Monday, June 11, 2012

Yamaha DX9 "The performance is about to begin" introductory ad, Keyboard 1983

Yamaha DX9 "The performance is about to begin" 1-page introductory colour advertisement from page 75 in the July 1983 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

Yup. You're looking at it. The beginning of (relatively) cheap programmable FM synthesis. 

Prior to this advertisement appearing in the July 1983 issue, Yamaha had been cycling through a number of ads that year for their PS10/20, PC100, CP10/11, CE20 and even the CS70m. And then Yamaha went silent in May and June.

And then *this*.

Although it reads like a "pre-launch" advertisement, I've been assured by a few sources that DX7 and DX9 synthesizers were already starting to make it into retail stores either during or shortly after this ad appeared.

And indeed, these new DX instruments were definitely up and running, showing up a month earlier with the Yamaha crew in Chicago at the June 1983 NAMM show. Although everyone at the show was going bonkers over the newly launched gadgetry known as MIDI, there was still a number of high-profile synthesizers getting noticed at the show including Octave Plateau's Voyetra, Sequential Circuit's Prophet T-8, and Kurweil's "private showings of the prototype for their new sampling instrument". <---- Yum.

But can you guess what company got to the front of the line in Keyboard's NAMM write-up? Yup - Yamaha. And the description in Keyboard Magazine provides so much juicy historical information about the initial perception of the keyboards by magazine staff including their surprise at the low retail prices, and future updates to the DX, that I just had to include the whole thing:
"Yamaha brought out two new instruments that use all-digital technology. The DX7 and DX9 are both totally programmable and have five-octave keyboards. The keyboard on the DX7 is both velocity- and pressure-sensitive. Demonstrating the capabilities of these two new products were Toto's David Paich and Steve Porcaro, along with James Newton Howard, formerly with Elton John's band. On-board memory of these units was initially 32 programs, expandable through a ROM pack port. However, we're told that on-board memory is being expanded to something like 256 memory positions. The FM technology used in these instruments is the same found on Yamaha's GS1 and GS2, and since the DXs are programmable you might expect them to cost even more than the GS1. One of the surprises is that the list prices are $1,995.00 for the DX7 and $1,395.00 for the DX9. They're also MIDI-equipped."
Of course, unless at the show in June, July's introductory ad might have been a synth junkies' first introduction to the new DX brand since the article didn't appear until the September 1983 issue. I'm sure they would get dang curious after seeing the ad.

Side note: I wonder if anyone was a little miffed at Yamaha's choice with "DX" for their new offering when Oberheim had already introduced a "DX" drum machine that had advertisements also running in Keyboard at the exact same time. Not that there would be confusion. Just pointing it out.

Anyways, I was originally going to give this blog entry a more generic FM title that could cover off both the DX7 and DX9. Through the use of dramatic lighting together with the dark background of the ad, Yamaha did a good job of keeping the synthesizer in the photo looking mysterious, kinda suggesting that Yamaha wanted to leave it more generic to cover off both synths. But I can still just make out the "DX9" name in the top left corner of the front panel as well as the four-operator algorithm diagrams in the top right. Plus, the title itself provides the DX9's lower $1,395 price point. So, in the end I went with a more direct DX9.

Plus, since I had always thought the DX7 was promoted prior to the DX9, giving this a DX9-related title helps make the point that it graced the pages of Keyboard Magazine first. Respect to that!

Yamaha advertisements had a number of different design themes depending on the series of gear being promoted. And although this ad is really the start of a "new" series of gear, the designers of the ad did keep a few characteristics from previous ads.

For example, Yamaha used the dark background and eye-popping white title and ad-copy found in ads like this 1982 CS70m advertisement

Or maybe a better (and earlier) example is this 1979 Electone E-70 ad with its mysterious lighting and super-minimal ad-copy:

Nope. Wait... :)

The best example probably comes straight from ads for the DX7 and DX9's FM big daddy - the GS-1.

In my blog post for this ad and another GS1/GS2 advertisement, I explained my thoughts on Yamaha's decision to keep the complicated mess that can be FM synthesis out of the ads. And since the GS1 wasn't programmable anyways, why complicate things. Its a magic box. End of story.  So, Yamaha made the right decision and kept FM simple in ads for the GS1 and GS2. And, based on this first introductory ad for the DX9, they also seemed to be keeping it simple for the next generation of FM synthesizers.

But would Yamaha be able to continue to keep it simple in DX ads?

We all know that the DX9's bigger brother the DX7 managed to become "the first commercially successful digital synthesizer" even though it had the "reputation of a hard-to-program synthesizer". Wikipedia's words, not mine.

So, whether Yamaha or anyone else was able to explain how FM worked in ads or articles, the company was still ultimately the winner. 

Respect!  :)

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