I miss my DX7, so what do I do in 2020?

I’ve been having a DX7 obsession.
It was my first synth back in the day.

I’d like to incorporate some of the textures that the DX7 & FM do well into my rig which incorporates Emu romplers, analog, analog hybrid, and samplers. Definitely NOT looking for a ‘do all’ type of synth, nor one with a sequencer.


  • MIDI controllable (obvs)
  • Accepts DX7 SysEx and/or is suitably editable. (I doubt I can remember how to pgm the DX7, but it’d be fun to see how much comes back to me!)
  • Prefer something that isn’t ‘desktop’ as my current rig for performance (if that ever happens again) is a keyboard + Pyramid on a stand with a rack case (full) with a couple things setting on top.

I’m thinking my options are:

  • Dexed (or similar software emulator) -> Sample that -> play on Rample (or other sample playback device)
    Pro: I have these now; Dexed is a great emulator & has the textures I’m looking for
    Con: Playability/flexibility altered by sampling (as in, Velocity no longer controls synth parameters, etc)

  • Microdexed + Teensy (homebuild)
    Pro: Playability perhaps (It’s reportedly a thorough emulation in a teensy package); would be small so I can incorporate it mounted on the inside wall of existing rack case
    Con: Totes unknown quality/resiliency; I rarely finish projects like this; case suitability questionable

  • Zynthian + Dexed
    Pro: Available; small package; Dexed is a great emulator & has the textures I’m looking for
    Con: Consensus seems to be Zynthian unreliable for live performance; threads on Zynthian.org regarding Dexed are daunting/confusing (I want to play music, not troubleshoot hardware); desktop type module, although it’s relatively small and might work with existing rig.

  • PreenFM
    Pro: Available; and sexy
    Con: operators can’t modulate themselves, which I think was necessary in the patches I want to do; again a desktop module, but also relatively small

  • rPi + DAC + Dexed (homebuild and “eeek!”)
    Pro: As flexible as I want it to be; might likely be small enough to be mounted inside my existing rack case
    Con: Have to design/build that flexibility and again: projects like this I rarely finish, etc (would most likely hire someone to do this for this option)

  • ReverbDOTcom: buy used DX7 or TX802
    Pro: Real & actual synths for familiarity & comfort!
    Con: Old gear which means there will be something wrong with them and I’ll need to build a stronger relationship with a tech; with a DX7 would most likely sample it, which puts me back at the first option; don’t really have room in my rack for a TX, but will make it if the option is resilient

  • Yamaha Reface DX
    Pro: Available
    Con: Doesn’t really have the sound I’m looking for; doesn’t read DX7 SysEx

  • Korg Volca FM
    Pro: Available
    Con: 3 Voices; sound quality=?

Do you think I’ve covered all my options there?

I was in a similar situation and went for the reface DX. No regrets, sounds great, nice (not full size) keys and decent FX. First thing I did was wipe all presets, so no comments on the stock sounds. Editing from panel is fine, although the sliders sometimes have a will of their own.

Edit: beware it doesn’t read dx7 patches…

Korg Volca FM? I’ve never used one, but according to Korg:

The volca fm perfectly reproduces the sound engine of the classic digital synthesizer that made the world aware of FM synthesis. Its six operators and 32 algorithms provide complete compatibility, and it can even load files in the SYS-EX/SYX format of the Yamaha DX7.

Only 3 voices, though, so may be too limited depending on your needs.

Thanks for the recommendation.
I may have to check it out in a store to hear it.
What I’ve heard online does not fit my use case.

Since you mentioned similar situation, which DX7 model did you use and do you find the Reface stands up to that level of professional sound quality?

I’m not sure I would agree with their marketing department, tho.
I’ll have to give it another look, tho. Thanks!

It can be pretty wild, but obviously tamed bordering to cliche. I normally end up using sounds that don’t call too much attention to themselves, at least in full tracks.

If you live with links to my music, here are a few track I did in the time Ive had it (not that long). All sounds from the reface are my own, if you wanna find out what the reface is doing in the tracks, it’s in the descriptions below the videos on YouTube. Maybe that’s helpful, otherwise please disregard😏

EDIT: took down the embedded videos, to not fall victim of self promotion.

Love the music.
Honestly I’m not liking the Reface sound at all from that, tho.
Great in your mix, but doesn’t have the qualities I’m seeking.
Appreciate the followup - and again: love the music!
(Yes, sorry - I ffwd to the bits that show you playing the Reface. Sorry)

1 Like

No problem, i think it’s down to my taste being different from yours, not the capabilities of the reface.

OTOH, you might be right, it might not be for you after all, just trying to help with examples from the real world (or my real world), hope it was somewhat useful after all :+1:

1 Like

Oh, our tastes are completely different, indeed! :slight_smile: Case in point: my rig is more MIDI/digital synth oriented with romplers with Rample as my only Eurorack module.
This is what makes things awesome, but unfortunately kind of screws with the world of honest reviews in this day of “only be positive”. I’d say we need a series of reviews that are the equivalent of some cranky old guy yelling about what’s wrong with these things instead of all the sponsored fluff pieces.

But yeah: I dismissed the reface early in my search.
There’s two particular textures I’m after - well, not necessarily specific patches, but similar characteristics across a range of patches that I’ve only heard on FM synths. I know I can sample these, but I figure a good FM synth would round out my current rig. My Prophet 12 gets part of the way there, but I can’t quite get it just right without more oscillators, I think. Then again, I don’t remember which algorithms help make that characteristic.

Perhaps I should look at that in Dexed and see if I can emulate it better on the P12. Although I prefer to use the P12 for other textures. I’m not sure I’m smart enough to do that.

I honestly appreciate the real world examples!
Your rig tho - my credit cards are screaming at me now.
Curses! LOL
(I’m not smart enough to run a rig like that)

I agree more than you can imagine with the lack of honest reviews. There are a few that I trust, but a lot of times I can’t figure out where the musician ends and the sales person takes over.

Best of luck with your quest. Maybe others will chime in. Otherwise you could try asking for opinions on reddit in the synthesizer sub.

1 Like

I’ve been really really interested in the reface DX but kept reading so so reviews about not being able to deeply program. It’s perfect for my studio though. Never had a chance to try out but I sure love the form factor and look of it.

One suggestion is the TX81Z. This is the only synth that’s still in my studio since the 90s and I love it. These days I run it through a Qtron and then a Slim Phatty. The result is absolutely incredible. Tx’s are still cheap. There’s even some knob controllers for them now.

The Korg FM is also great. I use Dexed to design sounds for the Korg but that’s it. I’m not fond of using a computer for FM synthesis. Just doesn’t have the same vibe as a physical instrument.

By far the best thing about the Korg Volca FM is that the fact that is it massively portable, so you can sit anywhere and just make sounds when you’re bored or on the bus or something.

Thanks for the advice, everyone!

I missed your edit.
I hope no one was lambasting you for posting your vid.
The video was a demo of where things fit musically for you - it truly helped me understand where you were coming from and helped me to form an opinion on the appropriateness of the gear for my application. It was extremely helpful.

Yes, it might have been a bit of self promotion.
But if most of us here can’t relate to that, then what are we doing trying to make music?
Okay, that last line was divisive. Sorry.
I’m trying to avoid divisive humour, but I still find it funny. Sorry.


No, no, I didn’t get any negative PMs or anything like that :+1:

1 Like

the elektron digitone sounds good

You forgot the mighty Yamaha Modx

1 Like

Oooh, thanks.
But i have no need/space/use for more keys .
I have nerve damage that ended my live keyboard and guitar playing (sad face), otherwise Id be all noms and drools on that.

Perhaps if they released a rack version - or would that be the Montage? Im so out of the Yamaha loop since…umm…the 80s.

weird that no one mentioned DX200, so i do: DX200.

1 Like

Thank you for the suggestion.