Roland Zen-Core Promises To Lets Create Sounds Once And Use Them Across Synths, Workstations, Keytars, Grooveboxes & More

At the 2020 NAMM Show, Roland is introducing the ZEN-Core Synthesis System, a new platform that promises to standardize sounds across their various hardware.

With ZEN-Core, you can share and exchange sounds across synthesizers, so you can choose the hardware that best meets your workflow or application – from grooveboxes to performance synthesizers and stage pianos.

With the forthcoming system updates, owners of FANTOM 6/7/8 Synthesizers (Version 1.50*), JUPITER-X Series Synthesizers (Version 1.10) and RD-88 Stage Pianos will be able to use the same compatible sounds across all models.

An update for the MC-101 and MC-707 Grooveboxes will also be available in Q2 2020, with an update planned for AX-Edge later this year.

ZEN-Core base engine tones created on one instrument can be shared with other users or transferred into completely different compatible Roland hardware. Performers can take sounds made on a FANTOM and play them on an AX-Edge Keytar, or perform a JUPITER-X synth patch on an RD-88,  simplifying setup and expanding tonal options.

The Roland ZEN-Core multi-timbral engine combines the latest Virtual Analog and PCM (up to 256 voices) synthesis techniques with powerful DSP effects. Advanced synthesis features include new VA oscillators, precisely modeled filters, ultra-fast and smooth LFO and envelope modulators, and high-resolution control of primary editing and performance parameters.

Sounds created for the base engine will be compatible across all ZEN-Core instruments.

ZEN-Core supports instrument-specific ZEN-Core Expansions including Analog Behavior Modeling for the JUPITER-X series and V-Piano for the new FANTOM Series.

Further ZEN-Core expansions will soon arrive for other instruments in the Roland ZEN-Core family.

Updates to support Zen-Core are expected to be available in late January, 2020.

44 thoughts on “Roland Zen-Core Promises To Lets Create Sounds Once And Use Them Across Synths, Workstations, Keytars, Grooveboxes & More

  1. to me the thing this makes the most sense for is the mc101/mc707, and taking workstations to a live gig. for instance, i have an mc101 as well as a system 8, sh201, d50, jd800, etc – and i have the mc101 because it’s portable and i can take it anywhere. i’d love to load up my patches from those synths on there and take them with me, and then if i wanted to record that idea into an actual track, i’d switch to recording them on the real deal. same is true of course if you were using the vst/au versions. a workstation that could load up all these sounds would be great for someone performing live songs made with a studio full of gear

  2. Marketing.

    Anyone that doesn’t leverage platforms to reduce R&D costs inside their product lines as a matter of course by now is nutz.

      1. Weeeeeelllll, look at the Boutique stuff. Clearly the product of platform architecture. Four completely different models. And honestly, the whole universe of soft synths speaks to the unimportance of hardware (in sounds generation, not UI) in a whole class of synthesis that today is generating more new and wacky sounds than hardware ever will.

        In the end – it’s all good – even Behringer for the consumer and the industry.

  3. If you own several Rolands, this is a welcome idea. Roland has taken a few hits lately for its direction, but as a Korg fan, if someone offered a way to cross connect my MonoPoly, Triton, DW8000 and a Wavestate like that, I’d be right on it. It depends on how Roland-loyal you are. Each company’s gear has a base sound aroma.

  4. The sound quality is superb and the concept is definitely good for Roland, but how many people will own more than 1 Zen-core product that they will benefit from this?

    The key gripe I have with Zen-core, is that there’s no way of expanding it to date, even the Roland Fantom doesn’t allow for user multi-samples (just 1-shot pads). The number of filters is also limited. And there’s positively no expansion option à la KORG Prologue with user programmable oscillators and effects. So one or two years from now you’ll feel limited by the architecture & and the same old samples…

  5. Does this mean they will make an editor? If you could create custom sounds for the mc101 it would be a notation circuit killer. As it is now it’s useless.

  6. Seems like the RD-88 benefits most from this. Many stage pianos are stuck with just a few “bread and butter” synth sounds – if you’re a performing keyboardist, it’s great to know you have a much larger base from which to draw.

    Of course, if there were an editor for the patches, that would be even better, but something tells me it will just be presets.

  7. This is good news and a solid move by Roland. Because some of the keybeds & chassis of these Zen-Core synths are intended for different uses(gigging keyboardist, DJing, Church orchestra). This could provide a benefit and flexibility to all users. It’s something I hope they stick with, at least for their digital workstation and synth line. Because the patch data is essentially a set of parameters and references to ROM addresses, this is not like a sampler as a few have guessed. Unfortunately, it seems there’s no way to relate this patch data to the ACB and JDXa. FPGAs are going to improve, and we’ll be in for even better ideas that could use this concept.

    For some of the younger crowd, I can understand that you just want Roland to make what you want. I felt the same back in the 90’s. We got MC-303s and the XP series. But wanted Junos and [TR|TB|SH]-X0Xs. We wanted them, but we never felt like Roland owed us them. Great dance music happened with whatever could be found.

    Looking back the XP series was pretty solid for what it offered, and the MC-303 was a cheap sample source if you couldn’t score anything better and had an Akai S-1000. You make do. The instrument is just a tool.

    But there were always other instruments and second hand instruments. There are NOW more options than we ever had in those days…. yet people complain so much more now. And not just complain, but display a kind of entitlement. It’s baffling.

    There are so many great synths. There’s so much to love. Maybe don’t comment if a product isn’t your cup of tea. Go find what you love and write great things. Don’t drag yourself and others down by writing about what’s not of interest to you. Be uplifted and make choices that uplift you and others.

  8. [1] There is so much wrong with that picture [2] By Roland’s tradition not providing upgrade/updates after 2 years … in 2023 there will be ZEN2, ZEN-pro, ZEN-super or ZEN-X and not backwards compatible. [3] The only thing can be extracted here is that Zen is a VA processor that is an update of the one used in the XA/I7/Gaia and so many other products that probably will stay for a while but it may have nothing to do with analog, samples, supernatural/, V-Piano modeling, ACB, DCB other than what VA can (closely) emulate

  9. Roland promises…. one or two firmware updates that never completely address real or all the problems
    then they simply forget about the product ( or just drop it)
    I’m finished with that company, usually great sound but stupid little annoying bugs / small features missing, and dont even mention the cloud concept and its maze of weird decisions / directions and power hungry software
    each few years a new concept to be rendered obsolete as soon as the next one comes in
    more and more expensive and less value with each passing year, even cars keep their value better it seems

  10. Isn’t the appeal of all these different synths that they have different synth engines? If they all use the same synth engine then why would I wanna buy more than one or any of them for that matter knowing that they all sound the same? Maybe for someone who’s already bought into a bunch of these synths this is helpful but not for someone who hasn’t jumped on the Roland bandwagon yet. Really devalues all their products when they are all sound the same.

      1. Still very grateful to Roland to open the implementation details and MIDI spec for the Fantom they did but after so many months no parameter guides for the X and Xm. If you deep dive in the specs of Fantom which shares Zen core, you will see than Zen it is so incredibly close to the I7 and (XA, FA, JP80,Gaia and more that it almost looks like this is still the same hardware processor but dropping supernatural, surround and drums engine from the I7, keeping VA and PCM and thus freeing up space for other VA features. Probably Roland could just reload the Zen firmware into an Integra 7 and re-label it an Integra Zen edition. A Rack version would be nice instead of the Cloud and plugins and the engine could be sounding great . A Roland cloud edition of these products is not un-imaginable as the XV5080 was released recently.

  11. Looks like all marketing bullshit which Roland loves – this is just VA and VD(virtual digital) under another name. So for real talk, it is just Roland Cloud (which is really great – I love it and have it from 2 years) which is 19,99 per month packing into the box for one big fee 2499 usd and it is just new Fantom under Jupiter 8 style metal box. So far, Roland Cloud is best option for quality/cost balance. For 2499 usd are so many REALLY GOOD and REAL PRO synth available. UDO6, Korg analog stuff, Nord Wave 2, and little higher Waldorf Quantum, Korg Arp2600. So many option. Hope Roland will bring Jupiter 8 reissue soon after not so good sells of Jupiter X. If they can’t afford analog department. Do like Behringer and hire some. Other way Behringer will stil with no shame copy best Roland stuff and make more more money than Roland on their VA. And one day we’ll read on synthopia that Behringer bought Roland…

      1. I’m few probably. I’m not analog purist. I love analogs, but I also like good VA and plugins. Eg Massive X is so good sounding plugin synth, really really good. But between Roland Cloud and Jupiter X I’m choosing Roland Cloud. There will be maybe 5-10% difference in sound or maybe less, maybe nothing. So far I didn’t hear ANY demo from Roland Xm which convince me to buy it. They are only convince me to open Roland Cloud and being happy with same sound with less money 🙂 Even with couple plugins I can make Roland Cloud sound so significant better than Jupiter Xm. Roland just shoot to his own gate. Maybe if Jupiter X will be have samples. But other way eg new Nord Wave 2 I find so much more interesting – 6 filters, sample, VA etc. Really I like how it is looks Jupiter X, but it is really nothing interesting in it. iArpeggio – don’t be kidding 🙂 And for less money new Pro 3 – two vcos, 1 interesting digital. 3 filters, very cool.

  12. Knowing Roland, the driver support will end max 2 years after a product launch and after that Roland stuff tends to stop working together with anything.

  13. That is a neat concept. I own an MC-101 and have been slowly learning the ins and outs of it. If this zen-core works even half as well as advertised, the potential sound-pallette will be that much deeper. Personally, I doubt it’ll “replace” old-school analog instruments any more than electric guitars could replace acoustics. They each have their specialty and can supplement each-other in neat ways

    1. Time to move on to a company that “is listening” methinks eh Rob. Sad but i see it now. Clearly this companies glory days are well gone. You know the old saying…”Ask a board of directors to design you a horse, and they will give you a camel. “. thats pretty much what is happening in that Roland board-room these days

  14. I think people are missing some things in this thread.1) synths can still have specific sounds and engines. In this case the X will have ABM while the Fantom will have V-Piano. 2) Different synths will have more/less power. In other words, the Fantom will have higher polyphony than the AX. 3) What this really gives is a way for lots of the classic sounds to be in up-to-date synths. 4) This gives you the ability to choose the form factor and capability you want with less compromises in sound, which is an excellent thing. It’s a little (only a little) like picking the controller you want to use to play the soft synths on your computer in terms of flexibility.

  15. hmm…. Roland is regressing here with Zen-Core. This is more a super simplified VA. It is not an improvement over ACB. Instead of re-working ACB or quadrupling the internal cores in the Roland manufactured (ACB) DSP chips, they develop a new DSP chip that is less than HALF the power of ACB technology, just to squeeze out multi-timberal 64-128 voice polyphony & now cheesy preset cross-hardware compatibility that most of us don’t need. The Zen-Core does not have ACB tech in it like the boutiques or System-8. Its like going back to PRE-UHe Diva Vsti’s days or the Access Virus C/Nordlead2. Very Disappointing that Roland upper management refuse?? to improve Analog Modelling technology and instead focus on selling generic Stage Pianos and Phantoms etc… At least Behringer and Korg are giving us what we want. Unless Roland surprise us and release a System-32… the Plug-out hardware system’s life is now probably “end of life” because of the inferior Zen-core DSP. They will only sell VSTi for a few more years and that’s it. Look at Roland behavior cycle over the past 20 years with regards to product release/support and abandonment. They have clearly now moved on… $$$$

    1. I agree. I didn’t hear any good demo of Jupiter Xm. I like how big Jupiter X looks like, but small screen on it look ridiculous and since it is same as Xm it will be needed a lot. It is really big miss from Roland, and I’m very interesting how it last on the market. At this price you can buy couple real analogue clone included SH01, TR etc maybe even JP8 clone from Behringer. I only didn’t agree that Roland is toward $$$$, it is quite opossite direction. Behringer is making money. Jupiter X looks like Phantom but without analogu filters which is really strange. And as you said ZEN is step back because the want bigger polyphony. So, Roland Cloud possible will be sounding better as JXm and JX. It is ridiculous.


  17. The funny thing is that, if Behringer were to clone the vintage Jupiter 8, people would be all over that far more than the Roland Jupiter -X.

  18. Roland: yet again affirms they will not be remaking their successful analogue products, flying in the face of the market direction.

    Rest of the worlds manufacturers in their boardrooms around the world (in the voice of Borat): “High Fiyve!!!”

  19. In all my decades on this miserable ball of mud, I’ve never seen another synth company with their head so firmly up their behind. Roland has the talent, the innovation capital, the history – yet for around two decades now, they’ve consistently chosen to march in the exact opposite direction of what the majority of the market wants. Why would I want to buy a piece of Roland hardware today when I can get the EXACT same sound, at 10% (nay, 1%!) of its price in software? It’s as if a manufacturer expected consumers to buy a new computer for each of their software, while each of their software were just a differently crippled version of the same master suite… They used to be my favourite; now I cannot walk by a new Roland product without my stomach getting all tied up. But hey, I think there is still some room on these interfaces for a few (dozen) more blinking LEDs, so there’s still room for ‘innovation’…

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