A firmware update for the cut-price Yamaha DX9 synth makes it more like a DX7

Yamaha DX9
(Image credit: Espen Kraft/YouTube)

We’re used to seeing firmware updates for synths released in the recent past, but how about one for an instrument that came to market 40 years ago?

We’re talking about the DX9, a Yamaha synth that was released in 1983 and served as a more affordable version of the legendary DX7. It turns out, though, that some of its limitations were ‘artificially’ restricted in the firmware, such as the four-operator limit. The DX7, of course, had six operators.

Fear not, though: four decades on, an ‘alternative firmware ROM’ has been released. This is designed to “uplift the DX9's functionality to more closely match that of the DX7”.

As well as adding those two operators, the firmware also gives the DX9 the ability to play DX7 patches and makes the synth velocity-sensitive. That said, the DX9 keyboard doesn’t support this feature, and it’s not clear whether velocity sensitivity is supported via MIDI, either. 

Other improvements include the implementation of the DX7’s pitch EG, along with DX7-style operator scaling and portamento/glissando.

Potential users of the firmware should note that it’s not a patch, but an entirely new ROM. What’s more, it’s currently described as “highly experimental”, and we’re advised that “installing the firmware for everyday general use isn't recommended just yet.”

On the plus side, the developer says that “the risk of any harm coming to your DX9 as a result of using this ROM is incredibly, incredibly small,” but does caveat that by adding that it “takes no responsibility for any issues that may arise as a result of using this alternate firmware”.

It’s fair to say that this is a pretty niche synth update, then, but if you have an old DX9 kicking around, it might just give it a new lease of life. It’s also worth noting that, given that it’s very much seen as the DX7’s poor relation, it sells for far less on the second-hand market, but its potential value to you in the studio may just have increased.

You can download the alternative DX9 firmware and find out how to install it via GitHub. Check out the video below to find out what the synth was all about.

(Via Synthtopia)

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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