Roland SYSTEM-8 PLUG-OUT Synthesizer Looks to the Future and the Past

Some of Roland's 909 Day releases have looked to the past, such as the TR-09 or TB-03. Some, like the Aerophone, have looked ahead. The Roland SYSTEM-8 PLUG-OUT Synthesizer manages to do both.

As a standalone synth, the SYSTEM-8 provides a broader palette than almost anything else out there. Using Roland's Analog Circuit Behavior modeling, it offers eight voices and three oscillators, with an additional sub-oscillator option. Add in high-resolution controls, wide-ranging LFOs, an integrated vocoder, an arpeggiator and a polyphonic step-sequencer, and there are few sounds the SYSTEM-8 cannot generate.

It also has three expansion ports meant to pair with Roland's plug-out software synths. Plug-outs for the classic JUPITER-8 and JUNO-106 (available in 2017) will be included with the SYSTEM-8. Previously released plug-out synths will also eventually be supported by the SYSTEM-8.

The focus here was preserving analog sound and feel with modern, high-resolution real-time control parameters. Advanced high-pass, low-pass and side-band (from the V-Synth) filters, a gamut of effects, and a built-in vocoder all have easy hands-on knob and slider controls.


An Arpeggio function lets you change patterns on the fly while a Chord Memory function lets you cue up polyphonic note stacks with a single button.

A spread of 49 full-size keys and USB/MIDI interface allows you to use this a controller, making this a potential central piece of your DAW. Don't worry - CV/Gate outputs still allow for backward compatibility with vintage synths or modules.

If you're not an analog circuit purist, it's hard to make a case against the new SYSTEM-8. It's a single tool that can satisfy your nostalgic need for classic tones and also let you explore new soundscapes that haven't traditionally been possible. We can't wait to hear how artists use this in the coming years.

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