Roland has over 40 years of experience in creating instruments helping inspire the creativity of musicians and meeting their ever-changing needs with new technology. Roland’s latest development is the Zen-Core Synthesizer System; the powerful sound engine behind some of their flagship products. We’re going to take a look at how it features in Roland products and what makes Zen-Core so special.
What is Zen-Core?
To understand the Zen-Core Synthesizer System, we need to take a step back to look at its development. Roland Japan recognised that modern musicians were making music and collaborating in more ways than ever before through hardware, software and while on the move through mobile devices.
Roland noticed that whilst musicians may use the right piece of gear when ‘in the moment’ to create their music, however, this piece of equipment may not be best equipped to create a finished track in the studio or perform it live. It may even not be easy to share their ideas or sounds with a collaborator.
By recognising these difficulties, Roland decided to create a platform that could be used across several different products and mediums, allowing musicians to still work as freely as they’d like, with greater ease and flexibility for sharing, collaborating and performing live. This concept was developed into the Zen-Core Synthesizer System.
Zen-Core combines cutting edge Virtual Analog Modelling and PCM Synthesis, with high-quality DSP effects, all running at 24bit/48KHz resolution with up to 256 note polyphony. Editing of sounds is effortless, due to the high-resolution controls, offering 1024 steps of adjustment for incredibly precise feel. The powerful system runs on Roland’s own proprietary BMC (Behaviour Modelling Core) chip. By using this chip in each of the Zen-Core products it creates a platform that not only allows for the sharing of sounds but the possibility for continuous development and expansion across the product range.
Zen-Core Expansion Technologies
As well as the Synthesizer Engine, Zen-Core is capable of being expanded, adding technologies to specific products, further enhancing their capabilities and make them more suitable for certain applications. These expansion technologies are built upon the Zen-Core platform and run on the BMC Chip. Currently, the following expansion technologies are available in selected Zen-Core products:
- V-Piano – A completely modelled acoustic piano engine, that offers a hugely detailed piano sounds, with vast customisation and unlimited polyphony.
- Model Banks – Recreations of classic Roland synthesizers using Analog Behaviour Modelling (ABM) techniques. Model Banks offer exceptionally authentic synthesizer tones with high-resolution control for a true ‘analog feel’ experience and greater polyphony.
- SuperNatural – Uses a combination of high-resolution PCM samples and behaviour modelling to recreate the sound of acoustic instruments in incredible detail.
- EXZ – These are Zen-Core presentations of Roland’s classic SRX series of PCM expansion boards, covering a broad range of sounds and styles.
Zen-Core & Roland Cloud
Another part of the Zen-Core story is Roland Cloud. Roland Cloud is a portal for downloading additional sound packs and expansion technologies for compatible Zen-Core products, as well as access to professional quality software instruments for use on your computer.
How is Zen-Core Implemented?
Roland has recognised the variety of ways that musicians work, and that different types of products can be suited to different situations. While the technology underpinning the Zen-Core products may be shared, this does not mean that the products themselves are the same at all. Let’s look at the current line up and see how they stack up:
- FANTOM – The flagship product in the Zen-Core range, Fantom is a powerful professional synthesizer for stage and studio. It allows you to layer up to Zen-Core 16-tones at once and features Zen-Core expansion technologies including V-Piano, SuperNatural Acoustic instruments, as well as 16 virtual slots for EXZ expansions.
- JUPITER-X & JUPITER-Xm – These performance synthesizers perfectly showcase the Zen-Core expansion technology Model Banks, with faithful recreations of classic Roland synths Jupiter-8, Juno-106, SH-101, JX-8P, XV-5080 and RD Piano, as well the standard Zen-Core engine. Users can combine up to 4 tones and 1 drum part at once from a combination of any of the sound engines to create huge synth soundscapes.
- RD-88 – This compact professional stage piano features SuperNatural Acoustic and Electric Piano expansions plus the standard Zen-Core synth engine. You can combine up to 3 sounds at once and it has space for 2 EXZ expansions available through Roland Cloud.
- AX-Edge – The eye-catching performance keytar allows you to layer up to 4 Zen-Core tones at once in a single patch.
- MC-707 – The flagship Roland Groovebox allows you to use up to 8 Zen-Core tones at once in a project.
- MC-101 – The portable but mighty MC-101 allows you to use up to 4 Zen-Core tones at once in a project.
- AE-30 – The flagship in the Aerophone range features Zen-Core SuperNatural Acoustic expansions for ultra-realistic wind instrument tones as well as the standard Zen-Core engine.
- Zenology & Zenology Pro – Now available through Roland Cloud, the Zenology softsynths bring the power of Zen-Core to your computer as software instruments. Edit and create single Zen-Core tones within your DAW then export into your favourite Zen-Core hardware product to use on stage.
Share & Collaborate
Perhaps the most unique feature of Zen-Core is its ability to share content across other Zen-Core compatible instruments. Patches that have been created on one product can then be exported to another, providing it uses the same engine. This means you could begin creating a sound on the MC-707, before transferring it to Zenology Pro within your DAW to use in a project. You could even create an amazing lead sound on the Fantom in your studio and then import it to your AX-Edge for when you’re in the spotlight centre-stage, smashing your solo.
Roland Zen-Core Fully Loaded
Roland are running a fantastic promotion until 1st March 2021 to help you get the most out of your new Zen-Core hardware. When you register the purchase of your Zen-Core hardware device through the Roland Backstage portal, you will receive 46-Zen Core sound packs (containing a total of over 700 sounds), as well as a full year of Roland Cloud Pro membership absolutely free of charge.
Zen-Core sound packs include a huge variety of different synth and drums sounds, specifically curated for a particular genre or style. Each pack comes with up to 16 unique preset sounds, and with such a huge collection you’re bound to find some great new sounds to inspire your creativity or enhance your workflow.
Roland Cloud gives you access to a vast library of Roland virtual instruments covering classic devices like Juno-106 and D-50 all the way up to modern instruments like the System-8. The included 12-month Roland Cloud Pro Membership unlocks the full power of Zen-Core on your computer, giving you access to the Zenology Pro plug in to edit and sculpt sounds to your hearts desire before loading them back into your Zen-Core hardware to use in your performances. You also get an Ultimate Unlock for Zen-Beats 2.0 production software for use on PC/Mac, iOS and Android so you can make music wherever inspiration strikes.