Roland D-20

Roland D-20 Image

The D-20 makes a great budget or alternative D-50. It's more closely related to the D-10 and D-110 synthesizers but adds an 8-voice sequencer with a rhythm track. The D-20 is a digital synth that employs linear arithmetic synthesis (LAS). It's a confusing synthesis / editing method composed of tones, partials and timbres. Basically it all boils down to tricky programming which, if you know what you are doing, can have interesting and unique results. Reverb effects and internal / external memory storage are also available on the D-20. Definitely worth a listen.

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81 Visitor comments
October 15, 2008 @ 8:49 am
This is, quite simply, the greatest synth ever made.

The presets are based on short PCM samples stored within the synth memory, but you don't have to use these.
You can base your sounds on 'structures' that only use synth waves as the oscillator sound sources.
This effectively gives you a 4-oscillator vitual analogue synth, which is 8-part multi-timbral (or 9-part if you include the excellent drum kit.)

There's a basic but useful 8-track linear sequencer, with a parallel pattern-based drum machine (storing 32 user patterns), and individual track buttons for selecting/muting tracks on the fly.
Coloured lights on the track buttons flash when they are triggered by sequencer notes or incoming MIDI information.

The disk-drive stores voices and sequences, and a card slot can be used to double the voice memory by using a RAM card.
Software voice editors are available online (if you can find them.)

(Continued below.)
October 15, 2008 @ 8:47 am
(Continued from above.)

The reverb is basic but effective, and MIDI is well implemented.
The keyboard is velocity sensitive and the synth is very compact considering all the features it contains.

Above all, the sound-engine is superb - filter sweeps are particularly cool.
It may be difficult to program, but when you get it right the results are stunningly atmospheric.

It was released at the same time as the Korg M1 and people tend to praise the M1 while denigrating this machine.
But for pure sonic power and richness, the D-20/D-10/D-110 has no equal.
September 27, 2008 @ 11:12 am
I too have had my D20 for about 20 years it is still brilliant. I also have a problem with the floppy disk drive not reading my disks so am waiting with breath held to see of anyone comes up with the answer.

What about the memory cards M256d could you record sequencer information to this or only sounds and rhythm sounds?

If I got a replacement floppy disk that uses HD floppy's do you think that it would work? Could do with a system to save and read the saved information onto a more modern memory card SD type or even better a USB flashdrive.
September 2, 2008 @ 8:52 am
I have owned my D-20 for about 20 years. It was my first synth and I love it. I had to purchase a book written by a D-20 expert about how to use it (the manual was worthless - translated form japanese to bulgarian to yiddish...) but What a Keyboard! I still use it. QUESTION - Does anyone know what do to if the floppy disk writer/reader fails?
Let me know
August 20, 2008 @ 11:38 pm
I had a D-20 from 1994 to 1998 and I worked a lot on it. It sounded terrific but u had to master it. Came back on music on - about 2004 - and things has changed. Computer rulz now! ;-) (I also have a vintage Casio SK-1... anyone?? lol)
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  • The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace or post a wanted classified.
  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - 32 voices
  • Oscillators - Digital LAS (Linear Arithmetic Synthesis) & ROM Samples
  • Effects - 8 Effects
  • Multitimbral - 9 parts
  • Drums - 1 kit, 63 sounds
  • Memory - 128 preset patches, 64 user patches 128 performances
  • Keyboard - 61 keys with velocity
  • Control - MIDI
  • Date Produced - 1988
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