Well it would seem that Modular Eurorack systems are the "BIG THING" of 2016 with many new manufacturers coming on board with this format. Eurorack is not new though. Pioneered in the mid 90's by German synth Manufacturer Doepfer, this format has been slowly gaining interest but it has only been recently that Eurorack has taken off.
Essentially Eurorack is a racking system that holds modules that are 3U in height, multiples of 2HP width, and uses 3.5 mm patch leads in a frame with an internal power supply. All modules connect to this power supply. Having this standardisation enables 3rd party manufactures to build their own unique and unusual modules to fit into this format. You can therefore customise your own purpose build fully modular system using analog and digital modules.
Roland are no newcomer to Analog Modular synths and were seen as pioneers in the 70's with their now classic System 100M and System 700 modular synths. Over the past 20 years Roland have been all about looking forward and working solely on digital synthesis, however they obviously see the benefits of this Eurorack system and have now come on board with their own all new System 500 analog Eurorack Modules.
This is a Dual, fully analog Oscillator module outputting Variable Pulse, Triangle and Sawtooth waveforms. Pulse width can be modulated from the CV input. What is unique about this module is it's actually 2 oscillators in one module. Each Oscillator can be synced to each other or run independent creating intervals. In the limited examples we have seen, these oscillators sound fantastic. Big and fat - exactly what you would expect from Roland.
Roland seem to like doing thing in pairs as this module is a dual analog voltage controlled filter (VCF) - Run each filter as combinations of hi and low pass modes. Audio and CV input mixers on each channel allow the blending of multiple audio signals and modulation sources. Roland have spent a good amount of time getting this filter right and conform to the System 700 filter sound of old. I love that Roland filter sound. It has a rubbery tonal characteristic that no other filter has.
No modular system is complete without a Voltage Controlled Amp (VCA) and again Roland have given us 2. In essence a VCA controls the overall loudness or volume of the audio signal. Simple but necessary.
This module is one of my favourite and is used as a modulation source featuring 2 fully analog envelope generators and Low Frequency Oscillators (LFO's). Use the envelopes to change the volume of a signal over time and use the LFO's to modulate the filter, pitch, volume or pulse width or each other.
IMO this is a strange addition to this format but a welcome one. The phaser sounds thick and lush. A CV controlled delay is a really nice touch - Get your LFO to change the delay times to speed up and slow down...NICE! They also give you an additional LFO for just this purpose.
By the looks Roland will give you the chance to buy all of these modules in a full system with their own frame. Of course you can buy them separately to add to your existing Eurorack system. I can't wait to hear these modules in the flesh. Hopefully they'll sound just as good as their classic System 100 and 700's. I'm sure they will, they've spend a good amount of time building these to their own high standard.
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