Roland has for the last two years been using its ACB modelling technology to prove that digital products can attain sounds close to those of classic analogue synths. These have included the TR-8 Rhythm Performer as well as the System-1 Plug-Out synthesizer or last autumn’s Boutique series. So what’s next?
It now appears that a new polyphonic hardware product is being prepared for release. The launch date has apparently been set for “909 Day”, the 9th of September, according to a user known as ToyBox who posted as much on the gearslutz forum. Rumours swirled earlier this year about a mooted new “System-8” synth with more keys and 8-voice ACB polyphony. Some had anticipated an announcement at NAMM or Musikmesse 2016. Looking at our collage based on System-1, it’s clear that this would not be a huge leap for Roland. Another source that appears to corroborate the rumoured name has surfaced on imgur: The image was a website screenshot of US retailer Musicians Friend’s site from 10th August 2016 and contained a reference to a product of this name, albeit without a product photo. Musicians Friend has since taken the page offline.
If I could choose, I would like to see a good-quality keyboard over at least 4 octaves – and not the one from the System-1. PLEASE include a display that lets you see the preset names clearly. It should offer at least two lines. And the option to store MORE THAN ONE plug out model in the hardware, even if you only use one at a time. But having to replace the model each time you’d like another one is a bit of a hassle. And I’d like to see more than 8 voices – 12 would be nice (in an age where hardly any digital synths has less than 64 voices). Personally, I wouldn’t need a patch bay as I am not big on modular synths. But on the other hand, why not? They’ve developed this functionality for the System-1M already, and it could turn this new hardware into the keyboard of choice for a modular system. That would be an interesting move given the current hype surrounding Eurorack modules. Oh: And PLEASE don’t repeat the mistake from the Boutique series of being powered only by USB or battery. Please include a power adapter option!
Let’s talk money. For €500, the System-1 has pretty much all the buttons and knobs required already. Consequently, I reckon that a bigger synth’s price tag would, depending on the features and DSP power on offer, be between double (49 keys) and triple (61) that amount. Judging by the sources I found googling “System-8” and “AIRA rumours”, I’m definitely expecting something to be announced along those lines.
There are a couple of rumours on other new Roland products, too: These revolve around new Boutique gear, including a “shrunk” TR-909, a “real” TB-303 (not like the TB-3 “future version” with no knobs) as well as a VP-330 vocoder. I also found something about a mooted Boutique TR-606. 909 and 606 don’t seem likely to me: The TR-8 is already out offering those sounds and a great bit of kit. If something new were to come along, I’d prefer a mark II version with the option to save sound settings with the kits – and allowing multiple kicks, snares and so on to be used at once (right now: only one instrument at a time). A 303 using ACB with the original control concept would be pretty sexy on the other hand, and a VP-330 vocoder would be a welcome surprise. Let the countdown to “909 Day” begin!