1 Korg Volca FM
Yamaha’s modern, affordable alternative to the DX7 is the Reface DX, but we prefer Korg’s Volca FM variant. Despite its compact size, six-operator engine and three-note poly-phony, it’s easier to tweak than Yamaha’s synth, and its carefully deployed features make it a powerful little machine. £113, buy here.
2 Arturia DX7 V
There are lots of great FM soft synths. NI’s FM 7, Ableton’s Operator and Logic’s EFM1 (though very basic) are all popular, but we like Arturia’s recreation of the DX7 which recreates the original’s vibe but adds modern touches like the ability to assign controls over your ADSR envelopes to MIDI. £133, www.arturia.com
3 Yamaha Montage 8
For those wanting a high-end option, Yamaha’s Montage continues the company’s FM legacy. It features eight operators in FM-X mode and as it’s essentially a semi-modular digital synth, you can go much deeper in programming than the DX7, whose sounds all appear on the Montage. £2,799, buy here.
4 Elektron Digitone Keys
After a run of innovative samplers and drum machines, few were expecting Elektron to drop an FM synth in 2018 – especially one that threw out the rulebook of UI design. The Keys is the latest update, and adds a keyboard alongside its trademark sequencer. £1,100, buy here.
5 Yamaha DX7 Arturia
While FM had been around since the 70s, the DX7 paved the way for an FM revolution in the 80s. As programming them is notoriously tricky, many producers just used the presets and countless classics owe their sound to it (think the bassline from Ghostbusters). £100–£450 (eBay), www.vintagesynth.com
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