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dexed: CART Loading Secrets
Ah – dexed. I hope you know about this incredible FREE piece of software that is essentially a Yamaha DX7 in the form of a VST plugin. If not, run and get it now (look in the resources section below for download links). I’d guess though, that since you are reading this, you probably know about it, and we’re going to spend some time learning how to load new sounds into it.
But first, about dexed…
In addition to being a remarkably faithful recreation of the original DX7 sonics, dexed has a bit of a secret built inside. dexed presets are 100% compatible with a Yamaha DX7 – meaning that you can take MIDI System Exclusive (SysEx) files, and either load them into dexed, or send them to a DX7 over MIDI – the data and sonic qualities of the sounds when played will be the same. In the case of dexed, MIDI SysEx banks are stored in .syx files, and dexed loads, saves, and manages them in what they call “CARTs” – hearkening back to hardware cartridges that a DX7 owner could use to load more sounds. To be clear, there is no physical CART or cartridge – just a virtual cartridge, which also happens to be a DX7 SysEx file.
How do I prove my outlandish claim that DX7 carts have the same data that can be used in a hardware DX7? Well, certainly there is trust involved on your part, but I’ll also show this: opening and inspecting the contents of a dexed CART file, which has the extension .syx on both Mac and PC, shows this:
This is a screenshot of the “contents” of a dexed cart file on SysEx Librarian (Mac). The MIDI message inside the folder starts with “F0 43” – tagging it as a Yamaha MIDI System Exclusive message. While I can’t demo this by the written word, I’ll ask you to offer me a little trust and believe me when I say that if you use SysEx Librarian to send this file to a DX7, it will load a new set of 32 presets for you to play around with on the hardware. There – proven. Now, onto the important stuff.
CARTs – where they live
dexed CARTs can live anywhere on your hard disk, but I recommend staying as organized as possible and keeping all dexed CARTs in a single folder – organized inside as you wish – on your hard drive. The default locations for dexed are as good as any, and they are here, for both major computing platforms:
For Macs, the location is:
For PCs, the location is:
dexed is also available on Linux, and I’m sure there’s a default folder on that platform, too.
How do I work this?
Loading new sounds into dexed is straightforward, once you learn which buttons to press. In the main screen of dexed, note the lower left corner, under the dexed logo and version information. There’s a button labeled “CART”. This button is the gateway to most functions relating to CART management – besides STORE over there to the right.
Upon pressing that CART button, you are are taken to another screen – the primary CART selection and management screen. This will open to the default CART file location we described above, and show the CARTs available to load. Let’s double-click a folder here or just open one of the “.syx” files there, and the new bank of presets will be listed across the bottom of the screen. Boom! A new CART of 32 sounds loaded – congratulations, you did it!
While we are here though, I did want to mention one cool feature of dexed, the ability to “audition” banks and presets before loading them. Since we’ve already loaded a new CART into dexed, let’s navigate to another CART folder – perhaps there’s another .SYX file in the folder you’re taking a look at, or choose another location and just SINGLE click, or select that file. What you’ll notice is that the newly selected file is previewed in the upper right pane of this CART window. You’ll be able to see all of the presets in that newly selected CART without loading them into dexed memory.
In addition, and this is the really cool feature part, you’ll be able to, in the upper right pane, select those “previewed” sounds one at a time and audition them through the dexed engine without actually loading them into memory. Why is this handy? Well, let’s imagine you’re looking for a PAD sound and have a few files called PAD1, PAD2, PAD3, etc. You can use this window to quickly step through the sounds of multiple dexed CARTs before loading a CART and going back to the main programming window and making any adjustments.
That’s really it – I hope that makes loading sounds into dexed reasonably easy. Why is this important? It may not be if you are satisfied with the original 32 sounds that are loaded into dexed when you first installed it – I mean, they are cool and all, but there are lots of electronic musicians out there who don’t want to be limited by a palette of 32 sounds. This article is really for them.
There are hundreds of thousands of DX7 sounds available to use in dexed on the Internet. Doing a search for “DX7 SysEx Banks Download” or something similar will confirm this and give you places to start looking. We’ve also got a curated, sorted, and categorized library of web-available sounds, along with banks of our own design from the ground up here at SoundEngine.com. You can check out the DX7 “Rebuild”, or Flywheel and Crankshaft (coming soon!) in our shop.
Hopefully, this brief tutorial has been helpful. As mentioned before, in my opinion, dexed is very cool for re-creating the sounds and vibe of the original DX7, without the heat and brown metal. There are so many things you can do with an FM sound source, either on its own or combined with other synths. It’s a very flexible piece of free kit that performs solidly. Look for more from SoundEngine.com on dexed in the coming months, including more tutorials about building your own custom CARTS, programming your own custom sounds, and just generating new ideas for sounds.
- The dexed plug-in:
- The sounds included with dexed:
- SoundEngine’s Rebuild: dexed (Sounds, documentation, and tutorials):
- Flywheel: dexed: