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Roland Fantom-08
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Roland Fantom-08

Digital Synth from Roland belonging to the Fantom-0 series

jamie.smartypants jamie.smartypants

« Confirming Roland hasn’t made a good synth in 20 years »

Published on 08/01/22 at 20:26
Value For Money : Correct
Audience: Anyone
I would not be writing a review about this or any other synth unless there were specifically amazing things, or, unforgivable bad things about the specific instrument.
I have two studio workspaces in my home. One is filled with mostly hardware and can frequently be cluttered and has a difficult workflow. Due to all the gear, there’s always a phantom hum, a driver in need of replacing, or some other distraction to keep me from getting to the work at hand.
The other is a small, streamlined production station centered around a midi controller, and a small array of hardware.
Both of my setups can have gear rotating out of them as needed, but it’s the main studio that I have really been seeking an optimal solution for use as a MIDI controller that checks off certain features.
The original controller that I used for many years was the Oberheim Mc3000. Fantastic kit it was, but it was getting old. I fell in love with its successor, the Physis K4, but it was extremely expensive and hard to find, so the next several years have been spent mostly unfulfilled seeking the perfect balance of features and quality. (Long story short I did eventually get my hands on a Physis and loved it. Used it in the production studio and kind of regret parting with it because it was essentially free and I needed to recoup some funds).
I replaced the Mc3000 with a Korg Krome 88. I actually was pretty happy with the instrument in spite of somewhat cheap plastic construction, the keybed felt great and the sounds were good, but I didn’t really desire it for it’s sounds, it is still nice to have them.
But the Krome lacked tactile control to keep my happy using it as a master. At some point I had a modx7, and really enjoyed the sound engine, a d the day came where I decided to consolidate the collection a bit. The Krome went, the modx7 went, and the intention was to replace them both with a montage 8.
When it came
Time to pull the trigger, I could t rationalize spending $4k on a board for the sake of a few more features, and I last second decided to go with the modx8.
Well, the modx8 keyboard action is ok, but kind of cheap feeling. It also doesn’t have the best tactile control, something I wish in retrospect I’d have gone with the montage…
I still have the modx8 but it’s presently at work in the other studio.
When I saw the Fantom-0 released, it was pretty clear Roland Followed through with Yamaha’s success with the modx/montage concept, and developed the Fantom-0 in the same vein.
I purchased the Fantom-08 and my initial impressions are great. But unfortunately, I’ve had so much difficulty with this instrument, I do t feel confident recommending this synth to anyone.
The Fantom is pretty sleek in its feature set. Out of the box, the 88 note keybed has a good feel, quality build with a faux ivory texture to the keys which is quite lovely.
It’s display and general UI are nearly identical in functionality to the flagship Fantom, albeit using lesser quality parts and sacrificing minor details to cut costs. In spite of scaling back, the Fantom-0 still presents itself as a professional quality instrument, and it doesn’t feel as scaled down as the modx does compared to the montage.
However, one of the most unecessary cuts was memory size, which is important considering the vast amount of expansion available for this series. If Roland truly wre concerned about cutting costs in the memory department, perhaps cutting memory limits would have been fine, but in favor of user expandable external memory.
But even with this limitation, the Fantom-0 still seems like a legit instrument.
But, it is within its documentation and Roland’s pretty much deliberately confusing use of the RC, as well as, at least with my unit, poor functionality, that I must recommend an approach with caution attitude about this particular synth.
The problem seems to have to do with its usb functionality. Fantom uses a non -compliant driver, making it difficult to use with setups that use a midi-specific usb and DIN hub to communicate with each other.
After two months of simply trying to get my unit to respond to midi, and trying to install model expansion and sounds banks with no success, I am giving up.
The user groups want to think I am the problem. I’m usually the guy giving advise on how to operate gear like this, not the guy pulling his hair out over such things.
I am now completely confident that all of my settings are correct, and yet the synth still does not function as it should.
Once I initiated a support ticket with Roland, they responded asking me to confirm that the unit is installed corrrctly.
I verified that they were correct as per their instruction.
I then completely uninstalled the driver, turned off all other midi appliances (specifically my MioXL that has configurations set up for the Fantom that I did not want to overlap/confuse with the Roland factory options) and rebooted my computer.
I then again verified the driver installed correctly and attempted to get the unit to respond to midi within a standalone vst (as opposed to within a DAW since the connection is much more direct with less possibility for error).
After having no success, I backed up my factory settings and did a full factory reset and tried again. Still no progress. Finally, I wanted to see what would happen setting the audio source to the Fantom, and I get an error code saying it is t installed, in spite of it being available in the menu options.
I understand the liklihood this is an issue that can indicate I have a faulty piece of equipment, but this just reinforces my feelings about Roland gear since the mid-2000’s. The problems I have been experiencing with my particular unit seem to be hot topics in the groups, so it appears this synth has more problems than anyone cares to recognize.
I can barely comment about it’s sound, as after having it two months now, I haven’t been able to dive into it fully.
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