The Roland System-8

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Just bought a Roland System-8 in the last couple of weeks and I’ve got to say it was a hell of a purchase. As a teenager in the early to late 80’s, and one really into music acts like Duran Duran and Howard Jones, I lusted after gear like the Roland Jupiter-8 and Roland Juno-106 (among many others) but as a teenager of course could never afford them.

Today I could afford a Juno-106 (not a Jupiter-8….people still have serious gear lust over these rare rigs and prices are sky high) but vintage gear comes with vintage gear problems. I’ve collected various plugins on the computer over the years that emulate these old synths (Arturia Jup-8V for instance) but one thing is always missing, the immediacy of the “one knob per function” that existed on the old hardware.

An easy solution (and one which the System-8 readily fills) is a keyboard controller with knobs for manipulating the parameters on the software instrument. Initially I bought a Novation Bass Station 2 for that, and it works well but it just didn’t do anything to excite me. The more I kept reading about the System-8 the more it intrigued me though and I ended up buying one, and I don’t regret the purchase!

People around the web keep complaining about the price and I don’t get it. In one package you get:

  1. The System-8 sound engine itself which is ridiculously great.
  2. A wonderful Jupiter-8 emulation that, according to those who have used it and own the original instrument, says it’s about as close as you will get to the real thing.
  3. A Juno-106 emulation that also sounds very close to the real thing.
  4. A slot for one other Roland-built emulation.
  5. The ability to do things the originals didn’t (velocity sensitive keyboard for one and the ability to affect the filter, etc. with it).
  6. A vocoder.
  7. Direct to DAW recording when hooked up to USB (no analog audio stage!)
  8. An audio interface for other instruments via it’s inputs.
  9. A wonderful MIDI controller for software synths.
  10. A ridiculously fun interface for the built-in sound engines.

What you don’t get:
1. Vintage gear headaches and costs.

I’ll definitely be writing more about this beast in the coming months as I work with it more but its a fantastic piece of kit that I highly recommend anyone taking a hard look at.

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