All the Jupiter-80 sounds, 50 new SuperNatural sounds,
plus a deep vault of Roland legacy patches. Multiple outputs and
surround panning of multitimbral parts. Part effects stay the same when
in a Studio Set (multitimbral setup). Can act as a USB audio interface.
Pristine sound quality. Great iPad app makes navigation and some editing
Polyphony of 128 voices seems low for this kind of module.
Limit of 64 Studio Sets. Not all SRX sounds available at once. Limited
SuperNatural editing. Can’t load samples.
Everything Roland—current and legacy—in two rack spaces.
$2,399 list | $1,999 street
Rackmount sound modules have been a sleepy category for
the past several years—either your synth has a keyboard, or it’s an
analog desktop wedge, or it’s software. The Integra-7 aims to reverse
that trend and offer a premium composer’s tool in the bargain. It boasts
the latest SuperNatural sounds plus a near-complete history of Roland
patches in one box. It also adds surround, enough hardware outputs to
support this, and lots of tweaking and navigation via an elegant iPad
app. Is this enough to send you digging for that plastic bag of rack
screws? Read on . . .
CLICK HERE for our video first look at Roland HQ
Practically all of Roland’s current and legacy sounds are
in the Integra-7. In addition to its internal sounds, built-in are all
six current SuperNatural expansion titles (ExSN), all 12 SRX expansions
(remember the XV-5080?) and a high-quality General MIDI 2 sound set.
USB lets MIDI and audio pass between your computer and the
Integra-7. Front and back-panel aux line inputs allows a source to
either pass through to the unit’s audio outs, like backing tracks from
an iPod, or be processed internally through effects and panning. Though
you can edit all the parameters from the front panel, the free
iPad-based editor (more on this later) really is a must-have.
“SuperNatural” is Roland’s term for their proprietary
behavior modeling, which combines multisampling, physical modeling, and
programming into detailed acoustic, synthetic, and drum
instruments—including a three-layer virtual analog synth reminiscent of
Roland’s Gaia and a drawbar organ mode derived from their VK family.
Beyond including every sound from the Jupiter-80, the Integra-7
introduces 50 new SuperNatural sounds.
SuperNatural sounds come in three categories: acoustic,
synth, and drums. Standouts on the acoustic side are the grand pianos,
mallets, strings, woodwinds and brass. The acoustic pianos are almost
worth the price of the entire box, as they’re immensely responsive and
playable and would hold up on recording dates better than most
workstation pianos I’ve heard. There are realistic Rhodes and Wurlies,
but I’d like to see more of them. Tonewheel organs are the VK type, with
drawbar-based voicing, but there’s no easy way to play the drawbars, as
even the Integra’s iPad editor currently lacks the drawbar screen
you’ll find on the Jupiter-80.
The brass and woodwinds intelligently switch articulations
(including mono versus poly), letting you play trills and realistic
legato lines as well as chords. Between controlled dynamics, fingering,
the modulation wheel, and an expression pedal, it’s very easy to play
extremely musical lines. The solo strings are quite good, and if you
need to cover guitar parts from a keyboard, many of the acoustic and
electric guitar sounds are exceptional.
On the SuperNatural synth side, there are a ton of patches
that cover pads, strings, brass, FM, and much more, and they almost all
sound great, especially with a little controller tweaking. Here, the
iPad editor helps tremendously, but a full editor/librarian for a
desktop or laptop computer would be welcome. Roland says it’s in the
The “legacy” aspect is the inclusion of all the waveforms
and patches of the stock XV-5080. Also built in are all 12 of the SRX
expansions, originally sold as cards for the XV. Not all of these sounds
are available at once, which is an odd limitation by today’s standards
since they’re already built in. Although a number of SuperNatural, PCM,
and GM sounds are burned into internal memory, many sounds reside in
“virtual” expansion slots—which are technically internal, but separate
from the internal internal memory where the new sounds reside.
This is likely necessitated by new and old sounds having such different
You load an expansion into one of four slots, which takes
only a few seconds. If you save a setup that uses an expansion patch, it
won’t play unless the parent title is loaded, so even if you only want
one sound from an expansion, you need to load the whole pack. You can
mix and match ExSN and SRX expansions within the four slots, but if the
GM2 set is loaded, it uses all four slots at once. Otherwise, expansion
sounds can be mixed freely with internal sounds to form Studio Sets.
The Integra-7 uses different names than Roland modules of
the past. A Studio Set (formerly Performance) contains up to 16 parts,
each consisting of a Tone (formerly Patch). On the legacy PCM and
SuperNatural synth side, a Tone is made up of Partials while an “Inst”
is the unit of sound in a SuperNatural acoustic Tone that contains all
the behavior modeling parameters.
Fig. 1. In the Integra-7 Editor app for iPad, you can
quickly touch-select Studio Sets and individual patches (Tones) within
them. (Click for larger image.)
Similar to how the Jupiter-80 works and unlike older
Roland synths, the Integra-7 is always in multitimbral mode, so Studio
Sets are what you call up from the front panel. Oddly, there’s no quick
way to scroll through Studio Sets as you could with Performances on
older modules; you must hit Menu, make sure “Studio Set Select” is
highlighted, hit Enter, scroll to the desired Studio Set, and hit Enter
again. This process is much easier on the iPad app, which lets you
touch-select Studio Sets and individual Tones within them instantly (see
). MIDI program messages can also select Studio Sets.
Currently, you get only 64 Studio Sets in memory. On a
live gig, I could see going through three or four Studio Sets in a
single song for complex splits and layers, so I’d like to see this at
Each of the 16 parts in a Studio Set now has its own
multi-effects (MFX) and EQ upstream of the Studio Set’s chorus and
reverb, which is great. Even better, a Tone’s preset MFX stay with it
when you put it in a Studio Set—no more importing a Patch into a
Performance and wondering why it doesn’t sound the same!
In essence, a V-Drums module is built in. Although drum
kits can be loaded into more than one part of a Studio Set, a single
designated Drum Part now gets six compressors and EQs for more detailed
routing and processing. Finally, the master EQ is great for tweaking the
I’m a longtime XV-5080 user, having employed it for many
years in Burt Bacharach’s band, as well as in my rock band, AM/FM.
Before you kick your XV-5080 to the curb, though, there are a few
changes to consider. The Integra-7’s polyphony is 128 voices. (The
XV-5080 had 256 voices, as does the Jupiter-80.) Considering that the
Integra-7 is primarily designed for studio use, this could be an issue
in a dense layer or sequenced orchestration, as some of the SuperNatural
sounds eat up polyphony.
Most sorely missing on the Integra-7 is the ability to add
sample RAM and import Roland or Akai samples, which I could do on the
XV-5080. Roland has a tendency towards the polished and the pristine in
their sounds, so I’ve always found this great for getting more grit and
attitude out of one machine.
Getting around on the front panel is easy enough, but
nothing beats a great software editor. Enter the free Integra-7 Editor
app for iPad. You’ll need an Apple Camera Kit adapter for USB connection
to the Integra-7. You can also use WiFi via Roland’s optional
WNA1100-RL wireless adapter.
Fig. 2. Here’s the SuperNatural synth editing screen.
Think of a Roland Gaia, or maybe three polyphonic SH-101 synths stacked
up. (Click for larger image.)
Although it doesn’t currently edit every function, this is
one of the best software editors I’ve seen, thanks in part to Roland’s
extensive implementation of the iPad’s multi-touch screen. Separate
windows for the mixer, Studio Set, surround positioning of MIDI parts,
and Tone editing give you intuitive screens that are a joy to tweak. SRX
expansions are loaded via drag-and-drop. Editing a SuperNatural synth
Tone works just like on the touchscreen of a Jupiter-80 (see Figure 2
Roland’s Motional Surround is a new feature of the
Integra-7 that operates in two modes: 5.1 or stereo. When off, the unit
operates as normal with four assignable stereo output pairs: Mix/A, B,
C, and D. When surround is turned on, the B, C and D output pairs become
dedicated 5.1 outs. When connected to a surround speaker system, you
can pan each Tone (i.e., single sound on its own MIDI channel)
via either the front panel or a circular soundstage screen in the editor
app, and that aspect works great (see Figure 3). Motional
Surround automatically disengages the Studio Set’s reverb and chorus.
The aforementioned external input can be controlled as a 17th part, and MIDI CC messages can automate the trajectory of any Tone through 5.1 space.
If you’re monitoring in stereo, the main Mix (and
headphone) outs can produce simulated surround. You can hear the
illusion of different instruments being in different spatial locations,
but in practice, I never got the effect to sit right with other sounds
in a sequenced environment. Motional Surround is better if you have the
monitoring system to support it, in which case it can be quite
Fig. 3. Motional Surround lets you position every
multitimbral part in a Studio Set in 5.1 space—and pan the parts around
using MIDI CC messages.
Roland has a tentative hit with the Integra-7. On one
hand, there’s so much: all the past JV and XV sounds; a complete
Jupiter-80; great drum sounds from the V-Drums; killer SuperNatural
acoustic pianos; surround; clean, versatile outputs; powerful effects;
and iPad control. Then, there’s stability: Hardware modules won’t stop
working as of some future OS on our computers.
The newer SuperNatural sounds really let you play like a
keyboardist but sound like the acoustic instrument that’s called up;
however, it’s not always easy to emulate as precise a behavior of that
instrument as a seasoned composer may be shooting for. I hope to see
continued refinement in this area. My other main concern is that the
polyphony of 128 voices, while plenty for a stage keyboard, seems a bit
tight for composers who want to maximize the Integra’s formidable
multitimbral capabilities in the studio.
The Integra-7 is a powerful hardware module, especially
for someone who wants a Jupiter-80 plus the Roland library of the past
in two rack spaces. Now that I’m done writing, I’m going back to playing
that acoustic piano sound. . . .