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  2. Sound Design

Making Sounds With Dexed

What You'll Be Creating

Dexed is a freeware synth from software developer Pascal Gauthier aka. Digital Surburban. The plugin is comparable to the Yamaha DX7 hardware synth. It has got six operators—or sound sources—each with a four-stage envelope generator.

Dexed synth
The full view of Dexed synth

The synth also features a cartridge loader popup, a parameter configuration panel and a patch storing screen. The graphical interface is also nice and detailed.


  • 32 algorithms
  • FM feedback
  • onboard filter on the master section
  • operators with VU metering
  • multi platform—OS X, Windows and Linux
  • multi format—VST, AU, LV2
  • multi architecture—32 and 64-bits
  • DX7 like sound engine
  • DAW automation support
  • DX7 Sysex support
  • save/load for DX7 programs

Short Guide to FM Synthesis

FM synthesis is using sine wave operators that can't be changed to other waveforms. To create something of harmonic interest you need to use the operators in specific ways.

FM building blocks
Serial, parallel and self modulation

There are three types of modulation:

  1. serial, when one operator is modulating the other
  2. parallel, when two operators are mixed separately in the patch
  3. feedback or self mod, when one operator modulates itself

With these two tiny building blocks you can build almost anything you'd like to have. There are six operator that can be combined in the specific algorithms.

The more you modulate an operator, the brighter and more metallic the sound becomes. Though if you overdo it, it will sound like a chaotic noise.

Project Basic settings

  • tempo 120 BPM 
  • scale C-minor 
  • rhythm signature 4/4 


I started with creating the sub, then bass, and the second bass. I added the mid-range tonal synth melodies. I then created a noisy FX-sound and added several drum loops.


I used only a default pure operator for the sub. The notes I used are: C1, D#1 and F0. These are very low sounds, they can be felt more with a better studio speaker or studio headphones.

Sub EQ
I cut the extreme lows and boosted the main part

To give the sub more weight I cut the lows at 53 Hz and boosted 153 Hz with 6 dB.


This is one octave higher then the sub and has a moving filter type effect on it. I used the A#1, C2, D#2, F2 notes. The second operator modulates the first operator in the first algorithm. 

I adjusted the envelope of the second operator to fit the project tempo and the rhythm of the notes.

Bass EQ
Same as the previous ones but with higher frequencies and some dipping at the mids

For shaping the sound further I cut with EQ at 50 Hz, then boosted 177 Hz by +3 dB and cut 596 Hz by -2 dB. 

This helps to fit the other tracks a bit more.


This is a syncopated filler bassline using only the note C3. The sound is designed to be a small sine wavy thing, but on the effects side I used an agressive distortion with the Saturator effect (Rectifier preset, +15 dB gain and hard curve), then there is a Reverb set to mono with the lowest room size and 1.2 sec decay mixed with 25% dry wet.

Bass2 FX
I used a heavy distortion using Ableton Saturator also some other effects

To fit into the mix I used an EQ Eight at the end of the chain with 105 Hz low cut, 984 Hz bell cut by -3.6 dB and 4.8 kHz boost by 1.6 dB.


The first melody line uses the notes C3, C4, D#3 and F3. There is a jumping play between the low and high parts in this track. For this sound I used two operators in default mode modulating serially one another.

Lead synth
I used a default two operator sound after the init preset

For seasoning the sound I used a Flanger mixed with 49% dry wet, then I applied a Ping Pong Delay with 33% feedback and 33% dry wet. At the EQ section I shaped agressively: a low cut at 169 Hz, a bell boost at 416 Hz by +8 dB and a shelving cut at 3.17 kHz by -9 dB.

This gives it more low end and less upper frequencies. I mixed this track a bit to the left.


I use the notes D#3, D3, C3, F3. The sound uses the default algorithm and settings. The second operator is modulating the first operator. For spicing it up I used a Reverb with big room size, 1.2 sec decay time and 55% dry wet with default predelay. I cut the sound at 100 Hz with an EQ low cut. 

I mixed this track a bit to the right. Combining with the previous sound it give more stereo width.

Lead2 synth
Similar to the previous synth


The quality of the sound is like a glass, which is implemented with two operators playing serially and I also adjusted the envelopes to have very short decays. I also set the second operator to Fixed and the frequency to 2398 Hz. I set it using my ears.

Synth patch
For this patch I used very short decays and curves and a fixed frequency at the second operator

I gave the sound some space with a Reverb (3.79 sec decay, medium predelay and 44% dry wet). I continued with a Ping Pong Delay (39% feedback, 39% dry wet). 

I amplified with 5 dB with the Utility module and then cut the top end at 12 kHz with an EQ Eight. This is because it contained a lot of piercing top frequencies.


I chose algorithm 3 and set operators 1, 2 and 3 to fully modulate serially the other. After this I set operator 3 to fixed. I wrote a syncopated rhythm line using C4 and C3. 

This is basically a noise patch, using only sine operators. It has some tonality and also atonality at the same time.

Fx rhythm
Syncopated rhythm for the Fx sound

On the effects section I used a Flanger with 49% dry wet, then a Reverb with full stereo (value 120), 1.5 sec decay, medium predelay and 55% dry wet. 

Finally, I cut the low and high end with EQ Eight and increased the sides / stereo to 133%.


This is a simple 4/4 beat with kick and snare drums.


This is a phasy sounding hats loop. I cut the low end with EQ Three kill switch.


A percussion loop which I mixed to the left and cut the low end.


A conga/bongo loop which I mixed to the right and cut the low end.


This is the second percussion loop. I cut the low end and boosted 2.6 kHz by +6 dB to make it stand out more in the mix.


I mixed as I went along the project, constantly adjusting volumes, EQ and some effects. I removed the low end with EQ where it was necessary. I also did sometimes with the high end on specific instruments. 

I sidechained the bass to the kick, to make the volume duck a bit. This is for avoiding distortion and keeping headroom in the mix.

Mixing drums
For mixing the drums I applied panning to the Perc and Congabongo tracks


I checked the mono compatibility by turning on the Utility module for a couple of seconds. I turned it off and cut the low end at 40 Hz in mid and 300 Hz in side mode with EQ Eight.

Then I set up the limiter to amplify +4 decibels and the ceiling to -0.5 dB.

Master chain
For the master section I used an FX rack loaded with Utility, EQ Eight and a Limiter


That was my demonstration tutorial for creating sounds with the free Dexed synth plugin. I created basses, leads, FX and added drums from wav loops. Finally, I mixed and mastered the project.

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