Yamaha DX-7 Multi Effect Processor FX900 Review

Yamaha FX900 Simul-Effect Processor
Yamaha FX900 Simul-Effect Processor

Yesterday I picked up a near mint condition Yamaha FX900 Simultaneous Effects Processor for my second Yamaha DX-7 mki. I had already been using a Yamaha FX500 (little brother) with my first Yamaha DX-7 and thought the FX900 would work nicely. I was lucky to find one for sale at the used music shop I frequent. The Yamaha FX series works great with the Yamaha DX-7 because they were released during the time Yamaha was pushing the envelope with new digital technology in effects processing. Many effects processors today are emulating analog or amplifier sounds and while that is cutting edge of today, I wanted something around the time the Yamaha DX-7 was flourishing. The FX900 comes with 100 pre-set programs, 100 user-memory locations, and is based on 11 algorithms ‘built’ from four algorithm blocks. It’s a very warm but digital sounding effects processor that works wonderful with the Yamaha DX-7. It’s amazing how much the DX-7 comes to life with a decent set of effects.

While the FX900 is an excellent solution for Yamaha DX-7 effect processors it does have a couple of drawbacks. The first I found is that it doesn’t have a phaser effect. One could likely create one with the existing modulation effects but there isn’t a plain and simple dedicated phaser effect. Second, many of the presets use distortion so you’ll need to edit those to make them better for keyboards. Many don’t find the distortion to be all that great, but for the Yamaha DX-7 I actually think they are quite good especially if you custom program them to your liking. Guitar players are particularly strict about what they like with distortion and most people who review the FX900 are guitar players so keep that in mind. With regards to keyboards, particularly the Yamaha DX-7, the FX900 works extremely well with all effects on board. The Yamaha FX900 was a very expensive professional effect solution back in the day so it definitely delivers quality pro effects.

A few other vintage alternative effect processors that I feel that would work great with the Yamaha DX-7 are the Yamaha SPX90, SPX50D, Boss SE-70, and the Korg A1. I used to have a Boss SE-50 and while it was very good with the Yamaha DX-7, I didn’t particularly like the interface much. I’ve heard the SE-70 is a bit better. I haven’t seen a Yamaha SPX90 around here in my neck of the woods in Nagano, but there is a brand new looking Yamaha SPX50D sitting in a used shop down the street. I may pick that up as I’ve heard it’s very similar to the SPX90. It may be fun to try that with the Yamaha DX-7 and see how it fairs. I also have a Korg A1 which I like with the Yamaha DX-7 but I also use that for a lot of other instruments so it’s pretty well tied up at the moment.

Right now I am perfectly happy with the Yamaha FX900 and it’s probably the best multi effects processor I’ve used with the Yamaha DX-7mki thus far. The sound is just amazing, especially in stereo. Note I run the Yamaha DX-7 mono out to a single input of the Yamaha FX900. I then run stereo out from the FX900 to two inputs on my Yamaha Mixer. I then pan the two channels to get a stereo sound and wow! it’s fantastic.

If you are looking for a good digital effects processor produced around the time of the Yamaha DX-7, the Yamaha FX900 would be one of many great choices. The smaller FX500 would also work very well. Without effects, the Yamaha DX-7 can sound really dry. If you haven’t heard a Yamaha DX-7 through a decent effects processor you need to fast! It’s wonderful and definitely lifts the level of the DX-7 to a much more usable status in today’s music. I now feel the Yamaha DX-7 is back in business with the big boys! Have fun!


Korg A1 Synthesizer Effects Processor

Korg A1 Synthesizer Effects
Korg A1 Synthesizer Effects

It’s raining pretty hard right now in Nagano-city and there’s a Typhoon on the way. So, I decided to hop in the car and check out a used music shop about 30 minutes from my place. What interested me was a Korg A1 effects processor that they have had for over two years now. They had a $60 price tag on it and there were several issues I noticed with it. First it had no presets inside. It was also missing the rack ears and it had no memory card. A year ago I looked into how to reset the factory presets but was discouraged to find that many were having trouble with sysex transfers specifically with the A1. However, the reviews of the Korg A1 were all very favorable. Also the resell value of the Korg A1 was hovering around the $400-$600 range. Thus I always kept my eye on it thinking that one day someone would snatch it up quick, but nobody did!

Well recently, I found out that a couple of people were successful in loading up the factory default patches using the A2 Send Card Utility. I also was able to find the factory patch set plus a whole bunch of others. So, I decided to revisit the Korg A1 to see if I might be able to get it going. Luckily the Korg A1 was still sitting in the same corner as it had always been for the past two years or so. I brought it up to the counter clerk and his eyes had the look of “finally” I’m going to get rid of this piece of crap..laugh. There was no power cord, but he quickly supplied me with one. I told him that I understood it had no factory preset sounds in it, but that I only wanted to check and make sure that the power was ok. Indeed it started up nicely.

I told the sales clerk that I would buy it but that I wanted to look around some more. When I finally decided I was ready to check out. I noticed he had thrown in the power cord for free and had reduced the price to $35. He told me that it was old and had been in the shop for a very long time so he would knock some off the price. I think he was bent on sealing the deal. I said sure no problem of course.

When I got home I cleaned up the Korg A1 really nice and started it up. Everything powered up fine and the LCD screen was very nice and clean. I then connected a midi cable between my Windows 7 computer and the Korg A1. Actually I use a Roland A-880 Midi Patcher so that was stuck in between. I had downloaded and installed the A2 Send Card Utility and then enabled the Korg A1 to receive MIDI sysex messages. After I loaded up the factory sysex file I sent it to the Korg A1. Sure enough, the Korg A1 accepted the sysex dump on the first try! Fantastic! I now had a Korg A1 working 100% in top notch condition.

I then hooked up my Roland JP-8000 for testing and turned off all the effects on a Mini Moog patch I had created. I plugged the Roland JP-8000 into the front of the Korg A1 and then used headphones to have a listen. Wow! I was amazed at most of the Reverb effect patches. The Roland JP-8000 came alive and it was amazing. I really liked the reverb room patches especially well with the synth. It really fattened up the sound. Very warm indeed! Some of the reverbs were bright, but not in a cheap way at all, rather they were very professional sounding and clean!

With regards to synthsizers, I thought the Korg A1 had some great delays, choruses, and even distortion sounds. The editing ability was vast and I know I’ll be able to get tweak quite a bit out of it. The Wahs were really fantastic too. Many of the patches gave the Roland JP-8000 an added warmth similar to my Juno 6, 106, and the MKS-50. It’s like the Korg A1 suddenly popped my Roland JP-8000 into Juno gear. That was a welcome surprise! It could be the nature of adding effects to a synthesizer, but the Korg A1 also added something more which I can’t quite explain yet.

Although I do play guitar, I plan to mainly use the Korg A1 as a synthesizer effect processor. I feel it really works well with synths especially well. I’ve only just started to scratch the surface of the Korg A1 Multi Effects processor and I’m liking it more and more as I dig deeper into it. Now that dumping and receiving sysex files is a breeze, I can also check out many of the other patch sets that are available in sysex form online. Hopefully I won’t have to change the battery in the Korg A1 for a while!

I know the Korg A2 and A3 effect processors are very popular, especially the A2. The only choice I really had here was the Korg A1, but honestly it’s a very nice effects unit. For now it will do the job perfectly! It’s just what I was looking for and you can’t beat the price either.

Roland GP-8 GP-16 Guitar Effects Processors

Roland GP-16 Digital
Roland GP-16 Digital Guitar Effects Processor

Today I picked up a used Roland GP-8 and Roland GP-16 guitar effects processor for a total of a hundred bucks over at the music second hand shop. They were just brought in today and were in excellent condition. The GP-8 was in very good condition considering the age of the unit. The Roland GP-16 was in mint condition which was very surprising. I didn’t get any manuals or foot controllers, but I do already have an FC100 so that should work fine.

The GP-8 is mostly an Analog Effects Processor with basically 8 Boss stomp boxes in one unit. The Roland GP-8 Guitar Effects Processor is one of the earliest (1987) multi-effect racks with 8 effect blocks that included Dynamic Filter, Compressor, Over Drive, Distortion, Phaser, Equalizer, Digital Delay and Digital Chorus. The digital delay and chorus are both 12-bit. There is a slight bit of noise with this unit but nothing that a Noise Suppressor can’t take care of. There also is no reverb, but I can always get that out of the GP-16 or somewhere else.

Roland GP-8 Analog
Roland GP-8 Guitar Effects Processor

The GP-16 is a Digital Effects Processor that contains a Compressor, Distortion, Overdrive, Picking Filter, Step Phaser, Parametric Equalizer, Noise Suppressor, Short Delay, Chorus, Flanger, Pitch Shifter, Space-D, Auto Panpot, Tap Delay, Reverb, and Lineout Filter respectively. I heard a rumor that the Space-D is the same as the Boss DC-2 although that I believe was analog and not digital. So that’s probably the only difference between the DC-2 and GP-16 Space-D. The Parametric Equalizer, Chorus, and Flanger are really good on the Roland GP-16 as well.

I already have the Boss GT10 and GT8 pedal boards. I didn’t need the Roland GP-8 or GP-16, but for $100 together, I couldn’t pass them up. I’m really glad I bought them. Of all my pedal boards now, I think I like the Roland GP-8 Distortion the best. It really reminded me of the boss distortion pedals in my room when I was a kid in the 80’s. It’s really fantastic in my opinion. The Dynamic Filter, Compressor, and Phaser are also really good.

With the Roland GP-16 (1990), I particularly liked the Dimension Space-D, Chorus, Flanger, and Phaser effects. Just about all of the modulation effects are fantastic. The distortion is not as good at the GP-8 to my ears but still usable. The GP-8 sounds fatter and more full, while the GP-16 is a bit thinner, BUT, not as thin as my Boss GT-10 when I first plugged that in. The GT-10 I thought was really really tinny and had a lot of fizz. The GP-8 had no fizz at all in the distortion department and the GP-16 almost nil as well, but it did have something a little fizzy which I can’t quite put my finger on but not so bothersome as with the Boss GT-10.

Overall, I am pleasantly surprised by both the Roland GP-8 and GP-16. I didn’t expect to use them much for guitar, but rather for my older synths and keyboards. However, I think I’ll be taking the GP-8 for it’s wicked distortion the next time I’m out playing. I think the GP-16 should sound great with my keys and even my guitar synth. It’s pretty cool too.

I should also note that both the Roland GP-8 and GP-16 worked perfectly with Midi Quest Sound Librarian and editor. I tested them both today and I was able to transfer all Patch banks for editing. So effectively, I can now edit patches on the computer very easily for both processors. I also have the older Emagic Sound Diver for PC and noticed there is an instrument file for the Roland GP-8. I’ll have to try and see if that works, but for now Midi Quest is good. Both the GP-8 and GP-16 came with the original patches as well, so I didn’t have to go looking for them. Manuals were found on the UK Roland FTP site.

I STRONGLY recommend the Roland GP-8 for a great all around and cheap effects processor if you can find one in good condition. I would also recommend the Roland GP-16 but only after you get the GP-8. I also think both make great effects processor for synths too. If anyone can confirm that the Boss DC-2 is indeed inside the Roland GP-16, please comment. I’d love to know if this is true as I’ve never heard a real DC-2 to compare. The Roland GP-16 Space-D sounds sweet though.

In conclusion, the Roland GP-8 and GP-16 are still very good effects processors despite their age. The Roland GP-16 has some very unique patches and effect combos in it which I can understand bring some people back to them. The Roland GP-8 is just warm and friendly. I love it!

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