Digitone Operator Tuning


The Digitone lacks individual detune on its operators, and out of 4 operators, only one of them is capable of being fine tuned.

The frequency of an operator is dependent on 3 parameters (1) the Coarse Frequency, (2) the Fine Frequency, and (3) Detune.

On the Digitone you are given a Coarse Frequency that functions as **both the coarse frequency and the fine frequency.**The coarse frequency represents the whole number values, (1.00, 2.00) and the Fine Frequency represents the numbers in between (1.25, 1.50). You are also given a dual detuner. Detune is how you reach values like 1.11 or 4.33

On the Digitone, you have 4 operators. C, A, B1 and B2.

C , is limited mostly to integers. AKA, it doesn’t have fine tune values available like 1.75 or 2.25, but only has whole number values available. It also can not be detuned, because the dual detuner is attached to A and B2.

A , has a more extensive number of ratio values to allow for more inharmonic relationships.

B1 & B2 are also limited to mostly integers.

So A is your most flexible operator. You have the ability to use both the fine tune and detune function. However, its important to note, that those “fine” tuned frequencies are notes that fall directly on the chromatic scale. For example, 4.50 is just a D# note. One way to reach frequencies that are in between those 12 notes, is to use the detune feature, or to pick the few values that are purposefully not one of the 12 notes. There are a total of 4 of these notes. They are 1.75, 2.75, 6.50, and 7.00.

Listed below are the available frequency values on the Digitone:

C - 0.25/0.50/1.00/2.00/4.00/16.00

Csharp/Dsharp - 4.25/8.50

D - 4.50/2.25/4.00

Dsharp/Eflat - 1.25/2.50/5.00/10.00

E - 1.25/2.50/5.00/10.00

F/Esharp - 2.75$(not exact!)

Fsharp - 5.50/11.00

G - 0.75/1.50/3.00/6.00/12.00

Gsharp/Aflat - 3.25/6.50$(not exact!)/13.00

A -

Asharp/Bflat - 1.75$(not exact!)/3.50/7.00$(not exact!)/14.00

B - 3.75/ 7.50/15.00

A value of 1.00 is C4, so a value of 0.50 is going to be C3, and a value of 2.00 is going to be C5! All of the 12 notes from the chromatic scale are available except for notes A and F. Notice some have $(not exact!) attached to them. These notes are note values mentioned above that are not one of the 12 notes on the chromatic scale.

Detune is applied to both A and B2 at the same level and time. There is no ability to individually detune your operators. You might think that the LFO‘s pitch feature can get around this, but it can only be assigned to affect all 4 operators at the same time, or your A and B2 operators… the ones you already had the option to detune! So you have 0 ability to detune them separately. However, don’t worry, because the Digitone is an extremely capable FM synth!

What is cool about the Digitone, is that it comes packed with a ton of blueprints on how to make sounds. Do you want to know what algorithm and settings are best to create a kick? Load up a preset of a kick, and take a look at the settings it has. Check out the envelope that created the kick like sound. Check out the operator values, and the level of modulation. Check out the LFO settings to see what parameters were being modulated. You can look at these presets and learn a lot from them!

The Digitone can make bell sounds and drum sounds, with no issues. You can simulate a clarinet, trumpet, oboe, flute, and a stringed instrument… It is a very capable synth, even with its limitations. However, it would be nice if the friendly people over at Elektron added more options for frequencies. They claim taking them away makes the concept easier, but I respectfully disagree.

For those of you that are interested in learning about FM synthesis, you can check out my full guide here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1dLrLAFyj1qOBhgkgtjH0oDM67nwY9DkMXg1a5tIjvx4/edit

It covers:

Basics of Sound

Fundamental Frequency

Digital FM Synthesis

Modulator and Carrier

Side Bands

FM Basic Waveforms

Make a Clarinet Sound on Digitone

Designing Sounds on the Digitone



In addition to that, I also made a video tutorial specifically to help people understand FM synthesis on the Digitone that you can watch here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JmmRHBu45dg&t=315s

The oscilloscope that I am using is Visual Analyser : http://www.sillanumsoft.org/download.htm

Now that Overbridge works on the Digitone, you will be able to bypass needing an audio interface. You will be able to connect directly via usb.


Ok, what’s with the note names for everything? That is not a good way to conceptualize pitch when working with harmonics – instead, we use, uh, ratios relative to the fundamental…

And the degree of passive-aggressiveness is shocking. “I’m not attacking the digitone! I’m not, I swear! I just think it’s limited and restrictive and would be nice if it was totally changed and disagree with how it works.” Sure.

For what it’s worth, I like that it takes a more user-friendly approach to FM. I’ve been saying for decades that FM doesn’t need 8-stage envelopes and keyscaling front and center and that it could be much, much easier to work with. I got a digitone precisely because I like the streamlined FM controls.


Very useful thanks for putting the work in to do this and I’ll definitely check your guide and vids :+1:t3:


Totally agree. Saw this exact post on reddit earlier and disagreed with OPs stance then but chose not to comment. The digitone is beautiful in its simplicity. It feels more like sculpting then sound designing, and at least personally I love that I can just turn knobs and follow my ears rather than pulling out 100 charts and calculators to determine the steps needed to get where I want.

Plain and simple I buy elektron boxes for the limitations. I find them musically exciting. If you want unlimited choice any selection of soft synths are out there that wont hold you back.


This guide looks great, I’ll give it a read. Thanks for sharing!


Ess, one of the product designers at Elektron and synth engine creator, has replied to a other thread of @PaxLibertas on the Reddit forum page.

"Heyy, I was nudged to comment on this by someone here. I’m Ess, one of the product designers at Elektron - you might know my face from the Cuckoo videos and so on. Specifically I designed most of the synth engine in the Digitone, so feel free to blame me for anything you dislike about it. :smiley:

I think it’s unfair to call it ‘not deep’, and I think our demos and people’s use of it in general disproves that.

Where it does lack in range is in more inharmonic and atonal sounds, that is true. The detune parameter does give you some control over this, but it’s more specific than the more modular approach of TX/DX etc style FM synths.

The reason why is simple - if you keep the ratios at these intervals (e.g 2, 2.25 etc) they retain the fundamental pitch of the sound - it only (well, to a certain point of modulation level) affects the actual timbral quality. This means that you can mess around all you want with the ratios without altering the actual tuning, or introducing atonality by accident. By using detune you can combat this, and if you’re smart about it and work with specific algorithms with detune in your favor you can go far into inharmonic and experimental territories.

It’s plenty deep, but you might need to work a bit harder to reach those more experimental and atonal territories, but I think it’s better than the opposite way around, no? (At least for this particular instrument)

In any case, I agree - would be cool to have fractional ratio offsets. I cannot make any promises, but It is certainly a possibility and I would personally like to see it as well. Actually, I’m using two Digitones for live sets at the moment and it’s a lot of fun. The recent portamento feature allows some really cool microtonal things, and adding some more weirdness on top can only be good."

It’s good to read his opininion too.


My Digitone must be broken, as it’s the go to synth now in my setup when I want to get nasty and experimental.
If it made it easy to get nasty then it wouldn’t really be very experimental now would it.


I admit that I too love quite complex synths, but it’s not a criterium wether to love it or not.

That’s why I got the DN, having already some full-featured FM-synths in the studio. It sounds different, has it’s own character, and of course, it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the other FM-machines. But it’s definitely NOT LIMITED. I have to plan very precisely and know what I’m doing on my complex FM-machine. But the DN has the happy accidents and the most rewarding experimental environment … or let’s call it the most FM-fun … thanks to a well thought-out FM machine by Elektron :smiley:



Oscillation is just vibration. One example of an oscillator is the string on the violin. Just like you can tune the string, you can tune the oscillator.

The number value assigned to the oscillators represent its pitch. I sat down and I figured out what the pitches are. Why? Because I personally just wanted to know it. And since I spent so much time figuring it out, I figured, that other people might like to know what pitch those values relate to as well.

Also, if I didn’t like my Digitone, I would sell it. There is just no way I would keep a $500 device, that I didn’t like. I was sincire when I said that I love my Digitone.

I think that is great that you like the more friendly approach! I was simply stating information that is true in my post. I didn’t state anything false. It is true that the Digitone lacks individual detune on its operators, and out of 4 operators, only one of them is capable of being fine tuned.

I am just stating facts, and there is nothing wrong with that.


Don’t worry about it, I thought your post was interesting and it looks like others did too, you will never please everyone so don’t even try, certainly don’t let it dissuade you from posting on the forum.


The post is great. Thanks for the detail. Maybe the title comes across as slightly clickbaitish to some (after posting noticed the title change) thumbs up.
Anyway I would finally consider buying a DN if the ratios were freed up as per original Yamaha FM spec.


Post what you like, I’m not smart enough to get most of what you posted. Seems like you took a lot of time figuring it all out, fair play to you.
I also love my Digitone.
I love it because I have to earn the sounds I get out of it, if that makes any sense.


The thread title was a bit long, and the mod edit is probably actually going to help people who are interested to find the post.


The title wasn’t a title it was a rambling mess, all rambling mess titles are trimmed to something more useful to the community and less like a paragraph - clickbait aspects would also see titles rephrased, this is just too long - nobody is making changes because it’s critical - the same text is in the first line - it’s simply more useful now. Plus if it’s edited by a moderator, have a word, don’t just plough in with stirring further down the thread and undo the change.

The idea that moderation is somehow restricted to what some may view as critical is a fallacy. It simply wasn’t a title, the subjective nature of the post would not sway that whether it was a critical or supportive. But as a moderator who has to tidy posts multiple times a day - i am not searching my brains to land back on a random bit of prose - a title relating to broader topic is simpler as it allows it to develop.

If there’s a better short title then that can be substituted, but please stop the needless and inaccurate stirring about the title tidy, it’s far off the mark, titles are edited almost daily.



You wrote a rather scathing reply to Ess on reddit who took the time to out of his day to explain his design not once, but twice to you (which you’ve now convienently deleted…). I think that just rubbed me the wrong way. You 100% did take a stance, even going as far as to publish a private conversation Ess had had with you months prior. Don’t hide your opinions behind psuedo intellectualism and false neutrality, just say what you think man.

Simply I just don’t think the issue you’re highlighting is an issue at all, and I wouldn’t have bought the digitone if it wasn’t limited in the way it is. Operator or fm8 will do exactly what you’re looking for at a fraction of the price.


Maybe so, but I delete those things for a reason, because clearly it was inappropriate. I had issue with how Ess justified the limitations, but that I should had kept it to myself.

My post here however, is just stating facts not opinions. Have a great day!


Thanks, I appreciate it!


Exactly this. Everybody reading the specs and investing some time to understand the DN prior to purchase, must have seen the obvious. It’s intentionally not a full complex FM synth. If we want a much more flexible FM synth engine for whatever purpose, we can find so many solutions out there, be it hardware or software.

The DN gives us a well thought-out portion of FM synthesis, making it quite easy to get great sounds without digging all the FM science … and I know what I am talking about. IMO it’s not “restriction” … it’s more of “opening a door”.


@PaxLibertas try to not be so defensive and post in a less emotional way and you will probably get more from the experience, you are clearly intelligent and interested in the subject matter, so try not to get too antagonistic about things.


That is fine that you guys don’t think it is an issue. I think it is unfair that you keep labeling me as someone that is slandering it some how. I am just stating the reality of the situation.