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  G-70 At a Glance
Click for larger view arrowReleased: 2005  Specifications
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Kevin Steele (kevin.steele@strath.ac.uk) writes:
It has taken a long time for Roland to come up with a credible successor to the G-1000, and after the disappointing VA-7/VA-76 (which weren't really direct replacements for it, despite what Roland might have you believe), there was a lot riding on the G-70. The initial omens are good however, as Roland Europe has scrapped a lot of the thinking behind the VA-series of auto-arranger keyboards and gone for a back-to-basics approach which is thoroughly rooted in the E- and G- series school of thought.

With the G-70 coming from G-800/G-1000 lineage, it's therefore easy to take the 256 new music styles, 128-voices 32 multi-timbral capability as a given, and concentrate on the new features. There are three main new showcase features in the G-70, namely a virtual drawbar organ, a built in vocal harmonist section and an all new user interface.

Beginning with the latter, the overall structure of the machine is similar to the G-1000, but now with the added benefit that there is a substantial 3D GUI display. The old letterbox LCD from the G-1000/G-800 and the annoying five rotary data entry knobs and myriad of function buttons has given way to a large touch screen, alpha wheel and a few cursor keys. I found it very intuitive, and a previous Roland G-Series owner can soon whizz around it very quickly without having to even look at the manual.

Underneath the display are what appear to be nine old fashioned organ drawbars - which is exactly what they are - the G-70 incorporates the Virtual Tonewheel technology as found in the VK-Organ series. Upon pressing a "Harmonic Bar" button, you can assign a highly authentic virtual drawbar sound onto any keyboard part. There is more too - the system replicates percussion, rotary speaker, chorus and vibrato. When Harmonic Bar is not functioning, the drawbars take on mixing duties for the 8 keyboard parts.

Also new is the Vocal Harmonist function. The built-in system allows you to sing into the G-70, and it will do a multitude of different things to your voice - auto pitch correction which reads the either the melody track of the MIDI file you are playing back, or the chords you are playing in the Arranger section and it will automatically put your voice back in tune, a Vocoder, or auto harmony with a plethora of different options; ensemble, falcetto, female harmony to name but a few. There is also a dedicated effects processor for adding Chorus, Vibrato and Reverb onto the processed signal, and Roland has provided a separate set of outputs for the Vocal Harmonist so that it can be mixed separately from the real time parts on your amp.

Another useful feature is the Cover feature taken straight from Roland's DisCOVER 5 machine. It can be used on either Styles or MIDI sequences, and replaces the entire tone registration - changing the overall sound of the music completely in just one touch. Want to see what an old-time Waltz sounds like with ethnic tones and drum kits? - it's easy!

Confusingly, Roland have went back to calling what were Perfomance Memories on the G-1000, back to User Programs on the old E-series keyboards. The main difference from before, as well as obviously having to remember a lot more front panel settings (Vocal Harmonist settings and Harmonic Bar registrations can also be saved in a User Program), is that Roland have streamlined the whole process for saving and loading new User Program sets, which now can be done in a blink of an eye - meaning that the overall number of User Programs is as good as endless.

What about data storage then? - well there is a venerable 3.5" FDD as always, but Roland got their fingers burned on the G-1000 and EM-2000, making them SCSI based just at the time when SCSI was falling out of favour and USB was coming in. The G-1000's Zip drive has given way to a PCMCIA slot in the back into which you can plug a flash card reader - you can theoretically use any type of card (CompactFlash, Memory Stick, XD, SD etc), but Roland recommend Compact Flash, which is what I went for. I have a 256MB card, and even with 1500 styles, and 200 MIDI files, I still haven't even managed to fill it quarter full. Needless to say the same database tools found on the G-1000 to manage all this data have been carried over, but now a lot more easier to use and using a USB cable, you can transfer it across to your PC pretty seamlessly without any danger of corrupting the database (as many G-1000 owners have discovered to their peril!).

What's it like sound and style-wise then? - well the new tone generation system is taken straight from the Fantom-X, and the quality of the sounds is on the whole excellent, with the aforementioned Harmonic Bars accompanied by excellent saxes, pianos and acoustic guitars. Buried among the 1500-odd tones is of course a spattering of old G-1000/G-800 stuff, as well as the ubiquitous SC-55/MT-32 sound set, but with the all new 84-strong multi effects unit you can give the old sounds a new lease of life.

On the subject of old stuff, the G-70 is fully backwards compatible with Roland's entire back catalogue of styles, so you can have stuff as old as E-20/RA-50 styles running alongside the state of the art new G-70 styles. The new styles are thoroughly contemporary, and while personally I found a lot of the 8-Beats a little bland in places, they are still imaginative in terms of intros and endings. A few of the styles are carried over from the G-1000 but have had their sounds replaced and the odd note tweaked here and there.

Overall then, the G-70 has far too much to write about - but it represents a magnificent return to form for Roland after strong challenges from the Korg PA-1X, and Yamaha's Tyros. Compared to the ludicrously overpriced Korg, at £2299 (GBP) the G-70 is an absolute bargain for what it can do. Definately Recommended!!

Comments About the Sounds:
Overall excellent - new sounds taken from Fantom-X, with older G-1000/G-800 sounds included as well. MT-32/SC-55 sound set also included.

(Thanks to Kevin Steele for this info.)
and back2skool for the pic

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