Scott Rider, a hobbyist user from the US, writes:

Having wanted a DX1 since 1984, I finally had the great fortune to discover one for sale about a year ago. I paid US$1000 for the DX1, a custom-built Calzone flight cabinet, two sets of volume and switch pedals, two keyboard stands and about a dozen ROM cartridges. I think it was a pretty good bargain given that only about 150 DX1s were made over 15 years ago.
Being the hardware circuit hacker I am, I got the machine home and into the house and onto a stand with the help of my brother. I then promptly got out a screwdriver and opened it up.

The machine has five microprocessors and 13 circuit boards. The wooden, full weighted-action keyboard assembly is immense, taking up about 65% of the space inside the enclosure. Underneath the keyboard are seven circuit boards that comprise the polyphonic aftertouch system, managed by one of the processors. The aftertouch data is sent to the dual-DX voice engine where it modifies specific operator attributes according to the settings in the edit menu. It should be noted that the polyphonic aftertouch information cannot be sent via MIDI: the data from the multiple keys would quickly overwhelm the rather limited data rate (31,250 bits per second) of MIDI and cause all sorts of lag and other undersirable effects. The overall aftertouch of the keyboard rank is transmitted over MIDI such as is done on a DX7.

The cryptic 16x2 line LCD of the DX7 made programming FM digital voices a challenge. While DX programming in itself is an art, it is made considerably easier on the DX1 by virture of the 750-plus LED programming display. This display, which takes up 50% of the front panel, will show all of the settings for a given operator. It also shows the algorithm and keyboard rate scaling. This display is further augmented by a 40x2 character backlit LCD, which displays the voice patch names, voice data, performance data and utility data. The parameter and program select buttons are real buttons (as opposed to the tactile-membrane switches of the DX7), with most buttons containing an LED to show the panel status--very handy for that dark stage or studio.

The DX7 had a single performance memory setting for all patches. The DX1 has not only performance settings for each patch of each DX engine, but also has memory settings that store which pair of DX patches and performance settings are to be used together. This makes it very easy to tailor the patches to one's performing style, whether on stage or in the studio.

The DX1 is bi-timbral: it has two 6-operator DX voice engines, each controlled by its own dedicated CPU. This is equivalent to two DX7s with the added capabilities of the performance-pair settings described above. The DX engines use the same OP-S and EG-S custom chipset, a 12-bit DAC and 4-bit DAC reference voltage prescaler. Each DX engine has its own front-panel volume expression pedal controls, as well as a 5th-order lowpass filter to remove digital waveform clock noise.

The DX1 is built in a manner that is rarely seen in synthesizers today. It is literally built like a tank from a heavy-gauge steel chassis, rosewood enclosure, custom frame pieces, heavy-duty power supply and about 8,000 electronic components. It weighs in at 50kg (112.5 pounds), and is most assuredly not a machine to be moved around by one person. I might note the flight cabinet alone weighs another 65 pounds; with the DX1 in its cabinet it is a task for two people to move the 180-pound behemoth even if it has heavy-duty casters.

I played with a DX1 in 1985; it is what induced me to buy the DX7 back then that I still own today. It was the feel of the DX1 keyboard I couldn't be without, however, and I bought the KX88 a year later to recapture much of what I remember the DX1's keyboard feeling like. There is something akin to magic in the DX1, however, and as the years went by I wondered if I'd find one in great condition at a bargain price. It took 15 years, but I found one. Now it sits in the center of my studio, attached to a TX816, a rack of effects and a mixer. I play it several hours a week, calling up and experimenting with the voices on the DX1 and assigning them to TF1 modules. It is pretty fun to find out where one can go when they have the right 'starship course plotting device' (thats what my brother called it the first time he saw it turned on).

Scott Rider is a VIP member of the DX1 owners club

Due to spaming reasons, mail adress has
to be removed. For contacting the author
please send message to

go back to help index  



go back to help index