The legendary Roland FANTOM is the ultimate workstation for music production. We give it a good going over to see what all the hype is about...

The return of the FANTOM

When it comes to gear, Roland know a thing or two about marrying bleeding edge technology alongside flawless hardware/software performance to encourage expressive musical creativity. Their FANTOM workstations promote a seamless workflow to enable quick-fire production in the studio and enhanced playability. Boasting a raft of production tools and immersive software integration you instantly feel at home when using the FANTOM. Not only that but thanks to the expandable sound engine producing enviable electronic and acoustic sounds, the hardware can grow in line with your capabilities. With choices including 61-, 76-, and 88-note keyboards built from the highest-grade materials, this is the professional’s choice that doesn’t break the bank.

Removing barriers to creativity

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Today’s musicians and producers have a wealth of hardware/software at their disposal so, what makes the FANTOM so special? Well, one of the most important aspects of creativity is reducing hurdles or impediments in your ability to craft compositions. Whether you maintain a trimmed-down setup or go for a bit of everything, there are compromises to be made through either missing out on feature sets, technical limitations or lag/latency.

The FANTOM exceeds expectations by providing all the tools that you could need whilst ensuring smooth real-time performance. You have ready access to composition tools, the ability to recall creative environments, and deep computer integration. Rather than relying on mode-specific feature sets, everything is on-hand at all times so that when lightning strikes you can capture your ideas without hesitation. You can even save SCENES that capture sounds, patterns, and performance layouts that encompass entire songs, song sections, or for use as a template as a springboard for creation. The best thing is that you can chain SCENES together or switch between them in an instant, glitch-free!

When it comes to effects integration, you don’t want to be limited by processing power. Therefore, Roland have thrown everything but the kitchen sink at the FANTOM so that you don’t have to make the tough decision of what to drop. You can go full pelt and the FANTOM will still come back for more.

Heavenly sounds

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As noted above, the FANTOM is endowed with a flexible sound engine that is borne from decades of R&D – if there’s one thing that we can confidently say is that Roland know a thing or two when it comes to sound engine generation. Everything from classic synths to mesmerising modern sounds is yours to play with, manipulate and tweak to your heart’s content. There are acoustic and electronic sounds, as well as a range of sampling technologies and synths for taking your production skills to the next level.

As if all that wasn’t enough you can sample your own sounds whilst triggering up to 2GB worth of loops and one-shots across the pad matrix. The fully routable analog filter exudes warmth and an intensely gritty edginess when you need it, with the capacity to mix soft synths with FANTOM’s internal sounds.

Making full use of the divine keyboard, FANTOM utilises Roland’s V-Piano technology to ensure that piano performance doesn’t just sound like the real thing but plays like the real thing too. Accomplished pieces can be tenderly or passionately pounded out on the sumptuous keyboard, establishing itself as an impressive instrument in its own right.

Delving deeper into the synth engine at the heart of the FANTOM, it is based on partials. Each partials begins with a discrete synth voice comprising oscillator, filter, amplifier, dual LFO, and effects. Up to four partials can be used in a single tone, and a SCENE can contain up to 16 tones for ludicrously complex layers, splits and sequenced parts. FANTOM features two LFOs per partial and four partials per tone. Therefore, stacking 16 tones means there’s a whopping 128 LFOs per voice. Adding pronounced modulation to tracks creates depth and movement for accomplished musical pieces.

Playing feel

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Another fundamental when it comes to an instrument’s design, is how it plays. After all, if it sounds great but is a nightmare of the fingers then what’s the point, right? Worry not. On the 88-note model you’ll find the superb PHA-50 keyboard, whilst the 61- and 76-note models have a brand new semi-weighted action that is a pure unadulterated joy to play. All FANTOMs offer a solid, precise and delightfully playable experience with aftertouch on tap.

Every dial, knob, pad and button performs exactly as you’d expect them to. Sliders respond intuitively and immediately with minute attenuation for absolute precision when making adjustments. There’s a dedicated synthesizer section with oscillator, filter, and envelope controls, along with numerous buttons and pads for triggering and sequencing. When you want to take things to the next level, you can even connect USB controllers to any of FANTOM’s three USB ports for enhanced expression.

Sequencing powerhouse

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Moving beyond keys, knobs and sliders you’ll find RGB pads with a classic TR-REC style pattern sequencer (modelled on the TR-808, TR-909, and modern TR-8S), real-time recording with piano-roll editing, and a grid for recording and launching clips. From real and step-time polyphonic sequencing or using the TR-REC pattern sequencer you can carve out swinging drum patterns or patterns with pinpoint accuracy.

A handy feature of the FANTOM is clip-based sequencing, which allows you to arrange clips into a complete track. Therefore, you can arrange drums, basslines, pads, and other patterns into clips individually or in groups, then piece everything together seamlessly into a live performance. Handy or what?!

Extensive connectivity

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While FANTOM is powerful by itself, its powers grow exponentially when connected to other gear like computers or analog synthesizers. FANTOM can control software synthesizers directly from the touchscreen, drive modular and analog synthesizers from its dual CV/Gate outputs, and is also a high-quality audio interface capable of 16 stereo outputs and 3 stereo inputs.

FANTOM doesn’t just work with computers—it fully integrates. It’s a high-quality 16×3 stereo audio interface and can control DAWs and plugins from its touchscreen. It can integrate soft synths into Scenes, and send parts composed on FANTOM directly to your DAW.

Customize your sound by integrating your plugin soft synths with FANTOM. Control Apple Logic, Garage Band, and Mainstage, and adjust soft synth parameters right from FANTOM’s touchscreen. Mix and layer soft synths with FANTOM’s internal sounds, and then route them through FANTOM’s analog filter section.

While FANTOM provides enormous creative potential, you may also want to integrate analog synths or drum machines with your setup. FANTOM has two sets of CV/Gate outputs so you can sync tempo or play them from FANTOM’s keyboard or its many pattern sequencers.

Cool layout

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A clean and intuitive layout, premium materials, and our best-ever keyboard action. The result? An instrument that begs to be played.

FANTOM is designed to propel the creative process and play beautifully. The placement of each control, and how it interacts with the creative heart inside FANTOM, has been thoroughly considered with today’s workflow in mind.

FANTOM is made of tough metal with high-grade components throughout. Everything about it is sturdy and built to withstand the perils of live gigs and life on the road.

The more you get to know FANTOM, the more you appreciate the thoughtful details that simplify your life as a keyboardist. From the slight curvature of the top-panel labels for rear connections, to the informative RGB-lit controls and buttons, FANTOM facilitates creativity and eliminates frustration.

Grab yours now

Head to the Dawsons Music website now to pick up your FANTOM and choose from the Roland FANTOM 6, Roland FANTOM 7, and Roland FANTOM 8 rendition. Alternatively, head to your local Dawsons Music store to try one out in person.