Main Details
Maker Roland Company
Form Factor Keyboard
Signal Path Analog Hardware
Date Produced 1975-
Notes The RS101 had been commercially overlooked, but its successor, the RS202 String Ensemble was a landmark, introducing the Ensemble Off/I/II switch that was to become Roland's trademark for the next decade. Indeed, the Ensemble defined the 'Roland sound', with the 'II' setting introducing a rich chorus, whereas 'I' produced the faster, deeper ensemble effect that remains widely used to this day.

The RS202 proved adept at producing subtle timbres with a character all their own. Easily distinguished from other manufacturers' ensemble keyboards, it had a transparent quality that sat beautifully in a mix, complementing other instruments, yet never proving uninteresting. Nevertheless, it faced strong competition from the Solina, as well as numerous ensemble keyboards hailing from Castelfidardo in Italy. Many of these sold under well-known Italian brand names — the Logan String Melody, the Elka Rhapsody 490, and so on — but many would later appear with German and even American names, such as the Hohner String Performer, the Wersi String Orchestra, and the ARP Quartet. However, there was soon to be another Italian manufacturer producing 'string synths'. Established in 1976, SIEL would eventually produce a large range of instruments — some under their own name, some rebadged for manufacturers such as Sequential Circuits. Many of these, such as the SIEL Orchestra, would compete directly with Roland's products. It's impossible that Kakehashi could have known the role that SIEL would eventually play in the development of Roland, but the company became highly significant a decade later, as we'll see in a later part of this history.


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