Zoë Blade's notebook

Yamaha TX81Z

TX81Z tech specs

Yamaha TX81Z
Yamaha TX81Z

  • Released: 1987
  • Company: Yamaha
  • Type: FM synthesiser
  • Polyphony: 8 voices
  • Timbrality: Multitimbral
  • Operators: 4
  • Audio out: Stereo pair
  • Control: MIDI
  • Display: 16×2 character LCD
  • Features: Different starting waveforms
  • User programs: 32
  • Preset programs: 128
  • Size: 1U

The TX81Z was a rackmount FM synthesiser made by Yamaha in 1987, followed the next year by a keyboard based version, the DX11.

Like the DX21 series before it, the TX81Z has only four operators for each of its eight voices. It's a bit more cunning, however, as it can use eight different waveforms as starting points, not just sine waves. This somewhat compensates for the reduced number of operators, in a way that's more intuitive to program, making it pretty good in its own right. It also produces a cleaner signal than even the DX7.

As a synthesiser, it's surprisingly comprehensive, even allowing alternate tuning systems. Although it's multitimbral, I think only having eight voices makes it better suited to being an overpowered monotimbral synth than an underpowered multitimbral one.

As you'd expect with only 1U of rackspace to play with, the interface is less comprehensive, consisting of a 16×2 character LCD and a few buttons, so it's best used with an editor/librarian, such as 4-Op Deluxe.

Personally, I've had a good experience so far making simple custom pads on it, then feeding the TX81Z's output through a clone of the Roland SDD-320 to thicken them up.

On a side note, it has two fun quirks: an informative piece of plastic that you can pull out, which sticks out like a tongue; and the friendly boot-up message <Good morning!!>.


The TX81Z was also released in keyboard form, as the DX11.

Notable users



  1. "Past, Present and Future" Simon Trask, Music Technology, Aug 1992
  2. "Future Talk" Simon Trask, Music Technology, Jan 1994
  3. "Inner Space" Simon Trask, Music Technology, Jun 1992
  4. "Mixing up the motor city" Rob Green, The Mix, Apr 1995









FM synthesisers: Yamaha DX21 | Yamaha DX7 | Yamaha TX81Z