Until fairly recently, studio workhorse instruments were generally hardware rather than software-based. Roland’s JV-1080, for example, was an incredibly popular general-purpose sound module that was used extensively for film scoring as well as other types of music production. The new INTEGRA-7 is a similar beast, though in the intervening years the technology has come on in leaps and bounds.
Contact: Roland – 01792 702701
The INTEGRA-7 is a 2U rack-mountable unit that is very solidly built but not as heavy as you might imagine. Around the back you will find multiple connections comprising eight jack outputs (six of which are marked for surround sound operation) twin XLR outputs, S/PDIF out and a USB-to-computer port for sending both audio and MIDI data. There are also three conventional MIDI ports and stereo jack inputs for routing signal in. On the front are two further inputs as well as headphone out, volume and a USB memory stick port for file backup and transfer. On the top surface is printed a block diagram of the instrument’s internal structure, which is handy for understanding how it all works.
Internally you get more than 5,000 sounds, many of which use Roland’s acclaimed SuperNATURAL engine with enhanced Behaviour Modelling technology that accurately replicates acoustic instruments and performance articulations. There are 16 parts and an astonishing 128-voice polyphony as well as four virtual slots into which you can load any of the 12 included SRX sound sets. That’s right – all 12 of Roland’s SRX sound sets are included, hugely expanding the range of sounds on offer and providing you with a broad sonic palette for all kinds of production work. The sounds are grouped into the usual categories: pianos, electric pianos, guitars, organs, orchestral, synths and so on, plus there are, of course, multiple effects – 16 systems, in fact, with 67 types encompassing reverbs, delays, distortion and more.
As well as the SuperNATURAL synth engine you get a similarly named drum and SFX engine derived from Roland’s V-Drums, especially designed to respond realistically to the kinds of velocities you play by hand. The SFX kits contain some clever effect noises such as audiences, rain and wind. You can edit sounds and settings in great detail, or simply play them as they are for instant gratification.
The INTEGRA-7 has an interesting trick up its sleeve in the form of Motional Surround. This enables you to control not only the left/right panning of sounds but their place in the soundstage. You could put sounds behind you, for example, or arrange an orchestra in terms of instrument placement. Audio signal routed in can be treated this way too, and although it works in stereo, to really appreciate the effect you will need a surround speaker setup. Helpfully, the synth does directly support 5.1 output.
The onboard screen is pretty good for general operation, though, as is often the case, it’s a little small for extended periods of use. Roland has provided a couple of add-ons to help with this. The first is a Motional Surround VSTi editor for Sonar, and you get Sonar LE bundled. More usefully, for many people, there’s also an iPad-based software editor that connects to the synth and gives much more hands-on control of all kinds of parameters, from synth tweaking to mixing. This connects in one of two ways: via a USB cable using the Camera Connection Kit (sold by Apple) or wirelessly if you buy the optional wireless dongle made by Roland to plug into the instrument.
We didn’t have a Camera Connection Kit to hand and wireless support was not implemented in our review model, so we were unable to test this out. However, Roland has a great track record in making this kind of software, so there’s no reason to think that it won’t work as advertised. What we can report is that the software is well laid-out and fully featured, we just weren’t able to connect it at the time of writing. Roland is considering producing a desktop app to do the same thing but has not yet decided.
The INTEGRA-7 is an excellent synth with a very broad palette of sounds that could easily form the core of any music production setup regardless of genre. It’s as adept at orchestral instruments as synths and even has a decent stab at guitars. The inclusion of all of the SRX sounds is highly praiseworthy, as is the provision of an iPad editor, and it integrates nicely with your Mac or PC. Without doubt, it’s an investment in sounds that will stand you in good stead whatever kind of music you make.
+ Excellent sounds
+ Huge range of tones and textures
+ 12 SRX sets
+ Good range of I/O
+ Very powerful
+ Good computer integration
– Wireless dongle could be bundled
– Roland will hopefully also produce a desktop editor app
A powerful synth that covers lots of ground and could become a central part of any studio.