A near-perfect analog monosynth for under $500

Roland’s latest Boutique synth is an all-analog collaboration with US company Studio Electronics that takes inspiration from the Minimoog Model D and other ‘70s instruments. Scott Wilson finds out if the SE-02 is worth your cash, or if it’s just another paperweight in waiting.

Roland’s rebirth over the past few years has been a long time coming. For decades, the company stubbornly refused to give its fans what they wanted – namely gear that honored the legacy of iconic instruments like the TR-808, TB-303 and SH-101 instead of bloated, ugly workstations and grooveboxes. Recently though, Roland relented, winning over its critics with affordable, practical tools like the TB-03. So what can it possibly do next? The answer, is the SE-02.

The SE-02 is the latest addition to Roland’s Boutique range – arguably the best line of products to come out of the company’s Japanese laboratory since it made a u-turn on revisiting classic gear with the AIRA series. The Boutique line offers compact, practical modules at a reasonable price, but until now, they’ve all been digital emulations of classic gear. The SE-02 is the first fully analog synth in the series, offering sonic purists a reason to get involved.

While the compact Jupiter-8 (JU-08), tiny Juno-106 (JU-06) and dinky TB-909 (TB-09) have all been well received, the SE-02 feels like the first truly vital synth in the range. For a start, it’s not based on an existing instrument that you could otherwise buy as a software plug-in. Roland has also teamed up with independent synth manufacturer Studio Electronics to make it and the result is something that genuinely feels and sounds like a boutique instrument.

Sub-$500 analog synths are nothing new, but the SE-02 is hands down is the best I’ve ever heard. Most synths in the category have to make compromises somewhere along the way, usually in the number of oscillators, but the SE-02 sounds like an instrument that costs twice the price. The unfiltered…

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