PreenFM2 vs. Yamaha FM Sound?

Just wondering if those who had a PreenFM2 could comment on how it SOUNDS compared to the Yamaha (or Korg) FMs.

I know the Preen has 6 operators and multiple waveforms, so it seems damn flexible, but it’s technically frequency modulation versus phase modulation, though I hear these are identical in terms of sound? From what I read the original Preen was a bit harsh, but that’s less the case with the 2. I also know some people prefer the original 12 bit DX/TX7 for its warmth, but oddly I like the DX7/TX802 sound for its clarity. From the few demos I’ve heard on youtube or soundcloud the Preen sounds amazing, and I’m really curious what it sounds like run through analog filters. It’s clearly got a MUCH better interface than the Yamahas, but now there are all sorts of editors for these, including hardware.

Anyone have a Preen AND a Yamaha that can comment on sound? I’m just wondering if a Preen replaces classic Yamahas or complements them. I make synthbased spacerock, mostly with analog gear, but I like older digital, particularly with analog filters (ie: SQ-80). I find the 12bit yamahas sound too muddy for me, while the later generation SY stuff is full of breathy atmospheric sounds I don’t really like, really difficult to program, and hardware editors are mostly for the TX line, I don’t know of any for the SY line. I also think the interface on the Korg FMs is quite cool, only 4 operator and I’m not sure if 16 or 12 bit, but I’m guessing it leads you to program differently. For what it’s worth, I played the Reface Dx, and was really surprised at how easy it is to program and how good it sounds. Add some knobs and Yamaha could have a really interesting synth there.

Anyway, would you complement a PreenFM2 with another FM, and if so, why?

“though I hear these are identical in terms of sound?”

Not exactly. There is one case where they are identical in terms of sound and that’s if the modulator and the carrier are both sine waves. So 2 operator FM and 2 operator PM are the same, but as soon as you start chaining operators there’s a difference, because the first operator is modulating the second into something that is no longer a sine wave, so when that one then modulates the third (the carrier), you no longer get the same result.

I find it easiest to understand the difference with a hypothetical square wave modulator. If you modulate the frequency, then the frequency of the carrier changes suddenly when the square wave flips. It’ll run faster than ‘normal’ when the square wave is high and slower than normal when the square wave is low and at no point will it actually run at its ‘centre’ frequency (unless you turn the modulation to 0).
In a phase modulation system, the carrier runs at its centre frequency at all times and the flipping of the square wave jumps it forwards and backwards in phase, causing a discontinuity.

I believe it’s possible to theoretically get the same sounds with both methods, but they require vastly different modulator waveforms to get the same results. The sound produced by a square modulator in PM, would require a modulator with alternating positive and negative pulses of high amplitude and short duration in FM. The positive pulse would make the carrier run much faster for a moment, effectively jumping its phase ahead before being left to run at its own ‘centre’ frequency. The corresponding negative pulse would then jump it back again.

So in theory they can sound the same, but in practice there will always be differences I think.

Sorry, for not answering your actual question. I do have a PreenFM2, which I really like, but have never played a real Yamaha ‘FM’ synth.

I’ve both had a PreenFM2 and a Yamaha DX2 and a TX. In my experience they sound really different though of the same family of synthesis. That they sound different is also due to the different user interface and options that makes you create different sounds.
The UI on the PreenFM2 is really good but FM synthesis is still really deep so it won’t be like editing an analog synth. The PreenFM2 can do all kind of things and it also has (digital) lowpass filters. If you really like to dig deep into a synth and program your own presets i’m sure you can use it in your music and you’ll create things you get from any other synth out there.
One thing lacking a bit on the PreenFM2 is a good collection of presets that show of all it can do.
You can import yamaha DX presets and that will give you a great start for lots of sounds. They will be similar to the sounds they are supposed to be but also have a different ‘character’ somehow.

The PreenFM2 doesn’t have the warmth i like of the 12 bit dx’s. It’s really a lot more ‘digital’ sounding.
For me the DX2 was to big to keep and the PreenFM2 didn’t give me the warmth so now i have a CZ101 that gives me the sounds in that department.

It’s worth noting that the PreenFM doesn’t have operator feedback, which the Yamaha FM synths had.

While the multiple operator waveforms of the Preen more than make up for this in terms of sonic flexibility, it does mean that any imported DX patches that made use of operator feedback will sound radically different on the Preen. I found a lot of the DX-7 drum/percussion patches simply don’t work on the Preen, which is a shame.

Having said that, it’s perfectly possible to create these kinds of sounds on the Preen if you start from scratch.


1 Like

I never had a DX, nor did I ever like the sound of them… but that’s probably because we have been bombarded ad nauseam with DX presets through all of 80s pop history. I actually like the digitalness of the PreenFM, plus if you want it to sound a bit warmer, just feed it through an analog lowpass filter and/or compressor.

Being a former owner of DX7, DX21, TX81Z, DX200 and Preen FM2: The preen is a bit different from yamahas: “real” fm vs phase modulation, no operator feedback, onboard filter, etc…

If you think about buying a preen so you can load dx7 presets, you’ll be disappointed as they probably won’t sound the same in many cases.

The Funkyfi presets for the PreenFM really show it off.

Aren’t the Funkyfi presets originally for the PreenFm 1? The 2 is quite a different beast.
The one was really harsh and digital sounding. Great for industrial.

They’ve been ported across.


Yeah i think i even had them in my PreenFm2 … They are nice but don’t make a lot of use of all the extra possibilities from the 2

Well, FM takes a lot of work to program :slight_smile:

I got half way through a bank for the PreenFm2… Then I got busy. It takes a lot of time. It’s on the PreenFm forum somewhere under ‘Funky Bank 2’.

thanks so much for the info everyone, this was exactly the sort of feedback I was looking for!

I know you were asking about sound here but as far as ease of programming goes, the korg 707 and ds8 are the easiest and quickest…by far. I can’t say that I miss access to all four operators (in the korg implementation they are grouped into two ‘oscillators’) and definitely don’t miss trying to juggle six operators. I like the grit and punch of the old yamaha chips (like in the 707/ds8). FM can be harsh or soft n’ cuddly depending on how you program it. The FB-01 has a low pass filter directly before the audio outputs that cuts off a lot of the harsh highs, so that might be interesting to you if you like that sound. On paper it is one of the best FM synths there is…just impossible to control unless you have a PC (all kinds of packed sysex messages). All of the above are cheaper than the preen2 if that is a concern.