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In-depth Feature:  Roland XV-5080
Roland XV-5080 Synthesis/Sample-playback module:
A worthy successor to the JV/XP synths?
David Hutchison writes: .

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The XV-5080 is the big brother to the XV-3080 synthesizer module ($1,795) and the XV-88 synthesizer keyboard ($2,995). All three synths boast a healthy 64Mb of onboard wave memory and 128-voice polyphony. (Wave memory can be expanded by several hundred megabytes by adding Roland's highly-regarded SR-JV80 and SRX Wave Expansion boards.) To this spec, the XV-5080 adds a larger 320x60 pixel graphic display, Roland and Akai sample-playback (including up to 128Mb of RAM), 32-channel MIDI support, an enhanced effects architecture, eight analog outputs, and a full multichannel digital output interface.

The synthesis architecture of the XV series synths is fairly straightforward. The basic unit of sound is the raw sampled waveform of which the XV-5080 has 64Mb worth, expandable to 384Mb - and that excludes up to 128Mb of RAM-based sample waveforms too. Up to two (stereo) waveforms can be combined to create a tone. Each tone has access to various synthesis parameters (LFOs, envelopes, filters, key range, pan position, and output level) and up to four tones can be grouped together to create a patch. (In addition to normal patches, rhythm sets can be created to create drum kits.) So nothing much different from the JV-1080-style patch construction so far. Performances comprise up to 32 patches and each patch can be made to respond to its own MIDI channel.

In performance mode, patches can be variously layered, split, and assigned individual pan, routing, and level values. (In contrast to the tone linking function of patch mode, each channel's parameters must be edited individually in performance mode.)

For real-time performance control, the XV-5080 features a system called 'Matrix Control' which enables up to four MIDI controllers to be assigned to various destinations in a patch (pitch, output level, effects send, LFO, filter cutoff, resonance, and the attack, decay, and release values of the EGs). Unfortunately, the XV-5080 front-end does not include any real-time controller knobs or sliders to support this functionality. Ideally, you'd pair it up with, say, the XV-88 keyboard which does feature four control sliders plus an onboard ribbon controller.

Currently, there is no Mac or PC patch librarian/editing support for the XV-5080. Emagic SoundDiver support is expected soon. Other manufacturers will also support the XV-5080. In the meantime, the XV-5080 user interface is a pleasure to use. Unlike the tiny XV-3080 and XV-88 character displays, the 5080's large graphic display is easy to navigate. Nice touches include the modest use of graphics (for example, to represent signal processing), soft keys, a well-organized menu system, integrated undo, and incremental/decremental buttons that repeat their actions when held down. The 300+ page Owner's Manual is well-written and organized. I would have preferred to see a more extensive index, however.

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