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Microphone Month 4

Roland System-1 Plug-Out Synthesizer Reviews

4.5 stars based on 9 customer reviews
Questions about the Roland System-1 Plug-Out Synthesizer?

Questions about the Roland System-1 Plug-Out Synthesizer?

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  • from New Hampshire February 8, 2017

    Solid go-to synth

    I picked this up after dabbling with the System1 VST plugin, and having a need for a live/working Synth.

    It is one of the few knob-per-function synths you can buy, and it's at an excellent price point. Most of the complaints are valid: The synth offers only 8+1 patches, and the 25 keys are a bit limited. However, while a lot of people complain about the key travel, since it is not velocity sensitive I actually really like their feel. They have a 'clicky' feel to them, which is a very stark contrast to the mushy/spongy feeling I get with a lot of midi controllers.

    The tonal range on this synth is excellent for an analog modelling synth. From low to high, you get a really good body out of any note and patch. You can test the lows easily by turning off OSC1+2 and just cranking up OSC3 (sub) and going as low as you can, it still works. Go the other way, setting OSC1 to a square and cranking up its mix before going for the highest pitch tone you can do, and you still get the same uniform behavior. The synth is very repeatable and consistent!

    The arpeggiator is nice, but is a bit disjointed. Patterns are set by the wheel, but only a few sound really different from one to another. Some additional variety or means to program in more patterns would be useful.

    The biggest disappointment is the manual. It's essentially one page. If you're after a first synth, this hardware is excellent, but the documentation is very weak. Roland has a ton of Youtube videos which go into how to use the device, which I recommend!

  • from New York City, NY March 2, 2015Music Background:
    Musician, Producer, Student

    Couldn't imagine my studio without it!

    I seriously love this thing, it integrates perfectly with my all-hardware setup and the Plug-Out concept is an incredible way to stay inspired and keep getting more out of an instrument long after the purchase date. I see no reason to ever buy an SH-101 or an SH-2 now, this is far cheaper, more reliable, and you can actually save and backup your patches! The internal synth engine is capable of some really crazy modulation and sound effects, and some simple poly sounds that range from classic to distinctly modern. Roland really killed it with the AIRA series and I'm a proud owner of all of the instruments in the line.

  • from Austin, TX July 24, 2015

    Great for learning analog synthesis basics

    I've been relying mainly on softsynths for years, and feel like I've never gotten a good feel for how to build analog sounds from scratch. A while back, I bought a MicroKorg, hoping that playing with the physical controls would help me develop a more intuitive understanding...but the with layering of all the functions behind multiple selector knobs, plus the tiny toy keys, it just didn't happen. I'm trying again with the System-1, and it seems to be doing the trick. I'm finally starting to really "get" envelope filters, for example, and I'm recognizing basic oscillator forms more quickly. There are a few parameters that are buried under arcane "press this while you turn this" controls, but there's plenty of sound design space to explore with just the controls on the panel.

    I was a bit worried about the feel of the shallow keyboard. I'm a pianist first, and generally prefer full-length, weighted keyboards. I hate minikeys (like on the MicroKorg) with a fiery passion. To my pleasant surprise, the System-1 keyboard is fine...and when I really want velocity sensitivity or a larger range, driving the System-1 from my full-size keyboard works for me.

  • from July 23, 2014Music Background:
    Recording engineer

    Roland system 1

    Good analog style, 32 bit 96khz powerfull sound,great look,complete my aira system

  • from N.Y. November 15, 2016Music Background:
    Hobbiest, just for fun maybe someday I will get very good.

    Roland system-1 plug-out synthesizer

    I love this synthesizer, it's like a low cost mini Moog. I hope to buy a Moog someday. Thanks sweetwater from Ralph Thanks John !!!!

  • from Hell, TX September 26, 2015Music Background:
    Noise and debauchery

    Pretty awesome

    I really wasn't expecting it to sound as good as it does. Plus, the cross mod and lfo/arpeggiator in combination...I've had it out of the box for an hour and it's just fun fun fun! I'm going to take a "smoke" break and spend the rest of my night making trippy droning noises.

  • from March 19, 2015Music Background:



  • from December 18, 2014Music Background:

    powerfull, performance oriented synthesizer!

    This compact synthesizer would be great for performance, simply because of its capabilities of generating such a wide range of tones/sounds, it is small which makes it great for transport, and although it requires a keyboard amp or headphones inorder to hear any sound because it lacks its own speakers, it is still awesome!

    It is plastic, but high quality, at first the aray of buttons, sliders, and nobs may be overwhelming and complicated, but after you get to know it, it all makes sence. it is great for single notes or chords, (with four or less keys)

    It looks cool, feels great! and is perfect for electronic music, and also other genres, it can generate tones that blend/harmonize with accustic instruments aswell.

  • from NYC December 4, 2014Music Background:
    Sound Designer

    Great Sounding But Limited Digital Functionability

    The System-1 sounds great. The filters are superb and actually kind of magical. The reverb is very clean and the oscillators sound like a cross between Razor and a less chunky Nord Lead. The scatter function is also interesting and can result in some far out effects.

    The major drawback with this synth is its clunky digital integration. There are only eight slots for saving custom settings and no native way to dump these patches onto a computer. There are some third party ways to save custom patches to your hard drive, but the fact that Roland didn't include some kind of plugin controller/editor for the System-1 is ridiculous given the user base and price point. But Roland wants us to buy into their line of heritage emulation plugins, make modifications by using these plugins, then "plug-out" to the System-1. It's definitely a modern marketing technique as Roland is unabashedly hawking their plugins by way of the System-1. And to be fair, the SH-101 and SH-2 plugins actually sound pretty good. But the System-1 sounds so awesome on its own that it's unfortunate Roland didn't develop a dedicated software controller and editor.

    The second major drawback is that the faders and knobs don't have a digital display. The LED's are not indicative of a fader's value. Their only purpose is to show which parts of the synth are deactivated after plugging out patches that don't use the synth's entire architecture. (Once again, it would be nice to deactivate and rewire parameters yourself with a software editor). Anyway, every time you switch from one patch to another, it's impossible to tell what the new settings actually are because the faders won't represent what's happening in the DSP. If you move a fader or knob a few degrees in a freshly loaded patch, it will reset and automatically pick up the current onboard value. This would be incredibly confusing during a live performance situation.

    I'd recommend the System-1 to people who are working in a studio and have time to mess around with the settings, but definitely not for performance because of the fader issue. In its sweet spots the System-1 sounds amazing, and for that alone it will be worth the price of admission for a very particular subset of synth player. Hopefully Roland will introduce editor software, and if they ever do, then consider this a four and a half star review. But the lack any onboard value readout is a big drawback. This drawback could be partly addressed with a dedicated software editor that would obviously represent realtime patch values. With this hypothetical editor, the System-1 would be a perfect studio synth. Either way, the System-1 sounds great and I'm happy to have purchased it.

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