First announced in 2015, Roland’s System-500 modular synth project was notable for a number of reasons. Firstly, it marked the big R’s return to fully analogue, fully modular synthesis. Secondly, though inspired by the Roland modular synths of the 1970s, this new system would adopt the widely compatible Eurorack format. Thirdly, the new modules were to be both designed and built in collaboration with Malekko Heavy Industries, a boutique outfit based in Portland, Oregon with a fine track-record in noisy (in a good way), non-conformist effects pedals and synth modules.
However unlikely, this partnership has proved very successful, and now Roland and Malekko have added four new modules to the original line-up that appeared in 2016. Those first five modules could be purchased and used as a complete and self-contained setup, but one of the new modules is a self-contained single-voice synth in its own right. The SYS-510 Synth module is based on the 110 module from the System-100m, a combined VCO, VCF and VCA. The SYS-510 features square, saw and triangle oscillator waveforms, a low-pass filter with two additional high-pass modes, and a VCA with multiple outputs. The module is internally normalled, meaning that it can be used with no patching required, but multiple audio and CV inputs and outputs mean there’s fun to be had connecting other Eurorack-compatible gear, including the three other new System-500 modules.
The SYS-555 Lag/S&H module is a five-in-one modulation source inspired by the System-100m’s 150 and 165 modules. It features an LFO, a ring modulator, a seven-waveform sample and hold section, a pink/white noise generator and two CV-controlled portamento circuits. The SYS-505 VCF module is a dual resonant filter based on the Roland SH-5 monosynth. With low-pass, high-pass and band-pass modes, it promises to deliver the “meaty resonance growl” of the much-loved original. Finally, the SYS-531 Mix is a very useful-looking output mixer module with six input channels, each with a handy mute button and CV-controllable panning, and two sets of stereo outputs. There’s also a stereo headphone output and a stereo mic/line preamp that can apparently be pushed into “pleasing overdrive”. Due out very soon, the new modules will be priced in line with the existing range, varying from £299 to £369 per module.