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Roland Integra-7 Initial Impressions
Old 29th October 2012
  #1
Roland Integra-7 Initial Impressions

Had one of these delivered on Friday. As you'd no doubt expect, I canceled all planned social activities and instead spent the entire weekend demoing sounds!

Anyway, here's my initial review:

-----
Pros:
* lots and lots of great, very playable bread-and-butter sounds
* Excellent audio quality, w/ a clean, transparent character - very little aliasing, and very low noise floor
* Brass, drums, guitar, electric bass, woodwinds, analog synth (esp. Jupiter and Moog), and vintage digital (i.e. Roland D/JD series) emulations are very strong, if sometimes a little too polished
* Sounds seem to fit effortlessly into a mix
* Very realistic on-board reverb
* Friendly interface that will be very familiar to users of the S-770, JD-990, and/or XV-5080
* SuperNatural Acoustic articulations can be convincing on certain instrument emulations

Cons:
* frequent dropouts due to layering in presets and low (by modern standards) 128-note polyphony
* DAW/PC integration is poorly thought through (e.g. the USB connection only allows stereo L+R output), despite its name ("Integra"), and no ADAT or multi-channel digital out is available, suggesting that Roland's employees have never used computers for tracking or mixing
* No "Patch" mode: the Integra only operates in multi mode
* Limited effects routing possibilities: even though 16 insert effects are available concurrently -- one for each MIDI part -- no changes to this routing are possible, meaning that a maximum of 1 insert effect is available per part
* Very limited editing options on SuperNatural acoustic presets (e.g. you cannot turn the tenor sax into an evolving pad), and no editing at all is allowed on the otherwise excellent "HQ PCM" expansion bank
* Tame, unexceptional synth programming - most of the new synth preset sounds are devoted to realistic emulations of 20-30 year-old synths, of which there are often 20+ minor variations, such as "Jupiter Strings 1" through "20" --> Eric Persing is long gone :
* Minimal "Studio Set" programming (aka "Performance" in legacy Rolandese or "Combi" in Korgese) - where's the JV-1080 "Opening Orch"-like 16-part full orchestra preset spread across the keys?
* Many string and brass tones are still not as realistic as the 1992-1994 Roland S-series CD-ROM libraries
* Audible stepping on Supernatural synth filter sweeps
* No printed manual or patch+waveform lists provided
* Reasoning behind "expansion" sound-loading architecture and 4x expansion bank restrictions not explained; if I were not a 20-year ROMpler veteran I would have no idea what Roland is talking about, or what an SRX board is and why I should care about it
* Inclusion of over 1,000 nearly 20 year-old JV-1080 and 13-year old XV-5080 presets seems unnecessary
-----
Have not tried the iPad app or the Motional Surround feature yet, though I would mention that, in the complete absence of multi-channel digital I/O or 5.1 support via USB, I don't know how anyone will do anything with the Motional Surround.

As you can probably tell, I can't decide yet whether I'd recommend this machine or not. It's severely hampered by some very strange product/bean-counter decisions, yet has some the most usable and playable sounds of any hardware or software ROMpler ever made.

Hope this mini-review is helpful for folks considering this!

-gear_up
Old 29th October 2012
  #2
Gear Maniac
 
Rompetigo's Avatar
 

Some of those design choices are questionable. Given the price I'm not sure who exactly is supposed to be compelled to drop the money on this instead of opting for much cheaper and more fully featured software. It has some neat gimmicks that are probably pretty cool, but the whole concept of a rack mounted ROMpler is dated in 2012 and they're not bringing enough to the table to keep it afloat.
Old 29th October 2012
  #3
I disagree. We see now a melting of reverbs+multi effects+synths engine box. I find that unique. And I really like it's purpose built design. I allways loved the Roland build quality. Whenever you have touched a Roland box. And then walk into an SSL room. You are not wowed because that Roland box allready gave you that feel to begin with...
Old 30th October 2012
  #4
MusicFan
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by gear_up View Post

* Very limited editing options on SuperNatural acoustic presets (e.g. you cannot turn the tenor sax into an evolving pad)...
The SuperNATURAL Acoustic Tones have indeed just a few editing parameters, which differ corresponding to each SN Acoustic Instrument Model.

But however, you can turn e.g. the SuperNATURAL Tenor Sax into an evolving pad by using the SN Acoustic COMMON Tab, where you find at least the following offset parameters:

(In the case of turning the SN Tenor Sax into a pad, you would increase the Envelope Attack and Release Time offset parameters and play around with the Filter Cutoff, Resonance and Vibrato parameter offsets.)

-Category
-Phrase Number
-Phrase Octave Shift
-Tone Level 0–127
-Mono/Poly
-Octave Shift
-Filter Cutoff Offset -64–+63
-Filter Resonance Offset -64–+63

-Envelope Attack Time Offset -64–+63
-Envelope Release Time Offset -64–+63

-Portamento Time Offset -64–+63
-Vibrato Rate -64–+63
-Vibrato Depth -64–+63
-Vibrato Delay -64–+63


PS: The Jupiter-80 offers more offset and editing parameters in the SN Acoustic Tone section, than the Integra-7...

Old 30th October 2012
  #5
Gear Maniac
 
JohnnyFoster's Avatar
 

Too expensive for what you don't get.

Pass.

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SGH-I717
Old 31st October 2012 | Show parent
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by MusicFan View Post
The SuperNATURAL Acoustic Tones have indeed just a few editing parameters, which differ corresponding to each SN Acoustic Instrument Model.

But however, you can turn e.g. the SuperNATURAL Tenor Sax into an evolving pad by using the SN Acoustic COMMON Tab, where you find at least the following offset parameters:

(In the case of turning the SN Tenor Sax into a pad, you would increase the Envelope Attack and Release Time offset parameters and play around with the Filter Cutoff, Resonance and Vibrato parameter offsets.)

-Category
-Phrase Number
-Phrase Octave Shift
-Tone Level 0–127
-Mono/Poly
-Octave Shift
-Filter Cutoff Offset -64–+63
-Filter Resonance Offset -64–+63

-Envelope Attack Time Offset -64–+63
-Envelope Release Time Offset -64–+63

-Portamento Time Offset -64–+63
-Vibrato Rate -64–+63
-Vibrato Depth -64–+63
-Vibrato Delay -64–+63


PS: The Jupiter-80 offers more offset and editing parameters in the SN Acoustic Tone section, than the Integra-7...

These params certainly exist, but are not sufficient for making an evolving pad, even if you slowed the vibrato down to a crawl.

You would need at least 1 LFO and separate amplitude, pitch, and filter envelopes, plus the ability to layer other sounds.
Old 31st October 2012
  #7
Deleted User
Guest
On other Roland stuff, if you trigger cutoff by a performance knob or by midi theres no stepping. Maybe thats the case?
Old 2nd November 2012
  #8
Lives for gear
 

Old 2nd November 2012
  #9
Registered User
Since I always work in 16-part performance mode, it's great to hear that the Integra was built to solely work in that fashion.

16 simultaneous insert effects, albeit one to a channel, is fine with me. While I *would* prefer some flexibility, a rompler with 16 simultaneous insert effects sounds great at this point in time.

I haven't heard or played with one of these yet - $2,000 for a rack-mount rompler is way outa my price range anyway. The cheap but loaded-with-sounds keyboards from Yamaha (MOX and MX) and Korg (Krome and M50) make the Integra REALLY expensive by comparison. I understand that the specs aren't apples to apples but it's hard to be a buyer of the Integra-7 at a price more than $1,000. Just my two cents (and again, I haven't heard one yet).
Old 2nd November 2012
  #10
Gear Guru
 
EvilDragon's Avatar
It seems that I was right when I said it sucks with all those cons right off the bat.


Pass.
Old 2nd November 2012 | Show parent
  #11
Quote:
Originally Posted by keybdwizrd View Post
Since I always work in 16-part performance mode, it's great to hear that the Integra was built to solely work in that fashion.

16 simultaneous insert effects, albeit one to a channel, is fine with me. While I *would* prefer some flexibility, a rompler with 16 simultaneous insert effects sounds great at this point in time.

I haven't heard or played with one of these yet - $2,000 for a rack-mount rompler is way outa my price range anyway. The cheap but loaded-with-sounds keyboards from Yamaha (MOX and MX) and Korg (Krome and M50) make the Integra REALLY expensive by comparison. I understand that the specs aren't apples to apples but it's hard to be a buyer of the Integra-7 at a price more than $1,000. Just my two cents (and again, I haven't heard one yet).
Hi,

To be clear, having 1 independent insert effect for every MIDI part is an incredible feature in theory.

But in practice, the Integra will typically run out of polyphony by the time you get to the 4th or 5th MIDI part, so there's nothing you can do with all the remaining effects.

With better effects routing options, you could have independent compression for example on all 5 active MIDI parts, or you could turn the Integra into a powerful, Eventide-like standalone effects unit with 16 simultaneous effects connected in series, plus reverb, chorus, and EQ. The power is there, but apparently no one at Roland saw this potential.

It might be possible to fix this in software though...

Re: your other point, I agree that it is probably too expensive for what it does, but the sounds on those Yamaha and Korg keyboards (w/ the exception of the Krome piano/EP/organs taken from the Kronos) you mentioned are nowhere near as good as the Integra.

IMO the only hardware synths that are competitive with the Integra from a sound quality and playability POV are the Nord Piano and the Kronos, though if you're into new electronic sounds and synth programming the Kronos has a more to offer compared to the Integra. The Integra acoustic sounds are considerably better than the Kronos, except for the pianos, EPs, and organs.

Also, for what it's worth, the XV-5080 was $2000 when it was first released, which is $2688 in 2012 USD.

-gear_up

Quote:
Originally Posted by EvilDragon View Post
It seems that I was right when I said it sucks with all those cons right off the bat.


Pass.
You were right to be a little skeptical.

It definitely doesn't suck though. It sounds really, really good - just as good as the Jupiter 80 if not better.

The thing is, it's priced for pros, where time is money and--in theory--getting a couple of great sounds into every arrangement would be worth a lot more than a tiny $2000 investment for all the time and labor costs it would save over 5+ years.

But by the same token, those same pros, or really anyone who tracks or mixes with a computer, might not be willing to invest the time and money to rewire their studios to accommodate a module that has 1990s I/O. (Yeah, there's an onboard 2 in, 2 out audio interface, which is nice, but is probably unnecessary for most people who buy this, unless the Integra software can be updated to allow 8 outs).
Old 2nd November 2012 | Show parent
  #12
Quote:
Originally Posted by gear_up View Post
You were right to be a little skeptical.

It definitely doesn't suck though. It sounds really, really good - just as good as the Jupiter 80 if not better.

The thing is, it's priced for pros, where time is money and--in theory--getting a couple of great sounds into every arrangement would be worth a lot more than a tiny $2000 investment for all the time and labor costs it would save over 5+ years.

But by the same token, those same pros, or really anyone who tracks or mixes with a computer, might not be willing to invest the time and money to rewire their studios to accommodate a module that has 1990s I/O. (Yeah, there's an onboard 2 in, 2 out audio interface, which is nice, but is probably unnecessary for most people who buy this, unless the Integra software can be updated to allow 8 outs).
just to clarify the USB audio out has 2 outs
there ARE 8 1/4 jack outputs in the back
however you do get EQ on each channel as well as 1 insert

also the surround sound too

the sound quality is very good, not heard much if anything better in this catergory as yet...the Krome is okay but nt found a super duper video showing off the krome as yet.

kronos is out of my price bracket...so is the jupiter 80

i'm waiting to hear the roland retro collection which is now over due!...the i'll see what else is around...maybe hang on until Jan 2013 to see how the integra 7 goes and if a computer editor arrives for it.

currently it's between the krome and the integra 7 for me.
Old 2nd November 2012 | Show parent
  #13
Lives for gear
 
CelloJP's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by cresshead View Post
i'm waiting to hear the roland retro collection which is now over due!...
Roland have announced that it will be released 'before the end of November'.
Old 2nd November 2012
  #14
Lives for gear
 
mike vee's Avatar
sounds lame

The only way I would buy a new outboard digital synth at this point was if it had at least 4 stereo AES I/O running at 24/96, eventide style.
Old 3rd November 2012 | Show parent
  #15
Registered User
Quote:
Originally Posted by gear_up View Post
But in practice, the Integra will typically run out of polyphony by the time you get to the 4th or 5th MIDI part, so there's nothing you can do with all the remaining effects.
But you could have 16 parts with 16 insert effects programmed and ready to go... I might use a dozen sounds throughout the course of a piece, but never have more than 4-5 playing at any given time.

Quote:
The power is there, but apparently no one at Roland saw this potential.
Undoubtedly, more flexibility would be ideal.

I have a Virus TI, and the effects are generally awesome. It offers completely independent reverb, delay, chorus, distortion, and EQ for each of the 16 parts, simultaneously. Basically, all of the presets sound identical whether in Single or Sequencer (Performance) mode.

Quote:
Also, for what it's worth, the XV-5080 was $2000 when it was first released, which is $2688 in 2012 USD.
Good point. The Roland rack units have often been relatively expensive... As I recall, the price of the JV-1080 was about $1,400 when it came out in the 90's, and the price didn't drop for quite a few years. Roland sold zillions of those JV and XV units (I have had a JV-1080 since the 90's, and just bought an XV-5050 on ebay last week for $250. The 5050 has all of the 5080 sounds, plus some early Fantom patches.)
Old 5th November 2012 | Show parent
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by keybdwizrd View Post
But you could have 16 parts with 16 insert effects programmed and ready to go... I might use a dozen sounds throughout the course of a piece, but never have more than 4-5 playing at any given time.

Undoubtedly, more flexibility would be ideal.
Sure, the whole machine seems to be designed for multitimbral playback right out of the box, though there's no effects programming needed per se because, by default, each part already has the insert effect set according to the program on each part.

For example, if you change the program on channel 1 from a piano to an electric guitar, the insert effect for the part will automatically change with it (e.g. from, say, the piano's EQ effect to the guitar's amp simulator). This is implemented very well - I'm sure Roland got tired of hearing people complaining that their patches never sounded the same in multi mode.

As for me, I rarely use more than 4 or 5 sounds from any machine at once either, and that was when I used hardware samplers, so having all those extra effects go to waste is a little bit of a shame.
Old 5th November 2012 | Show parent
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by keybdwizrd View Post
The 5050 has all of the 5080 sounds, plus some early Fantom patches.)
In which bank are the Fantom patches?
Old 5th November 2012 | Show parent
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by gear_up View Post
But in practice, the Integra will typically run out of polyphony by the time you get to the 4th or 5th MIDI part
That's a disaster if you ask me. I want a rack module for flying, there's always 1-2 Midi keyboards available and if I had a module that could handle many midi parts I could bring that and my midi powered midi merge. But I need to know that I won't run out of voices, late 90's style... :-/
Old 5th November 2012
  #19
hello it's 128 note poly....128.

i believe a 'voice' is an oscilator/tone

so if every 'patch' uses 3 osc that's 42 notes to play....
plenty.

drums you need 4 maximum...left foot, right foot, left hand right hand!...
so...

38 left to play with...
2 for bass track so it doesn't have to be monophonic...

36 left...

5 for a pad...

31 left....

lead... give it 2 so it's not monophonic...
29 notes left...

what are you lot on about!

gee... if we had this many notes back in the 80's we've fall over like giggling school girls!
get a grip please...feels like kids in a sweet shop moaning that they can't carry the whole shop of sticky sweeties out in a bag!
Old 5th November 2012
  #20
Gear Guru
 
EvilDragon's Avatar
You don't know how SN sounds access polyphony. One played key doesn't necessarily have to mean 1 note of poly is taken, it could be more.
Old 5th November 2012
  #21
Lives for gear
 
Persemone's Avatar
Evil's right on the money. Even on the JV's a single patch could be effectively using up 4 voices per note, if I recall.

For true unlimited polyphony a powerful CPU and a DAW are unbeaten. Sometimes I wish it weren't so, but there we are.
Old 5th November 2012 | Show parent
  #22
MusicFan
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by EvilDragon View Post
You don't know how SN sounds access polyphony. One played key doesn't necessarily have to mean 1 note of poly is taken, it could be more.
A SuperNATURAL Acoustic Tone uses 1 voice per note.

The SN Synth Tones instead consist of 1 to 3 Partials. A SN Synth Tone with 3 activated Partials uses 3 voices per note.

Old 6th November 2012
  #23
Lives for gear
 
Optical Lens's Avatar
 

Ok so the big question is: Does it have SUPER SAW ???
Old 6th November 2012 | Show parent
  #24
MusicFan
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by Optical Lens View Post
Ok so the big question is: Does it have SUPER SAW ???
Yep...
Old 6th November 2012 | Show parent
  #25
Quote:
Originally Posted by MusicFan View Post
A SuperNATURAL Acoustic Tone uses 1 voice per note.

The SN Synth Tones instead consist of 1 to 3 Partials. A SN Synth Tone with 3 activated Partials uses 3 voices per note.

as i said in my post above!

...synth tones are indeed upto 3 notes...just as they are on my roland gaia..basically same idea though extended in functions..

and SN only being 1 is a bonus!

i'd guess the srx sounds would be like the 5080 so may use upto 4 notes per patch.

still plenty of notes i'd have you observe!

re super saw...yup!



second from bottom led to the left of the pitch knob

just an observation: the Beatles managed with 20 notes on most of their songs!
conversely a symphony orchestra is a round 100 muscians...so using SN acoustic sounds 128 should be fine.
Old 6th November 2012
  #26
Lives for gear
 
mildheadwound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by gear_up View Post
Had one of these delivered...
* Limited effects routing possibilities: even though 16 insert effects are available concurrently -- one for each MIDI part -- no changes to this routing are possible, meaning that a maximum of 1 insert effect is available per part ... Have not tried the iPad app or the Motional Surround feature yet, though I would mention that, in the complete absence of multi-channel digital I/O or 5.1 support via USB, I don't know how anyone will do anything with the Motional Surround...-gear_up

So is it not possible to assign the different patches to select midi channels? It seems impossible to believe they would make this thing with no ability to reassign midi channels.

Can you feed audio in and have it converted into it's 'motional surround' system, or is that limited to it's 'supernatural acoustics'? Also, it says it's 5.1 audio, but is that only on it's audio outs? USB is limited to a single stereo track!?

I was looking to this as a world instrument/5.1 stereo conversion kit. It would be severely disappointing if it wasn't capable of at least a few rudimentary configurations.

Anyhow, thanks for the review.
Old 6th November 2012 | Show parent
  #27
Gear Guru
 
EvilDragon's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by cresshead View Post
conversely a symphony orchestra is a round 100 muscians...so using SN acoustic sounds 128 should be fine.
Do a harp arpeggio up and down the most of the range with notes sustained and you lose at least a quarter of your 128 notes polyphony. Same goes with any kind of longer decaying sound - timpani, cymbals, etc.

128 is not enough, period.
Old 6th November 2012 | Show parent
  #28
Quote:
Originally Posted by cresshead View Post
conversely a symphony orchestra is a round 100 muscians.
"We play only monophonic instruments" must be their slogan.
Old 6th November 2012 | Show parent
  #29
Quote:
Originally Posted by cresshead View Post
drums you need 4 maximum...left foot, right foot, left hand right hand!...
so...
sorry but you need allot more than 4 note poly for drums.

i can use 4 notes up just layering a kick. not to mention voices being stolen by the next drum hit. like a nice long crash? woops the snare just muted it.
Old 6th November 2012
  #30
Gear Maniac
 
oopfoo's Avatar
While there are a lot of things I've yet left unexamined, I am really digging the iPad app as a control system.

The only problems? You have to purchase a wireless dongle separately if you want to go wireless...and if you DON'T, then the system doesn't power the iPad. Oh well.
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