Roland GR55 guitar synth, now modified

I don’t play keyboards well so a guitar synth is useful for making all those non-guitar sounds from a guitar.  Even better if it can toggle between those and guitar sounds.

I had a Roland GR33 which was pretty good, especially with a Line AX2 212 combo I had at the time.  Not only did they converse via midi, but the guitar out went into the guitar input and the synth went into the full-range line input and both could be mixed.  It was a great gigging combination, very powerful.

Anyway, I sold the GR33 when I head about its successor, the GR55.

Roland GR-55 guitar synth

It took a while to source one – the Japanese Tsunami allegedly slowed production. H’mm. But it was worth waiting for.  It has four parallel channels : two synths, Roland’s COSM guitar modeller lifted from their ludicrously-priced VG-88 product, and guitar direct.  The processor is pretty powerful so the synth sounds and models are excellent.

You can use the unit as a guitar-driven synth, a good modeller and a multi-fx unit for guitar. All at once or individually.  The display is really big and visible for stage use, and for programming the user interface is much simpler than the GR33’s despite the unit’s much greater flexibility and processing power.  The tracking is spot on too – I usually play (much too) fast and I can’t shake it.

It’s a breeze switching from church organ to acoustic guitar to overdriven lead solo within a single bank of patches.  And you can output the guitar to your amp and the synths to the pa.  Good, thoughtful design. I  drive it with my trusty Roland-ready Strat with inbuilt GK2a hex pickup.

Then I read that you could modify the unit to accept regular guitar signals as long as you also added a small buffer to match impedances and maintain a decent clear tone, so I got 633 Engineering’s Cliff Brown to kindly to do the fairly straightforward mod for me, and here’s the result.

GR55 new inputsThe Roland blurb shows that the ‘guitar out’ jack is after input (obviously!), guitar and amp models and guitar fx, so in theory you can use the GR55 as a floor fx box.  In practice, this is NOT the case – the guitar out only carries the regular guitar input and any modelled guitars – not the amps or fx.

Nevertheless, in triamped combination with my Blackstar Series One 45 and my two Hughes & Kettner  Switchblade 50’s, it still provides a very good sounding and flexible setup.  An extra ‘out’ has also been added to an external stompbox – like a really good drive – can be added to the rig when using the Roland-ready Strat with the hex pickup.

6 Responses to Roland GR55 guitar synth, now modified

  1. Aynsley says:

    You have an interesting site, I enjoyed browsing though it.
    Unexpectedly useful was the “hot sauces” section!

  2. Rockbeare says:

    Ur welcome, thanks!

  3. Chris says:

    Hi Rockbeare
    Hope ur well.
    Thinking of doing exactly as you have done. I have a VG88 v2 and a GR33.
    Thinking of getting the GR55 and getting it modded. Also wondering if I can use the S1 and S2 switches when using the jack guitar in.

    Any ideas would be great. Are the electronics people you used, still around?

  4. Paul says:

    I know this is so late. But seriously, the tracking is spot on?? No (what we so called) mistrigger/retrigger?? I owned one and it was the worst on what’s mentioned, I couldn’t use it live and in fact I couldn’t even use it on a bedroom setup because tracking is so spot off!

    Sure, prove me wrong, do a live video or even a video without any cuts (using a regular guitar, not a midi type one) and play complex, not safely. I would like to know that there is still a chance in taking advantage of “Roland Synth” for guitarist that would definitely benefit a live music/song flourish more with this add-on.

    Thank you!

  5. Rockbeare says:

    Thanks for your comment. I find it depends on the patch tone. Piano is horrible while Hammond, choir, strings and Arabic flute are great. So I just don’t try to be a piano player.

  6. Marc C Cook says:

    I have a gr30 that has been used for over 10 years, it has the capability of going from regular guitar to synth or using the combinati9n of the 2…I purchased a GR55 hoping to use the volume pedal and it does work but the is not a way to toggle between synth and actual guitar that I have found…Help!!

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