Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) have become increasingly popular in recent years as the quality and functionality have significantly improved, along with their relative affordability and convenience. That said, many musicians, even those who have access to great DAW software, still have a need for a powerful all-in-one workstation, especially those who prefer a more hands-on, interactive approach to music creation.
The FANTOM 8 is an absolutely loaded all-in-one workstation that more than justifies its price tag for those not interested in compromise. Everything you can create, from small musical snapshots to complex arrangements, can be saved with the click of a button via Scenes, which can instantly be edited and combined with over Scenes.
And this thing is so powerful, there’s no concern with running out of processing bandwidth, even when running all 16 parts with every possible effect…at the same time.
What about the sound you ask? The FANTOM 8 is loaded with multiple distinct tone generators; ZEN-Core analog modeling, PCM synthesis, plus Roland’s highly acclaimed acoustic piano engines with both the SuperNATURAL and V-Piano engines. There’s also an assortment of software synthesizers for creating your own customized sounds, plus an extensive effects list, along with an analog filter for that deeper layer of control. Add in Roland’s new Behavior Modeling Core chip (BMC), and you’ve got the latest in sound engine technology where you won’t be shorted on polyphony, along with full patch remain. If that’s not enough, there’s also
Roland Cloud provides tons of Sound Packs and Wave Expansions so your creations can continually evolve, along with constant updates generated via user feedback to ensure the FANTOM 8 evolves too.
And for those who want authentic, grand piano touch in their workstation, Roland covered that here too with the addition of their PHA50 Wood/Plastic hybrid action. This is one of the top actions available in any digital piano and can be found throughout the upper half of Roland’s digital piano lineup. If touch is really important to you, going with the FANTOM 8 over the FANTOM 6 or 7 is worth the premium.
Of course, there’s also a sequencer capable of the most complex polyphonic sequencing, clip-based sequencing, and step-sequencing via Roland’s 16 step TR-REC dance music sequencer, appropriated from Roland’s classic drum machines.
There are connectivity options galore, and it’s also actually a 16×3 stereo audio interface meaning it can control DAW’s and other plugins, as well as being able to send pieces composed on-board directly to your DAW.
And really, this is just scratching the surface. One might assume an instrument this complex would be equally complex to control, but the layout and interface of the FANTOM 8 was meticulously designed over a long period of time to ensure maximum ease of use. Add in a tough metal show, and you’ve got nothing to worry about when bringing your FANTOM 8 onto the stage.
Roland’s other two FANTOM models featured smaller, non-weighted keyboards – not so with the FANTOM 8 as Roland has equipped it with the 88-note, fully weighted PHA50 Wood/Plastic hybrid action.
This was Roland’s top action until very recently (Roland’s new Hybrid Grand Keyboard is now their top digital action), and features a triple sensor, escapement, and synthetic ivory key-tops. This action has been around for a few years now and has developed an almost legendary reputation for durability, meaning it’s more than ready for even the busiest studios.
The FANTOM 8’s sound engines are about as flexible and malleable as it gets. Roland has loaded this thing with cutting-edge acoustic and electronic sounds numbering over 3,500, with over 90 drum kits as well. The various engines combine the latest in sound modeling, sampling and synthesis technology and makes room for new sound expansions as they become available.
The various sound engines are Roland’s ZEN-Core’s analog engine, PCM synthesis with multisampling, as well as the SuperNATURAL and V-Piano engines found throughout their high-end digital piano lineup. There’s also a variety of software synths as well, and underneath it all is Roland’s new Behaviour Modeling Core chip (BMC) which has been getting rave reviews.
The ZEN-Core analog engine is built around what Roland calls partials. Every partial allows access to effects, dual LFO, amplifier, filter, and oscillator. A single tone can consist of up to 4 different partials, whereas a single Scene has the potential for a max 16 tones.
The on-board sampling potential is vast. With the option to sample both internally and externally, you can direct to the pads for instant triggering, the keyboard, or you can customize your own multi samples with a max of 352 samples per tone.
The FANTOM 8 also offers Model Expansions, which essentially gives you access to the entire catalogue of Roland synthesizers, and the Roland cloud offers a multitude of sound packs and continuous updates generated from user-feedback.
The FANTOM 8 boasts a murder’s row of connectivity options, with pretty much everything you’ll need for modern studio use. The main outs are both ¼” L/MONO, R as well as XLR L, R.
There are two sub outs with ¼” L/R, two ¼” analog outs, and both ¼” and XLR Mic/Line input jacks.
After that, there are 2x CV outs, 2x Gate outs, four different pedal inputs, MIDI in, and 2x MIDI outs.
In terms of USB connectivity, there’s a USB memory port and USB Audio with 3 stereo output, and 16 stereo input with and MIDI with three-port support.
There are also three external device ports, compatible with the Roland A-49 or A-PRO series MIDI controllers.
Amidst an almost endless list of features, probably what’s most notable about the FANTOM 8 is just how easy it is to use. Roland clearly spent serious time making sure the FANTOM 8 would be the perfect vehicle for creating, without being hindered by awkward controls or overly complex workflows.
- 88-note PHA50 Wood/Plastic hybrid action with escapement
- Zen-Core Sound Engine
- Multiple Modeled Engines
- V-Piano Engine
- SuperNATURAL Acoustic Engine
- Expansion capability
- 16 Zones
- 128 Scenes
- Multitude of Effects including 9 chorsus’s, 7 reverbs, Master EQ, and more
- Analog Filter
- Huge array of controllers
- Backlit LCD Colour Display
- 61 lbs
In the world of DAW’s there is still a place for a dependable, hands-on workstation. If you’re looking for the best, don’t look past the FANTOM 8.