Roland Releases Latest ‘Plug-Out’ Plug-In, PROMARS


Roland has released the PROMARS Plug-Out Software Synthesizer – a reproduction of the rare PROMARS synthesizer (introduced in 1979).

Designed for Roland System-1, as well as Mac and Windows, the new PROMARS uses Analog Circuit Behavior to recreate the ‘incredibly warm, dense sound’ of the original.

Here’s a video overview, with audio demos, from the 2015 NAMM Show:


  • Recreates the sound of the rare PROMARS COMPUPHONIC synthesizer
  • ACB provides the rich, warm vintage tone of the original
  • Two VCOs plus two sub-oscillators per voice
  • Fast envelopes and filters with classic Roland character
  • VST, AU and PLUG-OUT compatible

About the PROMARS

The original PROMARS was a sibling of the JUPITER-4, and is often thought of as simply a monophonic version. But the PROMARS was more than that.

While the JUPITER-4 had one VCO and one sub-OSC per voice, the PROMARS had two of each. The pitch of the two VCOs could be slightly detuned to produce a unison chorus effect, and a sub-OSC was provided on each VCO. Able to produce sounds similar to a four-VCO synthesizer, the PROMARS sounded huge.. While not as well known as the JUPITER-4, the thick sound and “compu-memory” function that allowed sounds to be stored and recalled made it a highly regarded instrument, with a unique place among the classic Roland monosynths.

With the new PROMARS PLUG-OUT Synthesizer, the sound of this rare, vintage instrument is reproduced with Analog Circuit Behavior (ACB) technology. ACB recreates the sound of classic synths by using original design specs, and a detailed, part-by-part analysis of each analog circuit.

While the PLUG-OUT version tries to faithfully recreate the sound of the original, Roland has added some new options.

The VCOs have increased range settings, the LFO has a “Random” waveform setting, and the Noise and and Pulse Width sections have full range control of those parameters. And like their other PLUG-OUT synths, the PROMARS has effects and an advanced arpeggiator section.

Connect a SYSTEM-1 and it becomes a dedicated controller, only lighting the appropriate knobs and sliders pertinent to the PROMARS. You can transfer sounds back and forth between the PROMARS and SYSTEM-1 and even use the SYSTEM-1 as a high-quality audio and MIDI interface.

You can also load the PLUG-OUT directly onto the SYSTEM-1, creating a stand-alone, hardware PROMARS synthesizer with real physical controls that doesn’t require a computer.

The PROMARS Plug-Out Synthesizer is available now for US $145. Roland notes that a special price is available to System-1 users. See the Roland site for more info.

via aymat

40 thoughts on “Roland Releases Latest ‘Plug-Out’ Plug-In, PROMARS

    1. It’s not VA in the traditional sense. It’s based on circuit modelling using FPGA’s. and sounds a lot more accurate in the emulation. u-He’s ACE was an early test of this technique using the computer’s processing and sounded great but the CPU load was huge. Roland has the R&D muscle for interesting custom chips so we can probably expect them to add polyphonic emulations down the road.

      1. i suppose you are right, and the aira seems to have nailed the sound for the most part.
        it will always be a copy though and we seem to have passed that point.
        real analogs are all over the place at every pricepoint though. thats the current zeitgeist.

        1. Or maybe we all just didn’t like what you said. My downvote was for the “circuit modelling” is not virtual analog…

          1. Did you not read what I wrote? I said “Traditional” VA. It is not circuit modelling, which is a fairly new technique. Down-vote it all you want but ignorance of facts just reinforces what I posted later.

            1. VA’s from various manufactures have been branded with their various acronyms for well over a decade.
              But enjoy your marketing hype….

              1. branded with acronyms? i suppose that sounds smart.
                modelling is not really traditional va. for example, cytomic drop is painstakingly modelled and there are a couple of examples it going head to head versus the real thing.
                i dare you to find any difference:

                i am not into software anymore but do get your sarcastic record straight. the modelling technology and cpu power is really there. the difference is mainly in workflow and principle.
                has nothing to do with your acronyms.

                1. For just one example, Korg’s “XMT” expanded modelling technology, from a couple of years ago.
                  Maybe you should get the record straight. Maybe this is the best sounding virtual analog synth yet to be made, but of so, it isn’t because all of sudden Roland invented the radical new technology of analog modelling.

                  1. silly straw argument. nobody spoke about korg or how they choose to label their tech. you just jumped at the guy for making a difference between what we labeled VA since the beginning of dsp and the newer engines. it is a fair to make that distinguishment and it has nothing to do with falling for marketing hype and some letters.

                  2. Why the douchy attitude?

                    He didn’t say Roland invented the magic pixie dust, he said that traditional ‘VA’ and circuit modeling are different things, and deliver different results.

              2. Every recent VA engine has been branded with some kind of snazzy name for the technology – especially Roland’s – promising analog behavior and warm sound.

                And then a few years later, there’s a new one claiming to be the first engine to nail true analog sound – sometimes it’s the same manufacturer. Was the previous claim marketing jive, and the new claim true?

                It’s like when Apple launches a new product. “This is the best, fastest MacBook we’ve ever created.”

                Yes, because that’s how time works.

                So here’s when you know that Analog sound has been achieved. Set the filter to self-oscillate, plug it into a scope, then slowly sweep it up. Real slow. You will hear zero stepping, and then pitch will vanish out of your hearing range with no aliasing, and you will watch it on the scope as it rises up past 20khz, and then it vanishes clean off the scope with no reflected aliasing frequencies. Then do the same with an oscillator – watch those overtones!

                First company to do this has won digital vs. analog.

                By the way, you can’t do it with the System 1 or it’s plug-outs.

                Maybe next time?

                1. Agree about how aliasing and such haven’t been fixed, and how VA’s in general haven’t yet reached the ability to sound 100% analog.

                  But, it may be short-sighted to assume that the pinnacle of VA tech will be when a VA that sounds analog. It is possible with current technology to have a digital analog-modeled oscillator that doesn’t have noticeable digital artifacts… DSP has come a long way since the 90s. Why no one is implementing it in hardware is another story.

                  I may not be in the majority here, as analog has exploded in the last 5 years… but I still think digital is the future. It seems like people associate analog with subtractive synthesis just because it was the earliest implementation of the technology. That is like saying an abacus is a better tool than a calculator. The synthesis method is no less genuine or “good sounding” because it is implemented with a VA.

                  1. One last thing. People today are all over analog because it isn’t perfect… people love the PPG wave BECAUSE it aliases and freaks out and steps.

                    I can only image 15 years from now, when all these old VAs will be in demand because kids liken them to how we see a sid-station or minimoog. What goes around, comes around i guess. lol

                    1. If you ask me (and no one did!) Analog Sound is about more than “warmth” – which is midrange, and “phat” which is subtle detuning and drift. You get that on most VAs.

                      It’s about the sound itself. VA is bandlimited and top-end filtered to reduce aliasing. The top note of the oscillator and the filter res is usually capped well within your hearing range.

                      A real analog synth has a full frequency liveliness that lives in the top end. Saw overtones that go off the hearing range chart. Pitch that can be swept up into outer space. Those high frequencies create a presence and zap that VAs don’t give you. Once you hear it, you can’t unhear it.

                      Roland’s stuff sounds nice and buzzy, and behaves very much like the synths it models, and is more than fine for most people.

                      But the model itself lives inside a digital bandlimited frequency prison. It does not affect the bass end and warm midrange, which is the wrong place to listen when evaluating how “analog” the VA-of-the-moment is.

          1. Yamaha did this kind of emulations first – for some plugins of their consles.
            Everyone re-named it and Roland – owning the original models to be emulated – did a great work on these ‘Plug Outs’.

  1. Only a few more weeks until Musikmesse. Then we will finally get to hear the new Roland JD-XA real analog/digital hybrid flagship.

    1. I’m very curious to see what Roland does with the JD-XA… Looks like it may end up being the synth that everyone was asking for in the first place. Just hope they dont Roland it up.

      Still… it’s been how many years? And the Access Virus TI series is still kicking the combined asses of practically every VA and analog that has been released since? Maybe I’m just jaded and lucky because I found my uber-synth and don’t get the urge to buy hardware as often any more. Looks cool but not OMG this is the next big thing cool…

  2. So close Roland. I don’t want a Plug-Out. I want a Plug-In. I’m never going to buy more hardware to run this stuff, I keep my 2080 and 5080 for that. PLEASE (and I can’t be the only one) can we get an AU version of this stuff (without the big hardware dongle) so I can start using Roland sounds again? Is that not on the most requested list at Roland? Or at least an explanation why they’re not making a VI only version. Then I can stop hoping a dreaming and move on.

    In lieu of that, I’d pay if someone could make some classic Roland patches for Diva or Zebra2.

    1. You do realize that these plug-outs are also sold separately from the System-1 as VST and AU? You just get a discount if you own the System-1.

  3. well, yeah… you have to have a super ear to get all the subtleties of these recreations. I mean, they are good etc… but I wish we got plug-outs that are a bit more daring and inventive in the synthesis architecture. Oscillator, Filter, Amplitude… yeah … zzz !

    I mean that’s the beauty of synthesisers, it’s to make sounds that do not exist . We now often have recreations of yesteryear which are very OK, but boring in the end. net net ? I’m not buying analog gear, It’s boring and heard everywhere. It’s good to have a core market on these, but more innovation for new sounds would also be great.

  4. How much discount do you get if you own System-1? I went to the linked page and there is only 1 price and no mention of discount?

    1. It’s $95 if you have a System 1, it won’t show the discount unless you have a registered System 1 on your Roland account.

  5. Damn. That sounded pretty great.

    Would be cool if you could pick the plug-out of your choice when purchasing. I own an SH-101 so that as a freebie isn’t very tempting.

  6. Well I was very disappointed that I could not replicate any of my own patches from my machine. This came close but not close enough to my real Promars. It really fails actually sounding very thin/bland, although you’ll get some interesting patches out of it; there’s no way it can match the shear power of the real beast. I tried the de-tune and it did nothing on this software version. Disappointed so my unit stays.

    1. It seems good to me, some sounds are not as colorful as pure analog but they do come close. Sometimes pure analog is a little harsh. If you haven’t noticed, mainstream music uses VA because it sounds softer.

  7. the filter on the SH-2 and Promars/Jupiter4 are INCREDIBLY similar. it’s not like a crazy amount of work to make the dsp for them.

    I really enjoy the SH-2 plugout.. will check if the promars is different..but there is A LOT of overlap here.

    if they make a more grown up AIRA plugout keyboard. I would consider getting it because i really enjoy the sound of these plugouts.



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