Aurora FM by Audio Nebula http://www.audionebula.ca.
I nearly let this stunning synth slip under the radar. What a mistake that would have been.
Since I already had Dexed, I thought, "Who needs another DX7 emulator?" Recently, I took another look at Aurora FM, not expecting much in the way of surprises. Now that I've been getting to see and hear for myself what it can do, Aurora FM frankly has become my go-to synth for FM.
What did I discover? The user interface is brilliant. All controls are conveniently laid out before you on a single screen. This synth is all about you, the sound designer, and you, the player: efficient mouse-interaction, instant, meaningful visual feedback. With Aurora FM, it's easy to make live corrections on the fly, to think by ear.
Another shock: this synth is completely about FM, 21st century FM. It's about FM synthesis inspired by modern modulation synth legends like the Alesis Ion and Waldorf Q. So, when Aurora FM is able to load and translate Yamaha DX7/DX21/DX27/DX100/TX81Z/DX11 patches, it's not to emulate or recreate ancient history, but to use them as a starting point to going light years further via today's technology and programming.
Besides, nothing is off the shelf about Aurora FM. It is a very high-resolution, precision musical instrument. In fact, In the short time I've been using this synth, I've come across a whole FM world of beautiful new sound combinations that simply wouldn't have been possible in the mid 1980s. For example, how amazingly musical and fresh the many included micro-tonal scales sound in Aurora's sample precise FM colors.
PRO: Rewarding to play, intuitive to program.
Currently with the introductory price of $14 US [$17 CAD].
CON: The introductory exceedingly low price might cause some musicians mistakenly to under-value this fine synth.