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With configurations available, I can't imagine any performer running out of steps, no matter how long or complex their stage set may be. Nevertheless, Roland Roland A-90 Expandable Controller seen fit to make chains loopable, and allow you to move both forwards and backwards within them.

Roland A90 — Guitar Bar Drum Den (GBDD)

You can even dump and load chains using SysEx. You use In1 primarily as a Roland A-90 Expandable Controller control for the eight Zones within the A90, while In2 merges incoming data with that generated by the A90 and then directs this to the Zones of your choice. Finally, I should mention the Sequencer Controls and the Effectors.


The Effectors are edit messages that determine settings within external effects units and drum machines. Unfortunately, the manual is very unclear about their use and function, and time and space precluded a Roland A-90 Expandable Controller investigation from first principles. It's a shame that the documentation should let down what is otherwise such a well-produced instrument.

Roland A-90 Owner's Manual

It's not a particularly attractive sound, nor one I've ever found the urge to sample. That's why I'm particularly glad that the instrument under the microscope today is an A90EX, not the basic A The VE-RD1 Expansion Board sits behind the screen cover, and can be removed by messing about with a few screws and clips. Still, it's a shame that Roland couldn't have made its installation simpler, because it is completely impractical should you wish to switch between expansion boards with any sort of frequency.

As a result, I suspect that an A90EX shipped as a piano will always remain a piano, and that one with, say, Roland A-90 Expandable Controller GS board installed will likewise remain a permanent source of GS sounds. Four Patches assigned to the internal Zones make up a Performance, and it's within the Performance that you apply and store the Patch edits.

Unfortunately, and unlike true synthesizers such as the JV, the A90EX offers no way to modify the Partials themselves. So, for example, whereas Roland A-90 Expandable Controller 91 'JP-8 Haunting' demands four voices for every note played reducing polyphony to a maximum of 16 notes and, we must surmise, uses four Partials, you can only control parameters that apply globally to the Patch itself. Editing a Patch couldn't be simpler, with the Parameter Select buttons also controlling the dedicated synthesis functions. Starting, somewhat unusually, at button 13, this allows you to choose the Patches that will occupy the four Zones of the current Performance.

You can then select the MIDI channels of each using button 1 which also controls the Patches' fine-tuningand can adjust the coarse tuning and the key-range of the Patch using buttons 2 and 3.

Once again, button 4 determines the velocity responses and, likewise, you can adjust the volume of each Patch and its position within the stereo field using buttons 5 and 6. Roland A-90 Expandable Controller functions 7 and 8 for a moment, we then come to Similarly, the Decay and Release buttons 10 and 11 offer a remarkable number of synthesis possibilities. You can even control the LFO speed using the Sequencer Control's tempo function which can itself be assigned to any of the continuous controllers. Mind you, the absence of a Sustain control and the lack of modulation routing restrict things somewhat, but within seconds I had the monophonic Sawtooth Patch sounding just like a monosynth sound on Tangerine Dream's Rubycon -- and you can't get much more synthy than that.

The final three buttons access the three effects that apply to each Performance. The second is a chorus with level, rate, depth, pre-delay, feedback and output mode controls. The three output modes are: You control the amount of signal that Roland A-90 Expandable Controller directed from each Patch to these effects using the aforementioned buttons 7 and 8 Rev Send and Chor Send. The third effect is Roland A-90 Expandable Controller equaliser that offers low, mid, and high frequency gain, and 17 choices of mid frequency, from Hz to 8kHz.

There's no 'Q' control though. By adding the VE-RD1 Piano Expansion Board, the A is transformed into the AEX, a voice digital piano/synthesizer with tones, true stereo piano.


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