Roland A-01 MIDI Controller & 8-Bit Synthesizer Overview & Demo

At the 2016 NAMM Show, held in Anaheim, CA Jan 21-24, Roland introduced the A-01 – an  hybrid mobile MIDI controller and 8-bit synthesizer.

Here’s a video overview from Roland’s Peter Brown, that covers the A-01’s features.

See the video below for some audio demos of the A-01’s 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.

The Roland A-01 is available now, paired with the Roland K-25m keyboard, with a street price of US $399. See the Roland site for details.

16 thoughts on “Roland A-01 MIDI Controller & 8-Bit Synthesizer Overview & Demo

  1. i don’t why people in demos keep saying the synth sounds like chip tunes/video games, not that i don’t like those sounds, but i think it sounds great. maybe a bit oscar ish. the developer mentions that the oscillators aren’t samples and it sounds like there are some nice algorithms there to keep the waves variable sounding.

    it’d be nice if they broke the ‘rules’ later and did more more with this maybe something where you could allow user additive partial generation. or just get more voices running in parallel. 🙂

    1. Jan, the photo of their second A-01 protoboard shows a Silicon Labs C8051F350 (8051 instruction set) in the DIP packaging. This MCU has 8k program memory and 768 bytes of data RAM and 128 bytes of data ROM. These are even more limited than the ATmega. The next and final revision, with the board marked “studio601 S3a” I can’t read the markings but it’s in a LQFP-32 case and likely is the same MCU in the more common packaging.

      These are incredible limitations given the sound he is getting and that it is the only microcontroller on the board.

      BTW, your string synth is a very nice design.

        1. Ick. Hate that instruction set. The clock runs a lot faster than it did in 1980, so it’s not like this could have been done back then on that chip.

          1. That’s correct. Matsui’s JX-3P design used a 8031/8051 (mainboard:IC 44) running at a clock speed of 12MHz.

            Interestingly the original 8051 had 111 instructions, 64 which were advertised as single cycle instructions. The A-01’s C8051F350 has 109 instructions, 26 of which are single cycle, 50 which take two cycles, and the rest more. However, the 8051’s system cycle is 1/12 of the clock speed, 1MHz, whereas the C8051F350’s system clock runs at twice the 25MHz clock speed, 50MHz. So a single cycle instruction on the C8051F350 executes 50 times faster than a single cycle instruction on the 8051. However some of the single cycle instructions of the 8051 are two cycle instructions on the C8051F350, so some of these instructions run 25 times faster rather than 50.

            No doubt Matsui is an expert in fine tuning his 8051 assembly as he’s been at it for many decades now.

  2. I’ve tried it, and it IS pretty darn cool, and I think what is really overlooked is the fact that this is a GREAT connectivity tool: 5 pin DIN midi, usb midi, CV/GATE, AND Bluetooth. Throw in a cool sequencer, and a very interesting synth, (yes, you can do a lot with the minimal engine)…. I agree that it might be more attractive without the keyboard, but I think that was to reach the price point/ profitability which makes sense to Roland, … $299 for the unit would be great without keyboard… but my only gripe at ALL… I definitely will get one, as it really provides a lot of swiss army knife utility, in addition to the cool synth and competent sequencer…

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