That the Roland RS202 could
deliver silky string sounds is undisputed - it sounded gorgeous
and I remember being full of envy when a friend of mine bought one
and let me play it (and I borrowed it whenever I could!). It was
simple to operate, a joy to use and as soon as you played it, a
unique sound just dribbled out through those rear panel jacks! The
RS202 wan't quite as 'mushy' as other, competing string synths of
the time and it had its own sonic identity.
The RS202 came in its own flight case (the principle
reason for my friend buying it... he was gigging and touring extensively
at the time) and it had a simple front panel. It had controls for
tuning and master volume and various large rocker switches that
allowed you to select different string sounds: Strings I and Strings
II (an octave up from Strings I). Like other string synths of the
era, there was also a brass sound that could be selected and, like
other string synths of the era, it was next to useless! No.... it
was the string sound(s) that defined the RS202.
At the heart of the RS202's string sound was Roland's
'ensemble' or chorus effect. For whatever reason, Roland got this
just right not only on the RS202 but also in the chorus effects
pedals that they (and their subsequent subsidiary company, Boss)
were to release. This rich ensemble effect was enough to guarantee
the RS202's success.
However, unlike the competition of the time, each key
also had its own envelope shaper so that each note articulated properly.
This was a huge improvement on other such string synths
at the time and made the RS202 far more playable and expressive
- it's just a shame that the sound's attack was limited to just
two preset values determined by the setting of a single grey rocker
switch labelled 'SOFT ATTACK'. By way of compensation, there was
at least a totally variable 'SUSTAIN' (i.e. release) control so
all was not lost. The other grey 'TONE' rocker switch allowed you
to select two different timbres for the string or brass sound.
The RS202 was also 'bi-timbral' with different sounds
for the bottom two and top three octaves respectively and flexibility
was enhanced by the fact that the lower and upper sections were
(almost) completely independent of each other thus you could have
solo 'cello in the bottom half of the keyboard and a lush string
ensemble in the upper half of the keyboard. Or you could have combinations
of lower and upper brass and strings and so on according to the
settings of the five identical rocker switches for each lower /
upper section. Two sliders allowed you to balance the two sections.
However, whilst being flexible for the 'power player', for someone
who just wanted a uniform sound across the RS202's 5-octave keyboard
range meant setting the separate lower and upper sections identically
which was potentially a problem for live use. That said, the layout
of the controls was such that this was not difficult to achieve.
On the surface, then, the Roland RS202 was unique in
the market at the time and potentially looked unstoppable.
Except that the Roland RS202 did have some serious
competition in the unlikely form of the MX202 from American manufacturer,
Not only did the RS202 and MX202 share almost indentical
numeric product names, it would appear that the resemblance didn't
end there. Apart from a few minor differences, the front panel layout
was almost identical in every respect and was only differentiated
with the use of slightly different switches and control caps. Furthermore,
the underlying circuitry in the MX202 was also almost identical
to the Roland RS202's. In short, the Multivox MX202 was pretty much
a carbon copy clone of the RS202 and Multivox had ripped off the
design almost component-for-component! However, somehow the two
managed to have a different sound.
Roland, of course, won out in the end and are still here
to tell the tale. But Multivox... who?
What's on offer here is the genuine article. Hollow Sun
contributor, Paul Marshall has (once again!) gone to extreme lengths
to provide detailed multi-samples of this Roland classic. With long,
luxurious samples taken every major third across the original's
F-F 5-octave range, what we have here is a truly authentic representation
of what is arguably Roland's finest string synth. There are two
sounds - straight 8' Strings 1 and the two registers Strings 1+2
(16' and 8') layered in octaves.
These superb samples have been very carefully converted/hand-tweaked
for Nostalgia. It is extremely unlikely that you will find a better
representation of this classic string synth.