Nambu is the iOS FM Synth That DOESN’T want to be a DX7

(Image credit: iceWorks)

Despite hitting the market with the legendary DX7 in 1983 (after first testing the concept with the GS-1 two years earlier) the sound of FM synthesis is as popular as ever.

Forgoing the oscillators and waveforms of analogue synthesis to that point, FM synthesis used ‘frequency modulation’ between sine waves to create amazing modulation loops of simple sounds that, together, compete and contrast against each other to fill out the full range of frequencies. 

The results were otherwise impossible to produce new sounds, in particular stunning new lifelike bells, organ and bass tones, and countless eerie digital sounds all their own.

FM bass in particular is having a house music resurgence just about now and there are countless ways to get on board the FM train from dedicated hardware such as Korg’s Volca FM take, to plug-ins from the likes of Native Instruments FM8 and Arturia’s DX7 V.

Now comes iceGear Instruments new plug-in Nambu – a new 6-operator FM synth that ISN’T designed to copy the FM synths and sounds from 40 years ago.

Nambu’s trick is its semi-modular approach to building sounds. Rather than jam together the six, equally powerful operators (sine waveforms) in a host of combinations that only mathematicians could fully understand, Nambu features six operator types that lead to an altogether more structured and logical way of building sounds. 

The DX7, while great sounding, was notoriously difficult to program leading to many users simply sticking to the 64 presets that came on board

Nambu’s operator types are: FM Operator, Noise Operator, Oscillator Operator (an analogue synth style oscillator), Texture Operator, Filter Operator, Resonator Operator, each name providing a clue as to what each unique FM operator does best and instantly leading the programmer to better ‘visualise’ and build the sound they wish to make.

Stack simple FM Operators DX7-style or go more analogue with a waveform from the Osciallator Operator. Or stack and combine any or all of them.

All six are then combined not in the usual range of paired, stacked and pre-routed ‘algorithms’ used previously, but in your own unique builds and structures that can go far beyond the 32 available on the original DX7.

Add on four LFOs, four envelopes, and chorus, delay and reverb and you’ve got a while new way of building FM-style sounds. There’s even its own sequencer and programmable arpegiator on board.

And, of course, thanks to the multi-touch interface of your favourite iOS compatible device – be it iPhone or iPad – you can touch, edit and understand more parameters than has ever been possible before with FM.

Nambu is available on the App Store now for $14.99.

Preview video below.

MusicRadar Team

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