Fantastic Beast: Roland System 700 For Sale
WRITTEN BY: Tony Miln
UPLOADED: 19th Jan 2021
It’s true. It’s real. We finally got to play a Roland System 700. Here Tony waxes lyrical, and more than a little wistful, about Roland’s incredible professional modular synthesizer, and there are a couple of demos for your delectation as well.
One of the constant joys of Soundgas is the never-ending sense of discovery and exploration. Over the years I’ve steadily been able to tick off items on my vintage gear bucket list. However, it seems as fast as a piece is crossed off the list, another one or two are added. Mostly this is not a problem: a simple matter of perseverance and patience. Eventually most things appear and another itch is scratched. Every so often, I encounter something that leaves me wondering how I’ll ever recover.
The arrival at Soundgas HQ of such a synth unicorn as a Roland System 700 in any condition is cause for celebration, but the one that landed at the beginning of 2021 is something else entirely. While not a full system, it appears to be almost untouched: if it has been used at all, it was a very long time ago, and only very lightly (all the photos in this post are of it as it came to us). To bask in the glow of such a fabled beast’s near mint factory fresh finish is, quite literally, awesome. The paintwork gleams; buttons are vibrant and clean; knobs and sliders feel/look like new; the rims of the sockets shine. To be picky, there is some minor wear to the external tolex case covering and the original patch cables aren’t so well-preserved, but this is being churlish. I cannot imagine finding a better-preserved example of a Roland System 700 than the one before me.
It comprises three sections – a more ‘compact’ Roland System 700 – the main console, that beast of a sequencer, and the controller keyboard; all complete with case lids. Please see the listing for details of the modules included, plus a full set of photos.
System 700 versus Moog Modular?
The System 700 was Roland’s answer to the Moog Modular and it certainly matches the American for sheer muscle and beef. Where it surpasses the Moog, is in the engineering and build quality (not to mention that sequencer). Mid-late seventies synthesizers from Japan – Rolands especially – are quite rightly highly-regarded and the System 700 represents the pinnacle of their expertise and ingenuity. Can you imagine firing up a Moog Modular for the first time in decades and finding that everything appears to work perfectly (aside from the odd touch of crackle on a few faders)?
Here’s the moment when James and I switched this one on for the first time after unpacking it:
And where to find them…
Legend has it that only 40 full systems were produced from its launch in 1976: I’d love to know how accurate this is as I can immediately count off half a dozen systems that I know of here in the UK.
When Flood visited Soundgas with Ed O’Brien, he mentioned that he had two, though one wasn’t working at the time. Listening to EOB’s “Brasil” album, it’s apparent that a System 700 makes a very effective (if slightly OTT) guitar effects unit…
After posting pictures and demos of this one on social media, one lucky fellow sent me a picture of the full system he gets to use in a studio in Germany – one which once belonged to Kraftwerk…
Given the awesome firepower and that immensely flexible sequencer, it is unsurprising that the Roland System 700 resides at the top of many synth aficionados’ bucket lists, mine included. Here’s just a small snippet from my sessions getting to know it a little better:
Parting is such sweet sorrow…
As I’ve already mentioned, this job is a constant source of joy and wonder, but it can also make me very sad indeed: the more I explore this incredible instrument, the harder it becomes to consider that this is only a fleeting encounter.
Our time together is very limited, and once it’s been given the full Soundgas treatment, I will have to bid it bon voyage.
If you have a similarly exotic beast that you wish to move on discretely (or otherwise) then please email [email protected] .
More demos below. See all the photos in the main listing for the System 700 .
Tony Miln is the co-founder (& Head Gear Head) of Soundgas.
Here’s one more video from our first tests with James at the controls, followed by two more from Tony’s deeper dives to 700 fathoms: