SY99/77 vs. MONTAGE - differences

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SY99/77 vs. MONTAGE - differences

#1 Post by hunz » Wed Nov 15, 2017 11:54 am




There is 25 years difference between AFM and FM-X. Both operating systems (SY99, Montage) combine a sample based engine with an FM synthesis engine, the major differences is in how they are combined and in how they can interact.

The SY99 engine featured RCM (Realtime Convolution and Modulation) a system where the output of any Operator could be fed into any other Operator, also you could feed a Sample into the FM Operator stack. What we learned from this was the simpler the input Wave the more usable result. The more complex the source Wave the quicker the result created noise (chaos).

For example, an acoustic piano Waveform fed into an FM Operator causes so many sidebands that you're into area of noise almost immediately. In the early Manuals on RCM it mentions that much of the potential in RCM was yet unexplored... but looking back, the conclusion about the usefulness of actual samples as Source was very narrow. Narrow in that samples, already rich in harmonics, tended to generate even more dense harmonic.... so filtering the source was almost mandatory. So some very strange noises could be created without much difficulty. Artful noise, to be sure, but chaos and edgy was the rule.

That said, the result of being able to route the output of any AFM Operator to the input of any other Operator, did result in some very unique and musical results. The "nested" feedback loop, for example, proved to open its own door of infinite possibilities when set to respond to velocity, etc. - the results were extremely musical. That was the unique thing about that RCM engine that was really interesting (imho).

The AWM2 engine back 25 years ago was just 16 Note of polyphony and the AFM engine was 16 Notes of polyphony and was based on the six Operator engine of the original DX.

The AWM2 engine in Montage is 128 Notes stereo polyphony based on an eight Element system and the FM-X engine is 128 Notes based on an eight Operator engine with Spectral Forms to generate a very wide range of complex Waveforms with a single Operator.

There is a fantastic history of Yamaha FM in the 03/2016 "YAMAHA Music Production Guide" (page3: The History of Yamaha FM Synthesizers) and gets into details of the significant differences. And trust me, the differences are in the details (not just the number of Operators) there are dramatic differences in the architecture of the various generations.

One listen to the FM-X you can hear that there is a quality not previously available. The faster envelopes make for far smoother sonic changes in timbre - a far more responsive FM that can be interactively involved with the AWM2 engine. If you simply fed AWM2 into FM (as did RCM) the result quickly went to strange and fascinating noises, but the FM-X has a way of applying continuous changes and this dimension makes a huge difference in the results. The ability to stretch and morph the FM-X is one of the most exciting things... movement is the key.

Enter the AWM2 engine as a modulation/modifier... its amplitude can be used to shape the results of the FM-X via the Envelope Follower... rhythmic movement always works musically, meaning a better possibility something useable will result; versus the artfully strange noises of RCM.

Explore the AWM2+FM-X Performances. The great liquidity of FM-X sound is immediately apparent. It can be shaped in realtime in ways previously unavailable. Motion Sequences can be used to define the movement and shape the results over time... it's like having a dozen hands to manipulate controls, changing the timbre, volume, pitch... while playing DX7 era FM was mainly playing the keys, the first thing you notice with FM-X is there is far more movement in FM-X sound. The Montage engine maximizes the combining of the technologies - and its the multi-dimensional changes that are the Montage signature.

The Envelope Follower can be viewed as a blunt tool, if that is your preference: you can have a Kick Drum create the Envelope for your Synth Bass sound to Follow... but you also can use it to add sparkle by assigning a quick staccato ARP patterns to "play" (vary) the harmonics of an FM-X sound.

A/D input can also be fed to the FM-X engine... you can derive tempo from an external audio source and can feed it to control parameters within the synthesizer. This means for example, any audio coming into Montage can be assigned to control a task in the engine... open a filter, pan a sound, increase a parameter, decrease a parameter, etc.

Side Chain Modulation let's one Part interact with others... ducking, vocoding, you design what goes where.

Combined with the Motion Sequencer this combination of AWM2 samples and FM-X (fourth generation FM) synthesis is far different from back in the day!

About conversion of SY voices to Montage:

Whether or not it could be converted depends on what features of the AFM engine it is using. I am speaking from the experience of building DX FM converters into my fs.factory and sy.factory librarians, so I spent rather a lot of time poring over the implemention of FM in the DX7 and AFM in the SY, less so on the FS1r as the FS1r has a built in ability to receive DX7 SYSEX (the only Yamaha synth with the native ability to do that, I believe), which I used for the conversion. Like all Yamaha synths that seem to have to go through a "quirks department" for something daft/limiting to be in the feature set before release, the self inflicted own goal on the FS1r is: yes it can receive DX7 SYSEX, but only single voice edit buffer dumps, not 32 voice Bulk Dump format. So fs.factory makes up the difference and does bulk dump conversion by opening a bulk dump file and sending single DX voices to an FS1r edit buffer and then reading it back in FS1r format. Why do I say all of that? Basically Yamaha did not care too much for backwards compatibility and when they tried in the FS1r they didn't do a complete job. I am not sure how good their DX to Montage converter is, and I am also guessing they felt obliged to provide one given that the Kronos can DIRECTLY read DX7 data (i.e. no converter software needed).

The Montage FM-X engine is (possibly a simplistic view) "half an FS1r" which is quite a different engine to AFM. Both FM-X and AFM have their roots in the DX7, but the FS1r and thus FM-X is more closely aligned and easier to do a conversion as it was designed from the outset with that in mind. The DX7 6 OP engine drops directly onto the FS1r engine in that all the parameters are identical (esp the operator rate scaling method), all the algorithms are recognisably there, etc.

It is a different problem in AFM as whilst it is a six op engine, it is radically different in many ways. Bizarrely, Yamaha did not capitalise on the DX7 heritage and provide a patch converter at the time, which sort of suggested that they thought it was tricky as well (or wanted people to buy new patch libraries). Several people did write converters of course, including myself (as when I came to the SY range in 2007 the DOS based existing tools were old and unsupported).

So what are the potential conversion issues from AFM to FM-X? One of the big ones is operator rate scaling. The DX7 had simple linear or logarithmic curves, positive or negative, either side of a breakpoint that you had little control over. You can set break point, Lin/log plus or minus and the end level for each slope. AFM has four break points that you can set the key and their levels. So it's possible to get an approximation of the DX7 if all the responses were set to linear, but if the responses were logarithmic and the sound depends on that log response, then forget it. Having said that, most of the DX7 conversions came through my FM converter with a good rate of success, but some were way off, and when you looked it was usually always the rate scaling that caused the deviation.

The next big one would be algorithm. DX FM has 32 algorithms, AFM has 45. So if NiteHwks is using one of the algorithms not present in the DX, that would be a problem unless you can find the same algorithm in FM-X

Other issues then are if an AFM patch is using multiple feedback loops. Conventional DX FM (and I believe the FS1r and thus FM-X) have a fixed feedback loop in each algorithm You can't change it, only the amount of feedback. AFM allows you to have three feedback loops and you can put them where you want in terms of source operator and destination operator. Then you can set the level of a modulator going into a carrier. In DX FM the level is fixed and the only level control you have is the Envelope. So in AFM you can make the modulation more subtle by controlling the input level.

AFM also has a "design your own algorithm mode" which is a "hidden feature" not accessible by the front panel editing. Unlikely anything is using it, but you never know.

Then you have looping envelopes (but I doubt a Rhodes sound would be using that). Parameter scaling is different. 0-63 on the DX and 0-127 on AFM, but that is a simple scaling calculation.

Then you have the filter, if being used, that is possibly quite different to the filter on the Montage, but there may be some mapping.

And finally the effects units and architectures. If you are relying on effects for the sound character then that can make a profound difference. It is one reason why when I migrated from an SY77 to an SY99 that I also had to get a TG77 to keep the SY77 sound, which may sound a bit daft if I have just traded up to an SY99. The SY77 and SY99 have the same AFM engine but very different effects units (and better/bigger wave ROM on the AWM side). The SY77 effects are quite "lo-fi" and grungy, but that is part of the synth's character. The SY99 is much cleaner and brighter (sometimes too clean), but as a result some signature SY77 patches sound completely wrong on the SY99 as they are too bright or lose some of the effects as there is sometimes no direct mapping between an SY77 effect and an SY99 effect!

(Credit: Phil Clendeninn, Derek Cook)

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