Synthesist and DiN record label head Ian Boddy shared this synth jam that pairs a modern Roland System 500 Eurorack modular synthesizer with a Roland System 100M.
The System 100M is a vintage modular, made from the late 70’s to the early 80’s. The system features close to two dozen module designs.
The System 500 modular synthesizer, introduced in 2016, is the 100M’s modern counterpart. The System 500 builds on classic System 700 and System 100M designs, but uses the popular Eurorack form factor.
We asked Boddy for some details about his unique pairing of the two systems, and he shared these patch notes:
The Roland System 500 is being sequenced by the 182 module from the Roland System 100M.
All the sound is from the System 500, except for echo & reverb from the Echo plug in Ableton Live.
There are three voices in this patch:
1) The bass line is from 2 x VCO (one on the 512 module & the other from the 510) both going through one of the filters on the 521 module.
2) The high sequence is a third VCO (also on the 512 module) which is not being sequenced but set to hard sync from the bass VCO on the 512. This is going through the second filter on the 521.
3) White noise percussion using both the phaser in the 572 module and the 505 filter.
The System 500 555 module provides the master clock from the S&H Clock Out. This clocks the 100M 182 sequencer as well as both envelopes on the 540 module.
Improvising with the 182 sequencer live involves changing the sequence length as well as switching the 3V/10V switch. The higher voltage really stretches the tuning for some sonic madness.
Pairing Vintage Roland 100M modules With System 500 Modules
Boddy’s pairing of modern & vintage Roland modules is unique, so we asked him if he could share his impressions and thoughts on the modules, and he generously agreed:
I got my first rack of 5 100M modules way back in 1982 and used this on my first vinyl release, The Climb. In the 1980’s, I accumulated another 2 191-J racks, giving me 15 modules in total, as well as the 184 4-voice polyphonic keyboard.
‘At that time, the 100M was just about the only reasonably affordable. fully-modular synth available. I’ve used it on countless projects and I’ve always enjoyed its rich sound, as well as its ease of patching.
It’s really got it’s own form factor, neither being a 4U or 5U system, and has a very ergonomic design, with most of the inputs/outputs along the top of each module and the CV inputs along the bottom, leaving the middle of each module relatively uncluttered.
Using the System 500 alongside this venerable system was a lot of fun. Of course, a lot of people have asked me “Do they sound the same?”
Well, this is a rather pointless question, to be honest, as I don’t think Roland ever intended the System 500 to be an exact clone of the 100M and, indeed, the newer sibling has many added features over it’s older brethren. I did do an A/B audio test on both system’s basic oscillators and to my ears they sounded pretty much the same. But once you start to patch each. up you’re going to get some differences.
But what is important is that as a veteran 100M user, the new System 500 does feel very 100M-like. It’s got more cramped real estate, but that’s the nature of the Eurorack format, and the vast majority of Eurorack modules feel like that, due to space constraints
But at the end of the day for me as a composer, it’s the sound that matters. And, as I hope this video shows, the System 500 has a fabulous, rich & analogue sound.
A favorite little trick I picked up was flipping the self cycling envelope mode (something not present on the 100M) during playback. With a little bit of tweaking you could get the regular envelope mode to do nice tight contours and then switching in the self-cycling mode, if tuned correctly, brought in a sort of ratcheting effect. You can hear this at various points on the video with the white noise percussion voice.
The complete set is a really great self-contained system that would be a nice starting point for someone getting into modular, as well as a simple but great sounding compact live rig.
There’s a lot going on in the Eurorack world at the moment and there’s some super-sophisticated modules coming out. But these are often the icing on the cake, sometimes you just want good, flexible building blocks and the System 500 certainly offers that.
Check out the video and, if you’ve got experience with any of Roland’s modular gear, share your thoughts on it in the comments!