It’s very… circular. That was my first reaction upon seeing Roland’s new HS-5 Headphone Mixer. I certainly give Roland props for attempting to create a consolidated solution for bands that needed to connect a lot of gear together, and don’t want to add even more gear in order to do so. The HS-5 may not be ideal for live usage for most of the musicians in the metal community (yes, not even for the digital modelling crowd, and I’ll explain why in a bit), but that doesn’t mean it’s not without its uses.
The Roland HS-5 is, at its heart, a personalized mixing solution for your band’s monitoring setup. If your response is: I just crank the “post gain” knob on my 5150 when I need to hear more of myself, then this is not a product for you. On the other hand, digital futurists who don’t bring cabinets to a gig- they might be interested. The HS-5 allows you to line in 4 dedicated instruments plus an aux track, and then balance their volumes in personal mixes for each of the connected musicians. There’s also some built-in recording functionality and amp modelling.
Realistically, I can’t see the Axe/Kemper crowd using this mixing disk at gigs: if you can afford to drop $2500 on an amp modeller then you should probably invest in a more practical and robust rackmounted/wireless setup. And in fairness, the text on Roland’s HS-5 product page mentions that this unit is aimed more at worship services and lessons.
But here’s a situation where this detached Starship Enterprise saucer could be pretty handy for a band on the road: rehearsing backstage, and in hotels/random sleeping spots/anywhere you’re killing time. The frustrating thing about being on tour for long stretches of time is that it can ironically be tough to actually work on your music collaboratively. Little practice amps (like Roland’s own Cube line) can help, but sometimes you’re in situations where any real audible noise above talking volume is out of the question, but you’d really like to get together with one or two of your bandmates and craft some riffs. So the ability to pull out this tiny unit, plug in some guitars and headphones, and just go (and have a recording of the fruits of your labor)? Well that’s pretty appealing.