FM is a conundrum. On one hand, it’s the ideal form of synthesis, capable of a rich range of sounds and transformations. On the other, it’s hard to actually get all that sound under control – the very thing that range would make you want to do. And accordingly, a lot of sound libraries have just skipped over FM altogether.

Not our man Francis Preve and Symplesound.

Here’s the concept: make FM fun and playable again. Make FM something where you want to start toying around and turning knobs, without fear that you’re going to get lost in a muddle of sound. And as usual, integrate those sounds with Ableton to inspire you to play with a controller (or Push) and get into automation and song making right away.

The Symplesound take on FM comes with a deep library of three instruments:

Yamaha DX7
Yamaha TX81Z
and Ableton Operator

That covers two original vintage hardware instruments and one more contemporary Ableton instrument, respectively. (The latter requires a copy of Operator, the others don’t.)

And it’s exactly what you want. It’s got loads of attention lavished on instruments you want, and skips over obscure stuff you don’t. So for the DX, you get Electric Bass, Electric Piano and Marimba multisampled, in a form you can tweak and play to your heart’s delight. There’s even chord select. It’s retro friendly, for sure – but could also be a staple for something new.

The 81Z selection for me is the real standout, in that it lets you cover a lot of vintage territory but in a way I think could be really versatile. The “Lately Bass” (“Solid Bass”) alone could be worth the price of admission, but then you get Perc Organ, Reed Piano (Wurli) and EZ Clav – now as beautiful for their distinctive simplicity as once for their realism. And there are Leads and Plucks, some velocity multisampled.

But then there’s Operator. Having a library for Operator might sound like overkill, but as beautiful as Robert Henke’s panel design was for the original, it’s still a sound designer’s instrument – it doesn’t quite reach that level of being able to turn a knob and immediately get a satisfying result. That’s where this collection comes in.

And then because it’s Symplesound, this isn’t just a collection in presets. It’s a lesson in history and sound design – both historically in music you know and for modern creative use. So you get complete tutorials. You get presets and macros that themselves tell a story – you’re learning something from Francis’ approach to sound design when you just turn a knob. The MIDI loops, rather than just giving you some dull stock building blocks, will genuinely demonstrate what the parameters are for and how to use automation. You’ll get a sense of where recognizable sounds come from — which might prompt you to recreate something you know, or to move beyond that and find some new hit.

If you just want to play around, you can go do that.

US$14.99 for the sampled Yamaha libraries, $24.99 for the Operator library, or get the bundle for $49.99.

And if you care about the history and technique here, you can nerd out with the creator. Francis Preve is a regular on this site precisely because his experience in sound design, teaching, and production spans decades, and … let’s be honest, because he likes to nerd out about his passion as much as we do. So it’s worth reading the blog post for some background.

The Making of The FM Collection [Symplesound]

I mean, how else would you curl up for a nice evening with a set of FM synthesis presets?! That’s why we love you, Fran.

  • disqus_nURY1n6kAG

    no thx

  • Peter, I have to say: CDM is a consistent pleasure chiefly because you are so good at LIKING things, in a deep, considered, and genuine way. Maybe that sounds basic but… it’s actually really remarkable! And this post is a prime example.

    Just a random note to say thanks, and keep it up, and also, I bought these libraries 🙂

  • Polite Society

    I really wish someone would do an analysis of these kinds of classic fm sounds, and break them down. Like to see what kind of ratios and envelopes. I feel much more comfortable with fm than I used to be, but certainly couldn’t dial them in like i could standard subtractive sounds.

    • Random Chance

      How about “FM: Theory and Applications” by John Chowning? It’s hard to get any more classic than that. Don’t let the scholarly title scare you away.

    • Francis Prève

      Yesterday, I tweeted a tutorial on the basics of FM synthesis that explains everything in analog terms. I’ve been using it for my classes and it seems to help students get past the initial learning curve 🙂

  • max

    “make fm fun and playable again”
    *cough* don’t tell me you had fun programming an dx7 …
    and it was playable because ppl used the awful presets like Electric Piano and Marimba …
    the sounds are a mixed bag in a depeche mode meets whitney houston kind of way

  • Matt

    Wow, just listening to these demos, Operator can’t touch the sample-based libraries for the clean bass and crystal top I associate with classic Yamaha FM. The Operator demo sounds thin and one-dimensional in comparison. NI’s FM7 does a great job of getting there, but I’ve never been able to get satisfaction from Operator for these types of sounds. Very cool library though!

  • Michael M

    I’ve literally been checking the SympleSound page every few days since I bought the whole Analog Collection. I have used one or more of those in every track since.

    The DX7 and TX81Z libraries are an instant buy for me… Not sure about Operator since I already have lots of presets for it. But I’ll probably end up buying that one too because these libraries are just so usable.

    Thanks Francis! And Peter for letting me know!

  • The DX7 was one of my first synths, awesome sounds but was a pain to program!