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30 Jun 2020

Review: The Roland Fantom 8 Synthesizer "Roland's most powerful instrument yet"

Instruments Roland Fantom 8 Synthesizer


The Roland Fantom launched in 2019 is an extensive piece of hardware with many functions for synthesizers and keyboard enthusiasts, consisting of high quality and endless possibilities.

So many possibilities that this article is too short for that - but we will try to explain as much as possible. In addition to the Fantom 8, Roland launched the Fantom 6 and 7, which have a different number of keys. In addition, only the Fantom 8 has quality hammer-action keys.

We have purchased a Roland Fantom 8 as synthesizer enthusiasts to use in different jam sessions, with support from Roland Benelux we wrote the review below. If you have any questions, let us know in a comment below this article.

The Roland Fantom
Controls links from the Fantom
7-inch touch display
Piano control
Motional Pad effect
ADSR Synth controls
Oscillator and filter
Synth control section
The Fantom 8
Drumpad section

The Roland Fantom series

The Roland Fantom is a complex but cleverly developed synthesizer with numerous functions, listed below are some of the functions and features.

  • Many connectivity options such as MIDI and CV in / out
  • High quality buttons with LED meters / Hi-Res Data (1024 steps)
  • Sequencer
  • Roland's new after-touch keyboard
  • Zencore synth engine with modeled synths and killer Vocoder
  • Scenes with 16-layers / 64 oscillators
  • Hammer action keys
  • 7-inch touch display
  • V-Piano

Actually, the Fantom is a DAW (Digital Audio WorkStation) in itself. You can assemble an entire song from start to finish, including all patterns and their format. Record mode allows you to record one by one accompanied by a metronome. Together with the sequencer it is also very easy to create a drum pattern and adjust it via the touchscreen.

In standalone, the Fantom is a very powerful synth, which is very versatile and can create a complete composition and adjust it in detail.

Still want to work with a DAW like Logic or Ableton? Then the Fantom has pre-assigned functions with a deep integration with which you can, for example, control Logic, so that you can make adjustments in Logic itself via smart controls. In this way, the Fantom has smart control over your DAW.

 

Roland Fantom Scenes

Because the Fantom no longer has "Modes" you always have access to everything. The settings are saved as Scenes. These remember every setting, choice of tones, sequencer data and configuration of all controllers. For example, you can combine 16 sounds by layering or dividing them into zones across the keyboard. While you are playing such a scene, you can transfer to any other scene from memory without any drop-out or cut-off, because there is always a second Fandom Engine ready to start the next combination. In the latest software update, a function has also been added where you can export / import this scene individually and thus share it with others.

Build quality

Robust is the right word when it comes to build quality, the materials are the best of the best, what you can expect at this price. The complete back is fully loaded with all connections you can think of. Below an overview.

  • Headphones Jack: Stereo 1/4-inch phone type
  • Main out Jacks (L / MONO, R) (1/4-inch phone type)
  • Main out Jacks (L, R) (XLR type)
  • Sub Out1 Jacks (L, R) (1/4-inch phone type)
  • Sub Out2 Jacks (L, R) (1/4-inch phone type)
  • Analog Output Jacks (1,2) (1/4-inch phone type)
  • Mic / Line Input Jacks: (1.2) (1/4 inch phone type / XLR type)
  • 2 x CV OUT, 2x GATE OUT
  • Foot pedal Jacks (HOLD, CTRL1, CTRL2, CTRL3)
  • MIDI connectors (IN, OUT1, OUT2 / THRU)
  • USB MEMORY Port
  • USB COMPUTER Port (AUDIO / MIDI)
  • 3 x External Device Port (Power + Midi-in)
  • The 88 keys of high quality, the keys themselves are made of a wood / plastic composition and are touch sensitive with after-touch.

Because it is a very extensive instrument, Roland has clearly divided the synth into a few sections, which is reflected in the design. For example, the drum pads, synthesizer part and sequencer are clearly and effectively divided.

The sound

Roland has brought out the best technology for the Fantom 8 including ZEN-Core and V-Piano Technology - and you can hear that! Roland has spent years developing this and the result is impressive. For example, with the V-Piano in the Fantom you can make all the adjustments you can think of in a piano, this sounds incredibly realistic. Within V-Piano there are over 3500 presets, 90 drum kits and memory for 128 scenes in 4 banks. This instrument uses the best AD / DA converters available on the market and even went as far as to incorporate a separate second power supply for these converters to ensure the best audio quality and transparency at all times.

The ZEN-Core Sound Engine is also incredibly powerful and has many beautiful sounds and possibilities such as 128 LFOs and flash models, do you want to know more about that? Then be sure to check out this page from Roland. The virtual software plugin called Zenology has recently also become available via this link.

All this combined with an analog filter that can be freely assigned, gives a very warm and full sound.

Roland Fantom 8
Sequencer and synth section
Connections
Connections
Roland keyboard holder (not included)

The sequencer

The sequencer is a nice addition, with the buttons of the sequencer you can easily create a pattern such as a kick in combination with hi-hats. The built-in physical sequencer consists of 16 steps and works very conveniently. Every sound you program in the sequencer can then be quickly adjusted to your liking, you can see everything in the screen and make adjustments. The sequencer is based on the Roland TR-REC resulting from the TR-808, TR-909 and the TR-8S. You can also download a software version of this sequencer called Zenbeats here.

Conclusion

There is really everything in the new Fantom, you have so many options, functions and connections - it is very complete! With the built-in 7-inch touchscreen, you can switch quickly and easily through the extensive possibilities built into the Roland Fantom. It is a creative all-rounder that works very smoothly in terms of workflow with high-quality sound. The Fantom is made for the future, on stage or in the studio - the Fantom is very flexible to use. With countless effects and options to customize sounds yourself, you will not be easily finished playing.

The 6 and 7 do not have weighted keys, so the Fantom 8 is technically better and is generally heavier. All in all a very strong product that Roland and the users can rely on in the coming years! It is important to know that Roland approaches the Fantom as an evolving music platform that is in development and regularly receives new functions, as a user you can continue to upgrade, add sounds and other content.

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