Roland Fantom 8 Review

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We rated the Roland Fantom 10/10. This high-end workstation keyboard and synthesizer is semi-weighted and has 88 full-sized keys and aftertouch. We love the crispness of this instrument and the expendable sound engine. The updated sequencer and multiple mic inputs are two other notable features in this model. Since this hybrid-built instrument serves so many musicians well, we decided to give it a full 10!

We rated the Roland Fantom 10/10. This high-end workstation keyboard and synthesizer is semi-weighted and has 88 full-sized keys and aftertouch. We love the crispness of this instrument and the expendable sound engine. The updated sequencer and multiple mic inputs are two other notable features in this model. Since this hybrid-built instrument serves so many musicians well, we decided to give it a full 10!

Roland Fantom 8 Overview

Roland Fantom 8 review

The Roland Fantom 8 is a synthesizer and workstation keyboard. It is also this company’s current flagship synth! In this Roland Fantom 8 review, we will be taking a peek at the pros and cons, specs, and features of the instrument. 

At every turn, FANTOM fulfills the need to create. Its smooth, rapid workflow has no confusing modes, frustrating technical limits, or trade-offs with sound quality. FANTOM’s creative process reflects how today’s musicians work, with fluid composition tools, instantly recallable creative environments, and deep computer integration. “ (Amazon.com)

The instrument is also known for its great connectivity: 

“Connectivity

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.” (Amazon.com)

Roland 8 Feature

Hybrid Build

Like many high-end keyboards, the Roland Fantom 8 is built with a hybrid of wood and plastic. 

Expendable Sound Engine 

Up to 88 Keys and Aftertouch 

Amazon offers several packages of the Roland Fantom, including a 61, 76, and 88 key packages. It is not very common to find a full-sized, 88-key synthesizer. While most models are shortened for the purpose of space and ease of travel, it is really nice to see that this company is taking the leap and giving musicians the option of a flagship model, a full-sized synth. 

Aftertouch is one of those features that almost every musician looking to get a synth is ‘after’ these days. Aftertouch adds more expression to your playing, because it sends more information about the performer’s pressure on the keys, to the system. 

The PHA-50 hammer-action keyboard with escapement is another gold star to add to the Fantom 8. Hammer action is extremely uncommon in synths. 

Ebony and Ivory Feel

While there have been several Roland Fantoms before the 8, this model is the only Fantom to include the simulated ebony and ivory touch. 

MIDI Compatible 

Just plug it in and go. Like the Fantom’s before it, the Roland Fantom 8 is MIDI compatible, so you can produce your own tracks through a USB to MIDI cable. This instrument also offers internal recording as well. You can track up to 16 zones, with 8 patterns per track. 

Multiple Mic Inputs 

This model contains two mic inputs, which gives you even more options when it comes to live performances. 

Updated Sequencer 

The Fantom’s updated pattern sequencer now offers different kinds of sequencing. The TR-REC sequencer 

Sounds Based on Partials and the Overtone Series

The sounds on this instrument were informed by partials/ the overtone series, so they are far more rich and natural sounding than what you will find on many other synths. 

The human ear likes to hear overtones. The overtone series is a mathematical proportion of sound when it is duplicated. If you have a tube (like a flute) and you overblow the same note in order to get a different note (by doubling the airspeed), it would result in the following sequence: 

Root (original note), fifth above, fourth above, major third (above), minor third, etc. As the series goes, the stack of notes actually gets gradually out of tune- but not in a bad way. 

If you are interested in learning more about this theory, check out this Wikipedia page on the Harmonic Series.

Build to be Crisp: Behavior Modeling Chips 

Rolands behavior modeling chips help this instrument to be powerful, and to transition from patch to patch really easily. This piece of hardware is Roland-specific, so you won’t find it in another brand of synth. 

Roland’s Last Analog Synth 

This instrument is technically an analog synth. Roland has stated that, after the Fantom 8 and the Jupiter, they will not be making any more of them! This is all the more reason to get one sooner rather than later. 

Analog synths use different types of oscillators than digital synths. And while many makers argue that digital can successfully replicate the audio of analog, we musicians all know: it simply can’t. Like the old tube amps, there’s just this quality that can’t be replicated digitally. 

Over 3,500 Tones

100 tones? Great. Over 3,000 tones? Even Better. This workstation has a ton of options when it comes to voices. Not to mention, all of these are from Roland’s world-renowned Supernatural sound engine. 

The Fantom 8 boasts 90 drum kits as well. Let’s check out some of the tones before we get to the specs. 

This all-playing no-talking video gives us a good taste of what the Fantom 8 sounds like.

Here was my impression and thoughts of the voices:

  • The lows and gritty voices sound rich and blend well
  • The drum sounds are extremely high quality
  • The brass and wind simulation sounds are pretty convincing for synth sounds as well. The quality that the harmonic-informed voice-making had on this instrument was astounding. 
  • While the articulations of synth winds will never be quite the same as that in an orchestra, the feel is so very right
  • The more traditional EDM and other dancey sounds were crisp and profession
  • Some of the drum sets we hear later in the video sound like something you might hear off the radio!

Split and Layer

Splitting and layer will allow creatives even more options within the 3,000 + voice soundbank. Mix and match sounds with different timbres, or layer them on top of each other.

Other Features

Other features included in the Roland Fantom 8 are: skip back sampling, V-link, and a new dynamic pad bank. It also has the first color-LCD screen in a workstation synth. 

The PC slot allows musicians to back up their tracks and other data, as well. The Roland Fantom 8 is an analog synth, like the Jupiter (as we mentioned earlier). While the company was very clear that they won’t be making any more Jupiters, the Roland Fantom 8 actually offers filters from the Roland Jupiter keyboards. 

Specifications

Roland Fantom 8 Price

  • Weight: 59.5 pounds (88-key version)
  • Instrument Type: Workstation Keyboard Synthesizer
  • Mic Inputs: XLR or ÂŒ inch (x 2) 
  • LFO’s: 128 
  • CV / Gate Outputs: 2
  • Pedal Jacks: 4
  • MIDI: In, out, through

Who Is It Suitable For?

The Roland Fantom is suitable for adults of intermediate experience and above. While the price of almost 4k may be a limitation to some, the instrument itself is easily accessible to non-professionals. Sweetwater boasts that the Roland Fantom 8 has ‘no hard modes’, so pretty much any musician can navigate it. In conclusion, the Fantom 8 is great for both hobbyists and professionals, as long as they can afford the hefty price tag. 

The Instrument in Action 

Here is Guitar Center’s overview and demo of the instrument.

According to Scott, the Fantom is going in a different way than the synthesizers before it. It has a unique workflow feel that will suit many different styles of players.  In less than a minute into this 30-minute review, you can hear just how resonant those overtones are. 

Musical artist and director Ashton Miranda did a video on their reaction to the Roland Fantom 8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJmy3aaOBls 

Let’s see what he has to say about this iteration of the Roland Fantom:

  • This is a totally new keyboard
  • It is fantastic
  • He was able to play comfortably with complete expression (for the first time on a Fantom)
  • It has a new CORE sound engine, which has taken sounds into the future 
  • The pads and strings sound as good as the plugins he uses regularly 

To hear a musical director say that the sounds are as good as the plugins that he has (likely paid) thousands of dollars for individually…wow. Just, wow! 

Roland Fantom 8 Pros and Cons

Roland Fantom 8 Keyboard

Pros

  • The Roland Fantom 8 offers multiple packages, so you can choose how many keys you’d like to have on your instrument
  • There are two mic inputs
  • The updated sampling and pattern sequencers allow more options on a Fantom model than ever before
  • One of the sound engine options has unlimited polyphony
  • The other option has 256 notes of polyphony. While many synths are limited in polyphony, this model certainly isn’t 
  • This instrument is analog and multi-timbral
  • The workstation is easy-to-navigate, making it accessible to many players
  • The soundbank was based on the harmonic series, making the sounds more resonant and natural than that of its competitors 
  • You can change almost everything about the sounds within the V-piano engine, including the tuning 
  • The instrument has 1 gig of internal memory 

Cons

  • Because this is a workstation synth, you’ll need to play it with headphones in or connect the instrument to external speakers (there are no internal speakers) 
  • The 88-note version of this instrument weighs almost 50 pounds, which can make it a little difficult to carry. Consider all three of the key lengths before purchasing! 

Amazon Ratings

Despite the Roland Fantom being the newest Roland synth, it only received 3.9 stars on Amazon. Let’s see what the musicians who bought this enjoyed, and what they didn’t: 

What They Liked: 

  • The instrument has been getting gradually better since 2019 given the updates the system has been given
  • It is a competitor with the Yamaha Montage and Korg Kronos 
  • Everything is customizable 
  • The keys are full-sized

What They Didn’t: 

  • The system updates are quite tedious, and often, required, in order to keep using your instrument 

It seems that many of the poor ratings are the result of broken keys in the mail, and system update requirements. The first is in the hands of the post office, and the second is to be expected with an instrument as high-tech as this one. All in all, I didn’t see any big musical dealbreakers with the Roland Fantom 8. 

Roland Fantom 8 Quick View 

Keys 61-88 full-sized, aftertouch keys
Touch sensitivity  Aftertouch-sensitive, hammer-action keybed with escapement
Sounds Expandable Soundbank: 
Recording capabilities  Midi (internal and external) , XLR, Œ Inch
Metronome Yes
Polyphony  256 notes of polyphony in Zencore

Unlimited polyphony in V-piano engine 

Speakers No internal speakers
Headphones Input included
Accessories Limited edition t-shirt with product registration (Amazon) 
Price point  $3,999.99

Comparable Instruments

Keyboards that are often compared to the Roland Fantom 8 include:

The Korg Kronos is quite comparable to the Fantom in price. Like the Fantom, it also has three package options of 61, 73, and 88 keys. The Kronos has a whopping 9 sound engines. And, like the Fantom, it also boasts seamless transition technology. 

The Yamaha Montage is exactly the same price as the Roland Fantom 8, and comes in the three key packages options, too. The hammer action keybed and aftertouch make both instruments solid competitors of one another. I suggest you try both out and see which brands key feel you enjoy the most. 

Some musicians also compare the Roland Fantom 8 to the Nord Stage 3 ($4,699.99) . If you are in the market for a stage keyboard rather than a workstation synth, this is an excellent option.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Roland Fantom 8 is a great full-sized synthesizer workstation. Serious hobbyists to full-blown professional musicians will be more than happy with this beautiful instrument. 

I hope you’ve found this Roland Fantom 8 review to be helpful. Until next time!

10Expert Score
Roland Fantom 8 Review We rated the Roland Fantom 10/10. This high-end workstation keyboard and synthesizer is semi-weighted and has 88 full-sized keys and aftertouch. We love the crispness of this instrument and the expendable sound engine. The updated sequencer and multiple mic inputs are two other notable features in this model. Since this hybrid-built instrument serves so many musicians well, we decided to give it a full 10!
PROS
  • The Roland Fantom 8 offers multiple packages, so you can choose how many keys you’d like to have on your instrument
  • There are two mic inputs
  • The updated sampling and pattern sequencers allow more options on a Fantom model than ever before
  • One of the sound engine options has unlimited polyphony
  • The other option has 256 notes of polyphony. While many synths are limited in polyphony, this model certainly isn’t
  • This instrument is analog and multi-timbral
  • The workstation is easy-to-navigate, making it accessible to many players
  • The soundbank was based on the harmonic series, making the sounds more resonant and natural than that of its competitors
  • You can change almost everything about the sounds within the V-piano engine, including the tuning
  • The instrument has 1 gig of internal memory
CONS
  • Because this is a workstation synth, you’ll need to play it with headphones in or connect the instrument to external speakers (there are no internal speakers)
  • The 88-note version of this instrument weighs almost 50 pounds, which can make it a little difficult to carry. Consider all three of the key lengths before purchasing!

Videos: Roland Fantom 8 Review

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