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Roland Newslink

Roland Product News


Roland products are conceived and designed as part of a single integrated electronic music system. This policy has been fundamental to Roland's success in the market. It has meant that while advancing technology always opens new doors, older products are not made redundant. The system is currently based to a great extent on MIDI although Roland offer interfaces between MIDI and older systems: the MD-8 is a 2-way MIDI/DCB Converter and the OP-8 M allows analogue output from a microcomposer to play either a DCB or MIDI synth. Roland policy is one of thorough-going commitment to MIDI but rather than simply excluding other equipment the aim is to bring it under the MIDI umbrella. The systems are also brought together by the Sync-24 synchronisation sockets which are common to all three standards.

Mother and Modules

In the past modular synthesis systems have been complicated, ramifying outfits geared to the needs of large recording studios. Of these Roland's own 100M has been by far the most successful in the world, but despite the fact that many studios and session keyboard artists swear by it — it's hardly a road rig!

But times are changing. Roland's new modular system, the first components of which are a 'Mother' keyboard and synthesizer and piano modules, is an attractive proposition for anyone. It's MIDI-based, polyphonic, compact and accessibly priced.

Roland's new system caters for all musicians. The controller at present is the MKB-1000 Mother Keyboard — an instrument built in the tradition of fine pianos with 88 weighted and balanced wooden keys. The MKB-1000 has controls for eight banks and a total of 128 programmes plus keyboard split and voice assign capabilities. But it has no sound circuitry of its own. It merely acts as a remote controller (through MIDI) for rack-mounted modules. As, indeed, can other MIDI keyboards as well as instruments like the Guitar Synth: drive a Roland piano or synth module with a standard Guitar Synth MIDI-link and you have an interesting variation on the guitar synth theme.

The modules themselves are 19" rack mounting. The MKS-10 is a piano module which develops the capabilities of the kind of circuitry used in the HP-300 and 400, Roland's most sophisticated velocity sensitive pianos. The authentic piano sound resulting from assigning different tone characters to different parts of the keyboard is characteristic of the MKS-10. It features several different piano voices but also has Vibes, Harp, Glockenspiel, Clavi (X3), Guitar (X2) and Harpsichord (X2). There is also Chorus, Flanging and two forms of LFO modulation on board; output is stereo or mono and the module can be assigned to any MIDI channel from one to 16.

The MKS-30 Synthesizer module is a dual oscillator, velocity sensitive polyphonic capable of memorizing 64 patches. Programmes can be altered or edited one parameter at a time or alternatively the PG-200 programmer designed for the JX-3P will also function with the MKS-30 (remember about systems?). Memory storage can be extended by RAM pack and cassette dump is provided. There's stereo chorus and stereo output and the module can be assigned any MIDI channel.

Digital Multitrack for All?

Now the Roland MSQ-700 and JSQ-60 mark a new era in recording procedures.

The digital technology of Roland's newest sequencers will revolutionise recording techniques as well as radically effecting stage work.

The technology has been around for a while in products like the MC-4B, but never in such a friendly and accessible package as the MSQ or the JSQ. These new sequencers point up the inefficiency of recording and mixing digital instruments on analogue tape. Traditionally, if you had a couple of synthesizers, a guitar synth and a drum machine, recording might take place using a day or so of studio time and numerous generations of tape track. Today, with similar equipment, all you need is an MSQ-700 with nearly seven thousand notes of memory.

The MSQ has eight tracks and would be treated like an eight-track reel-to-reel. Put an instrument on to each track and mix down according to taste. Note that the MSQ can remember pitch bend, a keyboard split, hold, velocity dynamics and patch information as well as pitch and time. So a piece of electronic music complete with sound changes can be stored by the sequencers in its entirety. And if you do want to make a record, the data to play all the electronic instruments can be recorded pre-mixed on to a single track — only the vocal mix need be added by conventional means. Incidentally, the MSQ has a tape sync feature for doing this.

Recording can be in real time but there's a 'resolution' control to correct to selected step values. Step time programming is also possible.

The MSQ-700 has MIDI and DCB connections whereas the less sophisticated JSQ-60 is purely DCB. Nevertheless you can still record up to 2,500 notes in real or step time and the JSQ will control several other sequencers or drum machines through the sync-24 socket.

Digital data does not corrupt and can be stored on cassette tape. At each playback the sound is exactly as it was in the original recording. Digital recording is here to stay — and starts at £250.

The Expansion Box

The MD-8 Interface converts DCB instruments to MIDI. It also converts MIDI Instruments to DCB. Or acts as a two-way interface enabling a MIDI keyboard either to control or be controlled by a DCB one.

It features In, Out and Through MIDI connections and a standard DCB socket on the front panel. There is a Programme On/Off selector to enable the MD-8 to change patch presets on the JP-6 or JX-3P using MIDI information. Finally, and vitally important as information technology in music and home computing becomes more sophisticated, there's a MIDI channel select which will isolate any given channel of information.

It may well be that users will want to control more than two or three synths in series. In this case it should be used in conjunction with the 1:4 MIDI through box which splits the MIDI signal four ways.

Success on a Plate

From time to time Newslink has mentioned the grey import blues, a painful condition arising from the purchase of non-standard equipment through non-authorised dealers, and the subsequent discovery when it goes wrong that the Roland guarantee doesn't hold good. For those wishing to avoid this, Roland have given them the answer on a plate. Every Roland supplied product has a small plate screwed to the back with the serial number. Ask the dealer to show you, and if it's there, fine. If not — don't expect the excellent back-up service which is a hallmark of Roland and the network of authorized Roland dealers.

Pint-Size D.D.

A digital delay in a pedal.

The DD-2 is a digital delay circuit which is in many respects comparable to the superb Boss DE-200 rack mounted delay. It has either mono or stereo output and gives delays up to 800 msecs.

Four rotary controls govern all the functions of the delay line. EL or effect level relates to the balance between the signal through the effect and the direct sound. Feedback controls the number of repeats, and D. Time regulates the delay time in whatever range you've selected. The delay ranges, 12.5 to 50msecs, 50-200msecs, and 200-800msecs, are selected by the Mode pot, which also has a Hold setting for infinite repeats so that a repetitive riff can be played over with the instrument's 'straight' sound. Separate output jacks are provided to allow stereo or mono operation.

The DD-2 has a 12-bit processor which gives a clean, accurate sound reproduction comparable with rack mounted digital delays. It is, in effect, a studio device compressed into a pedal, and at a price of £175 is not only the smallest and neatest but also the most competitive device of its kind.

Lower Spirits

Roland Spirit amps are straightforward, powerful rock combos with a surprising number of refinements and a low price — now even lower! The Spirit 10A and spirit 25A have an identical configuration except that the larger unit incorporates reverb. Both have Overdrive and Normal inputs, Volume and Master Volume controls, three-way equalization and Line Out and Headphone sockets. The 25A puts 25 watts through a 10" speaker and the 10A 10 watts through an 8" speaker. Both are built tough and sound LOUD — and a couple of more attractive little amps at £89 and £165 respectively you could hardly hope to meet.

Chorus Line for Bass Players

Remember the impression made by the Jazz Chorus amplifiers when they first came out? Remember how quickly they became what they still are — a studio standard for those who were serious about sound?

Well now Roland have done it again for the bassman. New BN series 60 watt and 100 watt amps are not cheap, but they literally bring a new dimension to the sound of bass instruments.

The key is in a new circuit perfected to adapt Roland Chorus to the special needs of bass guitarists. The extra richness this gives to bass guitar sound has never been equalled by any other amplifier, and the full potential of BN combos is realised when they're used as part of a stereo configuration.

Other facilities are what you'd expect from a top-flight studio combo. There's a choice of inputs and 4-channel active Eq. A Cannon-type balanced Line Out socket is provided together with a jack socket, and other rear panel connections include Main In, Pre Out, Chorus Out and Chorus footswitch. Both units use single 15" speakers and the BN-100 uses a tuned bass reflex enclosure.

Metal Essence

Just add guitar, amp, and someone who knows how to put some feeling into their axework and you have that sound. The smokey concert hall, the audience spilling into the aisles, the Flying V's and the Marshalls — the essence of great British metal.

The Boss HM-2 is already a best-seller because it's so much more than mere Distortion or Overdrive. The key is the way it fattens up exactly those frequencies that correspond to harmonically rich valve overdrive by means of 'colour mix' controls.

These controls, two pots which work independently of the Distortion and Level controls, allow the sound to be tailored from a warm, surging overdrive to a bright, punchy sound with a hard edge.

Not only that — but this pedal responds to your playing dynamics. Hit a soft note and the pedal passes the sound with only slight warmth. Strike a power chord, and the pedal cuts loose with all it's got. Which — at 3" x 3" x 5" and just £49 — is more than most people would believe!

Previous Article in this issue

The MIDI Juno

Next article in this issue

The Flexible Drumbox

Electronic Soundmaker & Computer Music - Copyright: Cover Publications Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.


Electronic Soundmaker - Jun 1984

Donated & scanned by: Mike Gorman

Roland Newslink

News by Roland UK

Previous article in this issue:

> The MIDI Juno

Next article in this issue:

> The Flexible Drumbox

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