Roland D-50 / D-550

Roland D-50 Image

The D-50 is an all-time favorite digital synth that's still just as popular today as when it first came out in '87. Once Roland's hottest digital synth, it competed against the Yamaha DX7, and was much easier to use. By joining 8-bit PCM samples with "LAS" synth-generated sounds, the D-50 is capable of unique and complex sounds. The PCM samples contained the attack transients, while the rest of the sound came from the Linear Arithmatic Synth (LAS) section which sounds very analog, with subtractive-style synthesis and low-pass-resonant filters. Built-in chorus and (for the first time) digital reverb are also included for giving your sounds space and life! It also has a joystick controller for real-time timbre manipulation. The D-50 was great for new and non-acoustic, percussive, ethereal and beautiful pads & sounds.

Roland D-550 Image

Roland D-550 Rack Version

Both the D-50 and D-550 benefit from the PG-1000 external controller which gives you very plain and simple slider/fader type control of all adjustable parameters of the synth. The D-50 includes MIDI on all 16 channels but because it is monotimbral you can only use one channel at a time. There is an upgrade which will give the D-50 and its rackmount version a full 16 channels of simultaneous MIDI multitimbral data communication. This popular synth has been widely used in all forms of music. Eric Clapton, Enya, 808 State, Jean Michel Jarre, Vince Clarke, Apollo 440, Eat Static, LTJ Bukem, Fluke, Information Society, Lab-4, Gary Numan, Rick Wakeman, Kitaro, Rush, Vangelis, Richard Barbieri, Boston and Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran are just a few of the many satisfied users.

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152 Visitor comments
Titty Biscuit
March 8, 2013 @ 12:11 pm
Can anyone give me an idea as to what these sell at for secondhand in the u.k, I have seen 1 on e-bay and wish to make an offer, it is in good condition and full working order, Having seen that Prince apparently used one of these I checked out the demo video, and thought it was really cool and not out of date as some have said, And im 44 Jay!!
jay bacchus
March 6, 2013 @ 11:02 am
I guess my use for the d50 is a bit off the beaten path, somewhat abstract. I use it in producing backing tracks for pod casts that I produce for my own internet marketing campaigns. I do not really play any music on it and certainly don't take it on stage; it is used to generate production sounds and I love it. Sure it's old!

If we're going to hammer the D50 for being 'outdated', hammer away! The typical listeners to these pod promos are middle age. No complaints that my backing sounds are creaky-sounding or obsolete. Also use an Eventide Harmonizer in conjunction.
February 26, 2013 @ 4:02 am
The D50 was a very important synths and its presets still have a great 80's charm.

But it remains most useable today : a D50 with the PG1000 is one of the most exciting, experimental digital instrument you'll ever own (I own the D550 rack myself).
February 17, 2013 @ 2:55 pm
Chris have you got lots of soft synths by any chance?!?
February 12, 2013 @ 5:48 am
Not sure what the big hoo-ha is about the Roland D-50, I guess it was an important step at the time, but the sounds were just poor quality early digital 8 bit samples "glued" to some rather plain analog sounds that were then treated with early 8-bit digital delay and/or reverb. Early digital (anything!) Generally wasn't very good. So why people would still rate this as "Awesome" today is odd. I love analog synths, but when makers starting incorportaing digital (early 8-bit) I personally feel most synths went down hill for a while till the 90's which is when digital got good/found its place.
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  • Check Prices on eBay
  • The link above will take you to a 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 - 16 voices (32 partials with 2 per voice); 8 voices (using 4 partials per voice in Dual or Split Mode)
  • Oscillators - Digital LAS (Linear Arithmetic Synthesis) & PCM, 32 osc.
  • LFO - YES (3 x 2tones = 6 LFOs)
  • Filter - low-pass-resonant
  • Envelopes - ADSR envelopes
  • Effects - YES
  • #Instruments - Monotimbral (can be upgraded for multitimbrality)
  • Keyboard - 61 note keyboard with velocity and aftertouch
  • Arpeg/Seq - None
  • Memory - 64 patches
  • Control - MIDI
  • Date Produced - 1987-89

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