It's the bees knees of digital synthesis; FM synthesis made easier by the highly graphic user interface. If you're in the market for FM, then eventually you'll make your way to this, whether you plan to or not.
If you don't mind, I've received quite a few PM's on the subject of 'how do I?' with this synth, so maybe this review could get a little technical.... bear with me, I'll keep the jargon as easy as I can...
For 'oscillators', read 'operators'; instead of subtracting harmonics with cutoffs, you create harmonics by 'buzzing' the original wave using a 'carrier'. Sounds complex? Take an operator, make it whatever wave shape you like, and even if you don't have the first clue about FM, just grab a handful and start experimenting! It's this visual feedback that makes FM7 such a joy to program; one of the few synths that proves indisputably the superior potential nature of software.
Each operator goes beyond the DX7 by including sines, saws, triangles and complex harmonic-rich waveforms. The matrix-style basic interface lets you mingle and mix-up carriers and operators until you end up with a wonderful mess - FM's own equivalent of analog patchwire heaven! You also have the options of noise and a filter section [with adjustable poles], and you can patch this into the mix in whatever order you like. As a comparison, consider it as a 6-oscillator synth where each oscillator can interfere with any other, or even itself....
The real power of FM8 comes with the envelopes, which can be effectively drawn freeform like Absynth. This means evolving 'scapes, pads and leads which can flick in and out of the patch, looped sections which don't have to rely on LFO modulation, and attack/release patches that don't have to hang their hats on the old ADSR principles. Of course, ADSR and LFO's are there too - you can make this sound as simple or as whacked out as you'd like it to!
So, to mention the newer features of FM8 over FM7. I'm not as keen on the white colour scheme, or the fact that any Intel mac owners need to upgrade just to get FM7 sounds back on their machines - but there's no doubt now that the XY patchmorpher and the Kore-type browser have more potential than the simple randomise/sysex browse features of FM7. The FX section's much more comprehensive, too.
Fortunately, they've left in the 'easy edit' page for beginners, and assigning controllers to this page gives some hands-on realtime control. Because of the potentially huge changes that a tiny operator frequency change can have on everything else, sometimes a big 'handful of knobbage' in the analog-style can take your gentle swash pad into a glitch-IDM ear-splitting screech - be careful!!
Having said that, this remains a synth which rewards patient programming, and all the sonic" whoosh and swoop" is best setup as part of the patch rather than something which needs hands-on control to implement. I tend to start by imagining how the end result will sound, and working backwards...
So, the proof's in the pudding - how does it sound?
The answer is like nothing else. It's got that crispy, eerie, digital sound, with a real reputation for pads and motion-filled soundscapes. In my opinion it outdoes Absynth in this regard - FM8 spheres sound more 'musical' and less atonal. It also does a mean set of leads and basses, although if it's capacitor "squelch" you're after, look elsewhere. Even if you don't plan on programming it, there's a huge selection of patches out there - mine included - specifically designed for FM7/8, and thousands of original DX7 patches from the hardware's 20 year legacy of success. In my opinion, some of the best sound designers here on KVR have contributed great banks for this machine, and it's always an education to see just how they've done it. It's a fantastic preset machine!
Expensive? Yes; Worth it? Yes. Hard work? Yes, but only if you intend to really get stuck in under the hood. And even then, it's a learning curve less steep than the one which took you into this VST lark in the first place. Start now, and even five years down the line, you'll still have a relevant and highly rated synth.
To Miroslav, about the archive files with extension .sit:
The archive files with the extention .sit are a nightmare! Above all for all the people using Windows or Linux.
AVOID the archives .sit files!!.
You compel to install a specific expander for these files which are in a proprietary format! The standard archive/unarchive tools are ALL incompatible with this proprietary format! And even worse, even the specific tool itself change its specifications from a version to another.
To unarchive .sit files, first you compel to install StuffIt Expander... that generally we have not on our systems. So we install this tool... but it's then necessary to know that the last version that expanded the .sit file was the 2010 version. Starting from the 2011 version... Stuffit expander expands only the .sitx version, no more the .sit version.
And above all, whatever your operating system... use .zip files or .rar files to stay compatible with every body.
Even you Stuffit tool can create .zip and .rar files to stay compatible with everybody.
To avoid the bothering installation of this specific expander totally unnecessary in the daily use of our systems and so to give access to these four files to EVERYONE, some minutes ago I just reuploaded the four files in the universal standard format that everybody can read natively, the .zip format! And I have set the four files in a one package.