Roland R-5
Roland R-5

R-5, Drum machine from Roland in the R series.

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content in English
Audiofanzine FR 10/03/2009

Roland R-5 : Recensione di Audiofanzine FR (content in English)


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(Originally written by Yvo2000/translated from Audiofanzine FR)
- Types of connections (audio, MIDI, etc.)?

Midi in/out/thru, six 1/4" TS jack outputs, one 1/4" headphone output, two Tape RCA outputs, footswitch, insert

16 velocity-sensitive pads

- How many presets and programs are available?

Five banks of 16 sounds, various presets. Very authentic sound considering when it was manufactured (the goal of this drum machine was to reproduce an acoustic drum kit). So there are no electro sounds! Nowadays the sound quality is far from modern software samplers like BFD2, EZdrummer, Battery, Guru, etc.

- Does the unit have an effects section?

No effects but you can output the drums via six audio outputs so you can mix them with an external device and use effect processors to shape your own sound. The sound is good enough for electro, trip hop, pop or industrial music styles.

- What are the features of the sequencer?...

The main asset of the device is the sequencer. Combine your R-5 with BFD2 or Toontrack EZdrummer/Superior2 and you get the ultimate workstation for authentic drums production. Free yourself from your computer mouse and you'll increase your creativity.

° Real-time programming with adjustable quantize function, velocity-sensitive step programming with 98 steps per bar! The small display shows all steps, like on the TR-909.

° Editing of complex groove templates you can assign to your patterns. Adjustable swing parameter with pattern assignation. (The swing of the R-5 is a bit "cold"... I miss a "humanize" function like on an Akai MPC2000). You can modify the sound and the tempo to get a human feel.

° You can create songs using the patterns, you can copy/paste and extract a part of a pattern, etc.

In short, the sequencer is ultra comprehensive and easy to use. The R-5 can be a professional rhythm creation tool thanks to Midi and a good drums software. Amazing workflow!


- Is it easy to make settings?

- Is it easy to edit sounds or effects?

- Is the user's manual clear and comprehensive?

Menus and sub-menus are easy to use. It's all a matter of practice until everything becomes intuitive.

Sound editing is easy and comprehensive (pitch, attack, decay, expression, pan, velocity curve, etc.) but I haven't used the internal sounds for a long time. I use the R-5 only as Midi controller.

Very clear user's manual. It details all functions and includes tutorials.

The only disadvantage is the display, which is quite small and doesn't show the movement of the cursor (like on a TR-808 or 909).


Do the sound presets fit your music style?

- Are they authentic?

As I already mentioned above, I don't use it as a sound generator but as a Midi controller. But for a drum machine of its age it provides good and authentic sounds. It's not for fans of the analog sound of the TR-808 or TR-909. Guitar and bass players looking for a good drum machine to play with will probably like it . On the contrary, people looking for authentic acoustic drum sounds won't find it good enough.

But the sounds can be routed to six independent outputs so they can be processed with a mixer and effect processors. Huge sound editing possibilities for more authenticity or experimenting. However it has a more digital sound of the late 80's than an analog sound of the early 80's. I don't really like the sound.

- Is the expressiveness good? (velocity and aftertouch sensitivity)?

No aftertouch! But good velocity. It provides the possibility to edit groove templates that affect the pattern playback in a realistic way, giving them a more human feel (that's where the name comes from: R-5 HUMAN RHYTHM COMPOSER. The results can be excellent.


- How long have you been using it?

20 years. It's the first music instrument I owned! When I bought it I was looking for a drum machine for my rap band! So I know this device very good and it has a sentimental value for me.

- Which feature do you like the most / the least?

I used it a lot the first couple of years and I gave up on it at the end of the 90's to use samplers instead because their sound was better for my music. I don't like its sound anymore. it sounds too authentic for electronic music and not authentic enough for acoustic music.

But I came back to it some time ago and I rediscovered how easy it is to work with it. I make a lot of drums programming for my different projects and it came in really handy. It's great to use this drum machine together with my favorite software tools like FXpansion BFD2 and Toontrack EZdrummer. I've produced many rhythm parts and grooves ever since I use them together. I first program the R-5 trying different groove templates and swing settings, and then I record that via Midi. Afterwards I fine tune the groove and the "humanization" using BFD2 or EZdrummer (which is much more limited than BFD2). The R-5 and BFD2/Toontrack make a great couple. I couldn't work anymore without both of them.

- How would you rate its value for money?

It was quite expensive when I bought it. But it's a Roland so it was made for life. I've been using it for almost 20 years so the return on investment was great. Could I say the same thing about the modern gear I buy every year?

- Based on your experience, would you buy this product again?

I bought an Akai MPC and many different software tools. But thanks to its velocity sensitive step sequencer and humanized groove templates, the R-5 is a fully professional and (still) modern tool. To give you an idea, I currently use a lot the R-5 and almost never my Akai MPC, which is obsolete compared to software tools. Even the plastic pads of the R-5 are better compared to the rubber pads of the Akai. But I guess thats a matter of habit and taste.

If my R-5 ever breaks I would do anything to find another one...