SuperMAX for Yamaha DX7 expansion board ROCKS!

SuperMAX for Yamaha DX7
SuperMAX for Yamaha DX7

I just received my new SuperMax expansion board for the Yamaha DX-7 mkI and wow! It sure changes the Yamaha DX-7 for the better. I get 64 new sounds that are programmed to take advantage of the new characteristics of the SuperMax chips and I must say I am really impressed. My Yamaha DX-7 sounds much fatter with voices that now can be stacked. There are 512 memory locations which means I can reliably store a lot of voices without them crapping out with the Gray Matter E! board that I previously had installed. The delay and detune features are fantastic for acquiring natural effects such as chorus. I also love the sound creator which allows you to invent new sounds by automatically combining random parameters between voices.

The best thing of all is the arpeggiator. Wow! This arp is incredible to have on a Yamaha DX-7. I’ve had zero problems with it and it operates exactly as it should. I really like it. I have two Yamaha DX-7’s so I can use one to create rhythms that are quite complex using the arp and stacking. The other DX-7 can be used straight for playing my favorite lead or melodic sounds.

Are there any bad points about the SuperMax? Well I’ve only used it for a couple of days and so far there is only one minor negative point. If correct that has to do with polyphony. The Yamaha DX-7 has 16 note polyphony so when you stack or split the voices this gets reduced rather quickly which results in clicks that can be heard. The clicks are common with any keyboard that is running out of polyphony as the same thing happens on my Korg M1 and T2. Indeed ghost notes happen when you completely step outside the 16 polyphony, but once you get the hang of your polyphony limitations, the SuperMax addition is golden and not a serious problem.

I can’t imagine EVER going back to a stock Yamaha DX-7 after adding the SuperMax expansion board. It totally adds everything I’ve ever wanted on the DX-7 plus more. Note that I also have the E! Gray Matter Expansion board on my second Yamaha DX-7 and I must say the SuperMax knocks it out of the ballpark. I can’t wait to convert the E! Grey Matter over to the SuperMax once I find another expansion board. It’s not that I don’t like the features on the E! Grey Matter board, rather the board itself is just too unreliable for me. Perhaps I have a faulty board, but whenever I power it off for a period of time and then turn on the DX-7 the voices are all messed up. ( Note my battery is fresh and works great! ) It then takes time to load the voices in again and change my settings. The SuperMax is much easier, more reliable thus far, and much more user friendly. I just love it.

Finally, the SuperMax expansion board is super simple to install. No soldering is required. You just carefully pull out IC14, IC 20 and IC21 and then insert the SuperMAX in place of the missing chips. You can then save for original chips for when you either remove the SuperMax for selling or if you get another old DX-7 that needs chips. Don’t throw away or sell your old chips. You’ll never know when you might need them again.

MEMORY EXTENSION: 512 Memory locations for sounds and functions.
ARPEGIATOR: the most sophisticate on the market today!
DELAY: use a new process!
SOUND STACK: 3 multitimbral stacking modes (8×2, 5×3 or 4×4) with VOLUME, COARSE TUNE and FINE TUNE settings on each voice.
SOUND CREATOR: the most powerful and effective way to create your own sounds on DX7!!
ROLLING MODE: allows using up to 4 sounds per patch!!!
VELOCITY CROSS-SWITCH: allows switching from one sound to other by velocity.
TEMPERAMENT: can be set on each key on the keyboard
– And many other features: programmable MASTER VOLUME, KEYBOARD ZONES, several MIDI-OUT modes, MIDI DELAY, LOCAL CONTROL, MIDI implementation update (OMNI MODE, MIDI-OUT channel selection, “all keys off”, …)

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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!

Snagged a Free Yamaha DX-7 MkI

Yamaha DX-7 Synthesizer
Yamaha DX-7 Synthesizer

As I mentioned in my previous article about the Yamaha CS1x, I managed to acquire a used Free Yamaha DX-7 over the weekend in prestine condition. The main reason besides being a frequent customer of this particular used music store in Nagano, the Yamaha DX-7 was not functioning properly. The sales clerk couldn’t fix it so he thought it best to just get rid of it. What I particularly liked about it was the fact that it was in near mint condition. When I got home I opened it up and there wasn’t one scratch or dust bunny inside. It was virtually brand new and perhaps a bit strange to be in such great shape. Cosmetically on the outside it was in spit shined mint condition as well.

Currently I already have a working Yamaha DX-7 with the Grey Matter expansion board that I installed in it. The only problem is that cosmetically the DX-7 is really in bad shape being all dinged up and having some rust in some places. I thought at the very least I could transfer the insides of the working DX-7 to one that looked brand new I got over the weekend. I could then strip it for parts and use them when needed or simply sell the rest. The Yamaha DX-7 also came with the original case as shown in the photo which was cool.

So what it wrong with the new Yamaha DX-7? I am not sure yet. The problem is that when you turn it on, it becomes stuck with the “YAMAHA DX7 SYNTHESIZER” message in the display. Sometimes it says to insert the cartridge or that the cartridge protect is on. There is also no sound and the buttons do not respond at all. The battery in the DX-7 was recently replaced and I replaced it again just to make sure it was new. Later this week when I start transferring over the boards from my other DX-7 I plan to try and isolate the problem. At this point I am not sure what it is, but I’m sure I’ll eventually find the problem. If not, I hope to put together a near mint working Yamaha DX-7 and will likely part out the other one. We’ll see. I’ll update this article as I progress and will certainly post the problem and solution once identified. Stay tuned!

Casio CZ-5000 Synthesizer in Japan

Casio CZ-5000 Synthesizer
Casio CZ-5000 Synthesizer

Today I was out and about and I went into a used goods shop called “Santa” in Nagano-city, Japan. I was surprised to see that there was a big store wide sale and that they were possibly going out of business soon. Now I almost “never” find anything in this store other than overpriced junk but occasionally I find some computer floppy disks or some interesting toys for the kids. They sometimes have old music gear but it’s always the kind of stuff nobody wants or just musical toys. Well, today it was a different matter because sitting in the shop was a Casio CZ-5000 that looked to be in excellent condition. The price on it was $25 which made me scratch my head for a minute and wonder why. I then realized that I didn’t know much of anything about the Casio CZ-5000 and that I better run home and do some checking.

Later I discovered it was potentially a nice 80’s oriented synth that I could have some fun with. What I was also excited about was that on Yahoo Auction Japan, the Casio CZ-5000 was selling between $350 to $450. I thought Wow! I could at least buy it and sell it later to maybe make some extra cash. I raced back to the used shop and brought it up to the counter. The gentleman immediately told me it didn’t work. I said ok that’s fine but can I at least plug it in and check the power? He said sure and knowing this shop might not have headphones I brought my own which he was surprised to see.

The Casio CZ-5000 powered up nicely. Indeed the synth didn’t seem to want to make any sound. I then figured out how to access and change the patches. Now I got sound coming through my headphones and it sounded pretty decent. Like with previous synths I’ve purchased at used shops in Japan, the sales staff usually don’t know anything about these keyboards. In addition, when a Casio CZ-5000 is mixed in among other Casio kids keyboards they start thinking all Casios are the same. I don’t know why the clerk said the keyboard was broken, because it sounded great to me.

Finally the sales clerk let me have it for $10 perhaps feeling sorry I don’t know. Even though there was a big sale going on, I guess he just wanted to get rid of it. For whatever reason I was more than happy to take it off his hands. As I drove home I realized that I didn’t really have a chance to check if everything indeed worked. I started to worry a bit, but then realized that this was only 10 bucks.

Later in the evening I powered the Casio CZ-5000 up again and had a ton of fun jamming on it for about two hours. The Casio CZ-5000 is a really fun synth to play around with. I found that the sequencer worked great. In fact all of the buttons, volume, chorus, etc. worked as they should. I ran the CZ-5000 through the Korg A1 effects processor I recently picked up and boy did it come to life. I noticed that bumping up the on board chorus while adding some portamento made the sounds much more analog sounding. I particularly liked the vibrato effect as well. I then did some basic tweaking of the presets and even created a few new sounds. They saved nicely into the internal memory.

All in all, the Casio CZ-5000 plays beautifully and it’s just in fantastic condition. It should fit in nicely with my current 80’s synth setup and I’m looking forward to seeing what else it can do.

Boss BX-16 16 Channel Stereo Mixer

Boss BX-16 16 Channel Stereo Mixer
Boss BX-16 16 Channel Stereo Mixer

Today I found a used Boss BX-16 16 Channel Stereo Mixer in excellent condition at the local used music shop. Everything on the unit itself is in perfect working order with very little cosmetic scratches. All of the 16 channels work fantastic and there is virtually no noise with the mixer which is nice. I have heard that the Boss BX-16 can be somewhat noisy or distorted, but my unit is perfectly quiet thus far. On a few knobs you get a bit of static sound when moving them which is normal for the age of the BX-16 Mixer, but once settings are in place it works just fine.

All in all, the Boss BX-16 16 Channel Stereo Mixer is a great mixer due mainly to it’s small size. I also like the fact that it has two effect loops that can be controlled across all 16 channels. Each channel has a Panpot, Effect 1, Effect 2, Bass, Treble, Gain, and Overload. Plus there is an RCA out section and Phone input jack. To get the Stereo effect you have to use two channels, so with regards to stereo, the mixer effectively becomes an 8 channel mixer when maxed out. Running an out from a Yamaha DX-7 for example to one of the channels will result in only Left Speaker Output. Thus I had to use a Y Split Chord to connect the one output jack from the Yamaha DX-7 to two channels on the Boss BX-16.

The Boss BX-16 16 Channel Stereo Mixer is a pretty cool device and I’m sure I’ll get quite a bit of use out of it.