Sound On Sound Review Of The RS8000 & RS200 (JAN 1999)
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ANALOGUE SYSTEMS SYSTEM 8000 2200
pros
Oozes quality.
Sounds fantastic.
Versatile and expandable.
Impressive range of sounds and features.
cons
Walnut cabinet could be regarded as non-essential.
Will be considered expensive by non-believers.
A long waiting list.
summary
The walnut cabinet may not be integral to the technical specification but this is a beautifully designed system that oozes quality. The excellent expandability coupled with limitless patching configurations make this a truly open-ended system. The pro price may put some off but if you're serious about analogue synths, the RS8000 has 'classic' written all over it.

RS System 8000

The RS System 8000 is an expanded and repackaged version of the original RS Integrator reviewed in the June 1998 issue of SOS. However, this isn't just any old cobbling together of a few new modules into a couple of 19-inch Euro-racks: this is something quite special and very professional, with a price to match.

The System 8000 is housed in a substantial, beautifully crafted, solid walnut cabinet measuring approximately 15 x 18 x 27 inches and weighing in at a very hefty 19.5kg -- quite a beast. The cabinet contains four RS10 3U racks (without the rackmount ears), 29 RS modules and a rear panel with a power connector, power switch and 10 jack sockets internally hard-wired to a new Trunk Line module at the front (see Modules box, page 182). The lower half of the cabinet is angled at about 30 degrees towards the user. With a deep 5-inch walnut base to position a keyboard in front of, it has faint echoes of a bloated EMS VCS3. The majority of the System 8000 modules are as in the RS Integrator but here are details of the new ones.

RS130 Programmable Scale Generator

The major new module is the RS130 Programmable Scale Generator (PSG), a more sophisticated, slightly esoteric version of the RS260 Quantiser module I described earlier. Although this is one of the largest RS modules (18HP wide) the layout is minimal, with the main controls and input/output sockets the same on as the RS260 module, but with additional buttons for Mode, Save and Record, and a 2-line, 32-digit backlit LCD to display the notes being played. The module can be used in one of 6 modes, the default being Quantiser -- in which it functions in exactly the same way as the the RS260 Quantiser module. The other modes are dedicated to converting analogue control voltages into 1V/octave tempered scales: C Major Scale, C Minor Scale, C Major Arp, C Minor Arp and User Memory. When in these non-quantiser modes, any detected changes in control voltage at either of the V-IN sockets are converted into a tempered scale. For example, if the PSG CV output is connected to a VCO, any LFO waveforms fed into the PSG become chromatic arpeggios and glissandos in either major or minor scales. In a similar way, normally random voltages from a Sample and Hold module will always play in a musically relevant scale.
  And You Thought This Was Big?  
  According to Bob Williams at Analogue Systems, the System 8000 cabinets are "only the babies..." Apparently, they are also used merely as the outer wings of a monster modular system called Phoenix. The Phoenix has four cabinets (the centre ones being 38 inches wide) and in excess of 200 modules. At present, only a couple of Phoenix systems are in existence -- one resides at the Synthesizer Museum in Hertfordshire, and another is due to make an appearance at the Frankfurt show in February, containing some juicy new RS modules to boot.

What with Doepfer offering multi-module interpretations of classic modular systems and the frighteningly enormous Technosaurus mega modular synth also available (SOS review coming soon), the analogue modular market is beginning to look like a case of who can outdo whom in a mine-is-bigger-than-yours race. Mind you, if I won the lottery I'd be first in line with my cheque book!

 

Taking this concept one step further, the User mode allows one to program notes or scales of your own (up to approximately 60 notes), which is a very simple procedure. While in Quantiser mode press Record and hit a key on your CV keyboard (whose note and MIDI number appear in the LCD), then press Record again. This enters the note for step one -- continue entering notes (pressing Record after each) until you have the scale of your choice, then press Save and that's it. The User memory mode will now play only the notes you've entered, regardless of the input source. Trying to use a scale entered in User mode initially caused me a fair bit of head-scratching, as inputting a slow LFO wave or playing keyboard notes higher or lower than those entered resulted in silence. The snag is that new notes are only output by the PSG if the input voltage is inside the range of the notes you have programmed. So, for instance, if only Cs are entered over four octaves (48, 60, 72, 84) and an LFO wave is outputting a full 0-10V waveform, the extreme highs and lows of the wave won't be output, so there will be some long and awkward pauses. But all this aside, this is still a very useful module, and akin to a basic (very basic) digital-cum-analogue step sequencer. Some of the most fun, and some incredibly complex-sounding arpeggios, can be had when feeding two different CV signals into the V-IN inputs, such as fast and slow LFOs, ADSR and LFO, sequencer and LFO, S/H and LFO -- in fact the combinations are endless. The PSG (or multiple PSGs) would also work well in a live situation, and could allow for some great improvisational setups while staying within predetermined or programmed musical parameters.

RS170 Divider

This module will take a signal or waveform and produce four square wave sub-octave signals from it. The octaves are fixed, with independent divided outputs: 2, 4, 8 and 16, and a fifth undivided square wave signal derived from the original signal. There are no controls, just a single monophonic input and five outputs, each with an activity LED. The Divider will accept control, gate, trigger or audio signals, and is useful for dividing sequencer clocks or for adding more bottom end to VCO audio signals.

  Modules And Prices  
  The prices given below are Analogue Systems' recommended prices; prices from the Synthesizer Musuem may differ (and may, in some cases, be cheaper!). Note that the RS130 Programmable Scale Generator is available only from the Synthesizer Museum: all other modules are available both from the Synthesizer Museum and Analogue Systems.

Stand-alone RS200 sequencer package (includes cabinet and modules listed below) 649.
RS10 3U 19" case and PSU 185.
RS200 Analogue step sequencer 325.
RS260 Quantiser 95.
RS150 Sequential switcher 55.
System 8000 (complete system including walnut cabinet and modules listed below) 2200.
Walnut cabinet only 700.
RS20 Ring mod/multiples 45.
RS30 Pitch to voltage and envelope follower 45.
RS40 Noise, sample and hold, & clock 60.
RS50 Trigger generator with VC pulse shaper 55.
RS60 VC ADSR 65 (x3 in System 8000).
RS70 Preamp, inverter, slew 55.
RS80 VC LFO 65 (x2).
RS90 VCO 65 (x3).
RS100 Low-pass VCF 65.
RS110 Multi-mode 65.
RS120 Comb filter (phaser/flanger) 65.
RS130 Programmable scale generator 325.
RS160 Linear/logarithmic 4-1 Mixer 32 (x3).
RS170 Dual 5-way multiples 17.
RS180 VCA 45 (x3).
RS230 Dual CV buffer 35.
RS250 Trunk line 17.
RS270 Dual adaptor/converter 32.
RS280 Audio and trigger clock divider 60.

See SOS June 1998 for a list of previous modules and prices. All prices include VAT.

 
RS120 Comb Filter

This is, in essence, a mono analogue delay line able to simulate a phaser, flanger chorus and very short echo effects. As with other RS filters there are two CV inputs, two audio inputs, a resonance control and, in this case, a Delay Time knob instead of the usual frequency control. The delay time is variable from 2.5mS to 25mS using the Delay knob or a control voltage, and at extreme delay settings you can even hear an authentic-sounding high-frequency clock noise breaking through. Nevertheless, effected audio signals sounded fine, and suitably analogue -- just don't expect 16-bit digital quality. Actually, I had forgotten how good an analogue delay line can sound, especially a voltage-controlled one. Unusually, the module can also accommodate control signals such as triggers and gates through its signal inputs, a feature worthy of hours of experimentation.

RS250 Trunk Line

This is a basic, passive 10-way patchbay for converting front panel-mounted mini-jack sockets to rear-mounted quarter-inch jack sockets. This useful module allows you to have all manner of external units (mixer channels, effects, synths and so on) connected and available within the System 8000's front panel environment.

RS270 Adaptor/Converter

This passive module has four independent channels, which all convert mini-jack to quarter-inch jack sockets; two channels also include phono sockets. An indispensable module for interfacing with the outside world.

Summary

Thus far, Analogue Systems haven't enjoyed the high profile of the similarly specified Doepfer range, but hopefully these new modules and the walnut System 8000 will start to redress the balance. The new-look cabinet may not be particularly functional or portable, and is not exactly low cost, but is a vast stylistic improvement on the current 19-inch Euro-rack and puts the System 8000 into a different league. While this system will appeal mainly to pro analogue musicians, studios out to impress clients and serious collectors of quality analogue systems, it's still within the reach of us lowly struggling musicians, as every part can be purchased individually -- even the walnut cabinet.

For the first time in almost 20 years, I think I've actually found in the System 8000 a contemporary analogue modular system that I would seriously consider as a replacement for my beloved but rapidly ageing Roland System 100M (although I'm hoping my 100M won't go to silicon heaven for at least a few more years yet). My advice: if you can afford it, invest in a System 8000; if you can't, start saving.

Sound On Sound Review Of The RS8000 & RS200 (JAN 1999)
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