Published by Stevism on 3rd December 2012
This synthesizer may not be the most inviting one from the outside, but don't let that fool you.
Despite the hands-on programming limitations, this Roland is just as, if not more, capable than its relatives, the Juno 106 series and the JX-3P.
Its two oscillator per voice design allows for very wide sound possibilities, especially when you take into consideration the cross-modulation that exists. Also useful are the unison (4 osc per 3 voices, or 2 osc per 2 sets of 3 voices, separated by an octave) and solo mode (turns it into a huge, albeit "digital" sounding, 12 osc monophonic synth).
Two EGs, as well as an LFO that can be pushed to near audible range, add a lot of movement.
Equipped with DCOs, instead of the slighter warmer VCOs, this thing is very good at staying in tune. The VCF is still a classic Roland LPF, capable of beautiful sounds. There is an HPF, but it is limited to discrete steps. Of course, that classic Roland chorus is included as well.
In addition to velocity sensitivity, the keyboard does offer aftertouch, although it came with problems when first released. When it's working properly, it adds a ton of expressivity to the synth as a whole, affecting vibrato, cutoff, or volume.
This synth is definitely a hassle if you don't have an alternative to the PG-800 programmer, however. If you are willing to set it up with a DAW, the parameters can be controlled with MIDI. But if you want to program it on your own, you're going to have a bad time.
But if you have an iPad...then something better than the original controller is available. Check that out here.
This is alleviated by the fact that you can store up to 32 of your own custom patches on the internal memory.
But ah, MIDI. This thing has extremely well done native MIDI support, leading edge at the time. It will integrate extremely nicely to existing setups, and can even function as a midi controller.
It may not be a beginner's synth, but if you're looking to get a taste of that classic Roland polyphonic sound, at a fraction of the price, then you should get one of these before prices go up.