A couple of days ago I was in a local music store here in Nagano-city, JAPAN. While paying for a guitar pedal, the Zoom MS-70CDR, I turned around and saw two brand new Lucina AX-09’s for $250 on Sale for New Years. What caught my eye other than the price was the black model. I immediately liked it. I’ve always been a big fan of keytars but never really jumped on the Lucina because I wasn’t particularly fond of the white color. I also already had the Roland AX-7 in white and didn’t want to double up on color.
I then asked why so cheap, and the sales manager said they didn’t sell well and were getting rid of them. I said even the black one? He replied that the black one had always been in the back room. The white one was always on display which might explain why. He didn’t say if Roland would stop making them, but he definitely said people at least in his circle were not buying. So I bought the last black one.
I brought it home and I’m extremely happy with it. The sounds are decent, but it’s the midi out that was important to me so that I could connect to external sound modules. The weight was perfect for me too plus the smaller size body is great. Having the Lucina battery powered with on board sounds makes it fun to roam the house or studio while practicing. A lot of people don’t like the USB stick gimmick but I actually think it’s useful for throwing on a sampled track and jamming to it. Or you can music minus one a track on a song you’re creating and work out some solid lead lines on the go.
Also, if you’re into the loop thing with the Boss RC-300 or RC-505 for example, you can easily record tracks while quickly being able to get the Lucina on and off your shoulders. Or you can easily set it on a stand if you have quick strap locks.
Note that I also have and use a Roland AX-7, Korg RK-100, and a Yamaha KX-5. I don’t like the weight of the KX-5 at all really and it’s a bit tiny for my big hands. The AX-7 is nice but a little big and VERY squeaky. The plastic noise drives me nuts and it doesn’t feel very solid. The Korg RK-100 hands down is the best experience I’ve ever had with a keytar. The problem is that they are ultra hard to find and expensive generally if you do, so I don’t recommend it…laugh. Oh boy, the RK-100 is great though if you find one. I’m also a guitar player and the RK-100 is the closest to the feeling of a real guitar with the wooden body, weight, and all.
Here are is how I use and have my Lucina AX-09 setup.
1. I have the DBeam set to “CC66 ( SOSTENUTO)” so that I can hold notes and play over the top of them. I actually found I don’t use the DBeam too much but when I do that works the best for me. Any other effect and it doesn’t really quite work so well. I also found if you use something like volume it adjust the volume and I can’t get it back to normal without a patch change. I may be doing some wrong or there could be a firmware bug. Not sure. For now, the Sostenuto control is perfect.
2. The Modulation bar I have set to both Sustain and Modulate. This works best for me in that it sustains better the notes and modulation is subtle so it’s there but not overly noticeable. The sustain trails a tiny bit which is nice to so you can quickly modulate like on those electro funk tracks and it works great.
3. The Favorites section and save 12 patches. It’s actually quite easy to adjust parameters such as attack, release, etc and save them to the favorite section.
4. I attach a foot pedal for an additional Sostenuto effect control. If I can reach the DBeam, I can use my foot which works great. I sometimes change this to hold instead of Sostenuto if I need that effect. There is a dedicated filter and pitch effect for the DBeam so I don’t need to assign those to anything.
5. Midi Out works great, so you can plug the Lucian into virtually any sound module. I wouldn’t have bought it without a MIDI OUT function most definitely.
6. The sound on the Lucina have been hand picked from the collection of sounds found in the Roland AX synth. I actually feel Roland did an excellent job of selecting the better sounds and even included a bit more sounds on the synth side than the AS Synth. Thus I am very happy with the on board sounds.
7. The USB Wav/MP3 playback function works fantastic. You can alter the volume of the patch to mix it well with the Wav file. No, you can seamlessly switch to the next song, nor can you rewind to a certain section. However, for straight up jamming and playing along with a song it works very well. I use Audacity to copy and past a loop for about 10 minutes. Then I add the backing tracks to a 4GB memory stick. Works great!!
8. The key action feels like a Roland. The keys are relatively easy to play fast on, but for some reason my hand gets a bit tired after while. Perhaps the keys are a bit stiff, not sure. The keys are decent though, so no worries.
9. There is no Software editor, but you can edit patches on the AX-09 itself ok and save to a favorite. I find I only need to adjust volume, release, and reverb or delay. I don’t find the cutoff or resonance work too well adjusting with DBeam or pedal so I just dial that in manually if I need to make changes.
10. The size and weight is perfect for me. I also find the Sparkle Black color to be fairly cool and sexy for a keytar. It plays nicely on a stand and it’s quite easy to strap on with the included strap that Roland provided. Strap locks can be attached if needed. The Lucina runs on batteries and has a good head phone jack. It’s a great synth for walking around back stage to practice different sections or for just warming up.
The not so bad CONS for the Roland Lucina AX-09 are as follows:
1. No keyboard split. You can do this with the sound module so it’s not that much of a problem. For example with the Roland XV5080 you can program splits easily. If you use a decent sampler you can trigger samples too. Note that the Lucina does not have LOCAL OFF, so you need to switch your volume off to trigger samples which can easily be done with the foot pedal, volume know, or DBeam.
2. No Midi In. This is minor as I really don’t need to trigger sounds externally, however it might have been nice for programming.
3. Some people might wish for more patch storage but then again that can depend on your sound module.
4. It would have been nice to have a dedicated sustain button on the back of the neck like on the AX Synth and all my other keytars, but using the modulation bar, foot pedal, or DBeam is at least an option versus nothing at all.
5. Some people might be turned off by the loop around grip which might cause them to get their hand stuck. However, I haven’t had this issue at all really and it just means one has to get creative a bit. The current design does work pretty well I think.
I’m very happy with the Roland Lucina AX-09. I’m glad I bought it and probably only did because of the price and black color. If you are looking for a reasonable priced controller to jump around with and look good, I think the AX-09 will work great.
Here’s a good basic demo of the Roland Lucian AX-09 black version.