At the 2016 NAMM Show, being held in Anaheim, CA Jan 21-24, Roland is introducing the A-01 – a unique mobile MIDI controller and 8-bit synthesizer.
The A-01 is a genre-busting piece of gear:
- The A-01 is the same size as Roland’s Boutique synths, and can dock in the Boutique K-25m keyboard.
- It’s a MIDI controller that works over full-size MIDI & USB.
- It’s also a wireless Bluetooth LE controller.
- It’s a unique 8-bit virtual analog synthesizer.
- It’s also a step sequencer.
- It’s got CV/Gate connectors, so it can control analog & modular gear.
Here’s Roland’s A-01 intro video:
The A-01 is designed to be an open-ended controller module, with multiple connectivity options:
- The standard MIDI IN/OUT is joined by a USB MIDI jack for use with Mac/PC-based DAW software;
- Wireless MIDI (via Bluetooth LE) allows production work on a Mac, PC, tablet or smartphone and
- The A-01’s CV/GATE OUT supports vintage analog gear, including modular synths.
The A-01 8-bit Synthesizer
The Roland A-01 also features an internal 8-bit CPU sound generator that they describe as ‘vintage digital’.
The 8-Bit CPU Synth reproduces a subtractive synthesizer with an 8-bit CPU. The A-01, with the limited computing resources of its 8-bit CPU, combined with a lo-fi 10-bit DA converter, has a unique design that delivers unique results.
The synth engine was designed by Akira Matsui, a former Roland engineer, who joined Roland in 1977, and was involved with the development of a variety of synths, including the SYSTEM-700 and SYSTEM-100, the early GR-series guitar synths and the JX-3P.
After retiring from Roland in 2013, Matsui immersed himself in his hobby of making electronic devices in his home studio. A Roland staff member who happened to see the homemade synth was instantly intrigued and approached Matsui to learn more about it. This is where the 8-Bit CPU Synth was born, which is now featured in the A-01.
“One day I wondered what it would be like to make a synth with an 8-bit CPU,” explains Matsui, below. “The idea was to see how far I could go with the limited resources of an 8-bit CPU and 8 KB of memory.”
“I think this was in early 2014,” he continues. “The first thing I programmed was the oscillator, and somewhat surprisingly, it ended up being something that you could play decent scales on without using a lot of resources. I then programmed all of the analog synth elements?the filter, followed by amp, and then LFO?and I was able to pack all of them in quite nicely. In the remaining space, I programmed a step sequencer, and the finished result was the 8-Bit CPU Synth.”
“I spent a lot of time tuning the program. There’s no point in having a synth with lousy sound,” adds Matsui. “But if you begin making elaborate tunings in your effort to improve the sound, you will quickly run out of your 8 KB resource limit. So you do your tuning, but also make sure that the program fits into 8 KB. I think this is what makes the 8-Bit CPU Synth’s sound so unique and distinct from modern synthesizers or software sound engines.”
- Compact controller and sound generator
- Highly portable for mobile music making
- Metal front panel
- Dual assignable ribbon controls for pitch bend, modulation, sound preview, CC, and more
- MIDI over Bluetooth®
- CV/GATE outputs for legacy analog/modular synthesizers
- Battery-operated (4 x AA) or USB bus-powered
- 192×40 graphic LCD screen
- Built-in 0.5 W mini-speaker for real-time sounds
- Compatible with optional Roland K-25m mini-keyboard
- Bundled package with K-25m keyboard dock (A-01K) is also available
- Controller Mode: 16 patches (4 patches x 4 banks)
- Synth Mode: 16 tones (8 tones x 2 banks)
- Seq Mode: 16 patterns (8 patterns x 2banks)
- PHONES jack: Stereo miniature phone type
- CV OUT jack: Stereo miniature phone type
- GATE OUT jack: Stereo miniature phone type
- MIDI (IN, OUT) connectors
- USB port: MicroB type (MIDI)BluetoothBluetooth LE
- Power Supply
- Rechargeable Ni-MH battery (AA, HR6) x 4
- Alkaline battery (AA, LR6) x 4
- USB bus power
- Current Draw
- 500 mA (USB bus power)Expected battery life under continuous use:Rechargeable Ni-MH battery: Approx. 12 hours
* This can vary depending on the specifications of the batteries, capacity of the batteries, and the conditions of use.
- Owner’s Manual
- Leaflet “USING THE UNIT SAFELY”
- Alkaline battery (AA, LR6) x 4
- Options (sold separately)
- Keyboard unit: K-25m
Pricing and availability for the A-01 are to be announced. See the Roland site for details.