Yamaha TG77 / SY77: The Most Powerful FM Synths?

by Chadwick Wood
April 24th, 2019

It took me awhile to get my hands on a Yamaha TG77. These days, they are highly sought after and (frankly) often overpriced. But finally during one of my eBay trawls I found one with the typical TG77 problem of a burnt-out backlight on the display. So I grabbed it. Where we're going, we don't need backlights: the TG77 and its sibling the Yamaha SY77 are now supported in Patch Base.

I feel like a broken record, but I have to say: these were some of the most complex editors I've ever made. And the reason for the complexity is also the reason why these synths are so powerful: they offer unparalleled flexibility in FM programming. Like its ancestor the great DX7, the TG77 offers 6-operator FM synthesis. But then it goes much, much further: each operator can use 1 of 16 different waveforms (rather than just the old sine wave). And, you get 45 algorithms (the connections of the operators) instead of the DX7's 32. But really, you get so much more than 45 algorithms, because you can also arbitrarily add additional connections between operators! And you can quickly tweak the output levels of each of these connections. So really you can do anything that your FM dreams can come up with... you can even route noise or samples into your FM network.

And alllll of that combines to form 1 element in a TG77 sound. But each sound can have up to 4 elements! So you can make a single patch that plays 4 different FM elements at once. It. Is. Insane. Even my beloved FS1R can't really go as FM-deep as this thing. And in addition to the FM capabilities, you also get samples that you can layer into your sounds as well. Personally I'm not as excited about that aspect, but it does expand the sonic possibilities of this synth quite a bit.

Each of these elements then gets routed through 2 filters(!) for further sound shaping. And the envelopes can loop! The more I got to know the TG77 and SY77, the more I felt like Yamaha perfectly nailed FM with this synth. It's a DX7 with filters, more routing flexibility, better envelopes and a ton of horsepower.

And then there are Multis, which is another way of saying "Performances". You can have 16 different patches loaded at once, on 16 different channels. So you've got your own FM orchestra in a black box. There are also 4 different effects units to route your sounds through.

And panning! A weird and wild feature of these synths are their Pan Tables, where you can create envelopes to control the panning of a sound. There are a bunch of preset Pan Tables, but you can also create your own. Each element in a sound can use a different Pan Table, so when you press a single key on your keyboard, sounds go in all directions at once. 

That, in a nutshell, is what the TG77 and SY77 can do. And everything they can do, you can now do better in Patch Base. Quickly edit every aspect of these powerful synths, and manage your voice/multi/pan banks as well. Enjoy.