Roland System 8 Synthesizer

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American Musical Supply is a great place to find your next synthesizer, be it analog, digital, hardware, or even a soft synth. With the Roland System 8 Plug-Out Synthesizer, you incorporate all of those different types of synthesis into one incredible musical tool!  While at some point in the not too distant past, each of those distinctions once marked a diverging path in the evolution of the synthesizer - Roland has taken things into their own hands - bringing the best of all worlds to  their powerful System 8.

By choosing the best elements of each technology, Roland has created the inspiring and astounding System 8 synthesizer; a programmable eight-voice polyphonic synthesizer that has been embraced by droves of modern synthesizer performers, sound designers, and audio production artists. The System 8 is built on the Analog Circuit Behavior (ACB) technology that lies at the heart of the Roland AIRA product line. Analog Circuit Behavior models how all of the components and controls in an analog circuit interact, delivering an accurate recreation of the original circuit.

Roland System 8 Synthesizer Features
  • 8 Voice Polyphony 
  • 49 Velocity-Sensing Synth-Action Keys
  • Single-function illuminated knobs and sliders; high-resolution digital encoding
  • Storage for 64 Individual Patches (per Model)
  • Storage for 64 Multi-Patch Performance Setups
  • Sound Engines: 
    • System 8 
    • Plug-Out 1 (Jupiter 8 installed)
    • Plug-Out 2 (Juno 106 installed)
    • Plug-out 3 (Open)
  • Astounding Analog-style synthesizer 
    • Multifunction LFO 
    • 3 Oscillators + Noise (White/Pink) 
    • Mixer 
    • Pitch Envelope 
    • Multimode Filter w/dedicated ADSR 
    • Amp section w/dedicated ADSR
    • Portamento, Arpeggiator, and Chord Memory
  • Effect (6 types); Reverb (6 Types); Delay Chorus (6 Types)
  • Vocoder
  • Polyphonic 64-Step Sequencer – Records Select Knob Motions
  • CV+Gate, MIDI, and USB connections
  • Audio Inputs (1/4"); Audio Outputs (TRS 1/4"); Headphone Output (1/4")
What really sets the System 8 apart from anything that has come before it is Roland’s exclusive Plug-Out technology. The more familiar plug-in technology lets individual software synthesizers exist inside of a host DAW program. The Roland Plug-Out system allows an individual software instrument to be loaded directly into the System 8 as a Plug-In that can be part of a real-time performance — with no computer present. The System 8 ships with Plug-Out models of both the legendary and all-powerful Jupiter 8 and the ubiquitous Juno 106. Additional Plug-Out models include the Pro Mars and SH-101, among others.

System of Success
The System 8 is the pinnacle of Roland synthesizer technology, bringing together their innovative ACB (Analog Circuit Behavior) tech and their trailblazing Plug-Out expansion concept. The result is a hands-on synthesizer with truly massive potential. Individually backlit knobs and sliders look cool in the studio, provide clear visibility on stage, and invoke the dedicated single-function controls of analog synthesis; high-resolution digital control brings smooth, satisfying, and artifact-free behavior to each one. The rock-solid digital backbone of the System 8 also provides programmability, sequencing, USB connectivity, plus the ability to host the Plug-Out models.

By any measure the System 8 is an incredible synthesizer. Start with 3 oscillators, multimode filtering, Ring Modulation and Oscillator Cross Mod, Dedicated EGs, and a remarkable LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator). Add to that a polyphonic step-sequencer, an arpeggiator, the vocoder, and a trio of onboard effects. Don’t forget the 49 expressive velocity-sensing keys and the multifunction modulation/bender. Put it all together and the System 8 moves to the head of the pack.

But there is so much more - CV (Control Voltage) and Gate outputs allow the System 8 to drive your other analog synthesizers. AIRA Link technology provides advanced USB audio and data communication to other Roland AIRA Products. Most importantly, the Roland System 8 Synthesizer sounds fantastic! From buttery-smooth analog pads and leads to wildly aggressive stabs and solos, the System 8 delivers anything and everything the serious synth enthusiast craves.

Solid Synthesis
Roland has created the System 8 with an incredibly capable synthesis engine. There are three Oscillators overall - the first two provide a range of waveshapes and timbres selected using the unique Color control, as well as the Variation knob. The Modulation source - and amount - can be set individually for each oscillator. Octave settings, Coarse and Fine-tuning knobs, Cross modulation control, and selectable Sync and Ring modulation achieve unchallenged versatility. The third oscillator excels at performing as a sub oscillator to reinforce the fundamental pitch or can be used to beef up the bass end. The mixer controls the oscillator balance, and can introduce either white or pink noise to the mix.

Of special interest to analog synth fans is the System 8’s Filter section, which offers standard HP (High Pass) and LP (Low Pass) filters in 24 dB, 18 dB, and 12 dB flavors – also known as four-pole, three-pole, and two-pole, respectively. Switching to Variation 2 opens the door to some unusual but effective sideband filtering and other options. The Filter also features an overall High Pass Filter Cutoff control, reminiscent of the classic Roland Jupiter 8. Dedicated EG (Envelope Generators – individual stages are labeled Attack, Sustain, Decay, and Release) are provided for Pitch (AD), the Filter (ADSR), and the Amp (ADSR). Last but not least is the incredible System 8 LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator) section. Using the Variation and the Waveform knobs together, the System 8 produces 18 distinct modulation wave shapes, from a simple sine wave to a resonance pulse waveform, or even Random and Sample & Hold selections. It’s a sonic engine that any programmer or sound designer would proud to call their own.
Extras & Effects
The quest to enhance the sound and performance capabilities of synthesizers has led to numerous innovations over the years, and many of them can be found in the System 8. The Modulation/Bender provides real-time control of the pitch and filter cutoff frequency, or applies modulation to either or both. Portamento creates smooth gliding between notes. The keyboard can be played in the polyphonic, monophonic, or unison modes and Chord Memory stacks an entire chord on a single key. Key Velocity can be instantly bypassed with a single button for a more straightforward approach, while the arpeggiator creates a rhythmic pattern based on the notes held on the keyboard. In addition to all of these impressive extras, the System 8 features a rich effects section. The first Effect processor offers six stomp-box style effects from Overdrive to Metal to Phaser and the second serves up six Delay and Chorus effects. The third effect provides six types of Reverb - Plus, the Roland System 8 Synthesizer is equipped with an awesome Vocoder.

Sound in Motion
The Step-sequencer has been a staple of audio synthesis from the beginning – back when 8 or 16 steps was considered adequate. That clockwork timing gave birth to entire genres of music. The System 8 takes this crucial sound tool up a notch, offering a generous 64 steps. What really sets the System 8 sequencer apart is that each step is polyphonic, allowing multiple notes or even a complete chord to be stored on every step. And there’s more. . . the System 8 allows the motion of specific knobs and controls to be recorded as part of the sequence. So after entering the notes, you can go back and adjust the gate time, the filter cutoff, and other parameters in real-time – with the sequence running! Each sequence can be saved as part of the individual Patch for easy recall.

Savings Banks
Individual sounds in the System 8 are saved as Patches - two Patches create a Performance and each Patch is also saved with its own effects and its own sequence pattern. For each Model in use (System 8; Plug-Out 1, etc.) there are 64 memory locations available to store Patches – 8 banks of 8. An SDHC card slot is provided, allowing Preset and Performance data to be backed up safely.

Tune In and Plug-Out
One of the most interesting innovations from Roland has to be the Plug-Out. The Plug-Out takes the idea of a Software Synthesizer (Softsynth) and stands it on its head. In the past, a soft synth was a software emulation of an actual hardware synthesizer. Depending on how it was created, a soft synth could run as a stand-alone computer program, or a plug-in version may have been available. The plug-in architecture allowed the soft synth to exist as a separate entity hosted inside of a larger Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) platform. Now, with the Plug-Out, Roland has created software emulations of their most coveted synthesizers including the SH-101, ProMars, Jupiter 8, Juno 106, Semi-Modular System 100, and the SH-2.
Roland’s Analog Circuit Behavior (ACB) models all of the component and controller interactions of these classic instruments to create stunning recreations that have the same audio characteristics as the originals. In addition to Mac and PC platforms, these Plug-Out software synthesizers can also be hosted inside one of the System 8 Model slots. The System 8 provides locations for three additional Plug-Out models and already includes the popular Roland Jupiter 8 and Juno 106 instruments.

Plays Well With Others
Roland has endowed the System 8 with an abundance of connection options to maximize its capabilities. First in line has to be the CV and Gate jacks - in the days before MIDI, synthesizers told each other what note was being played via a Control Voltage; widely calibrated to produce 1 volt of change per octave. A Gate was created and sent each time a key was pressed, or whenever a sequencer advanced to the next step. The System 8 is equipped with CV and Gate outputs that allow it to interface with and drive other analog synthesizer components and modules.

The Trigger In allows the System 8 to respond to timing event information from other gear. But don’t worry – there are MIDI IN and MIDI Out jacks as well for connection to more “modern” instruments. The USB connection also sends MIDI information, as well as digital audio information. Speaking of audio, the System 8 features balanced outputs using 1/4" TRS connectors. Audio inputs are also provided, using standard 1/4" jacks. Additionally, the rear panel includes jacks for optional Hold and Control pedals. A stereo 1/4" headphone jack is also located on the back panel.

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