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Yamaha TX81Z - Worth a look?

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Yamaha TX81Z - Worth a look?

Postby MarkOne » Wed Oct 24, 2018 11:01 am

While browsing through a certain on-line auction site, I noticed a couple of TX81Zs for sale around the £100 mark, and was wondering if one was worth a punt. 4 Op FM with waveforms other than sine. Seem to remember back in the day there was some ambivalence around these - some nice sounds but impenetrable editing.

Thoughts... Should I just keep hunting for a good clean TX-802? (or just go for software and get NI's FM8)
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Re: Yamaha TX81Z - Worth a look?

Postby desmond » Wed Oct 24, 2018 11:08 am

YMMV of course, but I find now, as I did back then, the 4-op FM synths are mostly fairly thin and boring sounding. They were nice if you needed a few extra voices and didn't have any FM stuff as part of a larger system, but they never gave much much of a wow factor.

The TX-802 is a much nicer sounding module in general, and more flexible. But hey, if you want to spend a small amount of money and having something new to play with, nobody's going to stop you..! ;)
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Re: Yamaha TX81Z - Worth a look?

Postby Dave B » Wed Oct 24, 2018 12:10 pm

Wot Desmond said. :)

The 81Z has an 'easy edit' mode and also has a chord function. A mate had one years ago and had a lot of fun with it. Like most FM synths, it has a few great sounds and a load that go 'zzzzzaaaannng'. If someone gave me one, I wouldn't cry but I'm not sure I'd actively seek one out.

But I have bid on 802s on the odd occasion... :D
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Re: Yamaha TX81Z - Worth a look?

Postby nathanscribe » Wed Oct 24, 2018 9:58 pm

I'd say it's definitely worth a punt. I had one for 20 years, and IMO once you get your head round the basic structure, the editing isn't bad at all. Just draw out a patch sheet and it'll click into place.

There are two assignable outs, and it's 8 note poly/8 voice multitimbral, so you can do a couple of parts at once with it, which is quite nice. You can also layer and detune that way, so it's quite easy to get a monster bass patch using all 8 voices as a kind of unison, etc.

Patches aren't compatible with other FM units, though. I think maybe the DX21 had a similar setup, but AFAIK they're not directly able to use the same files.

There is some aliasing but it's mostly fine, as long as you don't expect a pristine high end.

Very good for bass and percussion, I think. I often regret selling mine.
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Re: Yamaha TX81Z - Worth a look?

Postby desmond » Wed Oct 24, 2018 11:45 pm

nathanscribe wrote:Patches aren't compatible with other FM units, though. I think maybe the DX21 had a similar setup, but AFAIK they're not directly able to use the same files.

The situation here is the DX7 had 6 sine wave operators. The 4-op FM synths of this time (DX9, DX21, DX100/27 etc) had 4 sine wave operators.

Because this was quite limiting, the second generation 4-op FM synths (TX81Z, DX11 etc) had 4 operators which had extra waveforms as well as sine waves, which helped make up for the limitations of only 4 operators (because a single operator could make waveforms that previously need two or more to make).

So the older synths that can only play sine waves can't play patches from later instruments that had more waves...
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Re: Yamaha TX81Z - Worth a look?

Postby BillB » Thu Oct 25, 2018 7:08 pm

I’m curious which online auction site you have found. If you mean THE online auction site, TX81Z’s are usually selling for around the £150-180 mark. So if you have found some at around £100, that would be a good price to take a punt on, and you could probably at least make your money back if it didn’t suit you. There are a fair number of hardware and software editing options, if you wanted to go that way.
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Re: Yamaha TX81Z - Worth a look?

Postby Adam Inglis » Fri Oct 26, 2018 1:26 am

As above.... but....
the one slept-on secret of the TX81Z, for me, is the Alternate Note assignment in the Performance mode. One of the presets, Great String I think it is called, shows off the potential of this function.
It allows you to assign each note that arrives at the unit to the next program in multi mode, in a round robin fashion.
Add this to the really very basic-but-surprisingly fun transposable midi delay and pan effects, and you have some inspiring possibilities.

I'm a recent convert to Midi Quest, and am re-discovering the joys of this machine.

And, may I just add the essential 2 words whenever discussing the TX-81Z?

Lately Bass.
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Re: Yamaha TX81Z - Worth a look?

Postby Adam Inglis » Fri Oct 26, 2018 1:33 am

nathanscribe wrote:Patches aren't compatible with other FM units, though. I think maybe the DX21 had a similar setup, but AFAIK they're not directly able to use the same files.

Nathan, the OM on page 48 claims patch data is recognised between the TX and the DX21, 27 and 100. However they don't all have the same features and so may end up sounding a bit different.
I've never tested this.
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Re: Yamaha TX81Z - Worth a look?

Postby The Elf » Fri Oct 26, 2018 8:51 am

As an, until recently, TX-802 owner I'd say that the new crop of software alternatives is the equal of the hardware now. I've used FM8 and Dexed alongside the 802 for a while and decided the 802 could go to a new home. I've not missed it one bit.

4-op has its charm for some, but it's lost on me - I think they sound like the audio you get when you open a birthday card!
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Re: Yamaha TX81Z - Worth a look?

Postby desmond » Fri Oct 26, 2018 10:21 am

Adam Inglis wrote:Nathan, the OM on page 48 claims patch data is recognised between the TX and the DX21, 27 and 100. However they don't all have the same features and so may end up sounding a bit different. I've never tested this.

The gen 2 4-op FM synths should load the gen 1 patches ok (after all, they still have the sin wave for the operators), but you generally can't go the other way,.

So a 21/27/100 patch should load into the TX81Z, but you can't guarantee a TX81Z patch will load into a 21/27/100.
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Re: Yamaha TX81Z - Worth a look?

Postby nathanscribe » Fri Oct 26, 2018 11:18 am

desmond wrote:
Adam Inglis wrote:Nathan, the OM on page 48 claims patch data is recognised between the TX and the DX21, 27 and 100. However they don't all have the same features and so may end up sounding a bit different. I've never tested this.

The gen 2 4-op FM synths should load the gen 1 patches ok (after all, they still have the sin wave for the operators), but you generally can't go the other way,.

So a 21/27/100 patch should load into the TX81Z, but you can't guarantee a TX81Z patch will load into a 21/27/100.

Thanks for the clarification, I was going from memory and couldn't recall which keyboard synth of that generation had the multiple waveform operators, when I was thinking of the DX11.

There was the V50 too, which doesn't get much mention.

I've had the TX81Z, DX7s, TX7, and SY77 over the years, as well as dabbling with the DX21/27, DX100, and FB01, but I never tried transferring patches between any of these over MIDI. It's interesting that Yamaha seemed to keep tweaking the parameters, so they had different value ranges and responses from model to model. Even manually translating a relatively simple patch from one to another meant some headscratching and compromise.
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Re: Yamaha TX81Z - Worth a look?

Postby Dave B » Fri Oct 26, 2018 11:36 am

Judging by the photo in the Pro One thread, The Elf used to own at least 3 TX7s. I'm inclined to think that we should treat TX7s like exclamation marks on a ransome note - one is normal, two is worrying and any more is sign of deep seated insanity!

Mwahhhhh !!!!! :bouncy:
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Re: Yamaha TX81Z - Worth a look?

Postby The Elf » Fri Oct 26, 2018 2:31 pm

Dave B wrote:The Elf used to own at least 3 TX7s. I'm inclined to think that we should treat TX7s like exclamation marks on a ransome note - one is normal, two is worrying and any more is sign of deep seated insanity!
:bouncy:

'tis true. I had three of 'em. I used to borrow a couple more (and/or a DX7!) for mixes of the complex stuff. When the TX-802 came along it was a gift from the gods... :angel:
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Re: Yamaha TX81Z - Worth a look?

Postby minime123 » Sun Nov 25, 2018 6:02 pm

I'd recommend it for low cost hardware-based FM synthesis. You'll want to get an editor for it though.
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Re: Yamaha TX81Z - Worth a look?

Postby arkieboy » Sun Dec 16, 2018 5:42 pm

I used to have one back in the day when they were current. I don't think I frequently used one 'naked' in a performance, but I got great mileage out of layering it first with my GR700 (velocity sensitive JX3P) and then my Matrix 6R.

I eventually sold it after I bought a D550 because you could get the same kind of results out of that box. But never anything quite as warm or sparkly as the D50 engine was neither as warm as the Matrix or a sparkly as FM ...

Would I re-buy? Possibly - but there are so many other things that I'd spend my money on first.
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