Roland System 100

Roland System 100 Image

The System 100 is a great and classic analog synth! It's a beautiful semi-modular monophonic synth consisting of 5 module components: the Synthesizer 101, Expander 102, Mixer 103, Sequencer 104, and Monitor Speakers 109. The Synthesizer 101 section is the heart of the system, from which you could add-on any of the other modules of your choice. Different combinations of these components can be used to create systems of varying potential.

The Synthesizer 101 section is a fully self-contained analog mono-synth. It features a 37-note keyboard (with no performance controls, velocity or aftertouch), and lots of sliders to tweak. Its design is similar to the SH-series analog synths. Controls for the VCO, LFO, VCF lowpass/highpass filters, VCA with ADSR, Noise, and Portamento/Glide effects are all within hands reach. There's also a handy A-440Hz tuning oscillator, like on the Minimoog.

Roland System 100 Image

The Expander 102 section is a keyboard-less version of the 101, designed to stand upright and behind the main Synthesizer 101. More than one Expander 102 can be added to make your system fatter and fatter! The Expander is identical to the Synthesizer except that it replaces Portamento/Glide effects with a Sample-and-Hold feature for the LFO, the Noise gen. is replaced by a Ring Modulator, and the A-440 tuning osc. is replaced by weak/strong sync inputs and a mix-in jack. The Expander is an excellent way to add more oscillators and synth effects (the s&h and ring-mod) to a System 100. The oscillators can be synced if you have both modules. The 101 & 102 are already internally patched and ready to produce sounds, but that can be bypassed by external patching.

The Mixer 103 is a cool add-on. Features 4 inputs and 4 sliders, and mixes these down to 2 outputs. There are two analog VU meters (a nice touch) as well as panning, mono effect sends/returns, and a built-in spring reverb! The Model 103 is designed to sit on the right side of the System and feeds the Monitor Speakers. The speakers provide a stereo monitoring source which is another great (optional) touch! The Mixer not only has outputs for these speakers, but also Line-Outs for use live or in the studio! On the left side of the System sits the Sequencer 104. This analog sequencer can be used to drive your System with a 12x2 step pattern sequencer. It features variable gate time, series or parallel modes, Start, Stop, Continue, and Step buttons.

The System 100 is a great sounding analog system with the classic vintage Roland sound. Although it is itself an impressive system, Roland took the concept a step further developing additional modules for the System 100m. Although the 100m has greater patching freedom, it doesn't sound as warm as the 100. Apparently the 100 has the same filter chip as a TB-303, but it certainly doesn't produce the same sound, the System 100 sounds better! Whatever configuration you find a System 100 in, they are all powerful, warm, and useable machines!

It is used by Orbital, Vince Clarke, Aphex Twin, BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Electronic Dream Planet, Tangerine Dream, Groove Corporation, Depeche Mode, Heaven 17, Freddy Fresh, Joy Electric, Luke Vibert, Human League, Nitzer Ebb, Front 242, Tears For Fears, Vangelis, Hans Zimmer, and Meat Beat Manifesto.

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43 Visitor comments
Andy H
March 20, 2011 @ 5:18 pm
I see a few 101s on eBay quite often but never the 102s. Are the 102s rarer?
October 25, 2010 @ 12:37 pm
My parents bought me the full system in 1978 for my 21st birthday present and its just recently returned completely refurbished, calibrated and is back in pride of place.

In 1978 the full system cost just under £1,500 and I see on ebay that you can buy one module for the price of the full system!!!

With it my gran bought me an AKAI 4000DS reel to reel tape deck which I was taught to convert it to an echo machine.... no one could believe that from a duophonic instrument that I could acheive the sounds I created

Now I am digital with my 1980s FM synths and pride and joy a few ACCESS Virus modules and some retro Virtual instruments... thing is I am scared of the power and volume I am going to experience with my refurbished Roland System 100

When I bought it... it was a hard decision between that and a Mini Moog .... at the time I wanted to do the unsocial thing and be studio based....
October 7, 2010 @ 6:25 pm
unfortunately i got only model 101. this synth is all about FATNESS. 1 oscillator but WOW. i remember when i was tweaking for first time i just set a sound which was a WALL of sound. not the best synth ever but worthy to have
September 10, 2010 @ 9:06 pm
I've got 101 & 102 - patching across those two really allows for some complex sounds. It's a great semi-modular and sounds 'creamy'.
I just wish I had the sequencer, but it's impossible to find/afford these days.
August 25, 2010 @ 6:57 pm
I own the model 102 expander and whaooo does it sound good !Same creamy, warm, liquid sound as SH-5 and can be unpredictably nasty for experimenting beyond limits... Amazing sample&hold unit and beautiful sound when ringmodulator is directed into the filter.
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  • 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 - Monophonic
  • Oscillators - 1 VCO with PWM and tuning from 10Hz to 10kHz, External Sound-In jack (Synthesizer 101 and Expander 102), White/Pink Noise (Model 101), Ring Modulator (Model 102)
  • Filter - High-Pass filter, Low-Pass filter (Synthesizer 101 and 102 Expander)
  • VCA - ADSR envelopes (Synthesizer 101 and 102 Expander)
  • Keyboard - 37 keys (Synthesizer 101 only)
  • Arpeg/Seq - 12 x 2 step sequencer, variable gate times, series or parallel configurations (Sequencer 104)
  • Control - CV / Gate
  • Date Produced - 1975-1979

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