Thursday, June 21, 2012

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

Part 2 of 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.

As mentioned in my last blog post (Part 1 of this DX7 ad) - although I have been focusing on Keyboard Magazine when it comes to Yamaha's new DX line, I was still interested to see if other magazines were getting in on this new FM action. And one of the biggest surprises for me was found in a DX7 review in the US/Canadian version of International Musician and Recording World (IMRW).  More specifically, the photo of the prototype DX7 with it's "merged" DX logo.

But there was more to that October 1983 "On Test" review of the DX7 than just that unique photo.  Readers of IMRW were probably very happy to read that rather well written three-page review. 

Penned by Paul Fishman, the review does a great job of balancing the need to educate readers on FM synthesis while also trying to get an actual review of the instrument down on paper. Keeping the flow of a review going when you have to stop and explain every new term could have been overwhelming to both the writer and reader.  And then add to this the fact that the reviewer was also learning FM synthesis on the spot!  But he does a good job of it while still admitting to the fact that he's rather new to the technology. It could have been all too easy to just try and come off as an expert. Kudos Paul:
"I must confess that at the outset my brain refused to have anything to do with comprehending the system, but after about an hour of messing around, I began to see some light at the end of the tunnels."
The review starts off with a bit of theory surrounding algorithms and then into the construction and design of the instrument itself. Then he gets down and dirty into the complicated business of editing sounds, and seems genuinely relieved when he gets to some familiar territory - the "old faithful" LFO section. LOL!

The conclusion in particular is interesting, taking up almost one-third of the total review.  For one, he specifically references Yamaha's advertising during the time period!
"To return to the matter at hand. I would definitely agree with some of the advertising blurb that Yamaha are waving around. It does create some excellent and authentic sounds although Yamaha's blurb admittedly goes over the top. The capabilities of digitally-generated sound to mimic acoustic qualities is at times quite stunningly authentic. The clarity of tone is also most impressive. But I think it is important to keep in mind that this instrument will not replace the area of sound that its analogue competitors cover, nevertheless it opens up other avenues."
Paul also points out a few of the DX7's shortcomings in the conclusion, including the lack of arpeggiating and sequencing functionality. And he really rags on one particular item:
"For me, one of the dumbest design faults has got to be the lack of stereo audio output. One of the most important characteristics in synthesis is the spatial placing of sound, therefore the imaging of the sound."
Even with these and other faults, in the end he seems extremely happy with the instrument, especially at the price point Yamaha is selling them at.

The most interesting part of the conclusion is his bang-on prediction of the future, Yamaha's difficulty in promoting and educating this rather complicated technology to end users, and making the technology more user-friendly. Remember, this review came out only *months* after the DX7's introduction:
"But I must say that I don't know how Yamaha or the dealers are going to communication this new concept in keyboards to potential customers. I think people are going to be confused, although despite this, I am sure the DX7 will sell in vast quantities. But I will make a bet now that a good 70% of owners will never explore this keyboard fully, apart from using the factory memory packs, and it will generally be used as a preset…
...It would have been helpful if they had concentrated on making their format far more "user friendly".  A clearer explanation of reasons for choosing one particular algorithm as opposed to another would be very useful.  Many of the problems could have been solved if, for example, instead of using two small displays (patch no. and parameter status/select) they had developed something like a mini TV monitor panel within the keyboard to enable you to see all the tuning functions of the Operators at a glance, as well as their relevant Envelope settings… …As more keyboards become computer-based instruments, it is essential that manufacturers don't lose sight of how user helpful they are entitled to be."
I know! Right?!?!?!

Bang on, Paul. Bang on.

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