MAN CAVE, a grotesque of mid life crisis
Fantom X: Granddaughter of Yacht.
Best for: big sounds, no, make it bigger
Many world events took place in the years 2000 – 2004, some wars for example. Over at Roland it seems an evil witch cast a spell over the company and for four full years they slept in their little white coats. When they woke (to a kiss?) it was to discover that everyone else had moved on. USB had been invented, Zip disks were gone, as was SCSI.
“Holy Fuck! What can we do?” asked White Lab Coat #2.
“What we always do”, said White Lab Coat #1.
“Just repackage our shit with some new dumb name.” And they did.
That’s how the Roland Luxury Yacht got ‘revised’ into the Fantom XR. There were some changes, but really they’re in the parts they could get from their suppliers. SCSI to USB, Smart Card to PC Card, bigger DIMMS. Actual changes to the instrument? Not much. If you think I am being harsh, I’ve skipped over the fact that they made two Fantom models before this which were somehow WORSE.
It’s been hard to find a list of changes, so let me.
Good Shit #1
What was the point of having three COSM effects units that can only be used one at a time? None. Who wants to run a modulated delay through a ring modulator through a pitch shifter? Everyone. Is it worth buying a sampler/effects rack that can do this? What do you think?
Good Shit #2
Now the samples can be time modulated. Seems that you can play any sample over the whole keyboard at the same duration. Seems also that you can modulate a sample speed down to the point where it’s frozen on one grain. There’s 10 different grain sizes, so it’s not the same varispeed process as the V-Synth. Some horrible noises are likely.
Other Good Shit
Infinite Phaser. “HQ waveforms” (I guess these are 44.1KHz). Step sequencer in the LFO. That PC card is going to last a lot longer than the Zip Drive.
Bad Shit from time spent with it.
For some reason the editing software no longer has the next/previous patch and a write button. So every single time you want to select the next patch it’s knee deep in menus – I have no idea why you would remove that. I also have no idea why a write now has to be done on the box and takes FIVE frikk’n button presses – SHIFT, RIGHT, ENTER, ENTER, ENTER – what is this, a cheat code? At least now your own samples are named in the editor.
The box has more storage and that seems to have troubled the Roland White Coats. If you load up a sample from the card to RAM, that’s now found in ‘card RAM’, but if it came from the internal storage it’s in ‘user RAM’ – which is a symptom of how the machine stores samples in a non dynamic numbered table. The V-Synth will at least renumber the samples on request. This really is a XV5080 with some extra plumbing.
Your card might be 1Gb, but as samples have to be converted over from the card to memory and saved out again en masse, the effective storage is the RAM in the unit.
It really doesn’t sound that different to the Yacht, being basically the same guts. That's not a bad thing - both are very luscious sounding machines with lots of space and movement.
THIS TOY IS ANNOYING TO USE WITHOUT AN EDITOR
IT MAKES LOTS OF COMPLEX BUTTERY SOUNDS
THE SOUND QUALITY IS GREAT
IT WAS MEDIUM PRICED AND IS COMMON
ITS RATING IS THICK CRUST EXTRA SAUCE
Can a ROMpler really be called a synthesiser? I actually think that's a painfully stupid question and you should ashamed to have asked it. When Nord added samples the the Nord Wave, did it stop being a synthesiser? No, it just meant you can do more with it, and the same goes for the Blofeld when you add the sample option.
Both the Fantom and the XV5080 are capable of interesting and complex sounds just with standard saws and squares. It's just that Roland has never clearly explained why they designed the sound chain as they have.
The bible in this case is the Fantom Tweakbook.by Artemiy Pavlov. It's a commercial book, and out of print, two things that don't work well together. But you can find a copy and buy something from his company Sinevibes.
For example the booster, which seems to be just an overdrive, is actually a means by which two tones can be made to create a kind of synch sweep. Create a resonant band pass filter sweep in one tone and combine it with another through the booster - the effect is convincing.
The book also handles time stretching and freezing, complexes of LFOs and making a 108dB 'superfilter'.
It was either this or a red car and I think I chose wisely.