Synth Site: Roland: Fantom-XA: User reviews Add review
Average rating: 4.6 out of 5
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Roger a hobbyist user from Canada writes:
The most reliable synthesizer I have used up to this point. Good bang for the buck and professional sound. Works well as a flagship instrument as well as a solo piece. Owned one for 4+ years now and absolutely love it. Roger in Canada

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Friday-Sep-23-2011 at 15:04
DJ a part-time user from Australia writes:
Well the Fantom XA, what a fantastic instrument, awesome sounds, very easy to use sampler and sequencer, nice and light for travelling to gigs and very expandable

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Saturday-Jan-01-2011 at 08:15
Tugan Turgut a part-time user from Turkey writes:
I've been using this synth for a year. I love its pianos (both electric and acoustic), basses, guitars. Very weak brasses, below-average organs, and i haven't found any suitable leads and pads for my projects. It's a powerful machine, so i'm sure you'll get the sounds you want, just takes time. I recommend this synth to anyone on a budget, and looking for some serious workstation.

Rating: 3 out of 5 posted Saturday-Oct-27-2007 at 07:04
Amitava a hobbyist user from USA writes:
Great patches/sounds! Absolutely beyond imagination! At this price the Roland Fantom X-a by far is the best full fledged music workstation you can get. The instrument is slightly targeted towards groove/dance/hip-hop/techno/trance...but is equally good in acoustics/real sounds...i dont think Korg/Yamaha has any thing nearly competent with Fantom X-a in its price range...

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Friday-Apr-13-2007 at 23:10
Jonathan W Mills a part-time user from USA writes:
I purchased the Fantom-Xa after researching reviews in magazines and retailers web sites, and after using a Yamaha DGX-305 for a year. The DGX has a very sweet piano, but its sequencer reflects its low price. It is still useful as an input to the Fantom-Xa, and taught me what I needed in a synth and sequencer.

The Fantom is fantastic for about US$1400. It is not difficult to use, but the manual is bottom-up, starting with waveforms and patches, then moving to ensembles (performances) and about mid-way through to songs. I have tabbed the pages in this order to make the manual easier to use:

1. Table of Contents & Index p5-10, 253-262 (moved to front for easy access)

2. Introduction & Features p11-28

3. Recording & Editing Songs p119-156

4. Performances (kybd, mixer, etc) p66-99

5. Sampling & Pads p100-118

6. Patches & Rhythms p29-65

7. Effects & Lists p 157-191

8. System Functions & Hardware p192-225

9. Patches, Rhythms & Waveforms p226-250

As you can see, I am a top-down guy. If you start by making patches, the manual will work as-is for you.

The sounds of the Fantom-Xa are broad but the built-in patches tend toward dance & trance, very edgy and quite powerful. I find some of the built-in brass weak, like the saxophones (not many) and not as realistic as samples. However, the SRX expansion cards add a wide variety of instruments. Although the Fantom-Xa has only one SRX slot, I have the World Collection, Studio SRX, and the Complete Orchestra (chosen for variety over the better-sampled but more focused and thus limited Brass collection). I also am waiting for the SRX-11 Complete Piano, which has absolutely fabulous sampled piano, some with strings & orchestral backup. Yes, it is to die for! You can hear representative samples at the Roland US website.

You can also use the Fantom-Xa's ability to save anything and everything to a compact flash or smartmedia OR SD card (which puts up to 1Gb of memory into the machine). With this you can save the SRX expansion data onto the SD card, and avoid the limitation of only one SRX slot. I am not the only one to have figured this out. The SRX World Collection I bought was a return, had been opened, was missing the screwdriver & locking tool, and the SRX board had been clumsily rewrapped. But it worked...

The Fantom-Xa can create multisamples easily. My major project now is recording and mapping 17 Tibetan singing bowls to the keyboard, assigning them in two velocity modes to their very different sounds when they are stroked (singing) and struck (more bell- or gong-like). After adding shamanic drumming and rattling, I expect to finish turning my Fantom-Xa into a new virtual instrument over the next two months. To do this, it is absolutely essential that you buy a 512Mb sampling RAM (memoru) card. However, these are cheap today, less than $100 and the price is dropping.

It is also essential to buy a PC Card Adapter to use external removable user memory. SanDisk make a nice 6-in-1 that handles compact flash, smartmedia, SD cards and others. I found one on Buy.com along with the sampling memory.

Currently the Fantom-Xa is in a small studio environment with the DGX-305, Fostex PM0.5 and 2.1 near-field monitors and sub-woofer, a Fostex VF80EX 8-track mixer & recorder, some Behringer condenser mics and Shure SM-57 dynamic mics (my first mics ever), and a Zoom PS-04 for recording on trips and out in nature (for samples of everything from frogs to storms).

For fun I have used the Fantom-Xa to create little 15-minute rock "operas," usually 5-7 short songs on whimsical themes. The latest was "Slashed Tires & One-Night Stands" about a day in the life of a fictional character named Snarly. There is a bit of Snarly in everybody. Well, almost everybody!

With the exception of some live rattling sampled for a rhumba number, everything was done using the Fantom's built-in patches and the SRX World Collection. Music ranged from a vintage EP/organ piece, to a New Age flowing fantasy, to a jazz "dump song" for the morning after, and concluded with a brassy and pounding bass march as Snarly left mad to go slash a few tires. OK, this is not the most uplifting theme, but a lot of folks sure do relate! A local musician who has been playing for 40 years commented that the CD (matered on the Fostex VF80EX) had some nice hooks and the feel of a soundtrack, but that I cannot drum and would be better off using one of the Fantom's built-in rhythm sets.

I took his advice.

The biggest difficulty to overcome during the project was figuring out how to edit out some mistakes that left me with a blank measure (and unwanted syncopation). I did mention that I am only a part-time musician, and have yet to perform live keyboard.

So far, the note editing mode (Micro) does not seem to permit me to delete a note and shift the whole track forward. There is a workaround if you are not using Cubase or another editor: Change the beat from 4/4 to 1/16, and the resolution of the Fantom (track edits work with a single measure) increases. Delete the unwanted measure, fiddle with the notes in Micro edit (or quantize the track), and change the beat back to 4/4. Ugly, but it works. Maybe someone can tell me where I missed something in the manual!

Am I satisfied? Yes. The other machine I considered was the Yamaha M061 (the Motif ES6's little brother). The Fantom-Xa has a smaller waveform library, but 128 note polyphony. The MO61 has a larger waveform library but only 64 note polyphone. If you want a richer sound and use many instruments (or ensembles of instrument, which eat up voices quickly), either get the Motif ES6 for about US$500 more, or try the Fantom-Xa. I am very satisfied with my choice, especially its ability to be upgraded and to build my own multisample library for a virtual singing bowl instrument.

Look for a few short uploads later to hear how it goes. Yeah, "Real Soon Now!" :-)

Sincerely,

Jonathan

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Tuesday-May-23-2006 at 03:24
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