to choose from. I've tried out most of the Windows editors, since that's the only operating system I have set up at the moment. Some of the editors I've found were written a long time ago and don't run real well on modern versions of Windows or are no longer supported by the author, so I've left those out.

TX81Z Programmer This is the TX81Z editor and librarian for Windows that I wrote myself, so it gets the top slot! It supports all the features on the unit and has a number of more advanced functions like multiple parameter editing and undo. I've now made the program free software!
Ctrlr Here's a universal synth editor project that looks really cool. It's open source, cross platform (Windows, Mac, Linux), VST-enabled, user editable and scriptable . . . it's got it all!
JSynthLib This is a java-based open source universal synth editor. It doesn't look like it's been updated since Feb 2014, but it seems to still work.
MidiQuest This is a commerical, universal synth editor from SoundQuest that runs on Windows and Macintosh OS 9 / OS X. I've tried the Windows demo and it has full support for the TX81Z and I think it's pretty good.
Unisyn This is a commerical, universal synth editor from Mark Of The Unicorn that runs on Windows and Macintosh OS X. I've never tried it as there doesn't appear to be a demo version.
NoiZe NoiZe is a shareware universal synth editor for Windows only. It doesn't look like it's been updated since Windows XP.
SoundDiver (no link) This was a commerical, universal synth editor from EMagic that ran on Windows and Macintosh but Apple bought them out and discontinued SoundDiver apparently.
TX81Z editors @ Enigmafon Records Unlike the editor section on my page, this page has actual thoughtful reviews of several TX81Z software editors, including a review of my beloved TX81Z Programmer! Thanks to the admin at enigmafon.com for writing that review! Anyway, check out their site for more in-depth analysis of TX81Z editors.

TX81Z DIY/Hardware Editors

Alan Probandt's TX TwoPot I'm proud to host Alan Probandt's TX TwoPot project! This is a standalone controller for TX81Z programming!
Stereoping 81Z Synth Controller Stereoping offers a really cool Synth Controller kit from Germany for the TX81Z and other synths! Check out the demo on YouTube.

TX81Z Documents

Yamaha Service Manual [PDF] Describes the unit in all its glorious technical details.
Yamaha TX81Z Service News [PDF] This describes the technical modifications that were made to the TX81Z over the different revisions.

TX81Z Microtuning Resources

Scala This is a scale editor for microtuning tables and it's very extensive, it supports the TX81Z, runs on multiple platforms and it's freeware, too. It's kind of out there technically, but it's very powerful and I highly recommended it if you are into microtunings.
Equal-Tempered Microtuning Table [PDF] This is a nicely done table of cent values for programming various equal-tempered scales on the TX81Z. Created by Paul N. Even.

Miscellaneous TX81Z Resources

Vintage Synth Explorer TX81Z Page They have a little review of the TX81Z here, but the most interesting thing about it is the forum. There's quite a bit of bickering on there, but there are some good TX81Z resources buried in there.
Yahama DX Discussion Group A Yahoo mailing list dedicated to Yahama FM synthesizers, including the TX81Z.
Yamaha Black Boxes Discussion Group A Yahoo mailing list dedicated to Yamaha rackmount synthesizers, including the TX81Z.
TX81Z User Manual (PDF) (English) (French) (German)
From the Yamaha Downloads (US) site.
TX81Z Wikipedia Wikipedia's entry on the TX81Z.
Yamaha TX81Z @ polynominal.com This is a nice little TX81Z site. He's got some cool TX81Z demos on there.
TX81Z at SynthSite Information and user reviews about the TX81Z, if you're thinking about getting one.
TX81Z at Harmony Central More TX81Z user reviews at Harmony Central.
TX81Z Search on eBay Search for a TX81Z on eBay.
TX81Z Search on Reverb.com Search for a TX81Z on Reverb.
TX81Z on Google If all else fails, there's always Google.

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Last modified Sept 19, 2017