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Rating and Reviews: Roland System-1

Get ready for astonishingly real analog modeling! Don't lug a laptop to the gig -- you can host software models of classic Roland synths right on a System-1.

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"Does everything it claims to do and more!" submitted January 4, 2017

By Robert Furtkamp in Pocatello, ID
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Musical Background: Over two decades of performing and recording on multiple instruments
Music Style: Free improv/experimental weird
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Overall: I wanted something approximating the sound and hands-on control of a "real" analog synth, and I've always been happy with my Roland products (I have stuff ranging in age from a 70s Space Echo and Jazz Chorus to modern GR-55 guitar synth) for both sound and durability. I ordered an AIRA System 1 for myself after reading many reviews and looking at videos - the big thing I can caution against on this unit, and the only potential negative, is the actual keybed itself. It's not velocity sensitive, deep-touch typical Roland bed, but a very short throw and fast action trigger. It doesn't feel cheap, but it is *not* a piano or a modern keyboard in that respect. That said, it works just fine and I don't notice after a bit of playing it unless I've spent a LOT of quality time with one of my other keyboards in the meantime. Everything else is amazing. Roland's patched firmware upped the number of patches from 8 to 64 recently, and that's 64 presets for both the System 1 itself *and* whatever plugout you might have loaded (so a total of 128), so you're able to save some go-to sounds that can be edited in real time with any of the controls. From earth-shaking bass sweeps to bleeps and whistles, this thing delivered in spades. I am a VERY happy owner. A note on the plugouts: they may be expensive, but they work very well. I'm waiting on the registration code from Roland (as I bought an open-box unit from zZounds) to buy one or two as owners of the hardware get a discount. They're intuitive, add significant depth of sound to the unit (the Pro-mars being my favorite of the ones I've spent time demoing over the last couple weeks), and it's worth it to get yourself at least one to stack in the unit and have two synth engines in one box. MIDI control is also decent; I hooked the MIDI out of both the GR-55 guitar synth proper to use as a controller and made glorious old-school guitar synth noises, as well as from the Boss GT-100 that does a mono guitar to MIDI output. Getting the latter to work was as simple as hooking up a midi cable - nothing more. Play a note, boom, it comes out of the System 1. Normally I'd consider mono to be limiting after years of playing a poly hex guitar synth-equipped guitar, but for the retro-analog-style stuff and 4 note poly max on the System 1, it's a match made in relative heaven. One tip, though: go in and disable the automated LED light show that the unit goes into after a few minutes of not playing, unless you want to be a Christmas display gone wrong.
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"Analog power and TOTAL control!" submitted June 11, 2014

Jacob from zZounds
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Music Style: Alternative, Grunge, Blues, Indie, Folk, Rock
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Overall: The AIRA Variable synth is an absolutely inspiring pleasure. It comes stock with 8 sound presets and a manual synth. All of these are very unique, high quality and useful sounds. The thing is, you have complete control over the LFO, High pass filter, amp and both oscillators down to minuscule details. So every single sound can be manipulated and transformed over and over from nasty and powerful to weird and trippy to soaring and beautiful. I played this thing for 3 hours and didn't get the same sound once. Not to mention the expression capabilities from the arpeggio type, scatter, pitch bend and portamento function. Whether you need a new sound to inspire you, a hold-steady synth to color your productions, or just want to make some gnarly wub wub. Look no further! This is for you.
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