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Old 05-26-2018, 12:50 PM   #1
Michael Z Freeman
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Default Roland Cloud: A good deal for Reaper musicians on a budget ?

Hi,

I recently discovered this deal from Roland Cloud which I was initially very sceptical about. However Roland have created a big market shake up with this if you ask me. £18.95 pm and you get access to, according to Roland, ~ £3000 - 4000 pounds (or whatever they quote) worth of top of the range Roland VST plugins. For me its solved a huge problem I've had with the kind of sound I've wanted to create. I first got drawn into the dance music/rave/acid house scene with the sound of the 808/909/303. I've never found a VST emulation of these that really sounds right to me apart from Venom 303. Getting hold of the original hardware would mean shelling out ~£1,800 on ebay for a SINGLE device ! Way beyond my means, and as Roland point out themselves (see my blog article about this) ageing hardware units don't actually sound exactly like the original units. I don't want to diss anyone with that hardware though. Believe me if I had the money I'd buy a 2nd hand unit, like a 303 from the second hand market.

Roland have spent a lot of time physically modelling the original analogue circuits. I found some interesting scientific papers about this from Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) at Stanford University in California (see link above) as Roland don't divulge an enormous amount. The proof is always in the pudding and they sound pretty f'ing good to me ! These are just the 808/909 with Venom 303. I've barely scratched the surface yet of all the other instruments. It's ideal for someone like me as I can pay the monthly subscription when I can afford it. Roland also adds up NON-SEQUENTIALLY the months so when you have 12 months you can completely own an instrument of your choice.

I know some have been ticked off by the subscription service, but they often don't seem to take time to think it through and do a few sums. It's very ironic but I think deliberate; Roland have re-created (at least with the 808/909) one of the original reasons these devices were used in the Acid House explosion - affordability. Those devices had failed in the market at the time so were out their second hand for relatively low prices. Also I think there's some cynicism out there. It just seems TOO GOOD a deal, so "there must be a catch somewhere". However so far all I'm seeing are instruments I never dreamed I'd get my hands on until now.
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Old 05-27-2018, 03:34 AM   #2
ReaDave
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I have a Roland Cloud subscription with the first twelve months free. I entered a photo competition Roland ran last year where they wanted good photos of vintage Roland gear. I have a room full of Roland vintage gear so I jumped on the opportunity.
It turns out Roland actually received a lot of good entries so they ended up giving everyone who made submissions a free twelve month subscription.

I also have a System 8 hardware synth and some of the physical hardware synths that Roland based their plugouts on. Also in my studio are two Boutique JP08 synths.
That puts me in a position to do some comparisons between the Cloud instruments, the vintage hardware and the new hardware. I'll be doing some detailed YouTube comparison videos soon.

The first comparison I did was between my Juno 106, which I did a full restoration on (including properly repairing the voice chips as per my three part blog article) and also gave it a full factory calibration, and my System 8 with its Juno 106 plugout.
I used to work as an authorized Roland service tech around 25 years ago so I am very familiar with the innards of many of the vintage synths now popular again.
I have to say, Roland got the plugout spot on. It sounds identical to my ears and I've been playing Juno synths since 1984.

The Boutique JP08 synths sound very good (I have two of them) but the plugout Jupiter 8 on the System 8 sounds better. There's a condition parameter in the S8 that emulates the component variations between voices and some of the aging factors and this makes a huge difference to the authenticity of the plugouts. With a little of the condition parameter wound in, there's the subtle tuning differences between voices that a real Jupiter 8 has and this adds much to the thickness (for want of a better word) to the sound of chords in particular.
The Boutiques, whole sounding good, do not have this parameter and don't sound as good.

Other synths Roland have reproduced that I have in physical hardware are the System 100, SH2 (I have the SH09 which is a single osc version), the Juno 106 as already mentioned and a JX3P with PG200 (Roland have only reproduced this in the Boutique range and not Cloud instruments at this stage).
I have the SH2 plugout in slot three in my System 8 and it sounds huge. When using it in single oscillator mode, it has all the character of my SH09.
I haven't played around with the System 100 plugout yet.

The Cloud versions of these instruments are identical to the plugouts that can be loaded into the System 8.

In the early 90s, I was one half of an electronic music duo called "Mother Venus". During that time, we had an SH101 in the rig and I used it live as well. The SH101 Cloud VST brings back all my memories of this synth and given the accuracy of the other plugouts, I have no reason to doubt this one either despite not having a 101 physically in my studio these days.

Regarding the System 8 itself, it's own engine is fantastic and despite not actually being physically analog, it doesn't feel in the slightest bit digital to me. There's no digital stepping, aliasing or artifacting that I've noticed. It is a different (and very powerful) flavour to any of the other Roland analog synths and I would have purchased the System 8 for this alone.

The Cloud instruments are fairly hefty CPU munchers but not really any more so than some other great sounding VST instruments such as u-he Diva.
The one exception here is the System 8 VST. It IS a huge CPU hog and you'll need a decent rig to use it with a lot of polyphony in a big mix.

The 808 and 909 Cloud plugins sound every bit as punchy as the physical hardware. They really cut through a mix as one would expect. I've used both on one track on the new album I'm working on and they have my thumbs up.


To sum up, I have to say Roland have a real winner with their latest ACB creations whether they are run via Cloud instruments or as plugouts on a physical System 8.

Last edited by ReaDave; 05-27-2018 at 03:51 AM.
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Old 05-27-2018, 05:06 AM   #3
Michael Z Freeman
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ReaDave View Post
I have a Roland Cloud subscription with the first twelve months free. I entered a photo competition Roland ran last year where they wanted good photos of vintage Roland gear. I have a room full of Roland vintage gear so I jumped on the opportunity.
It turns out Roland actually received a lot of good entries so they ended up giving everyone who made submissions a free twelve month subscription.

I also have a System 8 hardware synth and some of the physical hardware synths that Roland based their plugouts on. Also in my studio are two Boutique JP08 synths.
That puts me in a position to do some comparisons between the Cloud instruments, the vintage hardware and the new hardware. I'll be doing some detailed YouTube comparison videos soon.

The first comparison I did was between my Juno 106, which I did a full restoration on (including properly repairing the voice chips as per my three part blog article) and also gave it a full factory calibration, and my System 8 with its Juno 106 plugout.
I used to work as an authorized Roland service tech around 25 years ago so I am very familiar with the innards of many of the vintage synths now popular again.
I have to say, Roland got the plugout spot on. It sounds identical to my ears and I've been playing Juno synths since 1984.



(...)

Wow ! Hi ReaDave. That's extraordinary to hear your comparison from someone who actually has the original hardware to compare with. I've been listening to 808/909 based music since the early 90's and immediately noticed "the sound" that is so distinctive.

I've been doing some more research. It's OK if you've been following Roland's news releases from the beginning but I've come to this very recently. So I did not know that Roland originally partnered with Virtual Sonics - now Roland Virtual Sonics - in Seattle ...



That's Julian Soule, brother of major video game music musician Jeremy Soule. I found a couple of examples of their original job postings to find their software engineers, here and here. Here is Suole's statement about Roland Cloud on his Facebook page. Here is his Youtube, Twitter. Of course the cloud subscription model is not unheard of. Adobe, Autodesk and many others now. The closest music one to Roland's that I can find is from Sounds Online but, AFAIK it does not include any cumulative ownership plan.

Would love to see some more background to the development and marketing.

So yes it all looks like a big winner. I'm breaking myself in slowly to various instruments as its a bit like going from having an old mini metro to a warehouse of super cars overnight (am I dreaming?). I definitely plan to pay the first month after my initial trial month runs out.
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