FM synths WITHOUT keyboards and sequencers?

hi y’all after lurking in some threads and deciding to let my volca fm go i’m thinking…whats a good tabletop fm synth? i dont need keyboards, i dont need a sequencer.

what i want:

  • lots of tweakability
  • lots of ‘happy accidents’
  • little or no menu diving i HATE it
  • bizarro otherworldy ‘klingon party’ fm goodness

i’ve looked at the preem fm - how simple is it?

anything else? i dont want huge ass monsters sitting at my desk

Preen or VolcaFM would likely be your best options.

a nozoid mmo-3 would be right up your alley methinks

I have the preenfm and it’s great but lots of menus

yeah, if you’re looking an fm with more immediate tweakability than the volca, I think you’re out of luck. FM isn’t really known for that outside of the softsynth domain. The preenfm2 is a beautiful synth, but the menu thing will certainly drive you crazy if you don’t like menus.

if you want tweakability, you can always get a dx7 and one of these:


wow, hadn’t heard of the mmo-3. that looks like just the thing! Damn, I want one of those!

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Fat chance on the “no menu-diving” FM synth. FM is a purely digital form of synthesis, unless you put an analogue filter and amp in the signal path. To put a knob-per-function on an FM synth would make for a very knobby front panel (see Palm’s post) and one bloody expensive synth.
I’ve been wanting to get an FM synth, though finding one what is easily programmed it proving to be a task. The VolcaFM is prtty hobbled really, with the ReFace DX trumping it, though that too is rather limited even though it’s closer to the famed DX7. I’ve voiced my opinion of Arduinos in acrylic boxes elsewhere, so that aside, the PreenFM2 is fairly tasty sounding though will require large amounts of menu-diving. Even the big synth FM offerings from Korg and Yamaha are rather scant with regards to front face control…
So, after researching all the new-wave of FM synths, I’m going back to looking for a TX81Z. They are cheap (compared to a brand new pro-FM synth), have a way higher voice and operator count than the VolcaFM and Reface DX and fit in a rack (BYO controller keyboard). All that is needed for it to be a winner is one of Palm’s programmers, heheh…

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I have a Yamaha TX81Z which is 1u rack and is multi Timbre at 4 parts, I love it and have its own karacter…
But I think the best tabletop is tha dx200

@knightswhosayneve mmo-3 is fm? hot damn now that i look at it its got it all

my main thing is portability - not that i travel around a lot with my gear, its just that i wanna pare down as much as possible

is it heavy? how do you folks transport it without damage

is it meant to just sit around all da time or wottt

From the product page (last bullet point is what you are after):


  • 30 potentiometers, 12 bits input
  • 44.1KHz audio synthesis
  • about 10KHz for CV computation (modulations are at audio rate)
  • 24 bits audio ADC and DAC
  • 32 bits audio synthesis
  • 12 bits ADC for the potentiometers and CV in
  • about 80 dB S/N for the audio line-out
  • 0.5 ms IN/OUT audio latency
  • cortex M3 32 bits micro-controller (from an arduino due)
  • 9 to 12V power supply (1 standard 2.1mm power plug or 1 standard eurorack plug)
  • low power consumption (300mA @ 12V)
  • eurorack compatible (3U, 10 inches : 50HP)
  • 280 x 150 x 60mm wood (oak) box
  • about 620g

The new Elektron Digitone sounds very nice but cannot be recommended at this point. All the new Elektron boxes are buggy and often have manufacturing defects. Lots of people are having problems right now.

you could always build/buy a Stereoping Synth Controller to go along w/ the TX81Z. I believe it even has something in the firmware to reduce the data transmission speed so the TX81Z doesn’t crash. i remember hooking up a BCR2000 to my old TX and being very frustrated as anything but a glacial knob twist made it crash.

i have the Stereoping Qfeld Controller for the Blofeld and it makes patching it 1000x more fun.