The DPM family – an introduction.

In 1989 Peavey entered the synthesizer market with the DPM family of keyboards and rack modules based on a new audio synthesis method: “Digital Phase Modulation”.

Actually I have no idea what that is supposed to mean and neither – I suspect – had Peavey. The DPM series is based on general purpose Digital Signal Processors (DSPs) and thus “doesn’t take the traditional approach of using custom chips dedicated to a particular type of sound generation” – says the manual.

The idea was to provide a freely programmable system, which could be extended and expanded by adding and upgrading software. It would have been possible to add new synthesis algothrithms (e.g. adding FM-Synthesis as was rumoured at the time).

Alas, this never happened. The competition in this market was fierce, DPM-synths were made in USA and thus relatively expensive. Despite quite good initial reviews – especially on the flexibility and extendability of the architecture – success was limited and Peavey soon abandoned this product series – and its foray to break into the synth segment.

The DPM family

The DMP 3 keyboard was released in 1989 – together with 2 rack samplers: the DPM SP and the DPM SX. It featured 61 keys, 16 voice polyphony, 4 Mbytes of samples and two 24-bit effect processors. Each voice featured two Digitally Controlled Oscillators (DCOs), a resonant digital low pass filter, two Low Frequency Oscillators (LFOs), four Envelope Genarators (EGs) and a digital effects setup includung reverb, delay, chorus, exciter, EQ, gate and distortion. Additionally the DPM 3 had a build-in sequencer and a disk drive. The recommended retail price in the US was $2800, in Germany the units went for 4800 DM.

In 1991 Peavey launched two additional keaboard models – the DPM 3SE and the stripped down DPM 2 as well as rack versions of these models: the DPM V2 ($800 US) and the DPM V3 ($1000 US / 2700DM).

The DPM 3SE added sampling capabilities: up to 1MByte of RAM could be used to store samples. The DPM 2 had 32 voice polyphony and more presets but fewer modulation options, one oscillator per voice and no disk drive. The V3 and V2 basically were rack version of these two models (both w/o sequencers and disk drives).

In 1992 the DPM 3SE Plus followed with some refinements to the user interface and the ability to allocate samling RAM to the sequencer.

1993 saw the final three DPM keyboard models (and no new rack versions). The DPM SI with 76 keys, one oscillator per voice and an extended 10 MB sample ROM for $1800 US, the DPM 4 – an updated DPM 3 also with 10 MB ROM and one or two voices per oscillator for $2300 US, and the flagship DPM 488 – basically a DPM 4 with 88 weighted keys at $2800 US.

Yes, the Peaveys naming scheme is somewhat … ambiguous.

In the same year Peavey lanched the SPECTRUM series of low end rack units with the SPECTRUM BASS (1MByte of ROM, 4/8 polyphony retailing inititally at $300 US). In 1995 the SPECTRUM BASS II, the SPECTRUM ORGAN, and the SPECTRUM SYNTH followed.


In this loose series of articles I will take a closer look at the DPM series – especially the DPM V3:

  • its architecture
  • the hardware
  • the battery (which has to be replaced to avoid desaster)
  • the factory preset patches and how to load them
  • editing software

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