« Synthesizer Library Podcast

Episode 011 - Roland RS-09

Published: Mar 02, 2016 by Adam Anderson

Discover the beauty and quirks of a classic Roland string machine. Plus, a phase distortion follow up; and a pointless contest!
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Show Notes

What It Is

The Roland RS-09 is a vintage organ/string synthesizer. Combining organ and string sounds together makes it really handy—although you can choose to play only organ or only strings. And the inclusion of analog chorus really helps fatten up the sound.

Vibrato (LFO)

The vibrato section of the synth is really an LFO permanently set to control the pitch of the outputs from both the organ and string section of the synth. When only playing the organ section, the vibrato adds interest similar to a rotary speaker. (Although not nearly as exciting as the mighty Leslie speaker.) When playing the string section, vibrato re-creates the rapidly changing pitch a string player provides.


While you probably won’t buy the RS-09 for its organ sounds, the organ supports the string section by rounding out the overall sound when mixed together. If you’re used to the drawbars of a Hammond organ, the footage sliders will feel instantly comfortable. Organ I and Organ II buttons can be enabled individually or together. Organ II is a higher-octave, brighter sound from Organ I. The ensemble button within the organ controls enables chorus on just the organ.


This is where the RS-09 really shines. Two separate ranges of strings can be enabled together or separately. Unlike the organ section, the strings can be set to swell in gradually by using its dedicated attack control. When combined with the organ, a gradual attack on the strings creates a tone that evolves slowly and naturally. The strings also have a control to enable ensemble, and the combination of the strings with the ensemble (chorus) is really the sound you’re looking for from a string synth. Big, fat and synthy.

Decay and Ensemble (chorus)

Next to the string section is a decay control which controls both the organ and strings. Setting this all the way up makes for a very long sustained sound.

The ensemble section has only one control: I or II. Ensemble one is more of an abstract, electronic chorus while ensemble two is a natural, smoother chorus. As mentioned, the organ and string sections have separate controls to enable the ensemble. As a bonus, the RS-09 includes an external input jack. A signal brought in here is routed through the chorus.

Do you need it?

Of course you do ;)

If you’re looking for vintage synth strings, the RS-09 is a contender. If you’re scoring an orchestral soundtrack, don’t expect the RS-09 (or any vintage string synth) to sound like a real string section. It sounds like a synth—with occasional quirky, unpredictable nuances.