Roland RS-202 Strings

Roland RS-202 Image

The RS-202 is a string and brass synthesizer released in 1976 that followed the lackluster RS-101. Oddly the RS-202 wasn't much different than its 101 predecessor. The RS-202 had two new features: a user-controlled delay for the vibrato, and an Ensemble/Chorus effect (that would be seen on dozens of future Roland analog synths for years, including the Junos and Jupiters). It makes the ultimate "disco" string sound.

The RS-202 is fully polyphonic (all 61 keys can play simultaneously). Basically three sound presets are in the RS-202: Strings I, Strings II and Brass. Forget the brass, however, because this machine is all about the strings, and for a time it was considered Roland's finest string machine. Strings I covers low cello & bass type sounds and Strings II is thinner and in the higher registers for Viola and Violin type sounds.

The keyboard is permanently split into two separate sections, the lower 2 octaves and the upper 3 octaves. Each section has it's own set of identical controls. These include three white On/Off buttons for each of the three sound presets. This means you can assign any sound to each section, and any combination; For example, set the lower section to Strings II and set the upper section to Strings I+II+Brass if you like. There are also two grey buttons in each section for "Slow Attack" and "Volume Soft". Each section also has its own sustain slider and there are global brilliance sliders for the brass and string sections independently.

Basic effects included the Ensemble (chorus) effect and Vibrato. A switching-slider is used to select Ensemble I, Ensemble II or Off. The Vibrato effect section had just two sliders: Delay and Speed (depth could not be changed). The Ensemble section did wonders for the sound of this machine; the 'Ensemble II' setting introduced a rich chorus, whereas the 'Ensemble I' produced the faster, deeper ensemble effect that became an instant classic. Sadly, like most vintage synthesizers the RS-202 is mono (high/low output jacks on back) and provides only a trigger output for an external synthesizer. It's built-in to a suit-case style housing which made it easily portable.

The RS-202 is a truly vintage and classic machine. Historically, it launched Roland's signature Ensemble effect. It also sounded fantastic - with or without the ensemble effect engaged. It easily stood up against many competing synths of its time such as the Arp Solina. It's been used by Tony Banks, Rod Argent, Tomita, Nick Magnus, Jethro Tull, Camel, and Magnum.

A sort of trivia regarding the RS-202: It was virtually cloned by an small American company called Multivox. they released the MX-202 which not only looked almost totally identical to the RS-202, but also featured copied hardware - component for component! Despite only a few minor differences between the two, the MX-202 still didn't sound as nice as the Roland.

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14 Visitor comments
Justin
May 13, 2014 @ 10:34 pm
Are you sure about that, Benjamin? I did a cover of Blood on the Rooftops for my studio recording classes in college and was able to duplicate that string sound almost perfectly by running a mellotron through a couple EQs and a thick reverb with a mostly wet signal (both are tricks that were employed by Banks pretty frequently when treating his mellotron). Where did you get this information?
johnny
September 29, 2013 @ 12:38 pm
hello musicians!
i have one of this original Roland Strings Synth, i want to sell it! does anybody know whats a good price for it could be on the market? thanks for answer! ( im from Austria! :-) )
Johnny
Benjamin
August 12, 2013 @ 7:34 pm
Tony Banks used this synthesizer for the strings on Blood On the Rooftops. If the instrument wasn't credited on the inner sleeve of Wind and Wuthering, you might believe that it's a real orchestra. Amazingly realistic string sounds especially for 1976.
Steve
May 12, 2013 @ 2:17 pm
I just picked one up for my garage rock band. It really gets a nice combo organ sound! The vibrato is fantastic. At our first gig using it, the sound man was giving the synth praise.
stephen parsick
November 17, 2012 @ 7:55 am
probably one of the nicest string machines around. silky, smooth, soft-sounding, very well usable within the mix, great with external effects. i´d prefer one over a solina or ss-30 any day.
 
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  • Check Price
  • The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace or post a wanted classified.
  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - Full
  • Oscillators - simple organ 'divide down' sawtooth oscillator
  • Effects - Ensemble/Chorus and Vibrato
  • Memory - 3 Preset Sounds (Strings I, Strings II, Brass)
  • Keyboard - 61 keys
  • Control - Gate Out
  • Date Produced - 1976
  • Resources & Credits
  • Images from Sound on Sound

    Reviewed November 2007.

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