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Roland GR-55 Guitar Synth - Blue - Without GK-3 Pickup Reviews

4.0 stars based on 16 customer reviews

Sweetwater Advice

  • Nick Schenkel

    The Roland GR-55 is the Guitar Synth unit that I've been waiting for. Great-sounding new PCM voices, better tracking than ever, powerful COSM effects and voices, and a built-in looper. I'm in heaven! If you're serious about guitar synthesis, this is a must-have unit.

  • Victor
    from Princeton NJ October 27, 2012Music Background:
    Recording/Pro Musician

    Roland GR 55

    I was looking to stream line my live set up. I have been using the Roland GI-20 and then to a Roland Rack Synth. as well as USB to a soft synth on my Laptop. The Roland GR 55 replaces all that gear and makes set up and tear down much easier. I am using it with a guitar that has RMC Pickups on my nylon string and a Fender Strat with the GK-3 pickup. The sounds are great to my ears and need very little tweaking. Just set up your pickup strength and your ready to play fantastic sounds from your guitar. Very happy with purchase the 3Ez pay make it very easy and Mark Magdich at x1265 is great to help you purchase the GR 55. Thanks Sweetwater and Roland

  • michael autry
    from arkansas February 3, 2012Music Background:
    studio musician

    i th ink it's great

    inow i need much more talent to truly e valuate th gr 55 but my god it's fantastic

  • Cory
    from Columbus, OH November 3, 2011Music Background:
    Recording Guitarist, Hobbyist

    Awesome Guitar Synth With Loads of Options!

    I was looking for a guitar synth to replace my Roland GR-20. While the GR-20 is great, it lacks much in the way of editing the patches. Seeing that the GR-55 had deep editing capabilities, as well as on-board effects, I was very anxious for it to arrive in the mail!

    This pedal has a very durable metal chasis, unlike the GR-20's plastic shell. The GR-55 also tracks a little better than the GR-20, especially with tricky things like tapping and palm mutes. At first, the in-depth editing, with lots of vertical menus to scroll through and pages to switch between seems daunting, but I came to appreciate them after getting to know them better.

    One of my favorite things about the GR-55 over my previous synth is that you can save individual tunings for each patch. The tunings will effect any synths and modeled guitar that you have playing (but not the actual sound from your magnetic pickups). These digital tunings allow you to set up a piano patch with a customized tuning to allow easier emulation of piano chords, or to digitally drop-tune your guitar for some chugging metal rhythms with a synth pad in the background. Each individual string can be tuned up or down and saved per patch, so there's no need to physically change the tuning on your axe. I will say, however, that once you get about 3-5 semitones below the original tuning, any modeled guitar sounds will have some synthetic pitch-shifted artifacts in the sound.

    The guitar pickup, amp and effect models are awesome on this pedal! You can process your modeled guitar sound with an amp and effect independent of any effects you slap on your synths. This means that running your modeled axe sound through a hi-gain metal amp sim won't distort your backing synths. Guitar modeling on the GR-55 uses the same GK pickup for your synth sounds to capture raw guitar audio. You can than choose from several popular pickup and guitar types from a classic Les Paul to a Coral Sitar (which sounds amazing on here!) for it to emulate. Then, you choose a simulated amp from several popular choices and add in an effect. The end result sounds pretty good, especially considering that you can also blend in 2 separate synth sounds with your modeled guitar!

    The synths come in a variety of flavors, with hundreds to choose from. Synth leads, synth pads, pianos, flutes, harps, drums, saxophones, organs, violins and tons more. Some sound pretty convincing, while others may need a little tweeking or some effects thrown in to make them fit better. What's also nice is that the expression pedal can be programmed to blend between instruments. For example, you can set up a patch to go from violin to oboe just by rocking the pedal. The Control pedal can also be programmed to turn on/off effects, or sustain synth notes indefinitely.

    Overall this pedal was exactly what I hoped it would be. More synths, more effects, more options. While it takes some getting used to, a little more than Roland's other synths, the end result is well worth the effort!

  • Steve Parker
    from Burtonsville, MD September 29, 2011Music Background:
    Pro Musician

    Roland Gr55

    I have used Roland products for years and they always are very innovative, the GR55 has a lot to offer, it is a total beast once you tap into it, alot of great sounds. I am very pleased with my new GR55 and the quick delivery from Sweetwater.

  • Bill Sykes
    from Manchester NH June 20, 2011Music Background:

    Roland GR-55

    I've had a few guitar synthesizers.GM700,GR09,GR-20.The GR-55 is the best all the way

  • Tim W
    from Killingworth, CT December 3, 2012Music Background:

    Roland GR-55

    I bought the GR-55 to replace the GR-20 with assorted stomp box pedal board that I was using. I wanted to consolidate my rig and was hoping that the COSM modeling along with the GR-55 synth would be the ticket. I was a longtime user of a Johnson Millennium and was anticipating a huge learning curve with the GR-55. Out of the box I was able to set up my Godin Freeway SA and my Godin LGXT one with a Graphtec piezo and the other with an RMC piezo fairly easily. Some folks report problems with these piezo 13 pin pickups but in reality they are just way more sensitive that the GK3ís. You need to set your sting sensitivity to zero with the piezo. I was expecting a very complicated patch tweaking process and I was very pleasantly surprised at how intuitive it was. I have been able to create a multitude of just mind blowing patches without having to struggle. The best thing is that I can take one Guitar and the GR-55 to gigs and run it through the PA, thatís it. No massive amps, no more hour of tweaking and rummaging through my car for an extra patch cable. I have played outdoors in a large city park and the orchestral sounds were loud and clear. The GR-55 does not replace a boutique amp with matching rack set up but it is awesome for the studio and great enough to gig with all by itself.

  • JackL
    from chicago February 15, 2011Music Background:
    extreme amateur

    Another Huge Jump in Guitar Synth Technology

    As a point of reference, I have owned the Roland GR-20 and Axon 100 for several years, and have used the GR-20 in live settings.

    The GR-55 is built very well, like the general layout, steel enclosure, switch quality and action, the large display, and so forth. It is a solid device that should handle live environments better than the mostly plastic GR-20.

    In regards to layout, I prefer the GR-20 method for calling up instrument groups. It was nice having all of the instruments grouped and easy accessible by top side switching.

    For the most part the Lead, Rhythm, Other, and User presets are pretty lame. Unfortuntely, you cannot edit AND save the Lead/Rhythm/Other presets over their original locations.

    With that said, several presets are outstanding, but most are unusable for me. And I know this is a different sound engine than the GR-20, but many of the instrument/presets sound very very very familiar. Like identical. How can that be?

    Plus, the best piano preset is buggy. The Concert Grand patch, lead preset 07-1 cuts out like a speaker is going south. I informed Roland.

    I do not like the three bank setup to access presets. I find the whole preset setup cumbersome. Three banks 30 presets deep (or 99 deep for user presets) is a pain to cycle through. Am I missing something?

    I appreciate the ability to include two PCM (synth) paths into a preset. The GR-20 has a few multiple instrument patches but I never found a way of creating them.

    I absolutely love the configuration and voice programmability. I dialed in my RMC pickups (Piezo R) and triggering etc is improved over the GR-20 and perhaps better than my venerable Axon 100. Anyway, suffice it to say the GR-55 offers full control over hex pickup type, string sensitivity, you name it. Plus, you can configure multiple guitar/pickups.

    However, some dialing in of the individual presets are necessary. Some presets trigger without ghost notes, but others are all over the place. I created my own piano preset in a couple of minutes that works pretty well.

    Also, when dialing in the string sensitivities I noticed that when I picked, plucked one string, the sens display bars moved for all of the other strings at varying strengths. Not sure what it means, but it can't be good, right?

    The tracking is very good. As fast or faster than an Axon at least when triggering the synth and "VG" voices where no hex-to-midi conversion is required. But as the external MIDI (requiring hex to midi conversion) latency numbers show, the Axon is much faster driving external MIDI devices than the GR boxes.

    Editing or creating presets is easy and intuitive. The large display is much appreciated. Even still, bending over to the floor to edit presets is a pain. Roland needs an editor for this box. A third-party is working on one that looks great in alpha/beta form.

    The GR-55 includes COSM effects and amps. I prefer Line 6 and Digitech modeling over the COSM. The COSM related sounds and presets sound terrible through my acoustic guitar amp, but sound okay through headphones.

    Love the AC and 12str guitar presets/instruments through headphones, so-so through my amp. But through the headphones, they really pop. Nylon guitar is okay, jazz guitar okay.

    The COSM comfortably numb patch is nice.

    I have not connected the GR-55 to our midi keyboards or computer yet. There is just so much to this new box to configure, test, experiment with. It will take weeks, maybe months to figure it all out.

    Regarding amps. I was greatly disappointed that the GR-55 sounds muddy, bassy, and lifeless through my Loudbox acoustic guitar amp. The GR-20 sounds pretty good through it; not so with the GR-55.

    I have experimented with all of the GR-55 output options and found the best for my use was the JC-120 Return. Still sounds muffled, bassy, and dark. Turns out, according to Roland, you need to connect the GR-55 to a PA or keyboard amp to realize its high-fidelity.

    Based on how it sounds through headphones, I agree with Roland. The GR-55 sounds great through headphones. And I mean, GREAT! But is that not typical of stereo devices such as these synths and multiple effects boxes. They always sound great through headphones and not so great through any form of amplication. Check out the Fletcher-Munsen effect info on the Web to understand why.

    So, that's it in a nutshell. If some of it sounds negative, well, it's how I see it. I still give it 4.5 stars. The sound quality of the unit (at least through headphones) is incredible. The editing and configuration control is outstanding. It tracks better than any hex-to-midi device I have ever used (GR-20, Axon).

    So it is a huge jump in Guitar Synth technology!

  • Steve
    from Bay Area, USA July 4, 2012Music Background:

    Roland GT-55

    There undocumented features and settings (or they are bugs) even with the firmware updated to v1.5. Instrument sounds are not just copies, e.g. SITAR is SITAR/WAH for instance. FLUTE will be muxed with ORGAN, there won't be just the FLUTE sound. I would like straight: BANJO, ORGAN, SITAR, 12-STRING GUITAR, etc. It is new to me, so there may be ways to get what I want. The documentation appears in-depth at first, but leaves out important features/settings: To play 66% of the sounds, the Expression Pedal needs to be down position (undocumented). The documentation describes the Expression Pedal as adding features to existing (working) sounds.

  • Jazz guitarist
    from LA April 29, 2012Music Background:
    jazz guitarist

    Best guitar box yet

    Out of 910 zillion sounds, this box has a few that make it the best option for any guitarist seeking total control over their sound. The Martin D-28 model is an amazing acoustic sound with "Body" dialed up 80%. The ES-335 model through a Tweed amp, with compression and reverb, is right on the money for that 60's jazz guitar sound.

    In terms of synth sounds, if you select the Strings 1 waveform (pretty lame by itself), mix it about half, then add in plenty of Soft Pad 8 for the second synth sound, and crank up the reverb, you can bring in strings with the foot controller subtly behind your guitar playing and get an amazing sound where it's almost like a magical reverb, great for ballads, and the last chord of a song- hold the sustain pedal to sustain the strings, then play a solo lick over it.

    The Jazz Scat patches are really fun also, as are vibes and marimba. The tracking is the best yet, and I've owned a lot of guitar-to-MIDI devices.

    Why I rated 4 stars instead of 5:

    1. Please, can someone put a decent string sample in a box like this. Garageband on the iPad ($5) has better strings than any dedicated box. Or better yet, why can't I buy and transfer VST instruments to this box via USB? I'd pay hundreds more if it had that feature.

    2. There is a free GR-55 editor out there that is a must-have for editing sounds, it's pretty ridiculous trying to edit on the box itself. I donated $20 to the guy who made the editor, it's pretty lame that a lone guy has to make the editor and Roland can't even make one. Roland should pay the guy $100K and buy his editor and give it away with the unit.

    I also should add that my Sweetwater sales engineer, Mark Maxwell, came through like a champ in getting this out the same day though it was right down to the wire, and even checked in with me the next day to make sure I got it in time for my gig.

  • Matt
    from Tampa FL February 28, 2012Music Background:
    Professional Engineer, Producer, Musician


    I'll start off by saying that this is the best midi guitar setup I've ever used.

    Typical Roland - great sounding, loaded with a ridiculous amount of features, very customizable, and built solid. Unfortunately, "Typical Roland" also means that there are a million menus, sub menus, banks, tabs, and things so crazy sometimes that you wonder if they had guitar players involved in the design or just engineers.....

    instead of spending time hiring people to be writing in the manual to tell me not to hook up the ground screw to a lightning rod or gas line ( ?!? ) maybe they should have had more guitar players working the prototypes over like crazy on stage and in the studio, because there are a lot of little things that could be done to make this a much better unit, and easier to use - especially when you are under pressure to deliver on stage or keep moving in the studio before your creative juices stop flowing.

    for example - the whole system with the banks is crazy. The presets are sorted into LEAD, RHYTHM and OTHER. Sounds logical, and I loved it at first sight. But - While there is some benefit to this, good luck finding anything until after you have spent a lot of time with the unit. Going from a Bass to a Sax to a Piano to a Synth doesn't seem very logical - It would be nice to have some option to group similar instruments ie: all the pianos and organs easily accessible from one section, all the electric guitars from another, all the acoustic instruments from another, and so forth. In all fairness, some of the present banks, I could see switching between those presets in a single performance, so I sort-of understand what they were doing but still...it seems an odd choice. Given the rich amount of actual guitar processing, it would have been nice to have at least a special bank for all the guitar/amp/effects options.

    Some of the editing is a bit inefficient in the workflow (they should have put the ENTER button dead center in the jog wheel for one thing). In spite of a few inefficiencies, editing is a no-brainer, and extremely powerful in allowing how you route signal, how your processing sounds, or create completely new things.

    the EZ edit feature is WONDERFUL when working in the studio to quickly remove or reduce effects, and make the sound more or less bright in the mix. I found in the studio I can make a quick change with that and make mixing much easier down the road. I don't want to lose creativity diving through menus for these simple things, and this was a really nice feature that Roland did think to include.

    I've heard people complaining about the "thin" sound but I think its fine. It doesn't sound that great in a mono guitar amp, but through headphones or line out into a system it sounds fantastic. I was running mine through my Vintech preamps and FATSO last night before hitting Pro Tools and it sounded amazing.

    One of these days i wish Roland would listen to users who have been asking for the MIDI input to be able to "reamp" their midi tracks at a later date... an option to change tempo globally would also be really nice. maybe its in there but if it is, its buried in too many menus. Would be nice when scrolling through presets to have everything automatically at the tempo you are seeking.

    In Summary - this has a ridiculous amount of sounds, deep editing abilities, sounds fantastic, tracks like a dream, and is built to last. IF you can get past some of the inefficient aspects, the strange choice on how presets and banks are set up, and a few cheesy presets - you'll find this a very valuable and powerful tool.

  • Richard Mead
    from West Palm Beach, FL February 10, 2012Music Background:
    Former pro musician (I'm old)

    Tons of fun!

    I finally might be able to get a gig without ending up on keyboards. The sounds on this are fantastic, and once you get past the initial setup, getting around on it is quite intuitive. I'm really impressed with the COSM modeled sounds. The tracking is rather touchy with my Godin XTSA, especially with pianos and other more percussive sounds. I've heard about an aftermarket filter that really improves the tracking for about $160. and I'll probably try one when I can afford it. From what I understand this problem is not as bad with the Roland pickup. Anyway, back to playing with my nedw toy!

  • Randy
    from Chicagoland Area October 19, 2011Music Background:
    Pro Musician

    I Got What I Expected!

    I've read many reviews and could never understand the expectations of some. You get what was advertised! Instead of expecting features that they think should be there ( which would raise the cost ). The unit performs as advertised. I've used the GR-20 since it came out and got in this unit what I did not get in the GR-20. The ability to fine tune and create new tones, guitar modeling and ability to control amp setting to also fine-tune the tones. There is also better control over the patches with the pedals than with the GR-20 which means that I can leave my FC-300 home on small gigs.

    This is a great unit if you read the advertisement and get what you expect.

  • Michael
    from Houston, Texas March 21, 2011Music Background:
    guitar and synth guitar for band

    Roland GR 55

    Here is my evaluation and opinion of the GR 55...first the good points:
    * Improved tracking..very smooth
    * Navigation of the entire unit is a breeze and very intuitive
    * The effects settings are flexible allowing you to tweak everything
    * "Good" acoustic sounds and electric guitar sounds
    * variety of Amps is very good
    * saving your work on the presets into the user banks is very good.
    * the unit is solid and sturdy. Not the plastic of the previous units.
    Now...the not so good:
    * Extremely dissappointed in the two synth engines. Given the amount of synthesis roland has brought to market I am hard pressed to understand why they chose these 900. So although there are alot to choose from in multiple categories, most all are NOT usable and frankly are a waste of space.
    * There is a bit of "thin" sound to alot on this unit. I wish the sounds were thicker and more full.
    Overall, I think the 55 is worth getting if for nothing else the improved tracking and using it to trigger your other synth modules. The lead and rhythm sections have usable guitar patches. Control and expression pedals are good. Choir & Voice synth sounds are good. There is alot of flexibility to create and make your guitar patches with "some" of the synth tones but dont get too excited about having 900 tones as about 850 of them are useless...in my opinion. I think the synth tones in the 33 are actually better but thats my opinion only.

  • Pat neil
    from Dallas September 17, 2011Music Background:
    Semi pro musician

    Gr55: good with some issues

    Ok, the good. Good programming interface. Good sounds. It's nice that the models and synth can be combined, faded, switched, etc.

    The bad: tracking. The unit works great with the new Roland gt3 pickup. If you're using and older pickup, or and older guitar with piezos (Godin, Fender, Parker, etc.) the synth tracking won't be great.

    A large number of users have reported this on various forums and a couple of pickup companies have confirmed this as well. My Godin LGX-SA works "ok" but there are a lot of soft false triggers, ghost notes, crosstalk, etc. It's not too obvious on pads and patches without a lot of attack. On percussive patches like pianos, its annoying. So... If you're going to use the new pickup, enjoy.

  • Robert
    from West Palm Beach, Florida March 25, 2011Music Background:
    Pro Musician. Recording Engineer


    I waited a long time for Roland to come up with a new GR unit. Unfortunately, the GR-55 was not worth waiting for.
    Yes, there are many improvements in the tracking and basic setup. The thing tracks incredible and is able to keep up with lightning fast leads. The 3 engine setup and new sounds are little to be desired. Some sounds are killer, but there are too many wasted sounds. Many of the sounds have to be tweaked to sound passable. The guitar modeling is a total waste unless you want to used some of the presets. the programing is very limited.
    I have been using a GR-20 and GR-33 linked together thru a GKP-4. I figured this would be a great addition to my setup. I can't get a 3.5 ft GK cable from Roland . They don't stock it. Why sell a parallel box with 4 outs and not even sell the cables needed to add a 3rd or 4th unit. Forget it if the cables needed replacing. So forget about adding an additional unit.
    Back to the drawing board. I tried to replace my GR-20 with the GR-55. No way . I couldn't even begin to imitate some of the sounds in the GR-20. The Gr-55 sounds are very thin sounding and require too much work to fix. There are some great sounds , but not enough to keep it on the floor.
    The bottom line is......... I sent the GR-55 back to Sweetwater . I better leave well enough alone.
    In closing I'd like to say that the GR-55 didn't work for me. I don't know who Roland consulted when they decided to build this unit, but there couldn't have been too many long time Guitar Synth Geeks involved.
    I've been playing guitar synth for about 13 years now, and I wasn't impressed.

  • Matt Miller
    from United States July 21, 2013Music Background:
    Pro Musician, Pro Computers, Pro AV

    Not Good :-( What a 'disappointment'

    I've been happily using my GR 09 since 1997 and came into some $ right at the time the GR 55 came out.......no one had a 55 for demo so I had to order one, and was lucky to get one! What an ENORMOUS disappointment ! I was expecting a HUGE jump in the quality of the Synth Sounds from 1997 to 2012 eg Trumpet, Piano, Violin, Flute ,Sax, Etc BUT NO ! :-((( Unbelievable that some sounds were worse! This box is for for 'shreaders'...its NOT for a Synth or Sampler player :-((((( So sad that Roland didn't do their 'job' ! ? It shouldn't be called a Guitar Synth...but rather an Effects Box!

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