Max for Live

Classic Synths

by Katsuhiro Chiba

Inspired by classic 80s hardware synths, Japanese musician Katsuhiro Chiba used Max for Live to build three synthesizers that capture the iconic sound of the era. 'Classic Synths' contains three synthesizers with a classic 80s sound.


Long renowned in the Max community for creating top-notch plug-ins, Katsuhiro Chiba has a passion for creating his own instruments. As an Ableton Live user, he's happy that Max for Live has now allowed him to combine Max/MSP with his favorite audio production environment. Using Max for Live, Katsuhiro Chiba has developed three synthesizers that are inspired by classic synth sounds of the 1980s.

Opfour is a nearly perfect clone of the TX81Z, Yamaha's classic FM synth.

The TX81Z is a four-oscillator synth that was part of Yamaha's second generation of popular FM synthesizers. Since the oscillators were capable of producing eight different waveforms (rather than just sine waves), the TX81Z was capable of a wide variety of timbres, from "classic" FM bells and electric pianos to rich basses and leads. The TX81Z became particularly famous for the "LatelyBass" preset - a staple sound on numerous early house and Detroit techno records.

August was inspired by the fat sounds of classic analog synthesizers.

This two-oscillator subtractive synthesizer is simple to program, but provides great results. The first oscillator produces a pulse wave with an adjustable pulse width control, which allows for various types of sawtooth and square wave timbres. The second oscillator can be switched between a sawtooth wave and a noise generator, and a Mix knob adjusts the balance between the two oscillators.

August's resonant lowpass filter can be switched between 12 and 24 dB per octave and modulated by a dedicated LFO and/or envelope.

August even includes its own dedicated chorus effect for even more warmth and fatness.

Sep2 uses two identical but independent sine wave oscillators to create simple, flexible sounds with a minimum of parameters.

Sep2 is particularly great for lo-fi percussion sounds, and the pitch envelope can create impressive analog-style kick drums, complete with a pitch drop.

To hear even more of Katsuhiro's sonic ideas, check out his debut album Silent Reverb, which was released in March, 2011, and was made using Max for Live and Ableton Live.