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LET'S PUSH ROLAND


zephonic

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I've owned and loved my Roland XP80 for five years. I recently bought the Fantom X7 and although it's a phenomenal workstation, as a live instrument it sucks. Here's what I want from Roland, and if enough of you fine people join in this action, we're bound to get it.

 

Roland, give us an XP80mkII (or XP90 or whatever) with the XV5080 engine and presets (plus the piano-expansion board built-in, I mean, come on guys. At these prices?), proper computer interfacing (that USB on the Fantom X7 is only good for making engineers laugh at you) and PLENTY of user memories (128 performances please).

 

I like the Fantom X7, but if this is meant to replace the XP80, then I'm afraid the millenium bug has done more harm than we originally thought, and that the end of civilization as we know it is indeed near.

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Welcome to the forum, zephonic.

 

What is it, exactly, about the Fantom that makes it suck as a live instrument, in your opinion? I still have the entry-level Xa here from when I reviewed it, and I found programming performances on it for live use to be pretty straightforward, and the four knobs and D-beam really useful for tweaking the most-tweaked parameters on the fly.

 

As for USB, sure, there are things it leaves to be desired, but I'm unaware of any keyboard that has a faster or more multi-tasking computer interface at the moment. Hell, I came up shuttling a floppy disk between my computer and K-2000, and felt like a high-tech power user to be able to do so.

Stephen Fortner

Principal, Fortner Media

Senior Editor, Music Player Network

Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine

Digital Piano Consultant, Piano Buyer Magazine

 

Industry affiliations: Antares, Arturia, Giles Communications, MS Media, Polyverse

 

 

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Hi Stephen,

 

No numeric keypad. Now you'll say, what about the "favorite" function? Sure, works for patches, but with performances (splits) you still have to use the dial! That's really not accurate enough in the heat of the moment, you'll slide by the desired performance faster than you can say "donuts, anyone?"

 

Now you'll say, but what about the "live setting" function? Yeah, typical example of a great idea poorly implemented.

You access the livesettings by pressing "Shift" and "piano mode", so you have to take both hands of the keyboard as the buttons are spaced roughly 20 inches apart (unless you have hands like Shaq, but then you wouldn't be playing keys in the first place). Also, in 'livesetting' mode, switching between performances kills the audio for nearly one second, which is really not fun if you're switching from, say, verse to chorus.

I rely on fast switching between sounds, splits etc. and it was all near-seamless on the XP80. On the X7 it is really not up to par. That's progress for you...

Read my Fantom X7 review on sonicstate.com and you'll get a better idea of what I mean.

 

As for your comments on the USB-issue, I have heard that Yamaha has this really neat solution called mLan, 'though I haven't worked with that myself.

 

Forgive my sarcasm, but I just shelled out 2500 euros on a keyboard that is, at best, a work in progress.

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Ah, yes, of course there is mLAN. Duh. (It's late) I haven't worked with it myself much either, though I have seen demos. Honestly, USB is serving me pretty well for housekeeping and librarian type needs.

 

I'll agree with you that smooth patch switching should be a MUST on anything, and most keyboards don't do it, not just Rolands. Speaking of my 10-year-old K-2000, it DOES. Hold down some keys, switch programs, and the old sound continues until you release the keys.

 

Hey, tell us some more about yourself, the kind of gigs you do, etc, if you want.

Stephen Fortner

Principal, Fortner Media

Senior Editor, Music Player Network

Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine

Digital Piano Consultant, Piano Buyer Magazine

 

Industry affiliations: Antares, Arturia, Giles Communications, MS Media, Polyverse

 

 

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Am a Dutch expat, now living in Kenya. i work for East-Africa's leading media production company called Sound & Picture Works Ltd. (www.soundsandpictures.co.ke), where I do music and sound engineering for commercials, TV shows, corporate stuff and what-have-you.

After work, I do my Mr.Hyde routine and become a keyboardist/bandleader with my own "contemporary" jazzgroup. Good fun.

 

I've A/B'd my Fantom with our studio's XV5080 and K2500R, and although it certainly doesn't take a backseat to either of those two, I feel that it should have outperformed at least the XV.

I STILL prefer the pianosound of the now-Jurassic Kurzweil over the Fantom's much-advertised 88-key multisamples.

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I don't care for Roland.

 

The Kurzweils have 3 options as to how you want to implement patch switching. Immediate, Keys Up, or Keys down.

 

Each "Performance" has the option of choosing which Performance you want to "GoTo". Just enter the number and a Data Increment gets you there.

 

Or you can select The Next Performance.

 

Or the Next Preset.

 

All of these, of course, can be executed by any footswith, pedal, button, or knob you desire.

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I'm sorry...I'm still not with you guys on this program change thing on the Fantoms. I've been gigging for over 30 years with literally dozens of keyboards, and this is the easiest synth I've ever had to use live. I have 16 pads at my disposal, and after programming them all it takes is one tap to access a program anywhere in the machine or out, change a performance, or any combination of both. And if I need more than 16 (which I don't in the low pressure club gigs I'm doing these days) I can load in other pad banks from internal memory in less than 2 seconds. Believe me, it was not this easy on my XP-60.
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I moved from an XP-80 to a Fantom 76 and two things really irritate me.

 

1. The controls used to adjust filter or other parameters were moved from just above the joystick to a more central location. This is fine for programming but it is not as conducive for playing leads that require both pitch bend and slider movement from the left hand.

 

2. That D-Beam drives me crazy. If you stack keyboards it reads the placement of the keyboard above it. The knobs and buttons used to alter the sound are too close to the D-beam and thus, grabbing a knob can trigger D-beam effect. There is no permanent off button for the D-beam. You can turn it off, but changing to a ROM patch usually turns it right back on.

 

Otherwise I love the instrument and the favorites buttons, but I also felt disappointed that it did not feel as well laid out as the XP-80.

 

Robert

This post edited for speling.
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Rabid,

 

-1. The controls used to adjust filter or other parameters were moved from just above the joystick to a more central location. This is fine for programming but it is not as conducive for playing leads that require both pitch bend and slider movement from the left hand.

 

I agree. Furthermore, sliders are better, because you don't have to grab them, you push them with one finger. Which is, I believe, the reason why in the late 60's all mixers made the move from knobs to faders.

 

As for the D-beam, I can switch mine off....

Try using 'Favorites' with Performances, you'll scream.

And Bill H., in less than 2 seconds? I don't have two seconds when I'm switching between a split for the verse and another for the chorus. On my XP80 this was near-seamless, you could only hear a subtle change in the MFX, and on an average PA system you'd never be able to tell.

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The 2 seconds I was talking about is the time it takes to load another bank of 16 pads. I never use the pads to trigger drums...I only use them is to send performance and patch changes. And yeah...depending on the MFX there may (or may not) be a slight delay between program changes, but I'll live with that if that's what it takes to have the more powerful effects.

 

Here's how to program your pads to send patch and performance changes:

 

http://fantom.wilkesworld.co.uk/midi%20pads.htm

 

Believe me...if you're using yout Fantom S or X live, give this a try...this makes all the difference in the world! :)

 

Now, if you really want to get fancy, you can get around the delay caused by switching MFXs during patch changes. This involves loading patches into the 16 performance parts, and calling up different part combinations with the pads. Here's how to do that:

 

http://forum.fantomized.info/?action=show_thread&thread=7863&fid=0&page=1

 

I don't use this method because it involves sys-ex...the first one is all right with me. ;)

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Nope...you have to use RPS and trigger them with the pads. It's convoluted and not ideal, but it works. A better solution for the whole machine would have been to include a 10 key pad, but even if there were one, for program changes live I'd still use the drum pads because of thier size (you can't miss them).
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Sure,

but what made the XP so good in this respect was that you could enter the program number for the next performance/patch with the numeric keypad and hit "enter" at the right moment. The "livesettings" function doesn't work nearly as well. As for assigning 'pages' to pads, there's still a slight but noticeable delay. Ah well, I bought it and will have to stick with it. The only boards for sale in this corner of the world are Casio's and Yamaha PSR's...

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I think our differences are in what we're each doing live. I'm doing covers, standing up and singing while playing piano and synth, and simply don't have time to change programs by having to push several small black dim buttons. For me...for me...the Fantom S, with it's 16 large pads that will take me anywhere in the machine with one tap, is the best gigging synth I've ever owned, and I've been gigging for over 30 years. When I used the XP-60...and the XP-50 and the JV-80 before that...I'd change programs with the bank-number buttons which was sorta OK but not as good as this.

 

All's not perfect though...as I said in the other thread you started, there are things I hope get included in the next generation...and indeed, a 10 key would be most welcome. :)

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I hear you, Bill. I think that the GUI of the FantomX has a lot to do with it not being a suitable live instrument. Windows-driven OS makes for intuitive operation at home or in the studio, but it's just too slow and circumvential for what I do live. Don't know about the S, but the X (with the audio-track expansion) takes a minute to boot up...

I'm getting used to the sound now, but I still suspect that Eric Persing (of Spectrasonics, responsible for many of the JV/XV series sounds) was not a part of the R&D team on the Fantom. The source samples aren't bad, but the patches miss a lot of the richness and detail that made the XP80 my favorite synth.

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Originally posted by zephonic:

I'm getting used to the sound now, but I still suspect that Eric Persing (of Spectrasonics, responsible for many of the JV/XV series sounds) was not a part of the R&D team on the Fantom. The source samples aren't bad, but the patches miss a lot of the richness and detail that made the XP80 my favorite synth.

It is possible to manually transfer your old XP patches to your Fantom. I did it with dozens of my custom patches. All paramaters except two have a direct 1:1 correlation. It's easiest to initialize a patch on the Fantom first, and then just ignore the new and expended paramaters (by initializing, all new paramaters are zeroed out and thus bypassed). Many of the XP waveforms are carried over from the XP...some have been renamed so you have to go through them, but it's usually possible to find a wave that's even better, with greater fidelity or fewer split points.

 

It tales 15-20 minutes to manually transfer a patch...not ideal by any means, but it's possible.

 

The two paramaters not directly transferrable are TVF and TVA velocity sensitivity...multiply those figures by .42 to get an equivalent.

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Wow, never thought that forums could actually be useful. So basically, I can use a floppy with all my old patches and performances and load that up via the PC-USB route? Cool. Can you recommend any site or page that describes this process in detail?
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Oh no, you don't get off that easy! I don't know if there's a site describing this...it's just something I do because I've done a lot of sound design on both machines. Here's the process:

 

1. Initialize a patch on the Fantom

 

2. Press "Common" on your XP, go to the top of the edit list on the Fantom, and start copying the numbers.

 

3. In "Effects" the numbers that go up-down on the XP go down-up on the Fantom. All the old effects are there, but are numbered differently...they put the newer ones at the head of the list. So you'll have to look for them.

 

4. Don't forget to multiply TVF and TVA velocity sensitivity by .42. That's because the maximum range is 150 on the XP but 63 on the Fantom...the only paramaters that don't line up directly.

 

5. Many of the old XP waves have been renamed...example...SA Rhodes (the backbone of my custom EP sounds) is now Hard Rhodes. But often they carry the same names...and of course, there's a lot of completely new ones. So there are times when you might have to go through similiar waves manually until you find a match.

 

When you're done the patch will almost always sound better on the Fantom. It never sounds better on the XP. The Fantom is cleaner but fuller at the same time. Even with mastering off. Bass sounds are always better. The effects are better...the SRX reverb especially is miles away in quality from that awful thing they kept from the 1980s D series on the XPs. I love my XP-60, and debated for a half a year on whether to get the Fantom S or have my worn out XP-60 refurbished. I went ahead and picked up the Fantom S61. I'm glad I did.

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Uuuhhh...really appreciate your tips, but does this mean I'm gonna have to enter all those parameter values manually?

And I agree that the Fantom sounds fuller and cleaner, but that's a bit of a double-edged sword. What I liked about the XP80 was that it had a 'hole' (for want of a better word) in the lower midrange, which was really good in live situations as the bass, drums and guitar are usually fighting for supremacy in that part of the spectrum. With the X7 I need to roll off the low end to balance out with the rest of the band.

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Yes you will have to enter all those paramaters manually. If it's just a few patches it's not that big of a deal...15-20 minutes per patch.

 

If you make adjustments in Master...the global combination EQ-compressor at the end of the signal chain on Fantoms...you can recreate your XP hole.

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Originally posted by Bill H.:

Nope...you have to use RPS and trigger them with the pads. It's convoluted and not ideal, but it works. A better solution for the whole machine would have been to include a 10 key pad, but even if there were one, for program changes live I'd still use the drum pads because of thier size (you can't miss them).

The only possible problem being that, neither can the vocalist or the dancers!

 

I've had both change patches on me in mid song on one occasion or another on my QS8.

 

Somebody should make a midi control station that you can hook up to your entire rig (ie with at least 2 and perhaps 4 midi outs) and program so that with a couple of presses of buttons you could set your whole rig to a new patch, and a pair of emergency "all notes off" and "reset to last sent patch" buttons. Of couorse it would also accept an up/down pair of foot switches.

 

Ideally it would also have a line mixer built in.

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