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Roland FA-06 Workstation

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Roland FA-06 Workstation

Postby Blott » Fri Jun 13, 2014 3:37 am

Hi, I've just had my brand new shiny Roland FA-06 workstation synth arrive today.
I've had a few hours playing with it now, so here's my initial thoughts...

Pros
1: It's light - I mean controller keyboard kind of light. Really very portable and easy to carry for a workstation of this spec and will be great for those with bad backs! :)
2: The screen - it's brilliant. VERY easy to read in all conditions - great! :)
3: The Sounds - the Supernatural synth sounds (the only ones I really use) are absolutely excellent and sound great.
4: User Interface - it's really well laid out and much easier to navigate than the Integra 7 module - very intuitive.
5: Tweakability - really VERY easy to quickly edit sounds. Being able to quickly change the FX settings is mega cool IMO. I spent an hour just playing with delays as it was so much fun - great! :)
6: Portamento - I know this might not be a big issue for some, but it is for me.
One of the things I love about my XP80 is its dedicated portamento button, great for those Numan style synth glides and I used it a lot when I played live.
The FA-06 has two assignable buttons which you can map to anything, so portamento was my first choice and it works great. Even better is one of the edit knobs is mapped to portamento time too, so you can quickly edit the speed too - brill! :)
7: Did I mention how light it was? :)
8: 16 assignable pads are handy triggers for RPS like stuff and drums, or they can also be used as a keypad or as part mutes/select which is very handy.
9: You can add up to two SRX XV series Expansions boards for free, just download from Roland's website - fantastic! :)
10: Price - Even at it's full retail it's excellent value for a workstation synth with such high spec and flexibility.


Cons...
1:Build quality - Roland's synths have a history of fantastic build quality. Sadly that seems to have been severely compromised here. In fairness its chassis seems solid enough, but it's plasticky (all plastic I think) and doesn't have that bullet proof aura of strength and quality that the Fantom G or even my old Roland XP80 does.
The buttons and knobs feel 'delicate' too and I'm not sure they'd stand up to heavy wear and tear - the price of weight loss I suppose. :frown:
I've used my XP80 since 1995 and it's built like a tank compared to the FA-06 and I wouldn't expect it to have such a long life, especially if used to play live.
2: Keyboard - No aftertouch on the keyboard and the keyed feels...well...cheap.
Again it feels more like a (cheap) controller keyboard rather than a quality built synth, which is a shame for a workstation which in many other ways (especially with its sounds) oozes quality.
3: Labels - the printing and labels used for the button and knobs on the synth are sometimes VERY difficult to see and often illegible, particularly in shadow.
I think this might be down to the glossy black plastic they sit on which is very reflective and the poor choice of font colour (silver and red) for many of the labels.
It's much easier to read my D20 or XP80 button labels than it is those on the FA-06.
4: Pad Illumination - All 16 pads to the right of the synth are illuminated with a red or green backlight which flash when being used. However under bright light they become washed out and indistinguishable from one another, which could be an issue in a live stage environment.
5:DAW Control - doesn't seem to work to be honest, at least not with Logic.
That said I have only had it a few hours and I haven't yet touched the manual, so maybe it's a configuration problem, or maybe you have to connect via USB (which I'm not), so I'll give it the benefit of the doubt for now. :)
6: 61 Note - I'd love a better built 76 note version of this, as 61 note just doesn't do it for me (especially live) and I hate piano keys. Roland's Jupiter 50 & Jupiter 80 (both 76 note) are not Workstations like the FA-06 and are far more expensive too, so sadly not really an option as an alternative.
An FA-07 would be great! :)
7: External PSU - never a great thing IMO and one more obstacle to avoid on stage.
In fairness it is a small slim transformer but I would have preferred a built IN PSU with a normal mains lead.

Overall I think it's a great value for money workstation, but I'm not sure yet that I'll be keeping it TBH.

My Integra 7 has all it's sounds and the build quality, keyboard action and the poor text labels for buttons on the FA-06 (plus the limitation of 61 notes), might be more than I can bear - we'll see.

In every other respect I think it's a fine Workstation and as a studio synth would be a fine addition for anyone looking for a great sounding and powerful workstation on a budget. :)
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Re: Roland FA-06 Workstation

Postby TheChorltonWheelie » Fri Jun 13, 2014 6:40 am

Blott wrote:10: Price - Even at it's full retail it's excellent value for a workstation synth with such high spec and flexibility.

Which is EXACTLY why many aspects of it feel "cheap", you can't have it both ways.
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Re: Roland FA-06 Workstation

Postby Blott » Fri Jun 13, 2014 9:04 pm

TheChorltonWheelie wrote:
Which is EXACTLY why many aspects of it feel "cheap", you can't have it both ways.
I agree.
I'd posted a really long reply to this that seems to have disappeared, so apologies if this looks like a double post.
Anyway, what I'd said was the external build doesn't match the excellence of the internals, its like putting a Bentley engine in a Diatsu.
I know it's not a Bentley price tag so I don't expect a Bentley chassis, but IMO they'd have been better putting it into a better one like a Mercedes or Lexus instead.
It's a poor analogy I know, but hopefully you'll get the gist of what I mean.
There's far too big a difference between the two IMO.

As there's no Fantom G anymore (which was beautifully built), and those who wish to move to the FA-06 will notice a significant difference in the build quality.
I'd have preferred a more robustly built, less plastic workstation, with a slightly higher price tag circa £949.

I'm a HUGE Roland fan and currently own an XP80, U220, D20, Integra 7 and now the FA-06, so this isn't me having a dig at Roland, I love their stuff and I like the FA-06 too.
I just wished it had been better built as the outside does not do justice to the internals IMO.
If it did it'd be a superb workstation, so its a real shame they compromised the build so much.
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Re: Roland FA-06 Workstation

Postby TheChorltonWheelie » Thu Jun 19, 2014 6:56 pm

Blott wrote:I just wished it had been better built as the outside does not do justice to the internals IMO.

It would have been considerably more expensive than the MOX, which is what it's really aimed at. Sonically, it's light-years ahead of the Yamaha.

I think the trick missed was not to use the better PHA action in the FA-08, if they'd done that, and lifted the price by £200-£300 to compensate, they'd have had a major winner on their hands.
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Re: Roland FA-06 Workstation

Postby Dee » Wed Feb 18, 2015 10:18 pm

Any user feedback on the keybed of the FA08?
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Re: Roland FA-06 Workstation

Postby Random Guitarist » Sun Feb 22, 2015 11:29 pm

I bought an 08 earlier today, and like the keyboard action a lot. It's heavier than the yamaha and nords but definitely fast enough, one thing I really didn't like in the Nord was the way the keys bounced back up under the fingers, didn't feel good.

It's a little lighter than my (admitedly heavier than average) real pianos action and very very playable. Every keyboard is a compromise of feel weight and cost, I think Roland have hit a fairly good spot with what they have chosen to implement.
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Re: Roland FA-06 Workstation

Postby bill555 » Thu Sep 24, 2015 3:40 pm

Not to sidetrack too much from the 06, but agree on the 08 keybed. Unlike many, my top priority isn't an "authentic acoustic feel" per se as they often are too heavy and too "bouncy" for me. The 08 has a good weighted feel but doesn't take that too far.

Thx for the 06 review. Unfortunately no place nearby has one I can try as I was considering, but not sure I could get past the cheapie synth keybed. Also hate the obsession with weight these days.
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Re: Roland FA-06 Workstation

Postby C.LYDE » Thu Oct 20, 2016 12:08 pm

TheChorltonWheelie wrote:
It would have been considerably more expensive than the MOX, which is what it's really aimed at. Sonically, it's light-years ahead of the Yamaha.

I'm curious about that - I own a FantomX for several years now and whilst I appreciate the Roland approach to sample and patch configuration I believe the number of samples being limited to 4 per sound (depth wise) is a weakness. A single note lacked the depth of the Yamaha which allowed up to 8 samples.
Obviously this is less of an issue for non-acoustic sounds.

I know Roland have been marketing their SuperNATURAL technology - but how well does this work in practise?
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Re: Roland FA-06 Workstation

Postby Guest » Sat Feb 09, 2019 10:30 am

Hello everybody,

Just wanted to add my two cents' worth with regard to the FA-06. Very reasonable price tag for a synth workstation that can do everything this one can. My only two caveats with it have to do with its sample editing and real-time editing limitations, otherwise I think it's a really great user friendly workstation. I also like the fact that its very light and portable with a large color LCD screen.

Its a shame that Roland didn't want to provide the FA-06/07/08 with full-fledged sample editing.

Unfortunately, FA-06 sample editing is limited to start time, end time, truncate and volume. There is no way to pan your sample left or right, and no way to map out a sample on the keyboard. Accessing track 16 in the sequencer will allow you to play your samples on the keyboard, but each sample will be limited to one note only, and you can't add effects or equalization to it in your mix. There is no way to convert your sample into a tone for further editing (a 'tone' is Roland's term for a patch or program in the Fa-06/07/08).

Of course, if you're not that into sample editing, then this shouldn't be any problem.

Now for the second caveat. Real-time editing using the sound modify knobs cannot be saved along with your sequence. That means that as soon as you move those knobs again, you've lost your previous song editing - and good luck trying to recapture it. And don't try resampling your recorded performance in the FA to prevent losing the previous sound modifications you made in your song - those modifications will only last until you power off or turn those knobs again. To me, that was a total deal-breaker, which prompted me to go out and buy a used Fantom G from a Guitar Center store.

With regard to the lettering being difficult to read on the FA workstation itself, it does seem almost invisible at times depending on the angle and lighting. But Roland does provide a pre-cut plastic overlay that fits perfectly over the FA-s control panels, which makes the lettering much more visible (silvery-white font over solid black).

Best to all,
Brian
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