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
Scott
January 11, 2010 @ 10:52 pm
I am still amazed at the fullness and body of the sound - great for string pads. There is something about the pseudo-triangle wave (it's actually a half-sine) that makes this truly unique.

D-550 Owners: I own a D-550 and would like to vary the Tone Balance as you would with the joystick on the D-50. Does this function respond to MIDI CC changes, or is this only a sysex function? I'd love to use my KP3 for this purpose.

(BAL (Tone Balance) Controls the volume balance of the Upper and the Lower Tones)
rickd
December 20, 2009 @ 4:34 pm
I own the D-550. It has a very analog-ish, grungy, chrystalline digital sound and it is VERY warm. It is NO LIE that this is the warmest digital synth that you will ever find. The thing is, it is 100% digital, but sounds just like an analog-digital hybrid. The 2nd warmest digital synth I've heard for myself (Not saying the 2nd warmest out there, because I havent heard all of them) is the Yamaha SY-77/TG-77 (I currently own both). Also IMO, I wouldn't say this is the most beautiful sounding synth ever, like some has said, because I have surely heard better, but it does indeed have a very nice sound. The uniqueness of it's sonic character though is what makes this an all-time classic.
Nick
December 12, 2009 @ 3:22 pm
The Roland D50 is an awesomely powerful snyth, but it lacks the real time filter control I crave. By itself, the D50 is a little too digital sounding for my tastes. I run the output of my Roland D50 through a Electrix Filter Factory and the resulting sound is just so analog tasty! By running the D50 through an analog filter I have the real time control I crave and the Sound of the Roland turns from slightly harsh to silky smooth. The D50 built like a tank, It has great action and after-touch. Below are links to two Live D50 solos, check em out.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvKKD_SdEpM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSypAzD dDic
Zoop
October 20, 2009 @ 3:47 pm
I have had many synthesize over the years, my two favorite have been the D50 & JX3p with a PG200 programmer, a few years ago I sold all my synthesizers except the D50 & JX3p, I just could not part with them, I had great fun with them for well over twenty years and I know I would of regretted it.
Scott
October 18, 2009 @ 4:45 pm
If your D-550 backlight has failed, they can be sourced from InstrumentalParts.com:
http://instrumentalparts.com/blrd550.html

Item# BLRD550

Soldering is required. The company states that they will send directions upon request - they will not tell you how to disassemble the unit but they will tell you how to install the part.

Mark Glinsky sells the service manual:
http://www.markglinsky.com/ManualManor.html
 
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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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