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13 years ago @ Synthtopia - Roland Intros C-30 Dig... · 0 replies · +2 points

This may seem unreasonable to some, and I readily grant that it's primarily an emotional reaction and not an entirely rational one, but the Roland C-30 put me off from the moment I first saw a photograph of it. Maybe it's those stained glass panels, which look as if they were scavenged from an 1890s brownstone before it was demolished, but the thing simply reeks of a Victorian aesthetic.

Roland wants us to believe it was inspired by a virginal (and somebody here has suggested that a better comparison would be to a clavichord), but in point of fact the instrument it most evokes for me is a small harmonium minus the treadles, despite the fact that it doesn't really look much like one in a literal sense. Nevertheless, it belongs in the parlour of somebody's maiden aunt, and this would still be true even without the glass panels or other decoration. The design is just viscerally wrong for a harpsichord. It looks as if somebody built a retro-steampunk case to house a vanilla electronic keyboard. Somebody seeing it for the first time with no prior knowledge about it would have no intuitive idea what it was, and in my book that makes it a failure from a visual standpoint, regardless of other considerations. An instrument ought to telegraph to an informed eye and brain what it is, even before it makes a sound, and if it doesn't do that, then something's wrong.

Despite the fact that its predecessors were technically less sophisticated and with far fewer bells and whistles and musical options, the plain fact remains that the C-20, the C-50 and the C-80 all looked unmistakably like harpsichords, whereas the C-30 looks like an anachronistic and misconceived emblem of the long fallow period between the instrument's sad decline and its eventual revival, a time when harpsichords were despised and reviled and ignored. Why design an instrument to look like an artifact of an age when no new ones were being made and the existing survivors got no respect?

It may be foolish or shortsighted to judge an instrument this strongly in terms of its appearance, but I think there has been a fundamental error of conceptual design on Roland's part, and that is unfortunate. Remember, I'm talking about the overall visual effect here, not the electronics. I respect Roland's engineering accomplishments here, but the totality nonetheless remains relevant. For some people the looks and the intangibles they convey may not matter, but for others, these things are essential components of the overall experience of interacting with an instrument, and not something that can be severed from how one feels about it and casually isolated and factored out of the mental equation.

Call me subjective or eccentric or crotchety, but I just can't get past it. I don't care how good the thing sounds, I simply can't bring myself even to covet one. (And that's really saying something, because my fantasy life about harpsichords of every size and shape and sort is intense -- indeed, my harpsichord-lust is often sufficiently lurid to be unsuitable for recounting in mixed company!)

As someone here has already suggested, check out the Hoffrichter DS-30 instead, whose case looks very much like the old Roland C-80. It has proper wooden keys, three organ stops, a celeste, and the harpsichord is 4-8-8-16, with both a nasal and a lute. (Love the sixteen! You don't have to be a fan of Landowska's Pleyel to believe that an ideal harpsichord should have one.) Now that's something I can drool over!