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The Ensoniq Fizmo was Ensoniq's last attempt at creating the perfect synthesizer. Developed in 1998, the Fizmo uses a Digital Acoustic simulation Transwave with 4 MB of ROM, up to 4 voices per preset, each voice with 2 oscillators, independent lfos and FX: 48 voices maximum, with 3 separate fx units (24-bit VLSI effects with 41 algorithms) built in for further sound sculpting. The Fizmo featured 61 keys, and responded to : velocity & after-touch, as well as allowing the sounds to be split by : velocity & keyboard. The name F-I-Z-M-O was mapped across 5 real-time control knobs just above the keyboard keys, allowing real-time modulation of the waves for more user controlled evolving sounds than a usual synthesizer could provide, as well as also having 17 dedicated Sound and Effect editing knobs for further sound design and editing.
The F-I-Z-M-O knobs did the following:
• F: Effect modulation. • I: Wave modulation. • Z: Filter cutoff. • M: Oscillator detuning. • O: Varies from Preset to Preset. (Sys4 mod)
The Fizmo's sound can be described as post-modernistic and ambient. When editing patches it has a tendency to give an 80s-style atmospheric sound. Its major strength is generally agreed to be on its ability to generate complex evolving pads and its arpeggiator. With sufficient adjustment, the Fizmo can be used for bass lines and sound effects though users may find this less intuitive than with more application-specific synthesizers.
The Fizmo had 128 preset patches with 64 performance patches, a vocoder with mono mic/line input, 22 modulation sources/8 modulation destinations, programmable pitch bend range, an LFO with seven waveform choices synchable to the arpeggiator or an external MIDI clock, four-pole dynamic digital low-pass resonant filters with key tracking (33 settings, including fractional scaling), and three envelope generators that could be modulated by velocity, key scaling, and response to release velocity. The Fizmo was a fairly unusual synth, and still remains a cult classic of sorts.
During its short commercial lifetime, the Fizmo was much criticized because of its unfinished operating system, editing peculiarities, unreliability (concerning problems with the external power supply adapter and/or the Fizmo's internal power supply DC regulator) and misunderstood concept and sound. To access most of the operating system, the software tool Emagic SoundDiver is required (A Fizmo Only version of the editor can be downloaded free from the Fizmo User's Yahoo Group - see below). To make things worse, its physical appearance wasn't welcomed. While it sported an analog synth-like appearance, it didn't sound like its virtual analog contemporaries (Roland JP-8000, Yamaha AN1x, and Clavia Nord Lead, for example), didn't sound like additive synthesizers (like Kawai K5000s), and to be fair, didn't sound like anything else. Also, its retro-looking 4-digit 7-segment display didn't convince magazines or customers with its cryptic symbols and strange abbreviations. But like many vanished, past-criticized things, the Fizmo found a loyal group of users which accepted it "as it is" and reached a curious cult status. An estimated 500-2,000 were produced. 100-500 limited-run rack versions were also produced, comprising the full Fizmo's panel into a 5-unit rack standard.
The electronic duo Eat Static are known to have used the Fizmo.