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Roli Equator 2 review

The MPE-centric sound engine comes of age as a fully-rounded power synth

  • £199
Roli Equator 2
(Image: © Roli)

Our Verdict

Equator 2 goes toe-to-toe with any ‘super synth’ on the market, and makes a very convincing case for the power of MPE.

Pros

  • Powerful, well-rounded sound engine.
  • Well-curated library of stock samples and presets.
  • Modulation and expression tools are second to none.

Cons

  • Some elements aren’t the most intuitive.
  • Can’t easily move sample library to an external hard drive.

What is it?

Equator started life as a mostly sample-focused sound engine for use with UK brand Roli’s distinctive Seaboard MPE controllers – modern, silicon-topped keyboard controllers designed for nuanced polyphonic modulation of pitch and timbre.

Across subsequent updates though, Equator has evolved into a powerful softsynth in its own right. However, while version one of Equator was impressive, this second iteration is a noticeable step-up.

Described as able to “go head-to-head with the best sound engines and plugins in the world”, its feature set aptly reads like a ‘best of’ of the ideas being punted in the current softsynth arms race.

Roli Equator 2

(Image credit: Roli)

As is standard these days, Equator is equipped with a range of oscillator modes, offering wavetable, granular, virtual analogue, samples and noise generators. There is a multitude of filter options too.

In a nice touch, somewhat reminiscent of Kilohearts Phase Plant, Equator 2 offers filter/waveshaper slots attached to each oscillator, along with global filters and plenty of flexibility on routing.

Performance and verdict

Modulation ranges from the standard – but flexible – envelopes and LFOs, through to Multi-Mod generators that can be used to design custom modulation envelopes. There are keytracking, maths, random and macro tools too.

For routing, there is a powerful mod matrix – with a slightly slicker and easier-to-use design than Equator’s stable-mates Strobe 2 and Cypher 2 – which allows for custom transfer curves to be set up, refining the response of modulation routings.

The synth engine is rounded out by a multi-slot, flexible effects section stocked with an extensive array of lovely-sounding processors capable of tasks ranging from subtle shaping and enhancement to far-out creativity. As a sound engine then, yes, it can go toe-to-toe with the Phase Plants, Pigments, and Massive Xs of the software world.

Roli Equator 2

(Image credit: Roli)

That’s not to say, however, that Equator 2 has no USP. While MPE control is by no means the be-all and end-all here, an emphasis on expression still informs much of the synth design.

When used in MPE mode, Equator 2 offers custom transfer shapers for tailoring and routing how the five ‘dimensions’ sent from a Roli-style MPE controller modulate the synth’s sound engine.

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Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2 review
Ultimately, Omnisphere 2 is a tremendous follow-up that takes the synth to the next level and beyond. If being at the cutting edge of sound design appears anywhere on your list of music production priorities, it's an instrument that you simply have to own.

In non-MPE mode though, similar tools can be used for shaping monophonic aftertouch, pitchbend and modulation inputs, meaning Equator 2 is equally excellent for nuanced performance using a standard MIDI controller.

Sonically, much of the character comes from the library of stock sample material. This includes wavetables and samples that touch on acoustic instruments, vintage synths and oddball textures, and includes a number of round-robin sounds for added authenticity.

While it’s not exactly Omnisphere in size, the selection is excellent, making Equator 2 particularly good for sounds that blend ‘real’ timbres and instruments with synthesised tones.

When driven by a Seaboard, Linnstrument or other ‘expressive’ controller, the stellar presets here make an incredibly convincing case for the power of MPE, from emulating the nuances of orchestral instruments to ambient patches that let users modulate complex, evolving soundscapes just by holding down a chord. This really is an excellent update all round.

MusicRadar verdict: Equator 2 goes toe-to-toe with any ‘super synth’ on the market, and makes a very convincing case for the power of MPE.

Hands-on demos

Roli

The Sound Test Room

Specifications

  • KEY FEATURES: Multi-mode software synth with wavetable, sample, granular, virtual analogue and noise engines. 
  • CONTENT DATA SIZE: 6.7GB. 1400+ presets. 579 MPE presets and 896 standard presets. 
  • FORMATS: Standalone, AU, VST3
  • CONTACT: Roli