Sonic LAB Preview: Roland System-8 Synthesizer

We’re getting set to do our full review of the Roland System-8 poly synth. Please leave any questions in the comments below and we’ll do our best to answer them in the full review – which we’ll be completing when we get back from NAMM.
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Ari Kivimäki says:

Just played with one another day. Liked the keys and the structure in general. Good for rich pads, strings and brasses. And that’s it. No aftertouch, just four octaves… I kind of feel that there will be something much better in the market later this year in this price cat.

Elliot Davidson says:

Nick, Is it possible for you to create a sound in the review using a similar approach as you did with the modular review (pittsburgh sv-1 & soft tube modular) – love those drone patches you create. Plus it may contribute towards your live set as i know live music is something you are trying to focus on this year. Regards.

hans meiser says:


techstyle123 says:

Can you guys get hold of akai mpx

Chea says:

I’d really like if you were to demonstrate the CV sequencing capabilities.

Phil Jones says:

Sounds really good but with the new “REV 2 by DSI” coming out with a similar price for this vs the 8 voice DSI..what would you purchase??

They're All Trolls says:

We are Devo, and you are watching Sonicstate

René G says:

No aftertouch on flagship synth! Wtf?!
ps: There seems to be a distortion trend…

Mark G says:

Am I the only one struggling to get excited about this synth? I love the layout and design and the sounds are good too but, I don’t see the point in this ‘plug-out’ thing. The front panel of the System-8 is comprehensive enough, so why disable bits of it just to emulate an old synth? I get that they deploy different engines to better emulate the sounds of those legacy products but, that simply requires a mode parameter and a list of options in the display. It seems like ‘plug-out’ is simply an idea dreamt up by the marketing department; an idea for something that no one really needed.

Anyway, that’s enough of the negative stuff. On the positive side, its great to see another synthesizer with a full panel of real-time controls. Having lived through the ‘bad old days’ when synths came in black boxes with a couple of parameter buttons and a tiny display, it’s always refreshing to see the bean counters overruled and the musician listened to.

One final point: whatever happened to glissando? Most modern synths have portamento – polyphonic if we’re lucky – but glissando (effectively portamento quantised into semitone steps) seems to have disappeared. Even a flagship product like the DSI Pro12 doesn’t implement it and when I asked, they didn’t have any plans to do so. It’s only coding and wouldn’t be difficult.

Looking forward to the full review and thanks for all you do at Sonic State. It’s a great resource.


Cool Electronic sound effects
I want one!

Kieron Edwards says:

Hi Nick, the ability to select different filter types (Roland, Moog, Oberheim) is supported in the Jupiter 80 – so was that the first ACB device from Roland?

J Cesarsound says:

Only 8 voices 🙁

The Intrepid says:

Can you please discuss and demonstrate the Condition feature? Is it applicable to the mono synth plugouts released prior to the debut of the S8?

TheRealTakumaji says:

If you use the builtin System-8 synth and a plugout at the same time, is it possible to assign different MIDI channels to them?

Kevin Wyers says:

Don’t forget with the plug outs they cost about £150 on top which I found when I got the System-1 (which is naff BTW)

Stoatsack says:

Can you turn the green back-light off?

Richard Davis says:

I’ve just got a system 8 and its a good piece of kit. No one seems to be reviewing the vocoder section. Can you correct this please Nick as its a lot to offer?

Needle Factory says:

Nice intro to a (post)modern classic. I was wondering if there was any CV capability to connect the Aira rack modules. l have the scooper and system1m and can imagine some nifty patching possibilities.

Vegetto Blue says:

There is an acb chip in there … A lot of work like only Nasa engineers can do … A lot of stuff going … This synth can do more , more than the boutique , more than system 1 … This is the future without aftertouch , but you can buy it , you can buy 10 chips ~ + 1 dac + some effect only for 1500 euro . That s true ! the acb power at your hand .

cresshead says:

re splits can you define the split point?
for example push a bass sound down a couple of octaves (off the keyboard) and get that sequenced but have all 4 octaves of the keys available for the other part with say a pad/lead sound live over/with it?

Digiphex Electronics says:

Not sure why they use a very unpopular green, especially in the days of RGB you should choose your color and be able to group colors to function. I also am shocked there is no aftertouch.

Vojislav Dimitrijevic says:

As an owner of this synth I just ran into two very strange things that seems like bugs, or strange features, so if you could check them out, it would be fantastic to know what’s going on:

1. Oscillator Color Modulation, when switched to LFO seems to be smooth no matter what. Easiest way to test it is to switch the LFO to square, assign LFO as the color mod source for 1 oscillator, and switch to an oscillator type that can show this very clearly, such as Var 2, osc 3, 4 or 5 (FM, FM Sync or Vowel). No matter what I do, it’s extremely smooth, and when switching between square, sine, triangle or saw, there seems to be very small change. To my ears it sounds as if there is a default smoothing there on a slope. Can you test this?

2. Again, regarding the LFO, when filter amount is fully assigned, it doesn’t open up the filter on maximum of the LFO cycle, but rather to something much smaller. I tested this by lowering the volumes of all oscillators, cranked up the resonance and then whizzed up the filter LFO to the max. If the cutoff frequency value is set at value of 127, the resulting oscillation oscillates between values of 103 and 152 at maximum filter LFO? This is way too low. Can you test this as well?

I will write to Roland regarding these two issues, but frankly we stand much better chance of them addressing these things if someone of a high profile addresses them, then someone like me, a worthless customer 😀

Hope you get to check these out and thanks again for all the hard work and awesome stuff you guys are doing 😀

Chaz Sexton says:

Did they improve the LFO at all? The one implimented in the system one was kind of limited

Stoatsack says:

Ugly synth.

Jon Holstein says:

I wonder what the LFO variation 2 sound like?
“Variation 2 (Dual LFO)
This LFO is created by using a separate second LFO to apply frequency modulation
to the same LFO waveform as Variation 1. The second LFO is a sine wave five octaves
If I’ve understood correctly, it Modulates the LFO waveform by another LFO. (If I’m correctly, that is the thing I always do when I try out a synth with that possibility in the Mod Matrix).

I’m also curious about the LFO Varation 3.

And all the Filter variations.

I’m also curious if either the JP or the JU got any additional features compared to the original except for the effects section.
One thing that annoys me about the Plug-out system is that it can’t turn of the LEDs of individual steps of a parameter that is not applicable for that plug out. LIke on the OSC waveform selection; and that gets a bit confusing in manual mode, as the panel then won’t reflect the setting of the sound if the selector if pointing to a wave that is not in that Plug-out. I think roland should have included those extra variations that can’t have their LEDs turned off, to make the plug-outs expanded versions of what the original could do.
But I woner if there are things that actually are added to the plug-outs that the original did not have.

(and if they haven’t released any such news by the time of the review, I’m also curious why they havent released JP and JU plug-outs for the System-1 and System-1m, those would still be restricted compared to the System-8 versions, but a good alternative to getting the JU-06 and JP-08)

Rajdeep Roy says:

what is the price of system 8

Clonius says:

Will they make a System 8M? Even keep the keys just add CV to everything 🙂

Elliot Davidson says:

Also interested in S8’s filter as to my mind digital filters are never as good, contentious point though that may be.

whiterottenrabbit says:

2:58 “Keyboard is five octaves”.

I only see four octaves, am I missing something?

Costas Papaconstadinou says:

So is this a JP8000 replacement? I would really like to try it before I dump the money on one. My JP8K is AMAZING!

Liquid Gold Productions says:

When can we expect this review?!

Julian Romero says:

Don’t do this… I would prefer to wait… 4min for a preview is just too much.

Mark Christopher says:

best synth I ever owned

User3333 says:

At the end reviews tend to fall back on “it is a nice piece of kit” which is ideal for studios flooded with gear and the System-8 just another trophy. I’d rather you say “for the cost much better (or worse) than _____ ” or “in the industry we think the green lights are good/awful”. Be more emotive and less politically correct.

Rok Koritnik says:

This thing sounds great, but I just don’t understand why Roland (and Yamaha) have to really screw a potentially good synth. Short travel improper keyboard on such a synth? Why? Plastic case, ugly green lights and soft touch backlit buttons. This somewhat fits a midi controller, but a synth? They should hire another designer, imo.
8 note polyphony in a digital synth in 2017? Are DSP chips less and less capable??? Behringer made 12 voice analog for two thirds of the price.
I’d say Roland knows how to make a good sound with dsp, but utterly fail elsewhere.

Oscar Finch says:

When is the full review due ?

ewanstefani says:

I’d like to hear the analogue modeling on this being given a serious workout in comparison to analogue polys. Playing chords to hear the voices interact, listening to any polyphonic modulations that are available, and listening to the sound of parameter changes with the effects off. Modulation of effects possible?

Willi Werkel says:

Many dislike the AIRA-Series look. How does the Synth feel? Is it gimmicky LEDs and plastic or nice and sturdy material?

LittleDreamer Producer says:

QUESTION: Does the built in Chorus on the System 8 change when switching to the Juno 106 plug out to emulate the Juno 106 Chorus or is it just a standard chorus across all plug out’s?

Marc the Darc says:

I’m curious as to how the “variation” parameters work?
Does the tempo show on the screen when tweaked?
How is the vocoder?
And how much is hidden in menus? (it does have a menu button).

Really looking forward to the final video!

john gudgeon says:

no aftertouch…what century are we in again?

aboveaxis says:

this synth does absolutely nothing for me. step it up roland.

Gustavo Alberto Elizondo says:

How flexible or not is the modulation possibilities? Can you do unison patches?

Caalamus says:

That Patch in the beginning was *BEAUTIFUL!!!*

…can’t wait for this review after Namm… *CAN’T WAIT FOR NAMM!!!!!*

freiermann7 says:

how does it compare to something like the UltraNova?

executiveE says:

Finally a fucking soniclab video that doesn’t drag for hours OMG thank god!!

Ps. You guys passed by many many new synths you guys should have reviewed and many were hoping to be on the spot light. But you guys can still catch up. Thank you

ItsMedicationTime says:

Sick! Can’t wait for the review Nick! May have to unload some gear to get this one!!

Benjamin Handelman says:

Will you be able to compare the plug outs to the actual originals like you did with the boutiques?

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