Zoë Blade's notebook

Roland System-100

Not to be confused with Roland's later fully modular System-100M.

System-100 tech specs

Roland System-100
Roland System-100

The System-100 was a semi-modular synthesiser made by Roland in the mid-to-late 1970s.[1]


The Model-104 is an analogue step sequencer. It has 12 pairs of knobs, allowing it to output both 12 steps of pairs of values in parallel, and 24 steps of single values in serial. It's more simplified and straightforward than a Moog Sequencer Complement, and was in turn further refined into the System-100M's 182 Sequencer module.


Model Description
101 Keyboard synthesiser
102 Synthesiser expander
103 Mixer
104 Analogue sequencer
109 Pair of speakers

The two speakers, sequencer, and mixer flank the wider pair of synthesisers, making a neat set.


The good thing about the System-100 is that there are no illegal patchings, you can't actually fuck anything. We've found some really strange things by attaching outputs to outputs, for instance — you'd think that nothing would happen, but often it does.

— Martyn Ware, Heaven 17, 1982[2]

I've always fancied an analogue sequencer, and the Roland is great because you do all your tuning by first twiddling the knobs, so you make the tuning up as you go along. You can also take the CV out of one of the Model 100s, and instead of controlling pitch, you can have it running from MIDI so that while it's playing it's opening and closing the filters, which is interesting. The system has a typical Roland sound like the SH-09 and Jupiter-6 — very pure sounding.

— Paul Hartnoll, Orbital, 1994[3]

I asked [Martyn Ware] what the first [synth] he had was. It turns out he used to have a Roland System-100 — you know, the one in the suitcase with speakers, not the modular version that I have. So I phoned around and managed to get hold of one for him, gave it to him, and said: "There you go, welcome back."

— Vince Clarke, Erasure, 1994[4]

I've still got my System-100. It doesn't get used much, but when I do use it, the difference in sound quality between that and any digital synth is huge.

— Martyn Ware, The Human League, 2020[5]

Notable users


  1. The A-Z of Analogue Synthesisers, Part Two: N-Z Peter Forrest, 2003, ISBN 0-952437-73-2
  2. "Penthouse and Statement" Tony Bacon, One Two Testing, Nov 1982
  3. "Music of Spheres" Nigel Humberstone, Sound On Sound, Apr 1994
  4. "Home is where the art is" Ian Masterson, The Mix, Jul 1994
  5. "Heaven 17's Martyn Ware: 'Kraftwerk were only brilliant because they were rich!'" Music Radar, 2020
  6. "China" 1979
  7. "L'Arbre de Vie" 1979






Service notes

Analogue step sequencers: Behringer 100 Series | Behringer 900 Series | Moog Sequencer Complement | Roland System-100 | Roland System-100M

Semi-modular synthesisers: ARP 2600 | Behringer K-2 | EMS VCS3 | Korg MS-20 | Roland System-100