Overall Comments: Of all the Japanese companies, Roland seem to have invested the most energy in building a complete sound library. With recording locations as diverse as Tokyo, Berlin, Montreal, Portland, Venice and London, Roland's CD‑ROMs include a large portfolio of material from their early libraries, as well as more contemporary stuff for the 700‑series samplers. This generous 'if in doubt, throw it in' policy sometimes creates an embarrassment of riches — there are multiple versions of many instruments, including 13 different oboes! Spectrasonics' Eric Persing had a hand in all this, his presence always a sign of good quality.
As well as exhaustively covering the orchestra, this library provides some brass and woodwind which would work well for jazz. If that's your bag, you might also be interested in Roland's Super Sax Volume 1 title, part of the same series. Sadly, there are no Volume 2s!
Finally, do note that I have experienced tuning problems and loop clicks when converting these samples to Akai S3000 format.
String Sections Volume 1 Rating: **** 4/6
SS: sus (St), sus , att (all M).
Synth strings: sus (M).
Vns: sus (f, mf & p), sus (ff), sus (f), sus (mf), sus mt, sus sul, marc , piz , trem (all St), sus, piz, trem (all M).
Vas: sus (f, mf & p), sus , sus mut, sus sul, marc , piz , trem (all St).
Vcs: sus (f, mf & p), sus vb, sus nv, sus mut, sus sul, marc, piz , oct piz (all St), marc, oct marc (both M).
Dbs: sus (f), sus sul, trem (all St), sus (f)  (both M).
Vc: sus (M), stc (St).
The following samples from Peter Siedlaczek's Orchestra (reviewed above) are also included:
SS: sus (ff & pp), spc, piz (mf), arps (major, minor, diminished, all ff & pp) (all St).
Disc Comments: A comprehensive collection of string sections, ranging from small, dry and scratchy to big, ambient and lush.
Standouts: The pizzicatos and tremolos are great, and the programming of the Siedlaczek material is first class, souping up the samples and presenting his sections in useful full ('section'), low ('cellos') and high ('violins') versions. A film‑composer colleague who owns all the current orchestral libraries tells me he returns again and again to this CD‑ROM for his main string section sound, based, it has to be said, on the Czech's contribution.
Quibbles: The CD‑ROM opens with a rather disorganised rabble of sounds, but when we reach performance 26, the confusion abates and the best material begins to reveal itself.
Solo Strings Volume 1 Rating: *** 3/6
Vn : sus vb <2>, sus nv, sus mt vb, marc, harm, piz, bow bounce, 5ths, tuning up (all M), piz (St).
Va : sus vb <2>, sus nv, marc, harm, piz.
Vc: sus vb, sus nv, harm, piz (all M), sus nv, marc, stc, piz (St).
Db : sus vb (f & mf), sus nv, marc, harm (all M), marc, piz <3> (St).
Disc Comments: Violin, viola, cello and double bass display all their main playing styles, so use these samples to demo the mad harmonies in your new string quartet piece. Everything is well recorded and looped. Note: the so‑called string ensembles included at the end of this volume are not ensemble recordings, but assembled programs of solo instruments! Finally, in case you were wondering how the various patches differ from each other, the booklet explains: "All variations are intended to sound the same." Huh?
Standouts: The muted vibrato violin which opens the volume has an expressive warm tone and is very playable. In an ocean of dry mono studio recordings, my ears pricked up at the stereo pizzicato violin and its tasty room ambience.
Brass Sections Volume 1 Rating: *** 3/6
BrS (Tbns/Saxes): sus, fpcr, long & short falls.
Tpts: sus (f ) , sus mp, sus mut, stc , 'shake' (wide, vulgar trill), 'doik' (slide up), long & short falls (all St), sus cr, medium falls (all M).
2 Flgs (M): sus (f, mf & p).
Tbns: sus (f) , stc (all St), sus (ff, f, mf & mp), sus cr, semitone slide up (all M).
Btbns (M): sus (ff, f, mf & p).
Btbn (M): sus (f, mf & p), sus (f) .
Fhns: sus (f & mf), sus acc, fpcr, rips (fast minor 3rd run up to staccato note) (all St), sus (f & p), sus (f) , sus mut, sus cr, att mut, swoops (= 5th slide up) (all M).
Baritone Sax (M): sus.
The following Prosonus brass section samples, some of which appear on their Orchestral Collection (reviewed above), are also included.
BrS (Tbns/Tpts/Tub, 'Ensemble') (3 oct): sus (f & p), sus mt, fpcr.
BrS (Tbns/Tpts/Tub, 'Quintet') (3 oct): sus (f & p), fpcr.
BrS (Tbns/Tpts/Saxes, 'Rock'n'Roll Horns') (3 oct): sus (f ), fpcr <2>, long & short falls.
Disc Comments: A mixture of orchestral and pop brass styles, the latter providing those enjoyable 'shake' and 'doik' mannerisms which make viola players blush crimson. A 'cheese trumpet' is also listed, which one imagines must have an interesting tone — can't see it replacing the old metal type, though.
Standouts: The soft French Horns (sus mf) are sweet but serious. Orchestral composers wishing to get down with their bad selves will appreciate the 'pop section' in performance 47, which layers trumpets, trombones, saxes and a solo baritone sax for an engagingly fat sound.
Quibbles: When played alone, the trumpet sections are bright and brazen, but a little thin — unfortunately, that's often the way with sampled trumpets.
Solo Brass Volume 1 Rating: *** 3/6
Tpt  (M): sus (f & mf), sus mt <4> (f, mf & p), stc mut, wahs, growl wahs.
Ptp : sus (St), sus (f & p) (M).
Corn  (M): sus (f & mf).
Flg  (M): sus (f, mf & p).
Tbn  (M): sus (ff, mf & mp), sus mt, wahs.
Btbn  (M): sus (f, mf & p).
Fhn  (M): sus (f, mf, p & pp), sus mt <2>, sus stp <2>, sw, sw mut, intervals (= sus note of F2 moving after a couple of seconds to a higher sus note, all intervals from semitone to major 10th).
Euph (M): sus (mp).
Bhrn : sus (St), sus (M).
Tba  (M): sus (f, mf & p), stc.
Standouts: Tuba and euphonium have a warm, vibrant timbre, and if you ever feel the need to recreate a '30s/'40s big band, the 'cup mute' trumpets epitomise the brass sound of that era.
Quibbles: As I've complained elsewhere, programmers will insist on putting long fades on the front of sample programs, when 95 percent of the time we need a quick attack.
Orchestral Winds Volume 1 Rating: ***** 5/6
Pic : sus, tr (M), sus (St).
Fife: sus, tr <2> (St).
Flt : sus vb, sus nv, sus acc <2>, tr, pad hits, octave attack, singing, fast ascending scales, flutter effects (all M), sus (St).
Aflt : sus vb, sus nv (M).
Bflt: sus, ft (M).
Ob : sus vb, sus nv (f, mf & p), sw, (all M), sus (St).
Ob'd : sus (M).
Ehn : sus vb, sus nv, sw (all M).
Bob: sus nv (M).
Cla : sus (f & p) (M), tr (St).
Bcla : sus (M).
Cbcla : sus (M), sus (St).
Bsn : sus, sw <2> (M).
Cbsn: sus (M).
Comments: As complete a collection of woodwinds as you're likely to find outside of the Grove Dictionary of Music. Load the final 'wind combo' volume for seven well‑chosen, convincing‑sounding orchestral instruments, or the jazz flute for your ironic 'easy listening' '60s soundtrack music. Niiiice!
Standouts: All instruments well useable, some excellent. The fife trills (which could pass for a flute or piccolo) are great!
Quibble: Why 13 different oboes? Weren't the first 12 players any good? Only joking...
Orchestral Percussion Volume 1 Rating: **** 4/6
PERCUSSION — TUNED
(ST, SOME M VERSIONS)
PERCUSSION — UNPITCHED
(ST, SOME M VERSIONS)
BD, BD+Gng, Btr, Cast, Chg, Clv, Crc, Gng, Mtr, Ratch, SD, Slb, SSt, Tamb, Tbl, Tri, Wbl.
Also included: agogo bells, Chinese/finger/sizzle cymbals, hi‑hats, orch. hits (only three, M), putty knife (huh?), quijada (ie. vibraslap), slitdrums (ie. log drums), wind chimes, whistles.
Comments: The gang's all here with this overflowing miscellany of struck objects. Roland's laudable policy of inclusion sees some useable hi‑hats and splatty rock snares nestling cheek‑by‑jowl with splashy piatti and orchestral snare drums.
Standouts: The timps are first class, but I'll go for the 'Grongkas': terrifying ambient detonations which sound as though they're signalling the end of the world (the silly name derives from a mispelling of grand cas — French for bass drum). In this case, it's given an almighty wallop along with a large gong.
Symphony Orchestra Volume 1 Rating: *** 3/6
Non‑Siedlaczek material as follows (see Comments below):
Vns, Vas, Dbs: sus sul, trem.
Vcs: sus sul, trem (f & p), (all St)
Orchestra & band hits (some M).
BrS: stc oct (f & p), stc 3 oct (f & p), atonal 'cluster' chords, rips, animal effects
Comments: Something borrowed: all the tutti samples and string arpeggios from Peter Siedlaczek's Orchestra (see details above). Something blew: a few brass ensemble bits and pieces (unfortunately, no unison sustains) from the old Prosonus Brass Volume 4 audio CD. Non‑Siedlaczek material is detailed above.
Standouts: The vibrato‑less sul ponticello string sections have an extraordinary flat, almost grinding metallic sound which reminded me of a hurdy‑gurdy. Good for the soundtrack of Eraserhead II, or for composing pointless demos to irritate A&R men.
£ Roland CD‑ROM £107 per volume.