Roland’s new SYSTEM-500 modules, and why you might want them

There’s East Coast (Moog), there’s West Coast (Buchla) … and then there’s much further East. Roland’s SYSTEM-500 descends from the Japanese modular tradition. Now we have the details of their latest Eurorack renditions.

The SYSTEM-500 continues the collaboration between Roland and Portland, Oregon-based boutique maker Malekko Heavy Industry. CDM broke the story (at least in English) when the SYSTEM-500 made a cameo at an event in Berlin.

The other important thing to know is that Roland has taken some of the inspiration for the design of these modules from its early 80s SYSTEM-100M (which in turn drew from the 70s SYSTEM-100). They’re not reissues and they’re not copies – but they do take some sonic features and the interface approach from those modules. With much of the boutique community drawing from Buchla and Moog, this means Roland is a little different. At the same time, since they aren’t slavish recreations (except giving you the SH-5 filter, for instance), you get a slightly more up-to-date take on what these things are about and who they’re for.

Hey, Roland, you could also do a MIDI interface and call it the MPU.

SYS-510

Cost: US$399.99 street

The pitch: A place to get started

What it is: It’s an all-in-one synth module – basically three modules in one to get you started with a single voice. You get an oscillator, a filter, and an amplitude envelope. The idea is to give you a single module that gets your modular started. You could actually bolt this into a rack and get started – it takes inputs and outputs line output so you could hear what you’re doing. And while there are competing modules that do the same, this one is pretty economical, and it comes from Roland’s own heritage – it’s modeled on the early 1980s 100m Roland synth, which also had the goal of being a starter synth.

SYS-555 LAG/S&H

Cost: US$349.99

The pitch: A modulation source

What it is: It’s modulation in a box. Think ring modulation, waveforms, an LFO, noise, and portamento you can route into your other modules. This one is also 100m-based.

SYS-531 MIX

Cost: US$399.99

The pitch: A mixer in a module

What it is: The 531 also draws from the 100m history, but the important thing is really that it’s more of a conventional mixer in modular form. Now, part of the appeal of Eurorack is frankly that it is esoteric – but musicians at some point may expect mixers to behave more like mixers. So while you do get some voltage control (for panning), the appeal to me of the 531 is that it has, like, mixer faders and pan pots you can easily reach out and grab. There are even LED meters so you can see what you’re doing.

Oh, and you can plug line and mic level inputs here, too, so you can combine instruments and voice easily. Roland promises “boutique-quality,” “high-fidelity,” “low-noise” circuitry on this unit, which I take to mean it doesn’t suck. And the mic pre can be pushed into “pleasing overdrive.”

SYS-505 VCF

Cost: US$349.99

The pitch: The signature Roland filter from the SH-5

The SH-5 is a Chinese maritime patrol amphibious aircraft — wait. Sorry, wrong link. The Roland SH-5 was the 1976 classic of roughly the same generation as the SYSTEM-100 modules. Just as Moog made the Minimoog as an all-in-one keyboard monosynth with features of its modular system, so Roland made the SH-5 as its ready-to-play keyboard. And the SH-5 might be a household name with casual synth enthusiasts today, had Roland not eclipsed their own legacy with better-known 80s offerings like the SH-101 and TB-303.

But here’s the important bit: while a lot of modules have filter circuitry modeled on a Moog ladder filter or other well-known filter designs, the SH-5 has its own sound. It’s part multi-mode filter, part bandpass filter … which is to say, it really growls.

Growl how? Like this:

The 505 has no particularly fancy features. It’s just a straightforward, great-sounding filter. But it could be either the complement to the offerings above, or – for people who already have invested heavily in modular – it might be the one module you grab out of this lineup, just to add a bit of Roland sound to your rack. Just get ready to shove a fader up and down instead of twist a knob, because Roland likes vertical faders.

And we close with this image, which demonstrates that… uh… maybe the photo department needs to buy some shorter cables. (Looks impressive, though. Also, for some reason I either want a big bowl of ramen or a bag of Red Vines – or both.)

More:
https://www.superbooth.com/en/roland.html

SYSTEM-500

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Behringer promises $49-99 Eurorack, but gets its ideas from Roland and forums

Uli Behringer is apparently just getting started trolling the industry, promising US$49-99 Eurorack. But so far, that announcement involves renderings of Roland gear and a plea for user forums to tell them what to do.

That’s right: even as people are buzzing about Behringer, all we’ve got are some shady renders, and a forum post. The designs are straight from decades-old Roland gear. There’s not even the work to engineer them. And the rest is talk.

Heck, I could do this. CDM is proud to bring you $19 Eurorack modules. Of what? Don’t know. You tell us. When? Someday. How will they work? Oh, they might use an old design. Or you might design them. Don’t know – again, that’s up to you!

Let’s be clear: promising Eurorack modules for under a hundred bucks ought to be a popular idea. But then it’s easy to promise something. And it’s perhaps worth pointing out, if you don’t mind doing some soldering yourself – or even prefer that – you can assemble a budget modular system. Or, heck, you can run VCV Rack and even buy some top-quality modules for it for $100, all in. But that’s unlikely to stop random people on forums and news comments, who will embrace the idea that Behringer alone could do modular on a budget.

Nor are these new designs. Behringer describes them as related to the “legacy 100m” modules. Uh… that “legacy” would be Roland’s. And as with other Behringer forum posts targeting Roland, there seems to be no original idea other than copying what Roland has done. The timing is suspicious, as well. Uli took to the forums Saturday. CDM readers will know that we shared the news (along with some German press also in attendance) that Roland was reviving its 100M line with new SYSTEM-500 modules, showing them here in Berlin on Thursday. And of course, that’s an extension of a line that already existed.

New Roland SYSTEM-500 analog Eurorack modules spotted in the wild

Clones seem to be the order of the day, as Behringer promises to “bring back” more “legacy” hardware. In fact, Behringer are so hard up for ideas of what to actually do, they’re going beyond just posting quick what-if renders of Roland modules, or continuing this trend of posting teasers as a series of questions. (“What do you want to see? What should we charge? What color should this be? What do you want for lunch?”) Behringer are now posting to message forums asking for people to submit ideas:

You present is with your design (you need to have at least a working prototype) and perhaps show us a video etc. so we can understand your concept.

Provided you are OK with it, we could then post the video here and if there is enough interest, we would consider manufacturing and distributing the product for you. In return we would allow you to get a percentage of the revenue.

At the same time we would be featuring you and your designs so you get the well deserved exposure.

Here’s the thing: there’s already a community of engineers making hardware. Roland are certainly not above criticism, but to the credit of the Japanese giant, when they entered the market they partnered directly with an existing vendor. (On the modular side, they worked with Malekko Heavy Industry. The Roland Boutique Series SE-02 was made with Studio Electronics.) Buchla are working with original engineers, and many of the Buchla-inspired designs are made by people with years of experience doing Buchla repair. Moog are returning not just to original designs but original parts. I could go on …

And that’s to say nothing of vendors from MakeNoise to Mutable Instruments doing original designs. That originality translates into sound.

Behringer’s trolling is way ahead of their actual products. The Minimoog clone Behringer-D is accurate – and accurately reproduces the tuning instability of the original’s analog oscillators. The Behringer DeepMind is actually a pretty decent synth, but it’s also got competition in the same price range – some of it with fresher ideas – and Behringer’s endless forum posts about speculative products and clones ironically distract from the accomplishments on their one genuinely original synth.

I think the Eurorack manufacturing community is headed into some tougher times, especially as a glut of used products catches up faster than the market can grow. And price pressure will surely become a reality.

But what’s most stunning of all is that Behringer is disrupting the industry and attracting attention without actually making anything. This may give them additional attention, but somebody ought to same something.

Behringer Eurorack Modular [GearSlutz]

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Behringer Eurorack Module – Roland Clones und andere?

Behringer modular roland clones

Behringer geht den Weg, den viele gehen, zur Superbooth und dem aktuellen Trend der Eurorack Module. 

Es gibt mal wieder neue Bilder von gecloneten Modulen klassischer Hersteller. In dem Falle ist es Rolands System 100m, welches es unter dem Namen System 500 schon einige Zeit gibt, ebenso auch eine Neuauflage. Deshalb mag das ein Teaser sein, denn markttechnisch wäre es bedenklich mit „dem gleichen“ Angebot aufzuwarten wie die Original Hersteller.

 

Klassisch

Aber wie ist es mit anderen eher klassischen Herstellern? Eine Buchla Box 200 oder ein altes Serge aus den Siebzigern oder auch Moog und Co.? Oder vielleicht sogar ein Korg PS 3300? Nun, letzteres wird wohl nicht passieren, obwohl das garantiert keiner clonen wird wegen des hohen Aufwandes und Behringer wären die einzigen, die das „günstig“ machen könnten.

Aber Behringer kann genau das gut und günstig und wie wir ja gelernt haben – es sollte eher pure analoge Technik sein, damit wären es also die alten Modulsysteme der frühen Zeit in denen noch nicht so viel digitale Technik steckt und was auch eher der Schwachpunkt der Euroracks ist – der Klang der Klassiker ist schon noch etwas fetter als das meiste was man so bekam in dem kleinen Format. Das muss aber nicht so sein. Wie man an den neuerlichen Moog Clones von AJH sehen und hören kann.

Welche Vorteile?

Was würde Behringer bringen? Billiger! Und alte Sachen wieder da, die sonst keiner bauen würde? Würde man dann ausgerechnet das System 500 bzw. 100m als Beispiel nehmen? Nunja, man zeigte auch einen Odyssey und hat ihn nie gebaut, es gibt Bilder und Renderings und sogar reale Bilder einer Menge von Synths, kaufen kann man aktuell aber einen modernisierten Juno und den Minimoog sowie eine eigene Entwicklung, den Neutron. Vermutlich kommen müsste der Oberheim UB-Xa, vielleicht ein VCS3 und der Roland Vocoder wurde bereits funktionsfähig gezeigt in einem Video von Fairchild. Wir werden sehen was es wirklich wird und wann. Lieferungen sind aktuell sehr schleppend und ausschließlich über einen Laden in Deutschland.

Ist das eigentlich gut oder schlecht? Nun, für die die günstig Klassiker wollen – gut, für die Konkurrenz vielleicht eher schlecht.
Preise und Lieferbarkeit sind natürlich noch unbekannt.

LEAK: Roland System 500 mit neuen Modulen aus dem 100m

Roland System 500

Das System 500 wurde von Roland schon vor einiger Zeit vorgestellt, war aber unvollständig. Es war auf die wichtigen stilprägenden Module reduziert. Das ändert sich jetzt.

Das System 500 hatte ein Manko, man musste das Sample & Hold Modul mit dem Rauschgenerator und dem LFO extra von anderen Herstellern kaufen, obwohl Roland schon ein schönes Case bereit hielt, passte dieses natürlich dort nicht hinein.

Jetzt hat man eine Alternative gefunden mit einem neuen Misch-Modul aber auch dem klassischen VCO-VCF-VCA-Kombinations-Modul, welches sich sehr gut als Basis für ein mehrstimmiges System eigenen würde und Platz schafft.

Außerdem sind die Doppelmodule für 2 Tiefpassfilter und Oszillatoren offenbar auch lieferbar. Oder zumindest in diesem System zu sehen. Die Szene munkelte ja schon länger, dass dieses System wieder auftauchen würde. Klingen tut es authentisch und so wie man das erwartet. 😉

Roland System 500 Leak V2.0
Roland System 500 Leak V2.0
Roland System 500 Leak V2.0
Roland System 500 Leak V2.0

New Roland SYSTEM-500 analog Eurorack modules spotted in the wild

Roland hasn’t made any announcement about new modular – but it seems a handful of SYSTEM-500 analog modules have just made an appearance in the wild, rounding out an existing range. We’ve got some “spy” shots.

Yes, it seems unannounced Eurorack products from the Japanese maker found their way into a shoe event. These modules will extend Roland’s existing range of SYSTEM-500 modules, made in collaboration with boutique Eurorack manufacturer Malekko Heavy Industry Corporation. Like the other AIRA offerings, Roland is looking to their own past: the SYSTEM-500 line is inspired by the SYSTEM-100M made in the early 80s.

But what’s significant about the SYSTEM-500 is that Roland are working with a smaller maker. And lest you confuse these with the 303, 808, 909 remakes and the like, these are analog, as was the original source material.

All of that’s interesting, even in the crowded Eurorack landscape, because it isn’t just following the mold of the Moog or Buchla modulars. So you might add SYSTEM-500 to your rack to get a distinctive Roland modular sound.

Okay, so how do we know these are new? Well, first, here’s the range of Roland SYSTEM-500 that was available previously:

512 Dual VCO
521 Dual VCF
540 Dual Envelope Generator and LFO
530 Dual VCA
572 Phase Shifter, Delay and LFO

Malekko actually have the best overview:
https://malekkoheavyindustry.com/system-500/

Now, here’s what was spotted in Berlin:

505 Dual VCF
555 LAG / S&H
531 Mix
510 Synth

That mixer looks really useful, alone – mute switches, actual faders, actual panning. Not everything there can be CV-automated, but to me that misses the point: it’s useful to have hands-on mixing when you’re playing.

And then the LAG/S&H gives you a whole bunch in one module – and the Synth looks like it could be a starting point for an entry-level modular rig.

A quick play says these can sound really nice. I expect we’ll know more at Superbooth in Berlin next month. (Roland aren’t showing this at Musikmesse.)

Some poor pictures from me to give you a taste – let us know questions and I suspect we can get answers when these launch:

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Roland – das Geheimnis des verlorenen Moduls – System 80 füllt Lücken.

System 80 - 850

Rolands System 500 ist in sich geschlossen nutzbar und auch “vollständig”. Allerdings fehlt ein Modul, das es damals gab. Das muss man sogar von anderen Herstellern beziehen, da man selbst wohl bewusst nur jene Module anbieten mochte, die relevant nach Roland klingen. System 80 sorgt mit dem 850 für Abhilfe.

Modul 150 im alten System 100m und im neuen würde es wohl 550 heißen. Bei System 80 aber nennt es sich 850. Das ist ein Sample- and Hold Modul mit zusätzlichem LFO mit 4 Schwingungsformen und Rauschgeneratoren für weiß und rosa und einem Glättungsmodul (Slew Limiter), um zwischen den Stufen erneut eine Rundung zu erzeugen.

System 80 – 850 Modul

Sample and Hold benutzt man für interessante Treppenstufen-Muster, die man aus einem LFO und Rauschen generieren kann. Dazu taktet das Sample & Hold und greift bei jedem Taktsignal einfach ab, was am LFO oder Zufallsgenerator anliegt. So bekommt man entweder eine gerasterte steigende oder eine fallende “Treppe” oder jenen bekannten Zufallssprung von Takt zu Takt.

Alle diese Module sind gut gewählt, um eine vollständige und extrem praxisnahe Nutzung zu erhalten. Deshalb ist dieses Open-Source-Modul für alle Nutzer des neuen und des alten Systems von Roland das fehlende Stück Hardware. Da es offen und für jeden erreichbar sein soll, kann man sich auf auf Github. bedienen, einer bekannten Ablagerungsstelle für Open-Source-Hard- und Software. Ein kleines Delay ist übrigens auch eingebaut, welches sich auf den LFO bezieht. Die Taktung des Sample & Hold liegt bei 100 Hz, und der LFO kann sogar 150 Hz erreichen und startet bei 0,015 Hz. Damit ist das Modul definitiv für alle Anforderungen gewappnet.

System 80 ist uns bereits früher aufgefallen und der Name ist offenbar Programm: Roland-Clones von Modulen und vielleicht später noch mehr? Das Jupiter-6-Filter gab es “so” nie als Modul, aber als JOVE kann man es noch immer bekommen.

Mehr Infos

 

Roland AIRA Modular: Tabletop, Eurorack, Digital, Analog, Our Comprehensive Guide

This is how much the world has changed: we aren’t just talking the resurgent, enduring synthesizer. Nor are we talking about retro reissues. We aren’t even talking the return of analog control voltage.

We’re uttering “Roland” and “Eurorack” in the same breath.

Roland has taken the wraps off their AIRA modular plans, and they’re extensive. Make no mistake, this is still AIRA, and it’s still Roland – these are devices that look and sound like the AIRA series. That is an obvious point of differentiation for the boutique makers, the sometimes one-person manufacturers, and the uniqueness of what they produce. But we’ll have to see what the impact of Roland is on that market. What we know right now is that a big player is acknowledging the world those small makers have forged over the past couple of decades.

You can use the AIRA modulars on a tabletop – you don’t even need to rack mount them. But if you do care about Eurorack, everything they’re unveiling today can be mounted in a Eurorack setup. One mass-produced product can sit next to something that was part of a run of 50 built by hand by one guy in his kitchen.

Let’s look at the lineup.

airamodular

system-1m_gal

First, there’s the SYSTEM-1m. As I noted before, Roland has already built a modular that centered around a single, all-in-one synth – the System-100, with the Synthesizer-101 at its core. That is in fact exactly the approach Roland took here. The SYSTEM-1m starts as the AIRA SYSTEM-1, so it is really a capable monosynth before you patch anything.

The “m” in “1m” is meaningful, however. There are some 19 CV/gate and audio connections added to the original SYSTEM-1. They’re color-coded with lights to make them easier to patch. (Okay, I know what is first on my videography list this week.)

system-1m_left_gal

“We’re gonna need a bigger rack.” Yes, that’s a whopping 84 HP Eurorack this will take up, but you can use Eurorack power.

“Euro-what? Garsh darn it I ain’t usin’t none uh that Euuuro crap with their cappuccinos and their trams and callin’ soccer football — uh, I have no idea why that would be useful to me, sorry.” Okay, fine. No problem. Plug in standard AC power and stick this in a 19″ rack.

And there’s also AIRA Link for connecting this to the MX-1 performance mixer we saw at NAMM, because it wouldn’t be a Roland product if there weren’t a half dozen brand-name gizmos to talk about.

But this is all interesting. The SYSTEM-1 already had a surprisingly unique synth engine inside, capable of some unruly sounds. PLUG-OUT got off to a funky start with compatibility issues, but it has slowly added other synth models like the PRO MARS or the classic SH-101. That feature of course is troll bait for digital haters who call all the new Roland stuff a plug-in with knobs. But I expect for others, it’s a big selling point. And even without that, the SYSTEM-1 was a reasonable enough synth that this is worth a look.

Oh, and it’s a module that also has audio and MIDI interface built in, so it’s friendly to newcomers.

http://www.roland.com/products/system-1m/

The AIRA Modules

Not content with that, you also get AIRA effects modules. They’re digital, but they have 24-bit knobs. You can use them as a tabletop effect, or 21 HP Eurorack module using either an AC adapter or power via your Eurorack. And they appear to be based on the same modeling technology in the rest of the AIRA line.

Because they’re digital, they can also receive software updates, though it’s not clear yet how Roland intend to use that. You can also re-program them via desktop (OS X or Windows), or mobile (iOS or Android) application – need to find out what that means, too.

Another surprise: they’re “carefully crafted in Japan.” I’m assuming that’s just where the housing is added, but given how much manufacturing has been off-shored by the big players, that’s still a step back to where we came from.

bitrazer_front_gal

BITRAZER is a “bit and sample rate destruction” – a decimator effect.

http://www.roland.com/products/bitrazer/

demora_front_gal

DEMORA is a high-resolution delay, boasting a time range of 20 microseconds to 10 seconds, with delay time, feedback and width.

http://www.roland.com/products/demora/

scooper_front_gal

SCOOPER is a “scatter” effect in a modular. Now, unlike that delay, this is maybe the one I’m least interested in, personally, just because I found some of Roland’s “scattering” on AIRA to be a bit unconvincing. But part of the problem was the absence of controls. Maybe they’ve made this something other than an instant-EDM effect; I’ll keep an open mind.

http://www.roland.com/products/scooper/

torcido_front_gal

TORCIDO is a distortion. Here, they also hope you’ll consider buying it even if you’re not building weird sound designs in your basement on your modular, with an appeal to “keyboard players, guitarists, DJs or any adventurous musician looking to expand their sound.”

Sound – yes, we need to hear how it sounds.

http://www.roland.com/products/torcido/

And the Reissues – Roland is Going Analog

Okay, now having just baited anyone complaining about modeling, complaining about digital, complaining about toys – indeed, generally complaining about Roland …

To anyone who claimed Roland would never go analog, you’re wrong.

500aira

The update about which we have the least information is also the most interesting. Roland is doing a new Eurorack analog system based on their previous models, and it uses analog circuitry rather than the digital modeling business.

From the AIRA site:

Roland is also pleased to announce the development of the SYSTEM-500, an all-new, fully analog modular synthesizer based on two of the most revered electronic instruments of all time—the SYSTEM-700 and SYSTEM-100m. Designed exclusively for Eurorack, the SYSTEM-500 delivers classic Roland sound with all the advantages and reliability of a modern instrument.

So there you have it.

Any betting readers out there, if you had the foresight to bet against KORG and on Roland doing the first modular, you just hit the jackpot. I hope you’re buying dinner for us in Frankfurt.

We’ll try to reach the Roland folks.

And I have something special in mind for a review. Stay tuned to CDM.

http://www.roland.com/aira/airamodular/

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The Last Time Roland Did Modular: The System 100

rolandmodule100

With widespread reports that Roland will soon have a new modular product, it’s worth remembering: Roland has done modular before.

That legacy carried the name System-100. The original 100 semi-modular lineup of the late 70s, and the Synthesizer-101, might actually be more relevant today than it was when it first shipped. The clever concept here was to put a full-featured monosynth with a keyboard at the center, then add modules around it. That seems to make loads of sense to me, as it creates a playable instrument that can nonetheless be patched for more creative sound design options. The full line even included speakers, in a triumph of all-in-one industrial design; the modular components and speakers interlocked into a single cabinet.

Producer Björn Fogelberg jams a bit with the 101′s sample & hold circuitry, for a sense of what this beast is like to play. And have a listen to the sound: you could argue that this is one of the best-sounding instruments Roland ever built.

The 100m is probably a more appropriate model for whatever is coming from Roland next, but check out the stunning industrial design on the original System 100. This might inspire a custom Eurorack cabinet with keyboard, or two. Photo (CC-BY Notreshuggie.

The 100m is probably a more appropriate model for whatever is coming from Roland next, but check out the stunning industrial design on the original System 100. This might inspire a custom Eurorack cabinet with keyboard, or two. Photo (CC-BY Notreshuggie.

The 100 was followed by the System 100m starting in 1979, produced through 1984 – see the vintage Roland ad at top for a look at what the modules were like. And here we have something that would look very much at home among Eurorack module offerings today; the design and layout are even similar. The 100m was a true modular system, rather than a semi-modular design as the Synthesizer-101 and companion components were. The notion was, as with today’s modulars, that you’d combine individual components into the instrument you wanted – oscillator, amplifier, mixer, envelope, filter, modulation, and so on.

There are some clues in the 100m line of what we might see in future from Roland. Apart from distinctive look and feel and interface design conventions, Roland’s 100m had some signature sound processors. The Ring Mod, Phase Shifter, and Sample & Hold might each make some appearance – and some sort of sequencer would be a no-brainer too.

Roland’s somewhat confusingly-named AIRA SYSTEM-1 made a nod to that history, though the actual design had nothing to do with it. I think whatever may be next from Roland will have something to do with the 100m. (And I can speculate freely, as I know nothing.)

But the 100m is worth a look, either way. Here’s a play on it filmed at the University of Huddersfield:

Now, I know what you’re thinking: if only these beautiful antiques could have neon green on them, AIRA style. Okay, no, that’s probably not at all what you’re thinking.

But I think the sound modeling guts of the SYSTEM-1 have some real potential for more instruments from Roland. And I think the design of the 100/100m could well be a legacy worth building on. Any Roland entry into modular is unlikely to disrupt the existing boutique makers: part of the allure of modular is finding unique designs and archaic analog circuitry and digital code, the very opposite of what a builder like Roland represents. But if Roland has done a good job with this design, there’s no reason the two couldn’t coexist.

That might not strike your fancy if you only know the recent Roland, and haven’t really dug into some of the sounds the AIRA SYSTEM-1 can make (in its original, default mode), or if you don’t know the history of the System-100. But… if you do, you just might be watching for what happens at Roland’s booth at Musikmesse. Just days left, so get your advance speculating / ranting / trolling in now, while you still can.

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