Roland D-70

Roland D-70 Image

Billed as the next in line to the Roland "LA" synthesis crown, the D70 is an odd keyboard. It actually has more in common with the U-20/220 series ROMplers than with the D-50/550, which it was "kind-of meant" to replace. In fact, if you open it up, you''ll find the circuit boards are labelled "U50". Unfortunately, the D70 / U50 was rushed into production, to compete with the likes of the Korg M1 and T1/T2/T3ex series machines, and this lack of design care shows when navigating the user-interface, which could be politely described as "challenging".

So, given the similarities to the rather mediocre U-series sample ROMplers, and the "Super-LA" name....what to make of it?

The D-70 has a sample playback engine married to D50 style TVF filters, together with on-board effects, and a percussion soundset. The filters are resonant, and add some much needed "welly". This is the D-70's redeeming feature, because the filters are actually pretty damn good. It's a shame that (to this reviewer's knowledge) it doesn't seem possible to filter the drum samples though.

Performance wise, the D70 has a good quality 76 note keyboard in a sleek housing, and given its size, it's remarkably light. It is equipped with a large LCD display, to the left of which are 4 assignable faders. There is a fifth controller fader, labelled "C1" just above the pitch bender, in between the volume and brightness (filter cutoff) faders. The faders can be assigned in real-time to the following parameters: Level, Pan, Tuning, Cutoff, Resonance, Attack, and Release, using the keypad to the left of fader 1. The four faders equate to the four tones that can be used to make up a patch, rather like the D50's "upper / lower partials" although the more tones you apply, the lower the polyphony. This gives the performer real-time tweakability for doing filter sweeps, changing the relative levels of tones (for drawbar-style effects), etc. As an added bonus, the faders send MIDI data...

...which makes the D70 an excellent master keyboard for MIDI setups. It has keyboard splitting and zoning options that you'd expect to find on master keyboards. That's if you can decipher the midi implementation and work your way round an interface that redefines the word "awkward". Couple that with a 220 page manual, and it's not something you really want to do on stage, unless you've got it all worked out in advance. The D70 is one of those synths that you'll find yourself both enjoying and cursing in fairly equal measure.

Sound-wise, the D70 raw samples are your typical U20/220 faire. In fact the D70 reads U220 series PCM cards, and has two PCM card slots on the rear of the unit, together with a RAM slot. This may not sound too appealing - if you're looking for genuine acoustic instruments, then it's not for you. But, the D70 has some remarkably good Rhodes and Organ patches, and some fantastic synth bass and lead sounds. Couple this with the on board fx, and it is a bit like a souped-up D50 with much better filters, which provide both squelchy resonance and knob-twiddlyness.

To summarize, it's a nice ROMpler, albeit a little schizophrenic, capable of some wonderful classic Roland synth-noises, and makes a decent performance / live / master keyboard as well. It sounds better than the U220. If you're looking for a "proper synthesizer" you may be disappointed. Real shame actually; a bit more effort on Roland's part and this could have been a right little stomper. Due to the fact that it was never really a success, the D70 can prove very hard to find on the used market. But once you've got one, you probably won't want to let it go - it has JUST enough features in several different departments to redeem itself, and the warmth of the synth sounds belies their digital origin.

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60 Visitor comments
September 10, 2013 @ 9:31 am
Hello, I've fully restored my D70 (keys problem with red epoxy perishing glue) yesterday. I also have another spare unit with some problems. If anyone has spare parts to sell to me or wants to buy parts from me, mail me at:
I will use it as a midi controller for recordings/rehearsals/lives along with my racks (roland xv5080 and kurzweil pc2r) but I will also use its own sounds as a second source synth. It takes 2 PCM cards, I have recently purchased the "SN-U110-04 Electric Grand & Clavi", could you recommend me another one please? I'm more on rock and jazz...
July 28, 2013 @ 2:21 pm
@ arik s
I guess not all D-70s have the "U-50" label on them. Some D-50 main boards have "D-50, MKS-550 MAIN BOARD" printed on them suggesting the D-550 was originally supposed to be called MKS-550. My D-50 has the ordinary board saying "D-50, D-550 MAIN BOARD" even though it's one of them older models. The same probably goes for your D-70.
Considering purchasing a D-70 when I graduate, but I heard D-70s have a problem with a buzzy LCD that can be heard in recordings and I'm not enough of a techie to replace the LCD myself.
Arik S
July 23, 2013 @ 10:15 pm
I don't know where this rumor about D-70 main board being labeled "U-50". I had two of them, fixed few others, on all of them main board is clearly marked "D-70". Whoever wrote the description above should've know that. I agree that it's a decent rompler, slightly better than D-20, but nothing to be excited about. It's mediocre even as a MIDI controller. Keyboard is OK, but program change structure with odd 8x8 bank-patch scheme is plain awkward. Roland made the same mistake in A-80 controller, basically 88-key weighted version of D-70, same awkward architecture. A-90 and A-70 are way better!
May 23, 2013 @ 4:53 pm
I have 2 of these,the 76 note keyboards are now both f0000ked Roland replacement keyboard membranes cost more than the D70 secondhand.Fatar make a 76 note unit which i am going to fit to them with a lot of engineering.Agree about the display one with a green disp and the other yellow,the whine...ouch its loud,just looking at other comments and will be fiiting the the NHD unit.Sound wise its my main unit with superb sounds when programmed and the performance side of its is so easy to use live.
May 17, 2013 @ 9:46 am
Back in the early 1990's, my brother worked at a music store with a service department. From what I'm told (and whether it's true or not), Roland changed over to a new manufacturing plant circa 1989. Unfortunately, the shift resulted in notorious reliability problems (like a lot of the ones posted here) in their keyboards of the time, notably the D-70, U-20 and D-5. We would get these weekend warrior synths almost constantly in the shop being repaired. It's too bad, because it the D-70 is really a nice keyboard. It may explain why these models are "parted out" so much on eBay these days.
VSE Rating

It’s Good

User Rating

Rated 3.68 (347 Votes)

  • Check Price
  • 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 - 30 voices
  • Oscillators - Digital ROM samples and DLM ("Differential Loop Modulation")
  • LFO - YES
  • Filter - TVF FILTER: low-pass-resonant (like D50).
  • VCA - TVA (like D50).
  • Effects - Reverb, Chorus, Flanger (like D50)
  • #Instruments - 5-parts + 1-percussion
  • Keyboard - 76 note keyboard with velocity and aftertouch
  • Arpeg/Seq - None
  • Memory - 10 user sets, 64 performances, 128 patches, 128 tones.
  • Control - MIDI
  • Date Produced - 1990-91
  • Resources & Credits
  • Images from

    Review by Jonathan McDougall.

    Reviewed December 2007.

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