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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Feb 17 > ROLAND System-8

ROLAND System-8

Roland’s continuing crusade to bring us a new take on the classics from its back catalogue continues with the System-8. Dave Gale takes a closer look at this new wolf in Jupiter’s clothing…
Stunning in its full size and illuminated in green glory – the new and exciting System-8 from Roland

Lead Review


Manufacturer Roland

Price £1,239 (street price)

Contact 01792 702701


Key Features

Full-size 49-key synthesiser

Eight-note polyphonic

Onboard synth including three Plug-Out slots

Jupiter-8 and Juno -106 Plug-Outs included

MIDI, USB and CV/Gate

Arpeggiator, Sequencer and Vocoder built in

Rumours and excitement about happenings at Roland have been building over the last couple of years, with some real surprises coming from the company that’s largely responsible for inventing the sound of dance music as we know it. Apart from the obvious drum and squelch machines that we’ve seen already, many of us were hoping for some form of reissue of its classic polysynth line, namely the Jupiter and Juno series from the 80s – and just like a London bus, you wish for one, and two come along at once.

Designing the future

The new flagship synthesiser from Roland is a delightfully multifaceted affair. On the one hand, we see a large redesign of the previously seen System 1/1m, fitting into a 49-note keyboard, which clearly has far more fascia real estate to play with than the earlier models, immediately making it more appealing and alluring, but while also keeping a sensible footprint. It’s of a similar size to the old JP-8000, mainly thanks to the four octaves, rather than the five sported by its Roland-polysynth forerunners.

The layout feels beautifully familiar, but somehow repetitive. The starklooking white legend on the black background is very clear to read, but so similar across the board that it might have been a nice touch to differentiate between the various sections with some colour. Granted, once powered up, the green backlights guide your path, but given the roots to the older siblings, which used colour extensively and to great effect, it would have been a nice touch. A case in point is that I kept reaching for the LFO, thinking that it was Oscillator One, but I guess it could be more down to my lack of familiarity and stupidity… This aside, the other major improvements over the previous system range are to do with the backlighting. The garish green lights can be very bright, making it tricky to read the legends in dim lighting, so Roland has now initiated a dimming control, allowing the user to tone the brightness down, or even turn it off, although this might cause confusion when entering Plug-Out mode, but I have to say that toning it down makes it very easy to both use and see. The ‘dancing lights’ can also now be switched off, so no longer do you have to feel like the Aira range is on display in a shop, which I always found a distraction when working with the other Airas. Roland has clearly listened to feedback from customers, and reacted, which is excellent news for all.

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