Roland Lucina AX-09 Review

roland-lucina-ax-09

This is my new toy so I thought I’d write a review about it.

First up, it is NOT an Ax Synth. As much as I’d love an Roland Ax Synth I cannot really justify spending twelve hundred or so bucks on what is basically something to ‘mess around with’ at the jam session I go to. Well, not right now anyway, maybe sometime in the future.

However with a list price of $599 this is the next best thing. In fact I got it a deal on it (brand new) and only paid $539 for it before all the ‘extras’ of course. The extras were a new amp cable and a three year warranty and tax of course. In the end I paid $650 and walked out the shop a happy camper!

The only down side is that I promised the wife that I’d sell some of my old equipment to help pay for it, which is not that bad really as I don’t use it anyway.

The old AX series of keytars like the AX-1, AX-7 etc were simply fancy midi controllers so you still needed some sort of synth engine to actually hear anything.

The Lucina (like the Ax Synth) has its own built in synth engine so it becomes a self contained performance instrument.

First Impressions

This thing is cool, AND great fun. It almost makes me believe that I can actually play!

Shoulder Strap

Since I am a tall guy, the supplied shoulder strap is a little short for me but I can work with it for now. I suspect that I shall be getting something a little longer soon though. Since I’ve only ever played a normal keyboard or piano, playing a keyboard in the guitar position takes a little getting used to but I seem to have adapted pretty quickly to it.

Batteries & Power Supply

This thing EATS regular alkali batteries. It takes 8. The manual says they will last about 4 hours and that seems to be about right but 4 hours passes pretty quickly when you are playing this thing. I went and got some rechargeable ones the next day.

You can run it from the provided power supply but then you are tied to a mains outlet and now have at least two cables running from the synth, one for the power and at least one for the amp(can use two if you want stereo). That’s OK for home use but not on a stage or even in a jam session when you want to move around (which is why I got this baby, I got fed up of being stuck in a corner).

Keyboard

After playing a regular piano and keyboard I was worried that the three octave keyboard would be too small but in fact, it is fine. You only really play this baby with the right hand anyway and there are octave up and down keys to move the effective range of the keyboard up and down an octave at a time. These buttons are pretty easy to reach as well with either hand so it’s easy to change the keyboard range on the fly.

The keys themselves are pretty standard synth style sprung keys with little weight behind them so at least it’s not tiring to play. Personally I quite like the feel, such as it is.

Sounds

Well, this is why you buy these things isn’t it. Overall I think the selection of sounds is ‘adequate’. That’s a polite way of saying they are not earth shattering.

There are six banks of 24 sounds. Each bank is selected by one of the big buttons below the keyboard numbered 1 to 6 and then you have to scroll up and down the 24 choices to find the voice you want within that bank.

The buttons light up with this cool blue light when they are selected.

The current voice within the bank is shown on a dinky 3 digit seven segment led display. Think 1980’s alarm clock! Basic but it works.

So far I’ve found a few sounds that I like enough to use with songs. You can save up to 12 favorite settings (bank/voice combinations) in two banks of 6 (named A and B). Select the A or B bank and then the selection by pressing one of the 6 bank buttons to recall the setting. I’ve not messed with this yet but I suspect it will make changing settings during a performance pretty easy.

There are also 6 ‘special sounds’. The one I really like is called ‘Jazz Scat’. Sounds a lot like a voice going ‘ooooo’ but with a slight edge to it.

Although the keyboard itself is polyphonic, many of the sounds are mono so no chords which I think sorta sucks. Why not make them all poly and let me just play single notes if I want mono. I am guessing it’s down to limitations of the synth engine but I don’t really know for sure.

As I said earlier, this is NOT an Ax Synth. Although there is a USB connection so you can hook it up to a computer I did not see any mention of software in the manual (I could have missed it though, I have only skimmed the manual so far) but from what I’ve read elsewhere, I think sound editing is very limited. I shall update this when I know more.

Left Hand

The left hand controls consist of a modulation bar and a touch controller for bending notes. I ‘think’ you can change the effects that both of these have. Again, I need to read the manual again to confirm this.

I’ve got fairly chunky hands but I don’t have a problem using the modulation bar and touch controller controls in spite of the fact that you have to put your hand though the hole in the left side to grip the unit.

The are six buttons, a volume knob and a D beam sensor on the left side. To be honest I think the placement of these is pretty poor. You pretty much have to reach over the top of the unit and bend you head over the unit to see what you are doing and use any of them.

I don’t know why they didn’t at least put the D beam sensor on the back where you could use your thumb to control it. I think the Ax Synth is like that.

USB Slot

This has to be my all time favorite feature. Plug a USB drive in here with some mp3 (I think WAV are OK as well) files on it and you can play them though the unit and play along to them.

As you select each file, using one of the buttons on the front panel (which means reaching over the top of the unit and craning your neck to see shat you are doing) and the inc/dec buttons below the keyboard, the unit displays the first three characters of the file name on the dinky little 3 character 7 segment display.

If you’ve ever seen letters displayed on a 7 segment display you will quickly understand that this is pretty much useless. I have found it much easier to simply make the first three characters of each file name a number, 001,002 etc and have a list of what song corresponds to each file number. Plus, by numbering them I can easily renumber them to change the order they show up in as a scroll through them on the display.

User Interface

As already mentions the user interface consists of a load of big rubber buttons that light up this cool blue color when selected and the dinky 3 digit, 7 segment display.

I guess that in order to keep costs down and minimize the number of buttons, many of the actions require that you press several of these buttons in turn to achieve whatever it is you are doing.

Fortunately selecting sounds is pretty simply but for pretty much anything else keep the user manual handy until you’ve used it for a while and learn all the combinations. Or if you’re like me, just accept you’ll never learn it all and just keep the book around.

 

Conclusion

I’m not a professional musician, just some middle aged guy that like to make a noise once in while and have a bit of fun. I don’t regret buying this one bit, it’s the most fun I’ve had with my cloths on for a while (middle age sucks).

If you want to go the whole hog, save up and get the Ax Synth but for plain and simple fun I don’t think you can beat this thing.

I’ll let you know how it goes after my first jam with it later this week.

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One Response to “Roland Lucina AX-09 Review”

  1. Tommy Jones Says:

    I think you will dig this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTisoVVxXL8

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