As opposed to other keyboard models, Roland's newest Fantom-series is not designed to play backing tracks directly from a USB-stick or import those files into the built-in sequencer.
However, the workstations contain a sampler which has quite some capabilities. This article shows how the built-in sampler of the Fantom can be used to play/mix backing tracks on stage while playing along LIVE. Both, Fantom- and the new Fantom-0-series are generally supported, since they are data compatible to each other.
Production of Backing Tracks
Backing tracks can easily be recorded and arranged using a desktop audio workstation (DAW) like Garageband, Logic Pro X, Cubase or others. MIDI files can be imported into these DAWs and re-arranged, modified, mixed and mastered. Finally, these backing tracks need to be normalized (same loudness) and they are then exported as WAV (non compressed) or MP3 (compressed) files to the computer hard drive. In order to import the backing tracks into Fantom it is recommended to use uncompressed WAV-files as the standard format (44.1 KHz, 16 bit), but other formats are possible as well (e.g. WAV or AIFF 48/96 kHz, 8/16/24 bit or MP3 / MPEG-1 (44.1/48 kHz, 64-320 kpbs).
Next, the backing tracks need to be copied to a suitable USB-stick (e.g. 8 GB DataTraveler, USB 3.1/3.0/2.0, Kingston Technology) that has previously been formatted on the Fantom (important). Copy the WAV-files onto the EXPORT SAMPLE folder that is available on the formatted USB-stick. After this has been finished, the USB-stick needs to be dismounted on the PC/MAC and installed into the USB memory port on the rear panel of the Fantom.
The 8 GB USB-stick is able to store more than 160 WAV-files which is normally sufficient for any gig.
Fantom / Fantom-O setup
On the Fantom (operating system 2.01), press the SAMPLING button (right hand side) and then on the screen choose IMPORT - TO PAD. This immediately opens up the EXPORT SAMPLE folder of the USB-stick and you can select the WAV-file to import and the position within the four sample banks. Up to 4 x 16 = 64 backing tracks can be imported this way into the Fantom. The number of importable WAV-files depends on the file size of the individual WAV-files. In practice, 55-60 WAV-files fit into the sampler RAM which seems sufficient for most of the gigs.
At this point it should be mentioned that the WAV-files should be imported in the order of the SET LIST for the LIVE gig. This speeds up switching between the songs significantly.
In the current OS-version of the Fantom it is not possible to interconnect the samples to a specific SCENE. Unfortunately, the keyboarder, therefore, needs to organize the SCENES (presets of the Fantom) in a CHAIN and the backing tracks within the sampler separately.
The volume / level of the backing tracks can be adjusted (0-127 steps) by the PAD SAMPLER LEV knob.
Another cool feature of the Fantom is that the backing tracks of the sampler can be send through a separate FX chain where compression, EQ and e.g. a limiter can further process the backing tracks.
Moreover, the EFFECTS section (press MENU button, then select EFFECTS EDIT, then select the PAD tab) allows routing of the backing tracks to a separate AUDIO OUTPUT sub of the Fantom.
This feature allows to send the backing tracks to an independent AUDIO INPUT of a MIXER which is an excellent feature to provide more control of the overall sound on stage and front-of-the-house.
Although the Fantom / Fantom-O workstations do not allow for direct import of audio files into the built-in sequencer and is not able to play backing tracks directly from the USB-stick, the capabilities and the sufficiently sized RAM of the sampler compensate these drawbacks. Both, Fantom- and Fantom-O have equally sized (2 GB) RAM and, therefore, support basically the same number of backing tracks on board.
Up to 60 backing tracks can be imported which is deemed sufficient for most gigs. The backing tracks can be routed either to a separate FX chain consisting of e.g. compressor, EQ and e.g. a limiter, or to a separate audio output (sub1, sub2). The latter allows flexible mixing for stage or front-of-the-house.