To look at, the TG33 is nothing to write home about. In fact, it's a pretty damn ugly piece of black plastic from the 90's that looks like a fax machine or something. I nearly passed up the opportunity of picking this beauty up for next to nothing a few years back now, as I wasn't really too sure about it, having never used one before or even the SY22 that it's derived from. I can safely say that I'm glad I did, as it's become one of my fave synths ever.
My TG33 wasn't in amazing condition when I bought it, so you'll have to excuse the photos. Having said that, it wouldn't look much better if it were brand new!
There's a certain charm to the TG33, in an ugly duckling kind of way. It looks horrible, it doesn't look particularly inspiring to use, but I somehow find it irresistible. As I said earlier, it's a derivative of the SY family, so at heart, it's an FM synth, but it works in a similar way to the famous Korg Wavestation with it's vector control. You can layer four waveforms to a sound via the A, B, C and D slots, called 'elements'. The choices for the waveforms are from 256 FM sounds and 128 samples.
The samples...ahhh, the samples. So what we have here are what Yamaha calls AWM 12-bit samples. So not quite as clean as 16-bit, but not quite as crunchy and super lo-fi as 8-bit. What you get is a fascinating sound that combined with the on board effects, which are both crap and brilliant at the same time, you really start to get a flavour of what this machine kicks out. Going back to the FM part, it should be worth noting that it's only a 2 operator setup and you can't really get at the values to really change them, leaving most patch creation to come from layering the sounds and using the effects creatively. In essence, it's an FM rompler with 12-bit samples added in for shits and giggles.
It's definitely not be as powerful as it's illustrious more famous vector synthesis pioneer, the Korg Wavestation, as it can't do the famous 'wavesequences' that the Korg can do and in truth, it doesn't try to. It's a synth with a unique character. It's very easy to use, very easy to find space for in your mix and it always seems to find it's way into my music. If you see one on eBay and you are willing to spend a little time to work out it's nuances and limitations, then you'll be rewarded with a great sound source.
Here's a small video of me working on a tune I did a while ago, called Tessellate. The descending drone noise was made with the TG33 and the kinda-squelchy lead in the foreground is also from the TG33, with myself tweaking the vector on the patch in realtime. Apologies for knocking my iPhone over at the end haha!