Steinberg Syntworks TX81Z editor v. 2.0

Steinberg Syntworks TX81Z editor v. 2.0

A program made by Peter Linsener
Developped with CCD ST-Pascal
Cracked by the M.C.A.

People using hardware synths and samplers still appreciate the synth editors made for Atari. Steinberg started with Synthworks in 1988. It became a famous series, supporting many great synths from Roland, Yamaha, Kawai, Ensoniq and Korg. Of course it is mostly older models are supported by Atari editors. For this review I used the TX81Z editor for my Yamaha TX81Z synth. Since I don’t own the official version, I used a crack by MCA. Contrary to most MCA cracks, I regret to say that this one is crippled. To cut a long story short: you can happily use this version as an editor to build sounds from scratch, but the librarian function seems useless.

The Age of Atari Synth Editors
In the eighties synthesizers lost most of their knobs and sliders in favour of menus and parameters. As a result, nearly no one knew how to program their own sounds anymore. Scrolling through menus and changing parameters wasn’t intuitive. On top of that: the DX7 (1983) and other Yamaha FM-synths became very popular, and FM synthesis seemed to be higher science. Luckily enough, companies like Steinberg developed synth editors and librarians. Making it easier to edit your sounds and exchange presets between synthesizer and computer.

The TX81Z and FM Synthesis
The Yamaha TX81Z (1986) was a budget module: a black box with sounds without a keyboard. It was enough to make most people give up on editing and limiting their selves using presets. The presets are not all that impressive by today’s standards: cheesy brass and other GM-sounds. But FM-synths became famous for their e-piano’s, bells and… basses.
One preset of the TX81Z made history: the C15 Lately Bass starred in hundreds of dance hits in the late eighties/ early nineties: from Madonna’s ‘Vogue’ to Ace of Base’s ‘All That She Wants.’ This sound was inspired by the bass in Janet Jackson’s song ‘What Have You Done for Me LATELY.’
The TX81Z has been looked upon as being less ‘phat’ than it’s famous predecessor, the mega selling DX7. The TX has 4 instead of 6 operators/FM oscillators. But this difference is only theoretical, since the TX81Z is multi-timbral and with some smart layering and detuning, this synth can be as ‘phat’ as any other synth, FM or analogue. And don’t let the cheesy brass presets fool you: this synth can still sound modern. Look at this video from a guy creating some electro house bassline.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yt0Eg1gPyEg&feature=fvw

Frequency Modulation (FM) synthesis became famous with the Yamaha synths in the eighties. Sounds were made by oscillators (carriers) and shaped by other oscillators (modulators). So, frequency plus modulation = FM. There’s no difference between carriers and modulators, they can both switch functions. An oscillator together with its individual Volume Envelope is called an Operator.
Carriers and Modulators are organised in structures called ‘algorithms.’ The TX81Z has 8 different algorithms. The results of the modulators and algorithms are quite unpredictable. You just have to experiment.
The early FM synths came with oscillators that basically produced sinus waveforms. The TX81Z has 7 other waveforms, but don’t expect your average saw, square and triangle. They look more like Pulseform Width-waves. Those extra waveforms are enough to give this synthesizer a unique character, if you know how to tame the beast.

Starting with the TX/DX editor
Yamaha made more 4 operator synths than just the TX81Z. The synth structure and sounds of DX21, DX27, DX100, DX11 and TX81Z are nearly the same. So you only need this synth editor the edit them all. Within this program you can edit 4 TX/DX synths at the same time. Only this editor can do this: others like YSeditor give you a choice or allow you to use 4 different programs at once: 4OP.
Not all TX/DX synths have the same parameters: if your synth doesn’t possess certain options, Syntworks will grey out those missing parameters.

You can choose your DX/TX synths and their midi channels in the Data Transfer Manager. It’s the opening screen of this program.
But here the trouble begins. All the time you get the message: ‘Please connect the Device on Channel X’ And no matter what you do, this message will repeat until you hit Cancel twice. I’ve tested this program on my STe, MegaSTe and STeem. I’ve tried all settings, changes and midi channels, switched bulk dump protection off... Everytime I’ve got the same result below.

Single Mode and Performance Mode
Despite this message, the editor was able to connect with my synth. I went to the Sound page and changed the algorithm of a TX81Z sound and the display showed this change immediately.
The TX81Z has two modes: Single and Performance. The Sound Page is the page where you do most of the programming needed to create or change a sound in Single mode. If you want to edit a multi-timbral set-up you go to the Performance page.

Fantastic Sound Page



Unlike Synthwork versions for other synths, the TX81Z editor works in a GEM environment. The program is mouse driven. Left and right mouse clicks increase or decrease numbers. Some pages show a kind of mod-wheel to change values. Three knobs besides this wheel allow making precise adjustments. It’s also possible to type in values.
The Sound Page is a dream to work with: easy and intuitive. Yamaha’s user manual has only one big fault: it doesn’t show the 8 algorithms. This Steinberg editor shows pictures of the algorithms. Making it very easy to understand what you’re doing.

Another strong point of the Synthworks Sound Page is the way the Operators are made visible. You see the four operators on one screen. So you don’t have to switch between them, which is annoying in other editors. You can shape each ADSDR-envelop with the mouse. That’s a lot easier then filling in numbers.

Do you want another waveform? Just click on the icons representing the waveforms under each operator. Just one critical remark: it would be nice if Synthworks pointed out whether an operator is carrier or modulator, like freeware YSEditor does. All other operator parameters are on this page too, so are the LFO settings.

Handy Performance Page



In the Performance Page you make the multi-timbral settings. This Yamaha is a very flexible instrument. You can have maximal eight voices on eight different midichannels, or make a split keyboard setting on just one channel. Or make combinations of both possibilities: a drumkit on one channel using the split keyboard. And bass and other sounds on different midi channels. You can layer sounds too. With some detuning and panning this can produce some really ‘phat’ sounds. This page really speaks for itself. A very nice and modern feature is the way you can layer/ divide the sounds on the screen keyboard. Just use the mouse to draw your note settings.

Other functions
Next is the Creator Page. Since I’m using a crack, I don’t have the Synthworks manual. It took me some time to figure out how this page works. It looks very similar to the Sound Page. Only it’s impossible to fill in values. After some research I found out that the Creator Page is a random sound generator.
Above the page there are some buttons. You can import three standard masks: one to create random envelopes, one to mash up your sound parameters and one ‘general’ mask. On this page however nothing seems to happen. But if you push the ‘Create’ button and go back to the Sound Page you see what has happened. Depending on the mask you’ve used, the Operator envelopes or sound parameters have changed drastically. Not all outcomes are good, but with some adjustments you can achieve some original sounds. Experimentation is the keyword for this Creator Page.

The Effect Page allows you to adjust delay, pan and chord settings. With the last function you can program 4-note chords on one key.  Each key can have different chords: minor, major, seventh etc. This is a very flexible option. Only the pseudo reverb is not on this page. It’s on the Sound Page.

The TX81Z has some smart microtune options making it possible the use non-western scales and tunings. The TX has 11 preset tunings and you can create your own tunings on the Microtune Page.

The Program Change Table is another flexible option of this Yamaha instrument. Instead of a rigid ‘Program Change number one chooses the first sound’, the TX81Z allows you to program your own changes: Program Change 1 can choose single sound 26 and PC 2 can be Multi-setup 5… whatever you want.

In the System Page users can make their settings for Master Tune, Transmit Channel, Memory Protect On/Of and other midi messages.

The Keyboard Page speaks for itself. Users can also play sounds on the number keys (above the letters) of their Atari keyboard.

Menu Scheme with Manual Reference


Menu name

Page/Function

ShortKey

Yamaha owners manual

Pages

Sound Page

p. 12-23, 83-85 (About FM)

Pages

Performance Page

p. 35-41

Pages

Creator Page

Random sound generator

Pages

Effect Page

p. 29-31

Pages

Microtune Page

p. 31

Pages

Prg Change Table

p. 26

Pages

System Page

p. 24-27

Pages

Keyboard

 

Pages

Transfer Manager

 

Pages

Sound Memory

 

Pages

Perf. Memory

+

 

Pages

Quit program

Q

 

Set-up

Invert Color (B/W)

-

 

Set-up

AM-Automatic

-

 

Set-up

Warnings

-

 

Set-up

Midi Thru

-

 

Options

Format Disc

-

 

Options

Update Files

-

 

Options

Copy File

-

 

Options

Rename File

-

 

Options

Delete File

-

 

Multitasking with M-ROS
Steinberg products don’t work under multi-tasking Atari OS’s like MagiC, but Steinberg designed their own pseudo multi-tasking system called M-ROS. Programs supporting M-ROS (Steinberg only) can be started in the Switcher program, making switching between Cubase, Avalon and synthworks editors easy. The only problem is memory. The ST(e) has maximum 4 Mb memory. The TX-editor won’t run under 1024 kB and Cubase 3 demands 2 MB. Avalon is less demanding, but with samples you can easily run out of memory, using these three programs and Switcher.
If you’re working on a song in Cubase and want to make adjustments to the TX81Z sounds. Then it’s very convenient that you can switch between the programs, without having to close and start them each time.

The Librarian: bad crack or am I stupid?
And now comes the bad news. I’ve told you already about those messages ‘Please connect the Device on Channel X’. And that whatever I did, I couldn’t get my settings accepted. The consequences are that the Librarian function doesn’t work. Sending and receiving single presets or banks between Synthworks and the TX81Z seems impossible. This effects the following pages: Data Transfer Manager, Sound Memory Pages and Performance Memory Page.
The full version of this editor allows you to exchange sounds between the synthesizer, the provided Steinberg sound banks on disk and the Temporary Bank. But I didn’t succeed.
Because of that omission, this crack is only useable if you want to program your sounds or performances from scratch. And if that’s what you want, I haven’t tried a better editor than this one.
If you use this crack and think I’ve missed the point, please correct me. I’ll be happy if someone will prove me wrong. However, I’m having no trouble with the librarian functions of YSEditor and 4OPDELUXE.

Alternatives for Steinbergs TX81Z editor
There are many dedicated and universal synth editors that support this popular Yamaha sound module.  The most I’ve tried are not as good as Steinberg’s editor; some good commercial editors like Musicode’s VDS are hard to get now.
4OPDELUXE from Dr.T/ Caged Artists supports the same DX/TX models as Synthworks. Like Synthworks with M-ROS Switcher you can use 4OPDELUXE in Dr. T’s dedicated ‘multi-tasking’ environment. However, 4OPDELUXE looks a bit primitive, has an illogical menu and isn’t built as ergonomically as Synthworks.

The best alternative is YSEditor by Martin Tarenskeen. Besides the TX81Z, YSEditor also supports DX11/DX21/DX27(S)/DX100, DS55, YS100/YS200, WT11, B200, TQ5 and V50. Only the editing of operators in Synthworks is a little bit better and YSEditor doesn’t support M-ROS. On the other hand: YSEditor supports standard .sys files, giving you access to thousands of TX sounds on the internet. Synthworks only supports its own standard, excluding the use of .sys and .mid files. If you have the choice between this Synthworks crack and YSEditor, you’d better use the latter. If you have the original dongled version of Steinberg’s TX81Z editor, I think it’s an undecided match between those two. Use them both.
 
Conclusion
The original version of Steinbergs TX81Z editor must be great to work with. I really enjoyed editing in the Sound, Creator and Performance Pages. However, this ‘cracked’ version feels like a demo with many important functions not working. The program also crashed on me often while I was trying to make the librarian functions work. Luckily enough, there’s a great and free alternative: YSEditor by Martin Tarenskeen.

Downloads:
Steinberg Synthworks TX81Z editor and sounds
Yamaha TX81Z owners manual
TX81Z sound librairy (.sys files)

Links:
YSEditor: http://www.home.zonnet.nl/m.tarenskeen/yseditor.htm
4OPDELUXE: http://tamw.atari-users.net/4opdelux.zip

TX81Z page: http://the-all.org/tx81z/index.html
Tutorial about FM-synthesis: http://the-all.org/tx81z/fm_overview.html

TX/DX Editor review in Atari Magazine: http://www.atarimagazines.com/startv4n4/patcheditor.html

Youtube:
How your TX81Z can sound modern: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yt0Eg1gPyEg&feature=fvw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BsQIENCUKyk&feature=related
Tutorial of Ableton Live’s 4Op synth Operator:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nE0XhQHiZxY&feature=related