A new Super-synth, Samples, and more
On a scale of one to 10, Roland's newest JX is very definitely a '10'
The JX-8P was a hard act to follow, but Roland, with two sampling keyboards and three digital pianos already available, have recognised the need to refine and improve upon the technology that has made their synthesizers the most popular in the world. Roland synthesizers sound warmer and richer than any others. The JX-10 gives the warmest, richest sounds of any Roland synthesizer – powered by no less than 24 DCOs plus 4-channel chorus. It also gives a richer variety of sounds than any similarly priced competitor – the more sophisticated circuitry capturing effects which are commonly associated with so-called 'digital' synthesizers. (In fact the JX-10 is a digital/analogue hybrid offering the best of both worlds).
The unusually generous endowment in the oscillator department is an important reason for the sound supremacy of the JX-10. You can use four oscillators per voice at 6-voice polyphonic, 2 oscillators per voice at 12-voice polyphonic, or split the keyboard and use 2 oscillators per voice in a six plus six mode. Combining this sound generating power with flexibility in constructing waveforms and de-tuning and cross-modulating the DCOs gives immense versatility.
In common with the other new Roland products, from drum brains to MIDI modules, the JX-10 uses an Alpha wheel to change and edit programmes. This is backed by a 32-digit fluorescent information display. 150 patches can be accessed at any one time comprising: 50 on-board presets which can't be altered or 'lost', 50 programmable patches, and 50 extra programmable patches stored in the accessory M-64C memory cartridge. 'One knob per function' programming is available through the optional PG-800 programmer. Every patch is made up of no less than 64 function settings, giving an unrivalled ability to create and edit sounds.
The JX-10 excels at all the most sought-after synthesized sounds: warm string effects, powerful brass, dry 'acoustic' sounds and cutting lead lines. It also has new features never before incorporated in a synthesizer. One of these is a unique 'Chase Play' function which allows two voices to sound, one immediately after the other, at a single touch of the keyboard. Depending on the voices chosen, this will give a variety of interesting effects, and can be compared with a digital delay except that the 'echo' sound is a completely new voice. 'Chase Play' double triggering can also be used to create more sophisticated envelopes than are possible with conventional envelope generators.
There is also a powerful on-board polyphonic sequencer backed by RAM cartridges. 170 notes are stored in the synthesizer's own memory, a further 560 stored on the M16C supplied with the instrument, and 2,600 more can be stored on each accessory M64C RAM pack. JX-10 owners can therefore build up RAM pack libraries of songs and sounds in various stages of completion. Because the JX-10 is a split keyboard synthesizer it is possible to use the sequencer with one voice on the lower half of the keyboard, and play a different voice on the upper section. A master volume fader controls not only volume but can also be assigned to vary sequencer tempo, MIDI volume and portamento time.
To sum up, the JX-10 is a remarkably impressive synthesizer. But it's also designed to double as the control centre for a MIDI system. The 76-note balanced and weighted keyboard is ideal for 'mother keyboard' applications, and using the Split and Dual modes the JX-10 can separately control two different MIDI sound sources. Two additional volume faders adjacent to the master volume give independent control of external MIDI units. The keyboard is, of course, velocity and pressure sensitive using the very versatile system pioneered in the JX-8P, in which major patch parameters can be linked to the touch response so that varying the playing style will create changes not only in volume but in voicing, tone, vibrato and so on. These functions will all work with an external synthesizer capable of receiving dynamic information, and the 'Super JX' can transform a keyboard player's style and technique due to this extra wealth of expression.
The JX-10 is available from Roland dealers now at a price of just under £1900. Not a cheap synthesizer, but with all that power – a bargain!
Two compact amps with OTT O/D
The new DAC-15 and DAC-15X combos from Roland are without a doubt the dirtiest little amplifiers in town. They are also, despite their relatively low wattage, unusually loud and remarkably versatile. There are, in effect, four controls to vary the degree of overdrive and distortion: a Gain control, a Master Volume Control and a Volume control are provided together with a Clipper switch which gives a characteristically warm, smooth overdrive effect comparable with an overdriven valve, Four-way Eq is also provided. The DAC 15X differs from the 15 in having four 5" loudspeakers instead of a single twelve-inch one.
The new sampling keyboards not only use new technology – they do so economically in 'musician friendly' products.
Sampling has been a 'buzz' word for sometime but Roland chose to carefully study the requirements of the market before developing the custom LSI (Large Scale Integration) sampling chip which is used in the new S-10 and S-50 keyboard samplers.
The S-10 has eight voices and a 49 note velocity sensitive keyboard.
It has four banks, each of which can contain a different sound sample of 1.1 seconds which can be played in any split or layered combination or chained to make one sample of 4.4 seconds. Crossfade looping is used to produced longer sustained notes.
The 12-bit linear data format gives a pure sound quality and a good signal to noise ratio and dynamic range.
The user's own sounds can be recorded using an auto-triggering function. The start point, end point and loop point can be edited by an Alpha dial and the sample stored on the in-built 'quick-disc' system.
It has an arpeggiator and is, of course, fully MIDI compatible.
The Roland S-50 has all the features of the S-10 but with a 16 voice, 61 note keyboard. It will also have a sequencer, (same as the JX-10) instead of the S-10's arpeggiator.
It has a maximum sample time of 17.2 seconds and up to 60 split points can be located, giving multi-sampling for each note, Samples can be assigned to one of four outputs in an 8:8, 8:4:4, 4:4:8 or 4:4:4:4 configuration.
'Scratch play' enables a sound to be played backwards and forwards with the Alpha dial for a record 'scratching' effect.
A display output direct to an RGB monitor allows the sample to be seen whilst it is edited with the Alpha dial, a mouse or an ASCII keyboard. Edited samples are then stored on the inbuilt 3.5 inch floppy disc drive.
Not a lot of fx units have genuine mystique, but Roland's Dimension D has always been the exception. Producers use it to give a spacious effect that cannot be duplicated by any other means. Some never switch it off. The Dimension D gives the kind of lift and spread sometimes associated with Chorus, but without impurities (the 'swirling' and de-tune) that are an essential part of the Chorus process.
Up until now, the dimension D has normally been a rack-mounted studio effect although many engineers also use them to lift a live performance. Now however, a new version called the Dimension C is built into a foot-pedal and can become part of a guitarist's standard equipment, Like the D, Dimension C (or DC-2) has four modes of operation offering different intensities from a slight coloration to a really spacial effect. If s a stereo device with excellent noise characteristics and therefore quite suitable for studio use. Because of its studio pedigree and the complex circuitry used to produce the unique 'dimension' characteristics, it costs £129, a little more than the average pedal. But for the difference it can make to your sound – it's cheap at the price.
The Boss RSD-10 features two functions; the Sampler that allows pitch and dynamics control and the Delay that allows as long as 2 seconds delay time. Adopting the circuit for pitch controlling by audio signal, the RSD-10 can be used with any type of synthesizer, varying the pitch of the sample sound more than 2 octaves. Also, the dynamics, pitch bender, vibrato, portamento, attack time, and delay time can be controlled if the keyboard used features such functions (eg the Alpha Juno 2 features all these functions). The Trigger Input and the Pad input Jack are provided for using the RSD-10 as an external sound source of a rhythm machine, and for producing the sound with dynamics that can vary by hitting the pad. The Playback Trim and Overdub Level controls can be effectively used for changing the length of the playback sound and for overdubbing.
To use the RSD-10 as a sampler, you need the Pedal Switch DP-2, the Pad BP-1 rhythm machine (with Trigger Out) or a keyboard (synthesizer).
The Boss BP-1 Pad Controller is ideally suited to the RSD-10 although it is also compatible with the DSD-2 compact sampler and delay or, indeed, most drum sound modules on the market as the sensitivity knob controls the output voltage.
It is touch sensitive so the sample can be played with full dynamic control.
The optional Pad Holder BPH-2 holds the two BP-1 s and can be installed on a tom stand.
Ted McKenna, on the recent Roland Bass/Drum clinics, used the BP-1 to play an RSD-10 that held a bar of an AC/DC number. The sample started every time he hit the pad so Ted was a 'band' all on his own. Perhaps, however, he didn't really need to put a Roland Rat sample into the other RSD-10!
Roland sequencers have always excelled but how do you follow the MSQ-700? Answer: by creating an even more versatile machine with built-in floppy disc and a price tag of only £799
The MC-500 is a new generation of micro-processor using its own 3½" floppy disc drive to store up to 100,000 notes to back up its internal memory capacity of 40,000 notes.
In common with other newly developed products from Roland, the keynotes are simplicity of programming and clarity of presentation. The new sequencer has ten keys, a dot matrix LCD display of 20 characters and two lines, and like the Alpha Juno synthesizers, an Alpha wheel for one-touch programming and editing.
The microcomposer allows Deleting, Inserting, Rewriting and copying for each bar and note, and it is possible to re-write Velocity or Gate Time of previously loaded notes. The system is velocity-sensitive and the ten input keys can be used to tap in velocity variations. Punch In and Punch Out can be used at any point even in the middle of a bar, as can MIDI channel assign.
The MC-500 can memorise eight songs as internal data, each song having four tracks for entering notes and a rhythm track of up to 999 bars. Songs can be 'Chained'. Each track can memorise MIDI channel allocations and can be loaded and overdubbed in real time, step time or using the ten keys. Mix-down between tracks can be carried out using a Merge function, enabling the Micro-Composer to be used as a complete digital multitrack system.
The MC-500 is loaded in real time and the 'micro-scope' editing allows all MIDI information, including exclusive messages, to be seen and edited, step by step, with the 10-keypad. Individual tracks can even be edited after they have been merged. It remembers all tempos and tempo changes and can send and receive MIDI song positions.
A systems disc will shortly be available which will turn the MC-500 into a microcomposer.
Roland's GR-77B can vastly extend a bass player's horizons, according to Chucho Merchan who used the instrument when he played with Pete Townshend at the Brixton concerts and at the MIDEM festival in Cannes. Chucho, a composer and bass player of Columbian origin, has his own jazz fusion band Macondo, which he formed in 1980. When not engaged on his own projects he's played and recorded with a whole host of musicians from Thomas Dolby and Alan Holdsworth to David Gilmour and the Pretenders, with whom he also used the GR-77B. Another occasion on which the bass synth came into its own was during the Columbia Volcano Appeal concerts, organised by Chucho at the Albert Hall.
Chucho says: 'Of course, the bass guitar synthesizer is great live because it opens up new musical fields for me. For example, on the Pete Townshend concerts I was able to play a long introduction on my own. I had this really moody heavy 'cello sound for a while and then I sustained it with the hold pedal and played the ordinary bass over the top. It's also pretty useful on sessions because so many producers want the bass to be played by a synthesizer and bass players have been losing a lot of work. The GR-77B lets me play the guitar with a synth sound.'
Roland Newslink - Summer 86
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