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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Jan-17 > Akemie’s Castle & Akemie’s Taiko

Akemie’s Castle & Akemie’s Taiko

The expanding product line from ALM Busy Circuits now includes both an FM synth voice and an FM drum module. Dave Gale looks at the algorithms, to see if they lead him to DX7th heaven…

ALM BUSY CIRCUITS

Hark back to the mid-to-late 80s, and any well-listened synthesist will tell you that the DX7, from Yamaha, ruled the airwaves. Its sleek, clean design, coupled with its similarly accomplish sound largely consigned analogue synths to the secondhand ads, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Despite various attempts at what you might call a comeback, FM synthesis, as deployed in the Yamaha DX range, has yet to hark back to its heyday, and relive its former glory. There are many admirers of the FM sound, and you will hear said sonic colours popping up in music from the likes of Scando-hipster Lindstrøm, so it’s not without its fans – and is certainly commercial enough in sound, but I (like many, I suspect) always yearned for real-time control, which was never possible with a synth like the DX7. But now, Matthew Allum, the creative genius behind ALM Busy Circuits, has two FM-based modules offering both Synth and Drum FM voicing, and temptingly layered with pots and CV-input jack points, ready for some twiddling within a Eurorack.

FM synthesis, as deployed in the Yamaha DX range, has yet to relive its former glory

King of the castle

Some months ago, I remember having a conversation with Matthew where I asked him what was behind the naming of some of his modules. He told me the names were a closely guarded secret. So there you go!

Let’s start with Akemie’s Castle, which is the FM synth voice. The first thing you have to notice is that, unlike its DX predecessors, there is a large number of available pots to choose from, all offering an element of control over the FM voice. So before we dive in, a quick FM recap, so that we all understand the basic concept.

FM – no static

FM synths, a la Yamaha DX, did not use conventional oscillators, but instead used operators. These produced digitised, largely sine-wave tones, which would either be audible, or used to modulate the following operator.

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