The Yamaha DX7 synthesizer’s clever exponential circuit, reverse-engineered #MusicMonday #ReverseEngineering @kenshirriff

Ken Shirriff continues reverse engineering the Yamaha DX7 digital synthesizer OPS “operator” chip that generated the sound waveforms. A key part of the OPS chip is an exponential circuit, which is used for frequency calculation and envelope application. Ken examines this circuit—implemented by a ROM, shifter, and other circuitry—in detail and extract the ROM’s data.

Computing exponents is a key part of the DX7’s sound synthesis. The chip needs to compute exponents very quickly, faster than an algorithm such as CORDIC could operate, but a straightforward ROM would have been much too large. The chip solves this dilemma by using delta encoding, ROM compression, and a shifter circuit. These techniques reduced the ROM size by almost 64%. By examining the circuitry closely, I have reverse-engineered the exact values that are generated. DX7 emulators may be able to achieve more accuracy by using these values.

You can read the in-depth explanation and reverse engineering in Ken’s blog post here.


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