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Roland System 500 first impressions - constructive decency

Veijo Laine visited our showroom to demonstrate the basic functions, and – most importantly – have fun with the new Roland System 500 modular system. It gave us a lot of great moments, and we got a lot out of them, even with a simple CV/Gate keyboard. Here are our first impressions for you.

We were playing some classic tunes on it, everything sounded good from epic rave Dune melodies to Boards of Canada. But it could even do lovely electro stuff. It is just decent enough for a lot of electronic music genres.
The oscillators are pretty cool and detuning them was also a pleasure. Again, I was not really modulating them with anything harsh, just basically tweaking them, controlling it with a Keith McMillen QuNexus. I’m sure a lot of people will find some decent modulation patches as well. I guess it will stay just musical and not too harsh. It seems that it is not meant to be abused. Syncing them, I was back to these documentaries of the 70’s and 80’s. Which means a lot of classic harmonies that sound good just everywhere, even when I considerably detuned them.
The filter has a lovely resonance tone to it, but the phaser is especially sweet, offering a “talking” synth sound, even with simple manual control. The analog delay is a really rough, sweet sounding BBD delay, with all the noise people love about the pre-digital sampler era. Rather closer to a chorus and flanger than an actual delay, I was able to add different yet still likeable flavours to the System 500’s sound.
The gate delay can create interesting timing settings, even in free running modes, e.g. when you’d like to trigger the two envelopes with one synced and another delayed gate.
As for the controls, spacing so many functions in 16HP, mostly dual(!) modules was considered to be an engineering challange. Some might want more spacing, others will be happy with what they have. As you know, apart from the ADSR’s, almost everything is CV controlled so you can modulate every parameter from the convenient distance and space you want to.
All in all, the System 500 will be a great and constructive addition to the eurorack world. Our hats off to Roland and Josh from Malekko – working in tandem with Japanese engineers – for making this happen. Expect the first batch in early 2016! Check out the archived stream of the workshop as well: