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
January 11, 2009 @ 2:09 am
The action was slow. Aftertouch on a new keyboard like this was not that decent either. Once you got to the starting level of aftertouch then it was ok if you set the afttouch slider to max. The sounds and the pro look are the strong points. They keys feel good. Much Lighter than Jupiters too. Need pencil and notebook to track tones to patch to performance system. Anolgue feel feature is nice touch. Clean Reverb and Chorus FX a big plus. Would by one if it was dirt cheap price.
Sound Canvas came out later,but same RS-PCM technology. D-70 is more pro and doesn't look expensive to fix.
One thing about these instruments, no new cards and new sounds.
I miss this one.
January 11, 2009 @ 2:08 am
This is a great keyboard. I did not buy it because it did not have sequencing ability and it was slow anyway with multiple osc patches. Only 24 note poly when some had 32 by this year. It is a very powerful sound with nice filters and resonance. Programmimg results in this thing was awesome with great Roland string sounds. The Prologue preset is nice and was used on a famous 80's band's song. Of course that band made a hit in the 1990's and could have used the D-70. They used to use the JP-8 and is in at least of of their videos. What I like is that the D-70 has a good low and high end. It was not harsh like the D-50 or JD-800. It is warm Jupiter Juno quality sounds.
Ed Kelly (Part 1)
January 9, 2009 @ 11:48 pm
I have had a D70 for 15 years! It was in fact my first professional synth and cost £700 in 1993. The filters are good, and yes, you can filter the drums. In fact each key in the rhythm section can be programmed just like any of the synth voices, with TVA, TVF and pitch envelopes. This is one of the strengths of the synth. The piano sound is really nice, and the "Piano and Strings" patch is to die for! The keyboard is nice to play, and the four assignable sliders on the front, plus the C1 controller to the side, are really useful as master controller functions (or quick edit functions for the synth patches). It has its strengths...
Ed Kelly (Part 2)
January 9, 2009 @ 11:48 pm
The weaknesses? Well, an experienced synth programmer shouldn't have a problem with the interface provided you find out what all the buttons lead to. But when using the multitimbral synth to its maximum potential (24 voices, but up to 4 voices per patch, so sometimes it's as few as six) The notes are often slightly delayed. When all 6 timbres (including drum section) are used, the synth can often sound slightly out of rhythm if many notes are initiated at the same time. Second, and really irritating, there is an early backlit LCD display, and some of the whine from the light leaks through to the audio outputs. An engineer at Roland tells me that to fix this you have to open it up and fit a switch to the light. I have tried this, and have yet to locate the correct wires to fit the switch to - my switch mounted on the front of the synth just crashes the machine. But, as you will see, this is not an easy task... When you do need to service it, the thing is built like a chinese puzzle.
Ed Kelly (Part 3)
January 9, 2009 @ 11:47 pm
The build quality of the D70 seems to be really good until something goes wrong. The buttons on the front panel have a habit of breaking and falling inside the machine, making some functions inaccessible (or worse, the machine inoperable). In order to fix these buttons you need to take every single piece of the synth apart. A 9 hour job according to repair spe [beep] ts. I have done this, twice, and it is a topographic hell. Once you get all the boards out, you discover that the plastic switches are held on to the front panel by - industrial grade double-sided sticky tape!!! So, after 15 years of use, my D70 is rather worn, rather sad, but still a good synth. Some of the sounds are truly fantastic, and the programmability is quite comprehensive. But...dont pay more than $200, and definitely check that all the front panel buttons work before you buy it!
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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