This is the Yamaha DX100, Yamaha’s budget FM synth from 1985. Priced around £350, and the baby brother of the DX7, the DX100 is a 49 key mini key portable synth, that can run on batteries and even has a strap so you can use it as a keytar. While it may look like a toy, it’s actually a powerful FM synth. If you are looking for a cheap and fun way to explore FM synthesis, you might want to check out the Yamaha DX100.

Back in 1985, I wanted a Yamaha DX7. I saw all the bands using the DX7 on Top of the Pops and wanted that synth. (Little did I know they were all miming.) While I couldn’t afford a DX7, the DX100 was in reach, and this is what I ended up getting. Apart from its toy like appearance, the DX100 is full featured FM synth, and if you wanted a full-sized keyboard you could go for the DX27 which is identical but with a full sized keyboard. In this blog post, I will show you some of the sounds and features of the DX100 and why it is still a great synth to have today.

The DX100 has 4 operators, (the DX7 has 6) and 8 algorithms (the DX7 has 32) so you are not going to be able to have as complex sounds as its bigger brother, but the sounds you can get are classic FM, and many of them instantly recognisable. For example, check out the Solid Bass sound used on many late 80s and early 90s dance tunes. The DX100 has 192 presets, 32 user programable memory slots. It’s 8 note polyphonic, with pitch and mod wheels. There is full sized MIDI In, Out and Thru as well as a tape interface for storing your sounds and a breath controller input. Programming the DX100 is not very intuitive, as you have to use a small LCD screen and buttons to navigate through the parameters. However, you can use external editors or software to make it easier. Some of the famous songs that feature the DX100 are LFO by LFO, Pump Up The Jam by Technotronic and Charly by The Prodigy.

The 4 Operator FM synth chip can produce complex and gritty sounds, and not just the cheesy electric pianos. Creating your own sounds on the DX100 is possible, but as with all FM sound engines, not very simple. I use the brilliant DX Manager for Windows. It enables you to real time edit the sounds and manage the patch backs. I think it is one of the best editors for the DX100, as it is easy to use and has a lot of features.

I occasionally, still use my DX100. I recently replaced the internal battery, but I have to admit I prefer using my TX7 (a desktop module version of the DX7). If you want a real trip back to the 80s, have a listen to a demo tape produced by Yamaha in 1986, which is one of the most 80s things you will ever hear! The full upload is available from the music tech download section of TDL.

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post and learned something new about the Yamaha DX100. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. I would love to hear from you. Thanks for reading!

In this video I look at the design of the Yamaha DX100 and have listen to some of the sounds. I also look at editing the sounds and of course try out Solid Bass.

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