Aug 21

INTRODUCTION

I have just bought one of those Roland ARX-03 SuperNATURAL Brass expansion boards for my Fantom G from those great guys at Absolutemusic. I believe I have purchased it for the best price in  in the Country and the postage was free – what an incredible deal.

Brass to me is one of those strange sounds that whilst it is not particularly modern and has certainly been around awhile, it can still be used in today’s sounds in any genre of music. It can be used to create fun, punch, haunting, rhythmic and sexy sounds in a variety of ways. In order for you to use these sounds correctly in your songs you need something to give you all the nuances and tweakability as if you had a whole brass section at your disposal. With the ARX-03 board, I believe Roland have attempted to do this.

INSTALLATION

Installing the board seemed very straightforward and the instructions were very clear. I removed the screws and the metal plate to expose the area where two expansion boards could be fitted. The width of this area seemed only just big enough to hold the board without touching the important parts and then try to clip it in. Personally I feel that this area should have been 1 inch wider for ease of installation, but no doubt Roland had their reasons for the size.

Obviously you do not want to unnecessarily expose too much of  the inside of the Fantom either. I think I am very much of the same opinion as all the other Fantom G owners. Having a great keyboard with a great amount of unused space inside seems a real shame when you can only install 2 expansion boards. Roland only have 3 expansion boards at present but we are hoping more will be made very shortly.  As I now only have one slot left I will need to talk to Absolutemusic to consider my next purchase very wisely.

 

SOUND

OK with the board installed away I go. The expressiveness of the sounds and the warmth is fantastic. I love the idea of  being able to decide whether of not you want a “DOIT” on your sound or not. Each of the 50 patches  gives you four choices  – Normal  / Staccato / Fall / Doit,  so it feels like you have 200 patches not 50. With the “DOIT” patches I have on my synths they either are or they are not, but with this board I can put it on any patch I create.

You can also add breath at the beginning of a tone. This is done with the pitch bend left side, ranging from pure breath at the utmost left position and then blending into very smooth brass tone to pure brass in the center position. The right side of pitch bend works as it would normally. You can also configure the Fantom’s controllers ( S1 / S2, D Beam and Pitchbend) for these different expressions.

Many users of the ARX-03 have criticized Roland’s ability to create good preset patches. Their defence seems to be that they have made them this way to demonstrate all the potential of the board. I am not convinced by this and feel that they have the resources to do a much better job than they have.Whilst this board is a great deal of fun as well as being very expressive, the presets could have been a bit more usable immediately rather than give you just a basic patch for you to work on.  There was nothing here that really hit you or growled like a Lion, but the fact that you can customize every instrument with effects, growl and noise etc means I have got some work to do. I will probably do this when I am recording a song into my DAW. If I want something brass in a particular way to suit the song I am recording then I now have the tools to create it.

STRUCTURE


The basic structure of the ARX-03 is explained in the manual as:- The “player” is the smallest unit of sound on the ARX-03 Brass. For each player, you can select an instrument of eight types, such as trumpet, trombone, or sax. The ARX-03 Brass can simultaneously use up to six players. Settings for six players, MFX (multi-effect) settings, and reverb settings can be collectively saved as a ”patch.” The ARX-03 Brass contains fifty such patches.

This is a great feature of this board because you can play a section performance consisting of up to six players. The ARX-03 will automatically assign the notes among the six players according to your playing on the keyboard, allowing you to play the brass section by yourself. When playing a section you can choose one of the two following performance modes:-  Unison mode  or  Stack mode. This is fun having a different instrument in each finger, now I can trully get some whole Brass band sounds in my chords.

PLAYING WITH FEELING

Something I did not expect was “Feeling” settings. Here you can adjust the tone by making settings that control aspects of the performer’s personality, such as the accuracy of the performance (Stability) and the prominence of their playing (Personality). If you set the Stability to “0” then the initial pitch at the beginning of each note will be unstable. There will also be a greater spread between the timing of each player’s notes. With the maximum value, the pitch at the beginning of each note and the timing of the notes will both be accurate. If you set Personality to “0” then the volume and timing will be according to your keyboard playing. With the maximum value, the volume will be somewhat louder than your keyboard playing. Additionally, the end of the note will be somewhat later, causing that instrument to be more prominent in the ensemble. “Personality” emphasizes that “player” just slightly more then the other players.

According to Roland, “Personality” was actually going to be labeled “Ego” on the original release of the board. However, “ego” does not translate well  between different languages, so they changed that to “personality”. With Breath settings, Grown sensitivity, Turbidity and breath noise as well detailed EQ and effects there is a lot to adjust here to get your desired brass sound.

SPECIFICATIONS

*   Maximum Polyphony – 14 voices (varies according to the sound generator load)
*   Parts – 1 part
*   User Memory – Patch: 50 (including pre-loaded data) (CC#0 = 66, CC#32 = 0, PC = 1–50)
*   Effects – EQ: 6 systems (1 system par instrument) MASTER EQ:1 system
*   Multi-Effects(MFX):1 system, 15 types – STEREO EQ, ENHANCER, AUTO WAH, HEXA-CHORUS, COMPRESSOR,            LIMITER, LOFI COMPRESS, TELEPHONE, PHONOGRAPH, TAPE ECHO, GATED REVERB, STEREO DELAY, MODULATION DELAY, TRIPLE TAP DELAY, REVERSE DELAY
*   Reverb: 1 system, 8 types –  ROOM, HALL, PLATE, STUDIO, CHURCH, SRV ROOM, SRV HALL, SRV PLATE
*   Customize Functions – Stability, Personality, Growl, Tubid, Noise, Control Assign
*   Miscellaneous – 6-channel Mixer Screen
*   Accessories – Owner’s manual, Screwdriver

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