Aug 18

The Roland Fantom G8 is without doubt the best Piano / Synth Workstation I ever owned. The points that sell it are simply – its looks – its keyboard action and feel / playability and its huge 8.5″ TFT colour screen which is mouse-controlled. The sound has a clarity that out-classes the Fantom X. This difference is like the difference between 16bit and 24bit sounds. Everything sounds just that bit crisper and cleaner. I particularly love the fact that the screen displays what you play and where and you can see exactly where your keyboard splits are. On most other keyboards, you would have to guess for example where your piano range ends and where your brass begins or you may have many splits where it is even more difficult. With the Fantom Gs you can clearly see it right in front of you in colour.

The keys themselves are weighted and have a lovely non-slip un-shiny ivory feel to them. Whilst the purists out there will always argue that a real piano is better, I would say that you can only make this comparison with its piano sounds and you cannot lose sight of the fact that this is an awesome synthesizer with keys that are so close to the real thing and some beautiful piano sounds – what more could you ask for. Well there is plenty more; there are 2153 waveforms that provide you with 1500 preset sounds to keep you going covering all types of music. If this is not enough you can have another 512 user patches per project and you can have as many projects as you like. You can store them on a memory stick and simply load your project in, so you can invent sounds for the rest of your days. On top of this there are 512 preset “live sets” and “128 studio sets” and of course you can have another 512 user “live sets” and 128 user studio sets per project. There is a fantastic sequencer which is 128 midi track / 24 audio track and you have such a large screen to edit your songs. You can have up to 50 songs per project and the note capacity is 1,000,000, and song length is a massive 9998 measures.

I also love the controls on the Fantom. Apart from the normal pitch bend / modulation, it has 8 sliders, one of which can be used to quickly go through all the patch list of sounds which are all sensibly organized into categories – I use this all of the time. There are also 4 control knobs and 2 assignable switches and Roland’s D-Beam – all great fun for live tweaking. There are also 16 Pads that you cannot stop yourself from playing and can be used for a variety of tasks from playing drums or rhythms, MIDI set ups, triggering samples and phrases to inputting numerical data. I was a little disappointed with the feel of these pads at first as they felt quite hard and I felt that the Fantom X’s pads were better but I have got used to their feel now. They are velocity and aftertouch sensitive and are large enough and spaced for accuracy. There are also two expansion board slots for Roland’s new superNATURAL technology in the form of ARX boards. Roland has released 3 boards to date DRUMS, PIANO and BRASS. I am currently waiting to see what they bring out next. I still feel I am only touching the surface of this beast of a Synth Workstation both with this review and my own use. I have not mentioned its great effects, mastering, sampling, connectivity, arpeggiators, drums sounds, rhythm pattern sets and of course it is Roland. I have bought many Roland products and the main thing I can say is “Reliability” – go on go out and buy one.

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