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Roland System-8: AIRA Newcomer

Roland System-8: AIRA Newcomer

“The Future. Redefined.” online-festival brought to us interesting new products made by Roland Corporation, as we expected. Roland System-8 for sure seems the most attractive one to keyboardists – it’s a synthesizer with uploadable libraries and based on the same architecture as that System-1 featured though it offers a full-sized keyboard, much more control elements on the front panel surface and the main peculiarity – it’s already equipped with Roland Jupiter-8 and Roland Juno-106 models emulation.

Roland System-8System-8 synthesizer is a new kind of virtual analog synthesizers which uses uploadable sound libraries (called Plug-outs) besides those ones which already come with the instrument. Now there are 3 instruments created applying this technology: mini synthesizer System-1, rackmount module System-1m and a new full-sized and full-fledged System-8.

All these devices are built on the ACB technology (Analog Circuit Behavior Modelling) which allows a convincing revival of an analog synth operating process as well as a resulting outcome. The instruments use the classic approach to the interface and already familiar controllers (since analog synthesizers started to come out) – oscillators, sub oscillator and LFO (virtual in this case), envelope generators, effect, mixer and sequencer control. All the instruments of the series got 2 new waveforms added – super square and super sine, as extra shapes to compliment the brand super saw.

Not all the professionals praised a “concept trial version” System-1 having quite a disputable mini keyboard and just basic front panel control functions, that’s why everyone would prefer at least System-1m to System-1. But all the analog fans appreciated the very idea of ACB combined with Plug-Out feature – that’s quite promising and cheers Roland up because there is a chance that the new System-8 will be commercially successful owing to the fact that the company stuffed it with all the necessary features this time and the only thing which is left to do is to regularly provide new sound engines to the mighty System-8.

The Plug-out approach implies that the lucky owner of any of these synths can acquire and upload new sound libraries without any problem (well, it’s better to call them “sound engines”) besides those which were already the part of a synth’s basic configuration. And that’s quite a significant part – Roland Jupiter-8, a Roland’s King of analog polysynths, was emulated and installed as an initial feature/option. In 2017 System-8 will get a Roland Juno-106 sound library “wired” into the synth brains making another popular analog instrument of the 1980s easily available. In real time mode you can use up to 3 sound engines switching them with the help of highlighted buttons and now (unlike in System-1) you can use all of them in parallel even if the split function is activated! Today you may purchase SH-2, SH-101 and PROMARS sound engines and Roland promises to release new models for System-8 a bit later.

Crucial specs of System-8 synthesizer

(all the features depend on the original model possibilities of course, that’s why we provide you with the maximal values):

  • Polyphony up to 8 virtual analog voices
  • 2 oscillators per voice + 1 sub oscillator (the types of the waveforms depend on the engine option, in theory it can be any familiar Roland wave you could find in a new or vintage instrument + super square and super sine as an addition to super saw)
  • 1 LFO
  • Envelope generators AR for pitch, ADSR for filter and amplifier
  • Effect-processor
  • 16x4 step sequencer

The interface of the instrument includes such controllers and ins/outs as:

  • Dynamic 4-octave keyboard (49 keys), no aftertouch
  • 4-axis Roland’s classic control for pitch and modulation + sliders for fine tuning
  • Monochrome mini display (the same as in JD-Xa) + 3 mini displays (just numerical) per each oscillator block
  • Encoders for parameter settings – oscillators, mixer, pitch, amplifier, effect-processor
  • Envelope generator control sliders
  • CV/Gate outputs for outbound control signals to external devices such as vintage analog gear (synths, sequencers)
  • MIDI IN, OUT, USB
  • 3 adjustable inputs for pedal control
  • SD(XC) card slot

An approximate price for Roland System-8 is about $1500 which is absolutely fair regarding its number of possibilities. Anyway someone might get in doubt whether to choose a hybrid JD-Xa or it’s better to buy System-8 (?) – JD-Xa sports real analog voices complimenting a SuperNATURAL digital engine based on samples.

Who can’t wait – purchase System-8 and upload those virtual synthesizers which are already accessible. Those who’re calm enough to wait for more will obviously attack the release in 2017 – because they’ll get not only Jupiter-8 built-in but also Juno-106 with no need to overpay.

We believe that now is better to take JD-Xa – the price has dropped a little and $1800 for an absolutely new unit is a real deal – the functionality of which has increased thanks to latest updates and especially a drum library add-on. Let’s be honest, the price for System-8 shouldn’t be higher than $1200 – and that’ll happen in a year you’ll see. Because Roland remembers about analog hunter and expensive synth cruel killer called Behringer DeepMind 12.

Published: 10:01 12.09.2016
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