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Roland ZEN-Core – What’s the Story?

Roland ZEN-Core - What's the Story?
Roland ZEN-Core - What's the Story?

Roland ZEN-Core – What’s the Story?

ZEN-Core is the technology that unites Roland’s hardware and software, letting you start a session on one platform and move seamlessly to the next. Find out more about this cutting-edge tech here.

Roland ZEN-Core Technology

By Peter Wilson | Published 13.10.20

If you are the kind of person that keeps a keen eye on the world of music tech, over the last 12 months you’ve most likely heard of Roland’s ZEN-Core.

The key idea of the ZEN-Core system is that it allows you to seamlessly move sounds and patches between different pieces of Roland hardware and software. Users can build sounds and create patches on one instrument, then simply transfer those sounds to another device.

ZEN-Core Approach

Roland Jupiter X

The beauty of the ZEN-Core platform is that it allows you to work on the most suitable device at any particular moment, simply swapping devices when you’re ready to work somewhere else.

That could mean your session starts with building sounds on a synth, before transferring to computer software in the studio ready to record. Or it could mean taking software sounds in the studio back to hardware, ready to perform live. The possibilities are endless.

As time has gone on since its initial launch, there have been some product updates and new additions that have really shown the power of what is on offer with ZEN-Core. In this blog we thought we’d take a look in a little more detail.

ZEN-Core Synthesiser System

Today’s musicians are free to use hardware and software to create their sounds. Rather than sticking to just one platform, the vast majority use both in some capacity.

Roland RD-88

Musicians may begin working on an idea with a hardware synth, because of the benefits of tactile interaction, but then want to record that idea into their DAW on a computer, in order to work on it some more. Later, when it comes to live performance, they may want to recreate those exact sounds again in a live environment, which may have different instrument requirements because of the nature of the performance.

Roland saw this need from musicians and came up with the idea for ZEN-Core. In essence, it’s a shared synthesizer system that can be used across many platforms, but with each platform having its own set of controls appropriate for the application. A user could create a synth on one ZEN-Core hardware item, transfer that sound to their computer to edit further in a recording, then transfer on to a different piece of hardware for live performance.

To bring this vision to a reality Roland developed the Behaviour Modelling Core (BMC) Chip; a hugely powerful DSP chip which the ZEN-Core system can run on.

Current ZEN-Core Products

There are a number of ZEN-Core products already available that harness this power. For hardware, we have the flagship Fantom workstations, Jupiter-X/Xm performance synths, MC-707 and MC-101 grooveboxes, RD-88 stage piano and AX-Edge keytar. Now as part of the Roland Cloud set of instruments, we also have the Zenology plug-in software instrument.

Shared Technology and Content

What unites this range of products is the ZEN-Core base engine. This synth engine can be thought of as a hardware version of the Zenology software instrument and it exists in various versions in the ZEN-Core hardware.

This means that if a user were to create a synth sound on the Fantom in their studio at home, they could then export that tone and load it in to the Ax-Edge to use on stage in a live performance. Or you could create a pad sound on the MC-707, then load it into the Zenology plugin to tweak, before finally loading it into the Jupiter-X for another band member to perform with.

Roland MC-101

This is a truly impressive workflow option and can offer real advantage to musicians collaborating with each other across different platforms.

As an addition to this, Roland has made a number of expansion packs available through its Roland Cloud online portal which are cross platform, meaning that a user can purchase and use the sounds regardless of which ZEN-Core product they own and use.

ZEN-Core Model Specific Expansions

As well as the shared technology, there are other ZEN-Core technologies that are not shared but specific to certain hardware instruments and Roland call these ZEN-Core Model Specific Expansions. Let’s take a look at some examples.

Jupiter-X/Xm Model Banks

Roland Jupiter Zenology

The Jupiter-X and Jupiter-Xm feature a number of authentic emulations of classic Roland synths called ‘Model Banks’ such as the Jupiter-8, Juno-106, JX-8P, SH-101 and XV-5080. These emulations are created using a ZEN-Core technology called Analog Behaviour Modelling (ABM).

ABM technology is built to run on the BMC chip using the ZEN-Core system as its framework – it is designed to replicate the feel of interacting with an analog instrument in fine detail.

These Model Banks synths come built into the Jupiter-X, though some of them can now be bought in software format through Roland Cloud to be used within your computer DAW too.


SuperNatural is a technology Roland created to offer behaviour modelling alongside traditional sampling techniques, so a user can get truly realistic acoustic tones as they play. Both the Fantom and RD-88 feature some fantastic quality SuperNatural Acoustic and Electric Pianos, with the Fantom also including SuperNatural Brass and Strings.

While SuperNatural - as a technology - has been around for a few years in Roland equipment, the power of the ZEN-Core system allows these SuperNatural sounds to operate at full 24bit/48KHz resolution for the first time, meaning they sound clearer, sharper and more detailed than ever before. 


The Fantom also features a new V-Piano engine. This uses no samples at all in the creation of piano sounds and completely models the acoustic piano tones from scratch. The DSP power available through ZEN-Core allows this to run on the Fantom in real time, latency free and is truly stunning to hear.

The Future…

What’s next for ZEN-Core? Roland have said this is a platform they are developing for and we will see more exciting things to come we’re sure. One thing that has been teased is the release of Zenology Pro, which will be a fully editable version of the Zenology synth for your computer DAW. This will certainly enable users to unlock even more potential with their ZEN-Core hardware with expansive sound design and sharing. We’re very excited to see what comes next!

Roland Axe Edge

Find Out More

Shop now | Roland Digital Synthesizers

Posted on 13 Oct 2020 17:09 to category : Instruments News

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