The SE-02 is the newest in the Boutique line of synths from Roland. In collaboration with Studio Electronics, Roland has created the first true analog synth for the Boutique series (with digital delay), abandoning their Analog Circuit Behavior (ACB) modeling they have implemented on all previous synths in this line. The result is a compact yet powerful monophonic analog desktop synth.
The SE-02 is very much inspired by the Minimoog. Studio Electronics put out the SE-1 in 2000 and subsequently the SE-1X, both meant to recreate the classic Minimoog sound. So it makes sense that the SE-02 follows in that lineage, albeit almost 17 years later and in collaboration with a Japanese synth manufacturer.
Watch our video review of the SE-02 here:
This is a VCO-based three oscillator synth. It has a very similar layout to the Minimoog, but with some Oberheim & ARP characteristics as alluded to by Tim Caswell of Studio Electronics on their website. Their main goal was to create very stable oscillators that were not sterile sounding. In terms of control, you will find the usual suspects like octave tuning, fine tuning and waveform selectors. One thing that’s missing is a dedicated pulse width control. The XMod section has a feature where oscillator 3 can modulate the pulse width of oscillator 1 and oscillator 2 but there is no manual control for it. On the waveform selector dial, you do get 3 variations to the pulse (including square) but since the dial is stepped, you can’t use that as a pulse width control.
The envelopes are really snappy and just like on the Minimoog, you get an ADS envelope with switches to enable release control with the decay dial.
The mixer section has level controls for all three oscillators, feedback and noise. The feedback circuitry is truly exceptional. Cranking this dial to maximum can create some really aggressive modern tones. Unlike the Minimoog the noise is fixed at white noise.
The filter is a 24dB/octave ladder design and again has a very similar layout when compared to a Minimoog’s filter section, though there are some additional controls like a contour inverting switch, restart on note press and an option to trigger the amp with a gate or the LFO. The envelopes are really snappy and just like on the Minimoog, you get an ADS envelope with switches to enable release control with the decay dial. So, no dedicated release control.
The LFO can modulate oscillator pitch and filter cutoff and has controls for its rate and waveform selection. You get 9 different shapes to select from. The LFO can be controlled via the Mod Wheel and has two depth control levels: Full and Half. This is helpful to control how much the Mod Wheel affects the modulation depth. The LFO’s phase can be synced to note trigger or set to free. It can also be set to one shot mode where it cycles just once and stops. Lastly the LFO can be synced to tempo, either internally or to an external sync signal.
All previous Boutique synths from Roland featured a step sequencer and the SE-02 is no different. If you have used the sequencer on any of the previous Boutique synths you will be familiar with the 16 step sequencer. One exciting new feature introduced is the Parameter Modulation, where on each step of the sequencer you can store the position of a dial to create modulation for that parameter with the sequencer. So aside from pitch, glide, rate, swing etc you also have the one parameter changing with the sequence. I have a detailed tutorial explaining that feature.
Lastly in Song mode, different patterns can be combined in a sequence to create song arrangements. You can load sequences in a song, the number of repeats per sequence, as well as the preset you want to use to play back each sequence. You get 16 of these songs.
The SE-02 is an exceptional small form factor analog monosynth that is feature packed and makes the whole Boutique line a lot more Boutique now.
I was surprised to see all the CV ins and outs on this synth. You get a trigger IN/OUT, inputs for CV,GATE & VCF CV. Roland did not do this with their previous Boutique synths. You get 5-pin DIN MIDI as well as USB MIDI. The USB also supports audio which makes it much easier to record the audio out of this synth, rather than using the 1/8 inch outputs. You will have to install a Roland driver for this feature to work. Previous Boutique drivers will not work with the SE-02.
I would consider the SE-02 as a Studio Electronics synth with the manufacturing and marketing prowess of Roland. Tim Caswell of Studio Electronics himself admitted that SE would never be able to sell this synth themselves at the price point. The SE-02 is an exceptional small form factor analog monosynth that is feature packed and makes the whole Boutique line a lot more Boutique now.
Pros: Exceptional tone. Layout very similar to the Minimoog. USB MIDI/Audio. XMod!
Cons: No dedicated Pulse Width Modulation. Knobs too tiny for fine control (but can be remedied by using an external controller). No mod and pitch bend touch strips like other Boutique synths.