System 1m : Everything’s Gone Green

Best for: modular for people who don't like modular


Roland, roland, roland. It grieves me, it really does. Let’s make this short.


You put the power switch on the back of a rack. Perhaps you had some fool idea about Eurorack something or other, but precious, professional people are going to rack this thing in a real cabinet, and they are going to find that power switch is not reachable and they are wonder if you have been on the sake. Which you obviously have. Just about every computer interaction involves cycling this power switch. Leaning into the back of the fucking rack.


Then you put the USB socket on the top right of the faceplate. So that the cable covers the effects controls. Now, you could have seen that very early in the design phase and perhaps moved it to the bottom? Or at the back like every other rack? Yes I understand you put MIDI at the back, very good, but the USB is needed for Plug Out, for backup, it carries audio and MIDI … why did you think this was a good idea to put a crucial connector somewhere where it has to be pulled out to operate the machine?


Now, one criticism of the System 1 keyboard is no velocity. That’s not due to lack of velocity sensitivity in the synthesis oh dear no, there’s plenty, a sheer goddamn plethora of velocity sensitivity and NO WAY TO ADJUST IT. You’ve managed many other other weird three fingered pinches to control everything else – how about it?


Oh yeah. The pinches. You knew that eventually you’d have to have menus. C’mon you did. So you may as well have labelled these buttons with some small indication as to their secondary function, because Lord Above how the hell does anyone remember that LEGATO plus LFO RESTART plus Filter Env adjusts the Breakfast Dispenser? They have to go to that pitiful excuse for a manual printed on a dinner table sized piece of paper and try read it with a magnifying glass. That sort of manual was bearable on the Volcas, they are bare bottom toys, but this is actually an expensive piece of kit so give us either clear labelling or a FUCKING MANUAL.


It’s also difficult to read the button names on a deep black case with INTENSE EYE SEARING GREEN LIGHTS that are carefully arranged everywhere they are not needed. Oh yes, also can I bring up your ‘screen saver’ idea? Please take whoever thought that up and drown them. One is bad, two AIRA devices doing the Mexican wave is totally nauseating.


Why does the TEMPO light blink and the LFO not? What does this rack have to say about tempo, it not having any sequencing or arpeggio features?


Sensible Review


OK, now. This is Roland’s first go at a patchable rack in a long time, and I find it interesting to first see how it compares to KORG’s idea of the MS20 as a table top unit. Roland wins handily on innovation, and on form – the S1M is a teeny thing, 2 rack units tall and slim. Just on versatility it’s smarter than the KORG. But it’s not a classic, because it seems ambivalent about purpose, it is a vessel for Plug Outs and coy as to its own personality. As a patchable thing it’s indifferent – the MS20 patch points have importance, in general the S1M patch points have little use in the system itself, they may make sense in a modular system, but then would you want this monolithic slab in a eurorack? I have no experience there.


Considering it as a 4 voice virtual analogue the comparison might then be with the MS2000 or MicroKORG. It’s definitely closer to my analogues (Moog, Korgs, Kawai) than the MS2000 – it often sounds like something needs turning down. An achievement when you remember that it’s really only a VST in a box. The sound doesn’t have a particular style to it. It’s all Barbecued Roland Sound. The MS2000 lacks the burning smell and warble – I can think of many places where I would prefer it, others maybe not – a near thing.


The S1M is going to play its main role in doing what the SH101 used to do – be a snare drum, a electronic clank (there’s a cowbell wave for that), a bassline. At some point I’ll put the SH101 plug out into it for more of the same. I’m not sure what else it would be useful for, but seeing as I’ve made whole albums on such sounds, we are bound to find some familiar territory.








It was either this or a red car and I think I chose wisely.