Roland System-8 Synthesizer First Impressions

Roland has shared a series of videos, featuring professional composers and synth gurus sharing their first impressions of the new System-8 synthesizer.

The System-8 is a new hardware synth that uses analog circuit modeling to implement its own synth architecture and to recreate the circuits of some of their classic synths, like the Jupiter-8 and Juno-106. 

In the first video, composer & synthesist Amin Bhatia shares his first impressions of the System-8.

Bhatia, who we interviewed in 2012, has scored dozens of films and television shows, including John Woo’s Once A Thief, the Jane Goodall Imax documentary Wild Chimpanzees, Queer As Folk and Flashpoint, in addition to releasing several albums of orchestral synthesis, including The Interstellar Suite.

The second video features John Leimseider, a keyboard tech with over 30 years of experience. He works as the Electronics Technician for the National Music Centre in Calgary, Alberta.

In the video, Leimseider checks out the new System-8, but the video is really more about his perspective on what makes a synth a useful instrument.

The final video features Jason Amm, who’s known for his Solvent electronic music project and also as the producer of the modular synth documentary I Dream Of Wires. (We reviewed his I Dream Of Wires soundtrack in 2014).

Amm approaches the System-8 with a modular synthesis sensibility, and in the video explores the new keyboard’s control voltage connectivity in a Solvent performance.

If you’ve used the System-8, leave a comment and share your thoughts on it.

Pricing and Availability

The System-8 PLUG-OUT Synthesizer is priced at $1499 street. Availability is to be announced. See the Roland site for details.

20 thoughts on “Roland System-8 Synthesizer First Impressions

  1. here´s my advice: get the fa-06 for 999,- instead, download all supernatural synth expansion packs of the integra-7 at roland´s axial site for free (incl. jupiter-8, jupiter-6, juno-6/60), and save 500 bucks (system-8 costs 1500,-). supernatural synth technology is based on pcm samples of the original instruments, whereas acb (analog circuit behavior) does not.

    1. I haven’t been able to directly compare these, but everything that I’ve heard suggests that circuit modeled emulations do a much better job of capturing the quirks of analog circuitry that make old synths interesting than sample-based synths do.

      I think the reason you don’t see more circuit modeled synths is that they are very demanding on CPUs.

    2. I think those are too different to make comparisons. If you compare them, the only thing that would be important then would be sound. If they sound equally good you may have a reason to buy the FA.

      However (assuming they both sound the same), the FA lacks a very important element: the knob/slider interface. Editing substractive synthesis sounds in a menu driven workstation is painful. At least for me, it kills the vibe and I end up using presets. I have a korg krome and a sub37 so I know the struggle. In fact I’m thinking of replacing the Krome with a proper polysynth (Deepmind or Prophet 08????) and using a sound module for when I need a rhodes sound.

  2. A ridiculous statement on so many levels….

    Even FORGETTING the knobbage/control element which is a biggie…. comparing samples of the instruments to modelling of them is ignorant and totally uneducated. I’ve an Integra 7 here, I’ve all of the boutiques here, I’ve spent time with a System 1, I’ve a System 8 on order. The Integra sounds great… but it sounds like great samples… that’s it… it sounds nothing like that original synths that were sampled simply because when they’ve sampled them they’ve taken a handful of short samples at best… not every note, not every filter position, all of them looped… and the REAL synthesis is done in the Integra.. which is great, but NOT accurate to say the least.

    By it’s very nature the nuances of the original can only EVER be recreated by modelling (if it’s not going to be genuine analog)… never by samples… (even if they DID turn it into a HUGE mega gig library…. which the Integra/FA samples are most definitely NOT!!)

  3. A sample will always nail the vintage vibe better than modeling (it’s an exact copy), you just don’t have ability to make extreme changes to the patch after it has been sampled.

    1. Of course a sample will never beat an advanced circuit emulation like the ones Arturia uses for instance. A sample is “just” a recording that will sound the same over and over again when played back. A circuit emulation taking power supplies instabilities and oscillator phase independencies into account will sound different each time and capture much of the analog “flaws” and timbral dynamics.

    2. Worst set of videos I’ve seen so far, in the line of the accidental presentation of the Moog M32 by its designer. Roland will have to come up with somethine substantial better, like Moog did with their subsequent desert patches and Mother 32 videos to convince me of the qualities of the system-8

  4. Volt… I’m sorry that’s not true… it’s REALLY not.

    Take any synth…. Minimoog for the sake of argument….. So to sample it you would have to sample every note… fine… but several times, because on a real machines EVERY time you trigger a note it sounds slightly different, THEN every level of the individual oscillators because the way that they beat and individually feed into the mixer and distort it whilst doing so changes the sound completely, THEN every filter setting, with every resonance position….. because the way that they interact is crucial…. THEN every envelope setting because all of those stages are individual for each instrument… I could go on…

    Do you see what I’m getting at?

    If what you’re saying is “I want a bass sound that sounds like a Moog playing that sound once” you’re ABSOLUTELY right… the moment you want to play that sound AS AN INSTRUMENT modelling is the ONLY way to do it if you want to get as close as possible… And that (comparing the FA/Integra samples to ACB) is what the initial post was about.

    I have terabytes and terabytes of sample libraries and when it comes to synths they NEVER sound as good (and in several instances I know the sample developers, the people SELLING them, and ALL of them totally agree)

    Beyond ALL of this there is ONE question that very few people seem to ask these days….


    Everyone is so caught up in “sounding like the original”?? Who gives a crap…. the reality is in the context of a mix you won’t be able to tell the difference…. what WILL make a difference is you having knobs and sliders and being able to shape the sound easily.

    1. Haha… talk about believing the hyperbole….
      Please feel free to believe everything you read about the Supernatural system… but..
      1.. Does it sound good? Yes.
      2. Is it unlike any other form of sampling? No.. it’s basically a sophisticated combination of sampling and VA….
      3. Do they sample every note and nuance of the original? No
      4. Does it sound as good as the best in modelling? No… it’s still sample manipulation.. that’s all.

      All my opinion… All formed from 35 years of playing with every kind of synthesis, including owning many of the original synths that we’re talking about.

  5. These videos are almost anti advertisement. The second video he doesn’t play it at all and says he loves analog but digital is great because it does something different, which since the System 8 is emulating analog is that really different? Different would be FM/PD/Additive/Wavetable, the types of synthesis that are actually unique for digital technology.

    The third video he just mostly uses his modular and the System 8 as a $1500 step sequencer.

  6. Everyone is overlooking the most important question when it comes to a poly synth:

    Can you play the song Jump on it?

    Isn’t that all that really matters?

  7. Did he really just say it’s nice that new composers and artists are starting to dig up all of the sounds from the 70s and 80s as though that has not been going on for 20 years?

    I just bot a new FA06 for $879. I look forward to getting one of these for the same in a few years.

  8. Something that seems to be forgotten in all of these posts: different horses for different courses. The Integra 7’s grand piano sounds beautiful, and it has a lot of other nice presets, but the Integra 7, Jupiter 80, and Fantom FA-06 all have an emphasis on presets with a few sliders here and there, while you’re stuck menu diving for the rest. I haven’t played any of those, but I’ve watched videos of the Integra 7 and the Jupiter 80, and decided, “No, that’s not really conducive to my playing style of near-direct access to all knobs.” (In particular, the supersaw waveform in the Jupiter 80 has “stuttering” when being adjusted, because the waveforms are sampled instead of modeled.)

    The synths that I do have are the System-1, the JP-8080, and the Sub 37. Those are all synths that are begging you to explore their full capabilities by adjusting all of the knobs (yes, even the JP-8080; despite the trance patch set from 7 Skies that I bought and installed, I load an init performance and select “Manual” when setting up to find a new sound for a song).

    The System-8 is really a love letter to all those who wish they could have a chance to play a Jupiter 8, or even its successor, the JP-8000. They even re-tuned the supersaw program to sound a LOT closer to the JP-8000’s algorithm (the System-1’s supersaw wasn’t quite there, but from the Sweetwater and Scott Tibbs demos, it sounds so much closer). And despite not having quite as much functionality as the JP-8000’s “Velocity Assign” feature (which is half of what makes so many JP-8000 trance patches so special), it really is a solid upgrade from the System-1, and with both oscillators driving “super” waveforms, you can extend the JP-8000 paradigm even farther.

  9. I can’t actually believe this piece of crap is going to cost more, a lot more than a Behringer Deepmind 12. What a joke. I know which one I’ll be buying

  10. Hi Cocker… I think that’s harsh. I think that each of them are different, each does it’s own thing, and each will provide some people with things that the other won’t. I’ve absolutely no interest in the DM12 and wouldn’t give me anything that I need (and so far has sounded nothing better than “ok”), whereas the S8 is a lot more interesting and versatile.. for me anyway. I’m sure that I’m not the only one to think like this.

  11. Interesting instrument and very bad demos. Pros: price, versatile, expandable with plug-outs. Cons: I don’t fell yet that analog sound (compared with my Jupiter 6), also only have 1 LFO (they say was another one hide inside the menu options), limited CV options. Personally since the V-synth GT I don’t see anything interesting from Roland.

    I see it like another option in the big VA market, I still not see or hear something that really makes me want to have it. Im interested to know more about how deep are the modulation routing options.

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