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In-depth Feature:  Roland Fantom XR
Albert Potts writes: .

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Wish List
Specifications
  • Maximum Polyphony 128 voices (shared with the sampling section)
  • Parts 16 parts
  • Wave Memory 128 MB (16-bit linear equivalent), Waveforms 1,436
  • Preset Memory Patches: 1,024 + 256 (GM2),Rhythm Sets: 40 + 9 (GM2)
  • Performances: 64
  • User Memory Patches: 256,Rhythm Sets: 32, Performances: 64
  • Card Memory (PC card) Patches: 256,Rhythm Sets: 32, Performances: 64
  • Effects Multi-Effects: 3 systems, 78 types,Chorus: 3 types, Reverb: 5 types, Input Effect: 6 types, Mastering Effect: 3 bands Compressor [Sampling Section]
  • Data Format 16-bit linear (File Type:.WAV/.AIFF)
  • Sampling Frequency 44.1 kHz (fixed)
  • Maximum Sampling Time Standard: 16 MB (mono: 180 sec. approx., stereo: 90 sec. approx.), Maximum(expanded with DIMM): 528 MB (mono: 99 min. approx., stereo: 49 min. approx.)
  • Number of Samples User memory: 2,000 (maximum total approximately 16MB), Card memory: 7,000 (PC card)
    [Others]
  • Arpeggiator Preset: 128, User:128
  • Rhythm Pattern Preset: 256 (32 groups), User: 256 (32 groups)
  • Chord Memory Preset: 64, User: 64
  • Display Graphic 160 x 48 dots backlit LCD

    Connectors

  • Headphones Jack, A(MIX) Output Jacks (L/MONO, R): 1/4 inch TRS phone type, B Output Jacks (L, R): 1/4 inch phone type, Input Jacks (L/MONO/MIC,R): 1/4 inch phone type, MIDI Connectors (IN, OUT, THRU),
  • USB Connector (supports file transfer (mass storage class) and MIDI),
  • Digital Audio Interface(COAXIAL INPUT/OUTPUT), AC Inlet
  • Expansion Slots [Expansion of waveforms and patches for the internal sound generator] SRX expansion boards: 6 slots,[Expansion of sampling memory] DIMM: 1 slot (supports 128 MB, 256 MB, 512 MB(3.3 V))
  • External Storage Device PC card: 1 slot (supports SmartMedia and CompactFlash using a PC card adapter)

  • Power Supply AC 117 V, AC 230 V, AC240 V (50/60 Hz), AC 220 V (60 Hz)
  • Dimensions 481 (W) x 355 (D) x 45 (H) mm/ 18-15/16 (W) x 14 (D) x 1-13/16 (H) inches
  • Weight 4.7 kg / 10 lbs 6 oz Accessories Handbook, Owner's Manual, Sound/Parameter List, Sample Data(Audio) CD, CD-ROM (Editor, USB MIDI driver), Sticker, Power Cord Options Wave Expansion Board: SRX Series
  • Navigating the Fantom XR involves double function buttons and much menu scrolling. Roland did a wonderful job given the space limitations, but I miss certain features from the XV-5080. Namely, the dedicated patch finder button, tone switch, and tone select buttons, and the soft buttons under the display. Missing those, getting around on the Fantom XR from the front panel can get a bit tedious, especially considering the bright and crisp but small LCD screen.

    Eight analog or R-Bus outputs would make the Fantom XR more useful in a recording studio environment, in my opinion. With all the sample RAM and synthesis power in the Fantom XR, it would be lovely to be able to get more than four channels at a time to the outside world.

    The XV-5080 loaded Akai and Roland format sample libs, and it's unfortunate that built-in sample translation was dropped in the Fantom XR. There is currently no way to load 3rd party sample libraries into the Fantom XR other than turning them into WAV/AIFF files and rebuilding the patches from scratch. Because of this, I couldn't easily switch over to the Fantom XR from my XV-5080. Roland has promised translator software for Mac and PC to do just this, but a release date has not yet been set for it.

    Perhaps it is not fair to compare the Fantom XR too closely with the XV-5080, but the Fantom XR is so good that the addition of a few extra features to match the older unit would have eliminated even the slightest doubt about whether to upgrade to it. If you have an XV-5080, there may be features you are used to that you would miss in the Fantom XR. However, if you have an XV-3080/5050/2020, or any of the older JV series, the Fantom XR is a super upgrade.

    Conclusion
    The Fantom XR offers users an amazing amount of synth and sampling power in a single rack space, has a surprisingly affordable price tag, and sounds great. Only a few years ago hardware samplers with far less RAM capability were selling for thousands of dollars, and units that integrated a synth engine with sampling were few and far between.

    Of course, in modern times the soft sampler and soft synth are king. The reign of hardware has ended. Or has it? As a fan of hardware myself, I can think of numerous advantages to using it. Dedicated hardware has very low latency, causes no host CPU drain or crash/conflict problems, is easy to integrate into any midi setup, and of course can easily be packed up and taken to live gigs. It is in fact designed for that. The stability of a unit like the Fantom XR is of paramount importance in my mind: turn it on and it works. There's no dongle to break or get lost, no obtuse registration process, or time wasted because you have to reinstall and wait for a registration code from the maker.

    I have also discovered that hardware lasts a lot longer and holds its value better than software. The Roland gear I bought in the 80's still works perfectly, and I still use it. There isn't a single piece of software from that period that is even functional on my current computer.

    So when I see a fine new synth and sampler come out like the Fantom XR, I can only be glad that Roland still sees value in developing hardware. The Fantom XR offers a multitude of sounds and programming possibilities, wrapped up in a great sounding and space conserving single rack space. Anyone needing an all purpose *monster* rack synth and sampler would do well to consider the Fantom XR.

    Roland Fantom XR list price $1595 US ?1399 Euros

    More Resources              Articles - full listing
  • Roland US Fantom pages
  • Fantom XR Price @ Zzounds

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       1 Comments...  
    Ray Phenicie    Said...

    I fully agree with the hardware vs. software evaluation. I've upgraded the Cakewalk sequencing program three different times before switching to the Cubase 4. My E-mu Proteus 2000 still runs fine and I have to wonder sometimes if maybe we've been enslaved by the tyrants at Intel and Microsoft.

    29-Jul-07 12:50 AM


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