Monday, June 18, 2012

Yamaha DX7 "The Performance is about to begin" 2-page ad - Part 1, Keyboard 1983

Yamaha DX7 "The Performance is about to begin" 2-page colour advertisement from page 42 and 43 in the September 1983 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

Okay. Now we're talking. Yamaha finally getting serious about the promotion of the DX7.

This two page centerfold appeared in the September and October 1983 issues of Keyboard Magazine and I seriously would have considered putting this thing up on my wall if it had been available as a poster.

It has everything that makes a synthesizer ad great including a snappy ad-title in a large font and a really large feature photo of the synthesizer itself. Believe it or not, this is probably the first time many readers may have seen a clear photo of the actual instrument in a DX ad.

The ad also includes some great informative ad-copy, as well as images and testimonials from some of the biggest names in keyboards and synthesizers - Elton John, David Paich/Steven Porcaro, Quincy Jones, Chick Corea, Michael McDonald and Jerry Goldsmith.  I wouldn't be surprised if each of those artists ordered copies of their illustrated photos. I'm really digging them.

And what really makes this a really really awesome advertisement is how those last two features  - the ad-copy and the testimonials -  balance each other out.

I think the ad writers knew there were two audiences to be catered to when it came to the DX7 and FM synthesis. The logical types that like to read vast amounts of technical info about the synth. And the creative types that just want to know if and how the DX7 can create great sounds. So, I'm thinking that Yamaha consciously split that audience up.

The technical types would be drawn to the ad-copy and probably start reading immediately, eating up every last technical crumb about FM, operators and mathematics.  But the creative types would probably ignore large amounts of ad-copy, so those illustrated images of their favorite musicians act like magnets to draw their attention to those deliberately non-technical testimonials: "Lets me capture the mood". "Great warmth and colour".  "The sound speaks the melody". "Open a new world of sound with colors I could imagine, but not express musically".

The ad-copy  also filters the two audiences well - answering the two main questions on people's minds in a humorous fashion. But making sure the pricing info is answered first so that creative types can stop reading:
"For any of you familiar with FM digital, those prices have probably prompted you to split for your local Yamaha dealer already, so goodbye, this ad is over for you. For those still hanging around to find out more, here goes…". 
And the rest of the ad-copy goes on to explain FM synthesis and the technical features of the machines.

I'd also like to point out that the ad also contains a few other great historical references including Canadian suggested retail prices - $2,595 for the DX7 and $1,995 for the DX9.

If I was going to be a bully, the only thing I could pick on is that Yamaha logo. It looks like they chose to use the same logo size and style as for their one-page ads, but I find it kinda gets lost in this two page spread. But again, I'd have to be a real douche of a bully to start a fight in the school cafeteria over that one.

Enough about the ad. Although I have been mostly focusing on Keyboard Magazine, I was interested to see if other magazines were getting in on the new FM action around the time that the machine first launched.

One of the biggest surprises for me while I was digging around in other mags was coming across this photo:

That's a photo of a DX7 from an "On-Test" review  found in the October 1983 issue of the US/Canadian version of International Musician and Recording World (IMRW).

Look closely. Did you spot it?

Scroll back up and look at the DX7 logo in the top-right corner of the synthesizer in the ad. That's the logo I am familiar with. Now look at the logo in this photo again. It's different - the D and X are merged! Something I hadn't noticed before and so I immediately started looking for other photos of DX7s or any other DX instrument with this special logo. I couldn't find anything.

And then, coincidentally, the other night I'm on the Vintage Synth Explorer forums and someone posts THE EXACT SAME QUESTION. Awesome!  The poster - desmond -  included a photo with a DX7 and DX9 with the old logo from So, now we have two photos with the old logo.

KevBKeys pointed out a few physical differences between what desmond considers is probably a prototype model used in the first generation of promotional photos and the final version of the DX7:

"I notice the 5 jack sockets on that DX7 seem to protrude out the back. On the two mk1 DX7 I have used (both of which had the regular logo) the jack sockets were flush with the back panel.

Also, some of the front panel markings are different. There is no "Keyboard Level Scaling" graph for example."
And in a follow-up post wrote:
"I also notice the white strip (that says "play") under the memory select switches is missing. It was presumably added to production models so users could easily locate the modes where you select presets ...and therefore make this sophisticated hi-tech digital technology seem a little less daunting! "
This is exactly why I like hanging out on the VSE forums. :)

There's more to that October 1983 IMRW DX7 review than just this interesting photo. This early review of the DX7 really helps put Yamaha's new FM technology into a historical perspective.

But that will have to wait until Part 2.

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