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Roland Presents System-500 Modular Synthesizer

When it comes to the Roland company, nothing surprises us any more. One moment they're issuing great pianos, organs, synthesizers and keyboards, the next they're coming up with the virtual analogue Aira series. The latest addition to the versatile Roland assortment, however, is the System-500, which is basically a new incarnation of their vintage System-100. Prepare to be blown away!

The concept

In essence, the System-500 is a complete synthesizer, divided into separate, independent modules. 'Collect them all' may sound like a clever marketing technique, but in this case, you'll definitely want to. The more modules you combine, the more sound editing options you'll have. However, as there's no such thing as one definitive synth for modular systems, even a single module will give you plenty of possibilities.

The modules

For now, Roland has introduced five different modules, all with their very own purpose. First of all, there's the VCO module. It consists of two analogue VCOs with classic waveforms, complemented by PWM and sync options. The second module is a filter module (VCF) that offers two low-pass filters and two switchable static high-pass filters. The third module, the amplifier (VCA), also features a double setup. Its two amplifiers each have three inputs, effectively turning it into a three-channel mixer, as well as a gain control. Next, there is the indispensable envelope and LFO module, complete with two ADSR envelopes and a comprehensive LFO. Finally, the effects module offers a phase shifter, an analogue delay (with modulation for chorus, for instance), a CV delay and a basic LFO.


To allow the System-500 modules to interact with each other, all you need are some mini jack patch cables, which are available separately. Make the right connections, and you can determine for yourself what your envelopes control, from the pitch of an oscillator to the frequency of a filter. The same goes for the LFO; depending on the patch holes you choose, you can use it as a vibrato, wah wah or tremolo effect. Unlike a regular synthesizer with fixed architecture, which only allows for some light modulation at best, the System-500 opens up a world of possibilities. It's a dream come true for sound designers!

Your very own cockpit

A modular system such as this will make the hearts of most synth fans beat considerably faster. Just imagine how good all of those knobs will look in your studio! Always the company to think ahead, Roland has even come up with a way of installing the separate Eurorack modules: the SYR-E84, a frame that can accommodate 84 HP of Eurorack gear. Not only is it suitable for the new System-500 modules, it can also hold other Eurorack units, including the Bitrazer, Demora, Torcido and Scooper effects Roland issued earlier. Be warned, though: add these effects to your modular System-500 setup, and you won't be getting much sleep any time soon!

There's no doubt about it; with the System-500, Roland has given synthesizer aficionados a great thing to look forward to. Once you've collected your own modular Roland Eurorack setup, share some pictures and let us know how you feel about it. We might be able to make an interesting blog about it!

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