Roland System 500 vs Vintage System 100m, SH-5

In this video, Alex Ball takes a look at the new Roland System 500 Eurorack modular system vs a classic System 100m modular and the SH-5 keyboard.

Video Summary:

“I’ve been leant a Roland System 500 for a video and so the first thing I wanted to try with it was a side-by-side with the System 100m (1978) and SH-5 (1976) as these are two of the heritage synths that inspired it. The third synth it’s based on is the System 700, but I’m sure you can forgive me for not getting that one in there too! All-in-all I think the System 500 is excellent, has the Roland family sound and stands up well against the classics that inspired it. Trying to be as impartial as possible, there are a couple of comments I had about it that could be improved which I also mention, but I genuinely think it’s a great sounding and accessible modular synth.”

If you’ve used the Roland System 500, leave a comment and share your thoughts on it!

10 thoughts on “Roland System 500 vs Vintage System 100m, SH-5

  1. Fun video, and thanks for pointing us towards it.

    I have a System 500 with 14 modules and I LOVE it. I used to have a System 100m, and when the SYS 500 was released I did a comparison of the two much more in the waveform-by-waveform with oscilloscope vein, and I found them to be very similar to each other, so much so that I no longer care about any slight sonic differences. Interesting for me and my use, the envelopes do not go quite as slow as the System 100m — I like very long attack and decay times, and the SYS 500 seems more geared to faster “snappy” envelopes for percussion and blips of EDM. Also, yes, the high blip on octave switching of the oscillator is true of production models as well, something to do with shorting versus non-shorting rotary switches in this form factor being hard to source. I know this is an issue for folks who do live octave switching, but it doesn’t hamper my workflow.

    There are some great small additions in the SYS 500, such as “Cycle” switches on the envelopes to turn them into LFOs, and simultaneous waveform outputs on the oscillators rather than switched as on the System 100m.

    All in all a GREAT synth and I hope Roland continue to expand and support the instrument.

  2. I was surprised at how thin the System 100 sounded here. I think the 500 sounded far better, but he wasn’t comparing sounds one-to-one so who knows.

  3. To me this shows how Roland have gone backwards. Look how feature rich the SH5 is and then look how their mono (and poly) synths have fewer as they get more current (until the become DSP). The original system 100 covers so much too. Now look at the 500, where has 40 years of progress gone?

    1. They put the extended routings and features into their Jupiter and JX synths. Monosynths were the “budget” instruments so they made them simple (and plastic).

      At the time it was probably a good decision.

  4. Many a years i hear people claiming their efforts (VCO or full synth) were nigh on identical to the SH5 (which i own) or the System 100 (not System 100M). Unfortunately all those claims fell short, since not only the actual original components are hard to replicate (some of them nearly unobtanium today) but also their signal paths impart a certain “color” (aka distortion) that just isn’t there in the System 500.
    Truth be told, said System 500 is quite a capable machine…but I believe it is fairer to test such recent synths on their own without compulsively referring/name-droping their venerable forefathers/inspirators – unless they are the same model as e.g. the MiniMoog or the Odyssey. In such cases a direct comparison is inevitable.
    YMMV of course.

  5. The 500 grows on you as you use it. I bought a 521 on a lark and wound up with 2 512s, 2 521s and 2 540s because they are just that good. They are running side by side with lots of other choices but the system 500 has become my 2nd choice now after my SEM. When they are properly calibrated the tracking is also fantastic and they stay in tune.

  6. I dunno. The SH5 and S100 definitely sounded like my youth. The 500, much less so (in this example video anyway). Not that my youth was all that great. 🙂

  7. Just GASsing a bit on Sweetwater… a fairly basic 5 module System 500 “set” (vco, vfc, vca, env/lfo, effects with case — about half the size of the one used in the video) is the same price as the Moog Matriarch. Obviously, very different beasts and the Roland is more patchable but, really, not *that* much more patchable. 🙂

    I know folks around here generally think of Moog gear as coming in with a ‘premium’ price bump but dang, once you’re up around $2000 mark the Matriarch is looking harder and harder to beat, feature for feature, dollar for dollar.

  8. 500 sounds fat, hi quality, sterile, modern. SH5 & 100m sounds vintage, warm, cosmic, soothing, beauuutiful. I choose the latter for my preference.

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