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Author Topic: GW-8 review  (Read 13916 times)
 
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Diki
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« on: October 17, 2008, 07:19:33 AM »

Posted this at SZ, and I thought it might be good here, too...

Quote
I've had one a few days now... (on loan)
There are some really good points, and then there are some really bad points    But at $895, some of the bad points are less deal-breakers than they might be.

Pianos... great. But except for the UltimatGrand, a little metallic at higher velocities. But I have a feeling that most Yamaha piano fans would like them... sparkly and mix-cutting, but with more depth to the sound, IMO. UltimatGrand is based on my G70 piano sound, and for me is the better balanced one.. 32 piano sounds altogether (plus some canvas stuff in the GS bank), but you're off your rocker using anything but the main ones!

E.Pianos... very great! something for everyone. Chunky Rhodes (3-ways), in everything from old 68 style to newer Dyno-My-Piano crisp. Pretty decent Wurli, a bit better than my G70's, actually. Lots of FM type and layers. Again, there's a preset for just about anything you want. Clavs, good, harpsichords, good (but I could do with more variation).

Now some bad news. Organs... terrible! There are a couple of things working against these. Firstly is the samples themselves. Most are derived from older Roland products, back in the day when there was no Leslie sim as part of the Canvas palette. So most of them have some Leslie sampled into them, usually slow. The problem now comes when these already Leslied organs are run through the GW's effects, which DO have a Leslie sim in them... A slow Leslie, out of sync with each note, being run through a fast Leslie  Yuck!

So I went through ALL the organs, and yes, there are a few without any sampled Leslie. But those, the factory MFX Leslie is set up pretty poorly. You CAN edit it and save a User Tone, so all is not lost, and you can set a fixed velocity for the part, so you don't get velocity sensitive organ (so wrong!). You'll need an expression pedal, though. There are some boneheaded voicing decisions here (more on this later), including slathering chorus onto an organ sound after it has already gone through the Leslie sim   The default parameter settings for both Leslie sims (one regular, one VK - a bit more mellow) are just terrible. You can do a LOT better editing these.

By the way, on the Latin GW, some of the better B3's are in the 'World' category. Some of them have slow Leslie and change to fast when the mod wheel is raised, but this has little practical use, as the paddle wheel is sprung, and can't stay on fast. Some of them have extra drawbars that get added when you push the lever... same issues there, IMO.

To be honest, OK, I did, with quite some trouble, manage to edit a few to usability, but I had to throw away just about ALL the factory programming, audition them carefully to find the few that DIDN'T already have a Leslie sampled into the sound, and completely reprogram the Leslie sim so it wasn't plain horrible (lessening the 'spread' value helped a lot). This area of the sound just goes to illustrate how piecemeal some of the soundset is. Some of it goes back to Canvas days, some SRX, some Fantom, some Sonic Cell. But there's little consistency in the programming, and some obvious clunkers due to CC's being needed to control the sound that the GW just can't provide, live.

So, a push... With work, it's usable, but nothing to write home about...

Guitars... OK, first, I'm going to talk about something else.  It baffles me just how inconsistent the effects programming is on MOST of the GW sounds. One guitar will be nearly bone dry, and one will be drenched in reverb, another will have a tiny room, another some timed echos, but not much of it is related to the sound. For me, personally, I would have to go through all my favorites, load them into a Performance, and save those as 'Favorites'. It's just not what I'd call a very 'consistent' sound set. Pull one sound in from the Factory ROM, and you are likely to have to dive for the volume control or effects knobs in a hurry.

Now, for someone using a Sonic Cell in a WS environment, where everything is set up in advance and the controller likely DOES have enough knobs and levers to control the voice, this should be no problem. But in something this preset, it's a hassle no doubt.

OK back to guitars. Acoustics, very good, especially with a whole extra bunch in the "world' section, including a gorgeous 12 string, and the most playable mandolin I have ever used. Straight notes on the keys, raise the lever, you have a nice tremolo. With practice, it's uncanny! Good resonator dobro, too...

Electrics cover all the basses ( ) The MFX distortion helps a lot here, but again, you have to watch out for volumes. Not a very consistent batch. Quite a few with 'dive bomb' down bend ranges, but that CAN be defeated in a Performance.

Basses cover all the basses   In fact, a lot better than my G70. Fat finger basses are MUCH better (I simply HAVE to break down and buy SRX-07 for better basses one day!), acoustics are good. Pick basses good (although, at times I almost felt like there was TOO much lows, but that's fixable). Fretless, synth basses, all good, all usable, all with room shaking bottom (that's much improved over the G70).

Strings... Good violin and cello (better than my G70) but darn near dry. I just can't stop thinking 'what drugs were they on at the voicing team?' Other than that, your pretty much set here. Marcato, staccato, pizzicato, big ensemble, small ensemble, Woodwind layers, big layered tutti stuff. I could probably do a decent classical score with some work... My favorite sound is to layer a medium string section with 1260 Vn+Va+Ct. - smooth, but with a bit of bite and detail to the line.

Woodwinds... not great, IMO. Very little choice (but some better flutes in the "World' section, including a great SingingFlute for the Tull and Focus fans!). Enough to get by, but not stellar.

Brass, not great again. I miss my SFZ Brass from the G70. Again there's a bunch more in the World section, but it's heavily weighted to those awful Latin horns with a vibrato that would kill even Burt Kaempfurt! There's SOME good stuff there, but on the whole, it's weak, for a Roland (my G70 is better). Strangely, after the Canvas era great french horns, they're gone, and there's not much french horn variety.

Saxes, again pretty weak, IMO. Nothing close to my G70. (I got to keep saying to myself 'but it's $895!). Again, most of the best ones are in the World expansion section. Best thing to do with these is layer them with a brass sound and get a good section sound!

OK, synths... nothing but thumbs up here... Everything you could ever want, and then some! Roland, doing what they do best!  Some great arp stuff, but not tempo synced (at least not to the arranger - maybe SMF?).

OK, drums... much improved over the Canvas, but at a cost. Sorry, guys, but the days of GS are GONE  You'll have to do some editing to get older SMF's to work with these. Foot closed HH is now half open (has been for a while, though), some toms are flams, some are velocity switched flams, the handclap on D# is now a 'ghost' snare note/roll. Nothing I haven't had to deal with on my G70's V-Drum kits, but be aware when plugging in older SMF's...

Great selection of different kits, lots of vel-switching, great dynamics. Then there are some great menu kits, every snare, every hi-hat, every tom, etc.. But still no USER KIT. So using these in a style means picking one kit and sticking to it. Which is a shame because... in the World section there are some GREAT latin kits and menu kits of just about everything you might need, including (drum roll please...) finally a back and forth tambourine, which GS guys have been waiting for a LONG time! The latin stuff is GREAT (as it should be!) But in Style mode, good old Roland STILL only give you ONE drum track. So if you want those latin percussions, you have to use a Latin kit that has some of them (there are too many to even fit in one kit!).

This is one area where the Sonic Cell roots show badly. As an SMF module, this thing shines. You can have multiple kits. no problem. But style mode is more restrictive. Roland better give us either multiple drum tracks, or User kits, or both, pretty soon!

But, overall, thumbs up to the GW drums, and the styles definitely show them to their best. Great dynamics, detail, punch, in your face!

Well... that's the good news... mostly. 

Next up is the operational aspects.

« Last Edit: October 17, 2008, 07:25:09 AM by Diki » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2008, 07:28:10 AM »

Pt.2...

Quote
OK... I'm back... I went to the smallest room, and said to myself 'but it's only $895!' over and over again till I was finished.  Tongue  I'm not sure how much it helped  Shocked

Here's where I have a problem... The styles are completely UNEDITABLE! You can turn a Part off, or change it's volume... THAT'S IT! No pan, no changing a sound, no changing effects, no NOTHING! The included software is a strictly 'SMF to style' conversion program, there's no way to get the style out of the machine (AFAIK) and edit it outboard. I wanted to try a few in my G70, but no go!

Here's where it REALLY hurts. There's an MFX insert effect just for the style. But you can't edit it, assign it, unassign it, anything. It makes for GREAT rock rhythm guitar parts, but they are TOO LOUD! And guess what happens when you turn them down... Yep, it turns down the sound going INTO the distortion, not the final output of the amp sim. And you have to dial the part volume down to about 3 or 4 (out of 127  ) before there's hardly any volume drop!

So.... You'd better LOVE the styles! Because short of muting parts, there's not a damn thing you can do to them! This thing is CRYING out for a style editor, the one thing Roland got completely RIGHT on the E and G-series

Talking about muting parts... forget turning the ACC off and on in a hurry. Part muting is done with individual mute buttons done with the wheel and navigation buttons. Muting ONE part might be doable live, but not the whole lot (and still leave D&B going)

{But it's only $895!  Shocked )

OK, the styles section... Something is different... The fills don't transition as smoothly as the E and G-series. Notes get re-triggered when you push the fill button sometimes. Nothing out of time, just not as smooth as the G70, etc.. In fact, it reminds me a bit of the Korg problem, in a way... No idea why, but this better NOT trickle UP to newer high end arrangers...

Three fewer fills than the E/G's, but still four Intros, endings and Variations.. Tap tempo is very accurate. Buttons are in a good place except for the button that turns off bass and ACC but leaves the drums going. It is RIGHT next to the D-Beam, and accidentally triggers whatever that is programmed for most times you touch it.

Overall, I'm impressed by many of the styles, baffled by some of the mix choices, though (more drugs in Roland's style dept., I think!), but overall, for the price, pretty impressed. I've never had a cheap arranger, tried a few. Compared to an S500 (roughly the same price) this thing rocks! Full sounding, punchy, very live sounding, MUCH better keybed and display, light as a feather but solidly built (why can't Yamaha manage this?  Angry ).

BUT..... this thing is not a tweaker's dream come true. Without style EDITING software, you either love the styles, or you can't use them. Same for SMF's. You'd better have something like Cubase to re-mix and voice your SMF's to get the best out of this (but what new thing DOESN'T need this anyway?! I had to do it for my G70, but at least there, the tools exist to easily revoice styles and SMF's)

Overall, for me, it's a push... I would love one as a 'backpacker' keyboard, light enough to go anywhere (but no speakers, damnit!), sounds are strong enough to not make me cringe much of the time (can't say that for much else in this range), and there are a bunch of sounds in here I would DIE to have in my G70. OTOH, my G has some essentials I can't do without (the B3, for instance) and everything I need to tweak until satisfied. OTOH, it's $2500 MORE than the GW!

I am tempted, I must admit. There are times I want to walk around with the lightest thing I can carry, and do 75% of what my full rig can do, on just a little toss around backup keyboard. I can record my G70 to audio, and use the GW to play IT'S great sound (plus add my K2500 and Triton for their best sounds, too) on a gig, or LH bass and just use the great drum patterns.

But as a primary arranger, I would feel limited, and would probably go for something else. Neither flesh nor fowl, neither straight ahead arranger nor loopstation WS, it straddles both. How successfully, you try for yourself. For me, this seems like a great 'go out and jam, no pressure' type of keyboard, that could cover as a decent backup for the G70 for gigs where weight or size are an important factor. I took it out last night to jam with a great guitarist (Chris Clifton - used to be with James Taylor and many others) and his band, and they loved it! (except the organs. I think I have some better presets now). Not too shabby...

But it's only $895! 

My friend tried to get it back today... I told him I needed to do more work on it! That's probably a sign 
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« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2008, 08:14:52 AM »

diki, great review! it's been a really nice way to start my day! Smiley
if i am not wrong, a while ago you also gave a try to the E50/60. would be just great if you could tell me, my E60 is it still the first choice or not anymore, sound-wise and feature-wise?
i believe it is, right?
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« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2008, 09:50:53 AM »

Sorry, not me... I have yet to even SEE one of these in my area! Our local dealer refuses to carry the arranger lines.

But I'm fairly familiar with what the E60 does. Soundwise, I think that the GW-8 hold up pretty well against the E60, a bit short in some areas, better in others. But as an ARRANGER, the E60 blows the GW away! The complete lack of any editing for the styles is the BIG letdown. I rarely agree with any factory decisions, but at least Makeup Tools makes it a snap to fix. Not so the GW.

Plus the GW has no Mark/Jump capability, so reordering SMF's is right out... This is starting to become my preferred way of working, with the flexibility of arrangement of arranger mode, but the left hand freedom of SMF's.

I see little point in replacing an E60 with a GW-8. You MIGHT look at simply a Sonic Cell as an expansion module if the sounds REALLY float your boat, though...
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« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2008, 11:19:42 AM »

i see. well, it is mostly to confirm what i thought also. i wouldn't change my E60 for GW8 anyway, even if only for the onboard speakers (i NEED those) and 76 keys, but i want to kind of encourage myself that a future MOTL Roland arranger will be an improvement over actual E series.
i guess it's gonna past another two-three years before i should consider making some change, that is if korg wont come up with a 76 keys version of pa500 very soon. Wink
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« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2008, 08:26:50 PM »

Diki,

Have you found the Piano Mode yet? Bad news for you and me if they've abandoned it for future models.

Richard
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« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2008, 12:19:17 AM »

No, they still have Piano Mode chord recognition and a full keyboard zone...

I can't see anyone abandoning that, Then again, I never thought they would drop the Chord Sequencer, either! Roll Eyes
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« Reply #7 on: October 20, 2008, 09:34:16 AM »

I can't see any mention in the manual about left-hand pianomode - play three or more notes for a chord, one or two to improvise. Can you confirm that you can do that, and what mode you use? Seems to me that there is a full-keyboard pianomode but not a split one. Hope you can refute that!

Cheers
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« Reply #8 on: October 20, 2008, 08:29:31 PM »

The mode, just as in the G70, is not dependent on how the keyboard is split (or not). You can use any mode, either way.

The mode is stored in the Performance (kind of like a UPG) but is not as easy to get to or change in a hurry like the G70, though. But if you wanted to change in the middle of a piece, you could always have adjacent Performances with Standard and Pianostyle selected. There's a Hold capability for style, Tone and Tempo, so it should be smooth enough. Didn't try it.

What it DOES do, and our higher up arrangers can't, though, is change those modes without cutting OFF the ACC parts...

So Roland, we know it can be done! When are you ever going to fix this? There is NO REASON you would WANT to have the ACC cut out, just because you went from Pianostyle to Standard and back.
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« Reply #9 on: October 20, 2008, 09:11:49 PM »

Here's the GW-8L style list

* GW-8L_stylelist_e1.pdf (35.14 KB - downloaded 616 times.)
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« Reply #10 on: October 20, 2008, 09:46:47 PM »

Well, there's more Cumbias than you can shake your maracas at, so this must be the Latin list. I've also found a European list (never heard of many of them) and a Chinese one.

Where's the Brit/American list? A few more decent Slow Rocks and some 50s/60s pop styles would be nice (showing my age now  Grin ).

Am I missing something ?

Richard
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« Reply #11 on: October 20, 2008, 10:19:49 PM »

No US/UK version...  Angry Roll Eyes

I guess most of our music nowadays is more loop/WS based.

They DO seem to take G70 styles pretty well, with maybe a bit of work with the Makeup Tools or Style Composer to get the right PC/CC32/00 codes into it...

Possibly, after they are out for a while, either EMC will come out with a version (shouldn't be much of a change from the G70 version) of their software, or someone with BOTH will do a conversion for us.

But yes, it pretty much shows what Roland think of the (lack of) US/UK market for this. An obvious opportunity missed, IMO. A hundred Hiphop and Rap, Techno and Alternative Rock styles (the soundset is ideal for this type of music) would catapult this thing to the top of the charts over here. Nothing else short of a MiniMo even TRIES to address this market. At it's price point, it would be the 'must-have' Xmas toy for all musically inclined kids... It doesn't even NEED speakers, because they are all jacked into their iPods, these days anyway!
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« Reply #12 on: March 06, 2009, 03:27:26 AM »

i'm more than a little disappointed in this keyboard. the (badly written) manual states that MFX are only available for the upper/lower parts which are played live, and i can understand that - i even expected it. but what burns me is that common parameters like Attack, LFO/vibrato etc. seem to fall into the same basket, i.e. if i reduce the attack of the Oboe and add a little vibrato to sweeten it, and then play that tone back via Sonar/MIDI, i hear the plain unedited version. many of the bad sounds could be rescued by envelope/LFO tweaking, but they are unavailable to me. the manual merely states that these parameters are stored in the saved Performance - no mention of them being unavailable for anything but live playing.

after spending ages trying to make sure i hadn't made some mistake or missed some point, i have to conclude that the manual is lying to me, and this keyboard will never do what it was bought for. i do all my sequencing on Sonar, and was assured by the guy at the shop that this would work brilliantly in such an environment, and would take the strain off my ancient JV-80. now i find that the JV-80 still has to carry the weight, with the GW-8 only being useful for the odd track here and there. bah.

has no 'LastSet' state so that it will boot up how i previously left it - Performance/Song/etc. needs to be selected every time i turn it on. effects in saved Performances reset to default every time it's turned on.

not happy. it has lots of extra fruit i'll never use, but none of the critical basics. 5 out of 10, Roland. not happy.
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« Reply #13 on: March 06, 2009, 01:32:45 PM »

Hi guys,I'm very happy with GW8L (latin model) its a great keyboard for the price (900.00$).I agree, some voices are great and some are terrible,about the styles,,,,what you ear is what you get.Very nice Latin styles,that's why I bought this keyboard because I'm a Latin lovers, but it can't be your primary machine,its a good complement,I use this keyboard with my S900,,this is my preference,,of course the GW8 is not my E60 and my S900 and its not a G70 but if you want a good complement for Latin styles or Euro styles (GW8E),nice synths sounds ,nice world section,drums kit a many more nice performance,so I think you need one for the price,if you add this one with your E60,E80,G70 what ever,,,you'll love it.

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« Reply #14 on: March 07, 2009, 04:00:38 AM »

Quote
but it can't be your primary machine,its a good complement
yeah, i guess that's my main gripe. i sort of feel like i bought a car with cruise control, GPS, turbo and 6 speed auto... and as i'm driving out of the car yard, the salesman shouts "you're going to love that car! just make sure you keep it off the roads, or it will stall! it's for gravel tracks only"

the 128-voice polyphony was what sold me on the GW-8; anything else in the same price bracket was 64-voice or less. but i didn't join here to moan, i'm more interested in hearing from someone using a GW-8 in a purely MIDI environment and who has some workarounds for its shortcomings - i.e. there must be a way of getting around some of these things via SysEx, even if it's just setting up the effects etc. on startup

(incidentally, seeing as my old JV-80 is now my main keyboard again i really need to fix the nasty zipper noise/power supply buzz it has developed. does anyone know of a techy website that might be helpful? i don't want to have to replace every component in the PSU just so i know i replaced the bad one)
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« Reply #15 on: March 07, 2009, 06:20:07 PM »

But at the price it is at, Clive, you didn't really buy a car... you bought a moped! Tongue

Expecting it, at that price, to BE a touring car with turbo, cruise control, etc. is a little optimistic...
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« Reply #16 on: March 08, 2009, 02:09:07 AM »

Quote
Expecting it, at that price, to BE a touring car with turbo, cruise control, etc. is a little optimistic...
well the trend for electronics gear over time is that it gets more capable but cheaper with each incarnation, and i expected sound gear to follow suit. my newest mobile phone was cheaper than my old 2004 one, but has colour display, mp3 player, radio, scheduler... my newest PC cost 2/3 the price of my old one, but outstrips the old by a factor of 4:1 in HD size, RAM and speed.

the GW-8 is the *only* synth keyboard i've come across that won't let you rename sounds or move them around, or play what you've edited be it via local input or MIDI, and is therefore *less* capable overall than a multi-timbral synth made 15 years previous. judging by what i've read on other roland forums, the majority of people are expecting it to have the same functionality that i was.

the brochure makes several statements, here's a few:
"It’s especially well-suited for “one-man-band” performance."
"the GW-8 rivals any workstation on the planet with its rich, expressive sound."
"Contemporary music workstation with high-quality 128-voice sound engine derived from Roland’s renowned Fantom-X Series"

...yes it's no touring car by a long shot, but it was certainly made to sound like one on paper. i'd better adjust my rating, i guess. 4 out of 10.

anyhow, things are how they are, and talking won't change it - time to stop focusing on what it can't do, and start using what it can... and to fix my JV-80.
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« Reply #17 on: March 08, 2009, 02:47:24 PM »

Right on Clive,now you understand,use it for what he can do and not for what he can't do,like I mention before,I use this one for a complement for my Latin stuff only,may be its expensive for Latin styles only,, but I'm very happy for what he can do,like Diki said ,,, its a moped but he's got an engine of course is not a turbo but its ok and don't forget its only 900.00$.

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« Reply #18 on: March 08, 2009, 02:51:39 PM »

BTW,,,go on you tube and check what John Maul can do with the GW8 and the Latino guy,,don't remember the name,,but not the one with long hair at the NAMM show,,the other one,,he's got 5 or 6 videos with the GW8,,its very acceptable for the price.

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« Last Edit: March 08, 2009, 02:57:18 PM by denys » Logged
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« Reply #19 on: October 03, 2011, 10:31:21 PM »

I found the "Singing Flute" in the video clip, but the manual's tone list ends at 1193. No "1270" and no "singing flute". Could it be, it was planned only?
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« Reply #20 on: October 04, 2011, 03:57:06 AM »

But at the price it is at, Clive, you didn't really buy a car... you bought a moped! Tongue
Expecting it, at that price, to BE a touring car with turbo, cruise control, etc. is a little optimistic...

GW-8 is a moped indeed, at the same time definitely not price-tag driven.
 -Take for example PA50 from Korg stable is superior and cheaper compared to this GW8.
 -It has multiple effect processors, user tones, tempo lock, wonderful UI.

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