SOUND ON SOUND REVIEWS
SOUND ON SOUND magazine Vol.14 No.3. January 1999
Review by Chris Carter
Analogue Systems RS System 8000
(see also: Analogue Systems RS 200 review)
(see also: Analogue Systems RS Integrator review)
The RS System 8000 is an expanded and repackaged version of the original RS Integrator reviewed in the May 1998 issue of SOS. However this isn't just any old cobbling together of a few new modules into a couple of 19" Euro-Racks, this is something quite special and very professional, with a price to match.
The System 8000 is housed in a substantial, beautifully crafted, solid walnut cabinet approximately 15" x 18" x 27" and weighing in at a very hefty 19.5 Kg , quite a beast. The cabinet contains four RS10 3U racks (without the rack mount ears), 29 RS modules and a rear panel with a power connector, power switch and 10 jack sockets internally hard-wired to a new Trunk-Line module at the front (see modules list box). The lower half of the cabinet is angled 30 degrees towards the user with a deep 5" walnut base to position a keyboard in front of, it has feint echoes of a bloated EMS VCS3. The majority of the System 8000 modules are as in the RS Integrator but here are details of the new modules.
RS130 Programmable Scale Generator
The major new module is the RS130 Programmable Scale Generator (PSG), a more sophisticated, slightly esoteric version of the RS260 Quantiser module (see RS200 sequencer review). Although this is one of a largest RS modules (18HP wide) the layout is minimal, with the main controls and input/output sockets the same as the RS260 Quantiser module, but with additional buttons for Mode, Save and Record and a 2 line, 32 digit back-lit LCD to display the notes being played. The module can be used in one of 6 modes, the default being QUANTISER and in which case it functions in exactly the same way as the the RS260 Quantiser module. The remaining modes are dedicated to converting analogue control voltages into 1v/octave tempered scales: C MAJOR SCALE, C MINOR SCALE, C MAJOR ARP, C MINOR ARP and USER MEMORY. When in these non-quantiser modes any detected changes in control voltage at either of the V-IN sockets are converted into a tempered scale. For example if the PSG CV output is connected to a VCO, any LFO waveforms fed into the PSG become musically chromatic arpeggios and glissandos in either major or minor scales. In a similar way, normally random voltages from a Sample and Hold module will always play in a musically relevant scale.
Taking this concept one step further the USER mode allows one to program notes or scales of your own (up to approximately 60 notes), a very simple procedure. While in QUANTISER mode press RECORD and hit a key on your CV keyboard (whose note and MIDI number appear in the LCD), then press RECORD again. This enters the note for step one, continue entering notes (pressing RECORD after each) until you have the scale of your choice, then press SAVE and that's it. The USER memory mode will now only play the notes you've entered regardless of the input source. Initially trying to use a scale entered in USER mode caused me a fair bit of head scratching as inputting a slow LFO wave or playing keyboard notes higher or lower than those entered resulted in silence. The snag is that new notes are only output by the PSG if the input voltage is inside the range of the notes you have programmed eg: if only C's are entered over 4 octaves (48, 60, 72, 84) and an LFO wave is outputting a full 0v-10v waveform the extreme highs and lows of the wave won't be output, hence some long awkward pauses. But all this aside this is still a very useful module and akin to a basic (very basic) digital cum analogue step sequencer. However, some of the most fun and some incredibly complex sounding arpeggios can be had when feeding in two different CV signals into the V-IN inputs eg: fast and slow LFO, ADSR and LFO, sequencer and LFO, S/H and LFO in fact the combinations are endless. The PSG (or multiple PSGs) would also work well in a live situation and could allow for some great improvisational set-ups while staying within predetermined or programmed musical parameters.
This module will take a signal or waveform and produce four square wave sub-octave signals from it. The octaves are fixed, with independent divided outputs: ÷2, ÷4, ÷8 or ÷16 and a fifth undivided square wave signal derived from the original signal. There are no controls, just a single monophonic input and five outputs, each with an activity LED. The Divider will accept control, gate, trigger or audio signals and is useful for dividing sequencer clocks or for adding more bottom end to VCO audio signals.
RS120 COMB FILTER
This is, in essence, a mono analogue delay line able to simulate a phaser, flanger chorus and very short echo effects. As with other RS filters there are two CV inputs, two audio inputs, a resonance control and in this case a Delay Time knob instead of the usual frequency control. The delay time is variable from 2.5 ms to 25 ms using the Delay knob or a control voltage and at extreme delay settings there is even an authentic sounding high-frequency clock noise breaking through. Nevertheless effected audio signals sounded fine, and suitably analogue, just don't expect 16 bit digital quality. Actually I had forgotten how good an analogue delay line can sound, especially a voltage controlled one. Unusually the module can also accommodate control signals such as triggers and gates through its signal inputs, a feature worthy of hours of experimentation.
RS250 TRUNK LINE
This is a basic passive 10 way patch bay for converting front panel mounted mini-jack sockets to rear mounted 1/4" jack sockets. This useful module allows you to have all manner of external units (mixer channels, effects, synths etc.) connected and available within the RS 800 front panel environment.
This passive module has 4 independent channels, all convert mini-jack to 1/4" jack sockets and two channels also include phono sockets. An indispensable module for interfacing with the outside world.
Thus far Analogue Systems haven't enjoyed the high profile of the similarly specified Doepfer range but now hopefully these new modules and the walnut System 8000 will start to redress the balance. The new look cabinet may not be particularly functional, or portable and not exactly low-cost but is a vastly stylish improvement on the current 19" Euro-Rack and puts the System 8000 into a different league. While this system will mainly appeal to pro analogue musicians, studios out to impress clients and serious collectors of quality analogue systems it's still within the reach of us lowly struggling musicians, as any part can be purchased individually, even the walnut cabinet.
For the first time in about twenty years (oops showing my age there) I think I've actually found a contemporary analogue modular system that I would seriously consider as a replacement for my beloved but rapidly aging Roland System 100M, although I'm hoping my 100M won't go to silicon heaven for at least a few more years yet. My advice: If you can afford it invest in one, if you can't, start saving.
Now I think I'll just go and give the old System 8000 one more polish with the duster and beeswax.
ADDITIONAL BOXES / INFO
AND YOU THOUGHT THIS WAS BIG ?
According to Bob Williams at Analogue Systems the System 8000 cabinets are "only the babies", huh.... Apparently they are also used as the outer wings of a monster modular system called Phoenix. The Phoenix has four cabinets (the centre ones being 38" wide) and in excess of 200 modules. At present there are only a couple of Phoenix systems in existence, one resides at the Synthesiser Museum in Hertfordshire and another is due to make an appearance at the Frankfurt show in February and containing some juicy new RS modules to boot.
What with Doepfer offering multi-module interpretations of classic modular systems and the frighteningly enormous Technosaurus mega modular synth (SOS review soon) it's beginning to look like a case of who can outdo whom in a mine is bigger than yours race. Mind you, if I won the lottery I'd be first in line with an open cheque book for any (or all) of these systems.
ANALOGUE SYSTEMS Tel/Fax: +44 1726 67836
THE SYNTHESISER MUSEUM: 0171 283 1892
AS-SYSTEM 8000 *
£2200 System 8000.
Includes walnut cabinet and modules listed below.
MODULES INCLUDED WITH AS-System 8000
* £700 Walnut cabinet only
£45 RS20 Ring Mod/Multiples.
£45 RS30 P to V & Envelope Follower.
£60 RS40 Noise, Sample + Hold, & clock.
£55 RS50 Trigger generator with VC pulse shaper.
(x3) £65 RS60 VC ADSR.
£55 RS70 Pre-amp, Inverter, slew.
£65 RS80 VC LFO.
(x3) £65 RS90 VCO.
£65 RS100 Low Pass VCF.
£65 RS110 Multi-mode filter.
* £65 RS120 Comb filter (phaser/flanger)
* £325 RS130 Programmable scale generator.
(x3) £32 RS160 Linear/Logarithmic 4-1 Mixer.
£17 RS170 Dual 5 way multiples.
(x3) £45 RS180 VCA.
£35 RS230 Dual CV buffer.
* £17 RS250 Trunk Line.
* £32 RS270 Dual Adaptor/converter.
* £60 RS280 Audio and trigger clock divider.
STAND-ALONE RS200 SEQUENCER PACKAGE
* £649 Includes cabinet and modules listed below.
Modules used in self-contained Analogue Step Sequencer.
£185 RS10 3U 19" case and PSU.
* £325 RS200 3x 8 step sequencer.
* £95 RS260 Voltage Quantiser
* £55 RS150 4-1 Sequential switcher.
SEE SOS June 1998 for a previous list of modules and prices.
The walnut cabinet may not be integral to the technical specification but this is a beautifully designed system that oozes quality. The excellent expandability coupled with limitless patching configurations make this a truly open ended system. The Pro price may put some off but if you're serious about analogue the RS8000 has classic written all over it.
Excellent range of sounds and features.
Walnut cabinet could be considered non-essential.
Could be considered expensive by nonbelievers.
A long waiting list.
Copyright © 1999 Chris Carter / SOS Publications.