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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Mar-16 > ROLAND BOUTIQUE


They finally did it. Three classic synths that we’ve all been craving remade for the 21st century – except, knowing Roland, we doubt it’s quite as simple as that. Andy Jones gets his hands on some synths you might not be able to…

I’m not going on another Roland rant – life is too short and so is my word count for this review. The Boutique range does need explaining, though, so I’ll keep it brief. Roland made great gear; invented dance music with it (kinda by accident); went digital (just like everyone else); everyone cried; everyone kept saying ‘release the classic stuff again!’; Roland ignored them; then Roland didn’t ignore them; suddenly, we have loads of Roland classic gear in new forms: analogue, digital, and, of course, drum roll… AIRA.

Yes, the new Roland classic gear can take a confusing array of forms: pure analogue (as in the System 500 modular); software ‘plug-outs’ (as in System-1); digital re-imaginings (for want of a better expression with AIRA); and now digital emulation with the Boutique range on test here.

There, I did it – in less than 150 words, I have explained what Roland has been doing for the last 30 years, and the (at least) four new strands of heritage-based synths the company is producing. Why (at least) four? Because Roland has divided itself into competing units and companies, although ‘making up for lost time’ could also be an answer. Either way, who cares? We’re getting what we asked for and we’re getting it in spades.

The Boutique range is three classic synths we’ve been waiting for – all three are shown here with optional keyboards attached

There is a problem with this

I’m pleased you’ve read the intro and I’m pleased I’ve written it. It’s the neatest and most concise version of Roland events I have managed to put down on paper, but I have to warn you: as pleased as I hope you’re also feeling after reading that intro, you might not want to read any further because the Boutique gear in the picture – and the gear that I am just about to write about – may well have sold out by the time you read this. A scan around the dealers reveals that you can order it as I write this, but Roland has said that it is limited edition, and that does appear to be true. So if you have already taken the plunge and bought the Boutique, then well done; and if you haven’t, then there might just be a glimmer of hope for you anyway.

When a company announces a limited-edition set of products, it’s usually to test the water or create a bit of excitement – or both. When those products sell out quickly, it would be pretty stupid not to release something along those lines in the future. In this case, then, I’d expect either more of the same or larger versions, which in itself is interesting, as Boutique’s size is both its Achilles heel and its strength.

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About MusicTech

The new issue of MusicTech is on sale Thursday February 18th and this month we’re bringing you the ultimate modular synth masterclass! We explain (in detail) how to build your own system. Also this month we’ve got a preview of Yamaha’s Montage synth, a look back at NAMM 2016 and brand new reviews and tutorials.