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Gearhead: More Roland 50th-Anniversary Rollouts

The manufacturer keeps its festivities going with a "concept" tech tour, plus five other notable new products

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Roland's D-Flux
Roland’s D-Flux

Remember back in the spring, when we reported on the Roland Corporation’s 50th anniversary and hinted that there would be multiple products launched this year in celebration? Well, that has indeed come to pass, with the debut of history-acknowledging effects units like the BOSS RE-2 and RE-202 Space Echo (repackaging a 1970s classic in foot-pedal form) and synthesizers like the JUNO-X (an update of an ’80s favorite). Now the folks at Roland have taken anniversary mania to what may be its peak level, announcing three very exclusive new releases: an electronic drum kit, an electronic piano, and a new-school take on an analog synth. At the same time, they’ve published three articles on the anniversary section of their website highlighting the history of—yes, you guessed it—Roland electronic drums, pianos, and synthesizers. 

These three new releases are referred to as “concept models,” which may make more sense to you shortly. But first, some details. The drum kit is called the D-Flux, and longtime Roland watchers will note that its mesh pads have inherited the geometric shape of the company’s 1985 α (Alpha) Drum, which was one of the first electronic kits to adopt digital PCM waveform synthesis in the quest to achieve a more realistic sound. Multiple D-Flux tones can be assigned to a single pad—up to three in the center and another three around the rim, enabling a user to play chords if desired. For the kick drum, Roland developed a unique belt kick feature with two beaters and two belts; either one can be used independently for greater dynamic range.

Roland's 50th Anniversary Concept Model Piano
Roland’s 50th Anniversary Concept Model Piano

As for the piano, it’s an eye-catcher for sure: a collaboration with the Japanese furniture maker Karimoku called simply the 50th Anniversary Concept Model Piano. Its one-piece molded body, incorporating multiple layers of Nara oak, evokes a futuristic space egg, especially when the top lid’s closed, and of course there’s a matching stool. The Roland PureAcoustic Modeling engine is employed for sonic realism, and a patent-pending sense algorithm responds in the way you’d expect to different degrees of touch on both keys and pedals.

Roland's JUPITER-X 50th Anniversary synthesizer
Roland’s JUPITER-X 50th Anniversary synthesizer

Finally, there’s the JUPITER-X 50th Anniversary synthesizer. Its design may be highly retro—reminiscent of that fabled analog wonder, 1981’s JUPITER-8—but its inner workings are far more technologically advanced than an ’80s synth: all-digital and making use of the ZEN-Core Synthesis System that Roland introduced three years ago. The black keyboard with gold accents will undoubtedly attract plenty of attention too.

By now, you may be wondering where you can check out all this cool new stuff—and the answer to that question is a bit tricky. Remember when I said that these “concept” models were very exclusive? I meant very exclusive … as in not for sale. At all. Instead, they’re touring the world, like some kind of high-tech celebrities. I guess some concepts are meant to rise above mere commercial considerations? In any case, the best I can tell you to do is check the anniversary section of Roland’s website ( and see where they’re headed next.


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Mac Randall

Mac Randall

Mac Randall served a the editor of JazzTimes from May 2018 through January 2023. Prior to that, he wrote regularly for the magazine. He has written about numerous genres of music for a wide variety of publications over the past 30 years, including Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, The New York Observer, Mojo, and Guitar Aficionado, and he has worked on the editorial staffs of Musician, LAUNCH (now Yahoo! Music), Guitar One, Teaching Music, Music Alive!, and In Tune Monthly. He is the author of two books, Exit Music: The Radiohead Story and 101 Great Playlists. He lives in New York City.