Submitted June 19, 2011 by a customer from knight3d.com
"Good, not great, real-time control synth."
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I would hope Roland listens to user feedback and makes a sequel to this board. Despite a few missing features, it can truly generate some great sounds. For a few hundred more, you can get a Tetra, but at this price range, only the Novation Ultranova and M-Audio Venom can compete with it. And then it boils down to the sounds you can get out of them. For me, it was the sound, and the real-time control that made me pick this over the others. Not perfect, but damn good.
Like other reviews I've read, the presets this ships with are good only as starting points, so don't let those sounds dissuade you. Being able to layer 3 tones can create some massive sounds, and the process is fairly simple and quick. It's a bit lacking in the low end, and - being a VA - the stepping is pretty bad on some knobs. Combine it with some post-fx (either hardware or software), and you can avoid most of the downsides to this board.
Despite there being dozens of knobs, buttons and sliders, nearly everything has a secondary function by holding down a shift key. This expands the abilities of this board significantly, but it means only one of these functions can be accessed at a time.
The bank/preset access is, frankly, stupid, and will wear out the buttons very quickly. How hard would it have been to add a three digit patch number display (and allowing far more internal saved patches)? The Arp is not programmable out of the box (although there is a hack out there that allows you to create custom arps, and I highly recommend getting it). USB MIDI and audio sets up flawlessly in Windows 7 64 bit. A software editor would be nice (as of this writing, Roland still has not released it). It's not multitimbral, which is probably the biggest downside.
Ease of Use
Ridiculously easy to use, even if you're new to sound design and synthesis. The manual walks you through the process of creating several different types of sounds, and that's really all you need.
It's made of plastic, and weighs under 10lbs. Since the board was designed to be used hands-on, some of these buttons will start to wear out pretty quickly. If you plan on gigging with this, be gentle.
In this price range, the obvious competitors are the Novation Ultranova, and the M-Audio Venom. I believe the Roland is the easiest to program, and most fun to use. Whether you prefer the sound of one over the other is entirely subjective.
The Wow Factor
This should be not be your only hardware synth, but something that compliments your array. It's capable of creating some unique (or "hey, that sounds like Jarre/Tangerine Dream/etc.") sounds, and manipulating them in real-time is the reason you should be buying this.
audio engineer and musician
mostly electronic (any style).
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