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 FMDRIVE by Aly James Lab is a Virtual Instrument Audio Plugin. It functions as a VST Plugin.
FMDRIVE
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Product FMDRIVE
Developer Aly James Lab
Price (MSRP)
10.00 €
Type / Tags
Plug-in, App & Soundware Format(s)
Instrument(s) 
Operating System Availability
Operating
System
Latest
Version
Download Released
 
1.23
 
- Released
System Requirements
WIN XP/7/8.
Multi-core compatible VST host.
Supported Sample Formats (loads or saves) include
WAV
Miscellaneous Information
Copy ProtectionCustomized Per Customer

FMDRIVE is a VST synth that not only emulate the Sega Genesis/ Mega Drive FM sound chip YM2612 but also add a lot of extra features.

Concept

FMDRIVE is not another YM2612 emulator, it is a Windows VST instrument with live control in mind. Using a new modeled core with extended features, FMDRIVE adds the full FM power underneath the original concept...

You may think, the YM2612 chip is basically another 4 Operator Yamaha FM synth but there is more... DAC, SSG Envelopes and Special operating modes like CSM speech synthesis. On top of that the Sega had a distinctive distorted sound, more or less present, depending on revision models.

You can design a vast range of sounds on top of 33000 instruments presets already extracted from Games ROMs. Go further with extended controls, and even MIDI control the real hardware with a special add on interface: The GENMDM designed by Little Scale (not included).

FMDRIVE had been developed with the latest stable SynthEdit engine using custom C++ code and 3r party licensed code.

Runs on Windows 32/64-bit Systems and is multi-core compatible with 32-bit DAW/Host.

FMDRIVE is Donationware with a minimum of 10.00 €.

Global Features:

  1. User Friendly GUI: Big size, different panels for controls...
  2. Full MIDI Automation: With MIDI learn (right click to assign any MIDI message).
  3. Poly & Mono Mode with Glide Control.
  4. Direct Output or MD1: Headphone Out filtering.
  5. Two Audio Models: HQ and MD1 (Crystal clear and high resolution processing) and MD1 (emulate distortion and low resolution of MD1 model).

YM2612 Native Features:

  1. 4 Operators FM Synthesis
  2. Parametric EG: Envelope Generator.
  3. SSG EG
  4. CH3 Special Mode: (Different frequencies for each OP) also different key on/off possible by external MIDI channels.
  5. CSM Mode: Kind of early vocal synthesis.
  6. CH6 DAC Mode: 4 slots to load any PCM WAV files, auto converted to mono 8/4-bit 22/11/8kHz with selectable start/end points, pitch control and data loop.

YM2612 Extended Features:

  1. Overdrive Ladder effect Control: For MD1 MODE, adjust to taste.
  2. Rate Ratio Control: Change the global EG RATE/SPEED from *0.1 to *4 for rapid tweaking/adjustment of the envelopes.
  3. Graphic Software EG: Up to 8 stages /8 stage shapes/custom loop point (aka custom SSG) and sustain point.
  4. Custom LFO Rate for low rate modulation...
  5. Six Software LFO Shapes: Including noise.
  6. Attack & Release: Delay time for the LFO.
  7. DT2 (large detune) parameter imported from the YM2151 sound chip.
  8. Un-Sync PMS: Different PMS settings for each OP.
  9. OP Filter (aka Phase Modulation Filtering): Reduce the phase modulation at high frequencies according to the amount of filtering.
  10. Global FM Sample Rate Control (Skip audio samples) with Polyphonic Reducer (Kind of increasing the FM bit crushing audio effect according to the number of voice/keys played).
  11. DAC Custom Graphic Waveform (14 bytes): Draw Mode or LFSR (Random bytes generated, clock divider, sync with host tempo).
  12. CSM Enhanced Control: Timer A Controlled by MIDI notes (Shortest period limit is 1.13636ms note A5).

More:

  • Loads & Save TFI Patches: Manual or auto load for fast selection.
  • Load & Save Full Patch & Banks in FXB/FXP.
  • Controls the real Mega Drive hardware via MIDI: Requires Little Scale GENMDM MIDI Device.
  • A new VGM to TFI preset converter is available for free.

Some features of the YM2612 chip were not very documented until reverse engineered, that is why some people may think that some features are not possible on a real YM2612.

Everything FMDrive does was and is possible on the hardware except for these optional features : bit-crushing effect, high resolution mode, Un-Sync PMS and Modulation index filtering.

Explanation:

  • Custom LFOs, were usually done directly in the code or via a custom music engine. FMDrive does it for you without the hassle.
  • Custom envelope generator, made also in the code by directly writing to TL register, however, not as smooth as the internal EG.
  • CSM Mode Speech Synthesis is perfectly working on the chip, however there was no driver provided for it... so programmers had to code their own, the hard way.

FMDrive gives you a much easier control over CSM including a way to sync the timer speed to the current FNumber (playing note frequency).

There are two octave range that are usable "musically" so this makes some pretty cool "talking" sounds or instrument.
Game arts studio were among the rare teams who developed in the past a great engine on MSX computer that permitted them to provide unique sounding CSM synthesized speech in their games at the fraction of the size of PCM data.

Learn more on the CSM mode

  • Ladder effect emulation (DAC distortion of Model 1). I have found a way to emulate accurately the characteristic DAC distortion from the Model 1 Genesis witch greatly affect the tone...as far as I know, there is currently not even a game emulator platform that provides this feature.
  • Direct DAC waveforms. If you can play PCM, you can write waveforms...
  • SSG is a very powerful way of looping the entire envelope generator. this can easily reach audio rate to provides ring modulated type of sounds.
Made with SynthEdit
Latest User Reviews Average user rating of 5.00 from 2 reviews

Reviewed By Kayster82
March 30, 2014

This FM synth is the most hidden, underrated VST gem I have found...

It is probably one of the best FM synth on the market for that retro FM sound and I am not surprised it has been used by major Japanese FM gurus like Koshiro.

The sounds you can obtain are remarkable, so as the level of details (there is a manual on the website, 50 pages!). Even the crunchy overdrive of the sound chip is emulated which gives the release part of a sound this unique change in tone.
Really different and complementary to blockbuster FM synths.

The Genesis FM sound chip (YM2612) that is fully emulated here is different than the one VOPM is based on (YM2151) and this is a common mistake I have made over the years as someone using VOPM for Genesis emulated FM sound source.
Of course it is the same technology under the hood but the YM2612 has many different features, most of them are really useful.

There is a special running mode for sound effects or drums, looping envelopes that can be inverted and even some strange speech mode (aka CSM) which seems to triggers the envelopes in a high speed loop in order to produce basic formants.
The sound chip can also handle PCM samples which FMDrive does as well (import .wav files).
The sample you play through FMDrive sounds crunchier and dirtier, mostly useful for drums.

It is so accurate that you can transfer the FMDrive output to some other languages for real Yamaha sound chips (see Youtube, there is a lots of videos.)
One thing that is so cool is the ability to import some sound presets that you can dump from a PC console emulator program, a tracker like VGMM and also VOPM (the .opm format can converted into the .tfi format easily.)
You can also extract the juice of a .VGM file which is a game music standard format for Game Music.
This will give you a solid basis of already made sounds to start with.
I must say that while there is a large amount of presets available from games, the most outstanding sounds I have made with FMDrive comes from personal experimentation or live changing the parameters, probably because that sound chip was not really known in the past excepted by some great FM composers.

FMDrive responds to after touch, pitch bend, modulation wheels and allows the right click (CC or Sysx) control assignment.
It has so much parameters that it comes in handy to assign some to a hardware MIDI controller, it is rewarding because it opens up a lot in terms of sound creation/experimentation with real knobs and sliders.

The user Interface is pretty big, looks nice and provides many tabs to access the main functions, you feel like having a Genesis console in front of you, alive and kicking.

It's not the easiest synth to program from scratch if you know nothing about FM synthesis but overall it is really easy to learn in a day (the manual is really clear.)

I had an entire day messing with it without being bored at all.

The dev (Aly James) is also a composer and has made some great demo tracks on his soundcloud which are not linked on the product page, so here it is:
https://soundcloud.com/alyjameslab/sets/fmdrive-vsti.

Really, the cost could have been higher, the synth is running flawlessly in my DAWS (Cubase/Reaper/FL Studio).
This is my go to FM synth for chiptune now because it sounds raw with some extra harmonics that gives it an analog kind of feel, especially when you lower the operators volume a bit which make the distortion effect more pronounced.

note: It can also run in a "High Quality" mode without the subtle distortion.

Must Have.

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Reviewed By neologix
August 13, 2013

Don't be put off by the "Made with SynthEdit" badge, as Aly James has gone above and beyond SynthEdit's base offerings to faithfully recreate the FM sound of the Yamaha YM2612 that can be found in the Sega Genesis (Mega Drive in some regions) of old.

Using the official documentation collected and translated by the folks at SpritesMind Forums and verified with hardware tests, the FMDRIVE is not only the most accurate sounding YM2612/YM3438 virtual instrument on the market today, it also has a very nifty looking interface that should properly evoke the nostalgia one would expect from seeing a Model 1 Sega Genesis. There are also some (literally) under-the-hood features for controlling the sound of the FMDRIVE, including choosing a "high-quality mode" that should work with any given sample rate in a DAW and some "circuit-bending" that applies some "interesting" effects that may or may not be possible on a real YM2612.

Aly James has also added the ability to import YM2612 presets dumped directly from game music to quickly recreate the classic sounds made legendary by the Sega Genesis such as Sonic's ring sound effect and the slappingest synth bass this side of a DX7, and has graciously provided for free download a collection of over 30,000 of them from various games! Even Yuzo Koshiro himself loves the FMDRIVE.

I'm a YM2612 fanatic and have been studying the chip since 2005. I also have a small bit of programming experience and have tried and so far failed at making a YM2612 virtual instrument that even comes close to the sound quality and user-friendliness that the FMDRIVE offers. Compare the sound of the FMDRIVE and an actual Genesis side by side (Aly also provides YouTube videos doing just that) and tell me if a virtual instrument comes closer to the sound of the original console than FMDRIVE. 10 Euros (I forget the actual conversion to USD, Paypal handled that) is a small price to pay for professional quality Sega Genesis sound excellence and I'm glad I paid.

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Discussion

Discussion

Discussion: Active
twylla23
twylla23
14 August 2013 at 2:07am

How is this compared to Plogue Chipsounds? I have not found anything better in chip emulation than Chipsounds, but I would be interested in this if the chip was a lot better.

neologix
neologix
19 August 2013 at 10:28pm

Plogue chipsounds, while its sound is varied and among the best of its class, does not perform the Yamaha-style digital FM synthesis (which is actually closer to PM synthesis than pure FM synthesis) found in the Genesis, Neo-Geo, and arcade machines of the time. I wouldn't be surprised, however, if somewhere down the line Plogue released something that does indeed perform Yamaha-like digital FM synthesis, and in the meantime we have FMDRIVE :).

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FMDRIVE

Average user rating of 5.00 from 2 reviews

Aly James Lab
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