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Sound Quality

As I mentioned, the GR-33 uses the synth engine from the JV-1080, so you know it is loaded with excellent and useable sounds of every category. There are 128 patches in rom and 128 user spaces. Each patch can have two different tones with separate effects for each. There are a total of 384 tones to choose from to make up a patch, so there is quite an extensive pallet to create from. It also has a fairly decent effects processor with 40 types of editable multi-fx. So while you can't alter most of the building block parameters of the tones, like waveform or LFO, basic things like envelope (attack, sustain, etc) can be tweaked. I understand there are software editors available, but I haven't tried any as it's really so easy to tweak from the panel. There are some excellent presets, as well as some less inspiring ones. But getting in there and layering various tones and altering the effects and editable parameters can yield some interesting results. The kind of music I use it for is ambient electronic/ New Age/ soundscape-type stuff. So the sounds I'm working with are mostly atmospheric pads and special effects. Also choirs, bells, flutes, and strings. There are some great sounds in these categories, but after some tweaking, I've come up with some incredible ambient pads that sound nice by themselves, but especially wonderful when layered with other synth sounds from my keyboard controller. Although I don't use them as much there are also an abundance of "realistic" sounds like piano, bass, drums, brass, organ, ethnic instruments, etc. I'm probably not the best judge of these, but I own and have owned many synths of various kinds, and in my humble opinion, the sounds in the GR-33 compare favorably to what's out there.It's definitely an upgrade from the last Roland guitar-synth which was based on the Sound Canvas. I'm not saying that the piano or orchestral sounds are on the level of say a Kurzweil K2600, but I'd venture to say that they are quite good. Given the overwhelming popularity of the JV-1080, I assume many people would agree. This is a general purpose module that could be used for almost any kind of music - although it doesn't have as much of the type of dance or techno sounds that are found on many contemporary synths. One interesting thing is how the GR-33 responds to a keyboard as compared to a guitar. With guitar-synth controllers, tracking has always been an issue. Some sounds track inherently better than others, although it usually quite easy to "glitch" or mis-trigger a note from the guitar. However with a keyboard controller, it's a non-issue. It triggers like any synth module - perfect every time. I've also noticed that some of the patches that don't sound great with the guitar have a whole different feeling triggered from the keyboard and work much better.


I've had mine for almost 5 years and it's been totally dependable - no trouble with it whatsoever. Generally, I try to gig with backup equipment whenever possible. I don't have another guitar-synth, but I have other synth modules if I was using it with keyboard controller. However, the GR-33 feels relatively low risk for having trouble with, so I wouldn't be as worried as I would with some equipment if I had to play a gig without backup.


General Comments

I've been playing electric guitar for over 30 years and synths for about 15. Before the GR-33 I had a GR-30, and before that a GR-50. Pretty much, whenever Roland makes a significant up-grade, it's time for a trade-in. The GR-33 is the best guitar-synth Roland has produced yet. There's not much on the market that compares, especially at that price. Unless there was something better that came out at the time, I would definitely buy this again.


Using the GR-33, a guitar-synth, with a keyboard controller is obviously not the most common application for it, but it's a great option. It's relatively small, compact, and easy to travel with. Also, having the unit on the floor under the keyboard, allows some good real-time control with the expression pedal and 4 foot switches, especially when using it layered with other synths. Playing it with a keyboard after using it for a long time with guitar, opened up a whole new collection of sounds because of the difference in the way they sound played by guitar and keyboard. Also, I'm editing some patches differently for keyboard use.


This is one of many synths in my rig, including Korg Karma, Triton Rack, Wavestation SR, Kurzweil K2000R, Roland JD-800 & JD-990, Kawai K5000R, and others. But I find that I'm starting to use this a lot as a secondary tone layer with keyboards, especially for live playing. What's especially cool is that in a live setup, I can have the GR-33 ready to be triggered by both guitar and keyboard since they have separate inputs. The GR-33 triggered by guitar can also send a midi out back to the keyboard which opens up a whole other combination of sounds.


So, all in all, it's a pretty versatile module, especially if you think outside the box a bit beyond it's intended usage. I highly recommended it in my previous review for guitarists. Now I would just as highly recommend it for keyboardists as well, especially for it's studio-standard sounds, real-time control options and expression abilities in an integrated, portable package. It's definitely become an essential part of my rig first as a guitarist and now as a synthesist. I don't give out 10's a lot, but for me, this one deserves it.




Reviewer's Background

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