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.

Lookup Roland D-70 Prices

The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings with more images, specs and information. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace. Our marketplace gets thousands of visits every week so make sure to check back often if you want to buy or sell a synth.

Related forum topics


Are you looking to buy or sell a Roland D-70? Post an ad in Gear For Sale or a request in Gear Wanted. For spare parts and repair services check out Gear Services & Other Goods. Our forums also has a Buyer’s Guide section where you can ask for advice on buying synthesizers.

60 Visitor comments
July 23, 2009 @ 11:13 pm
YUCK! Nasty slur on the legend of the D-50 (as were most 'D' synths that followed) this one is the worst offender because it's dressed up as if it's 'superior' (even given it's higher model name - 70 over 50).

I think it's only right to point out to potential buyers that they are NOT buying a 'souped up D-50' if they buy this. there is NO SUCH THING as a 'souped up D-50'. The D-50 IS the absolute summit of not just the D series but most of Roland's digital synths in general.

If you want D-50 you buy D-50, even the VSynth 'D-50' Card can not capture the magic of a REAL D-50 so this piece of crap sure as [beep] can't ;)
July 19, 2009 @ 11:09 pm
My very first Roland was a JX-10 until the D-50 came out. I used the D-50 for 2 years along with a Prophet 5 (I know the JX-10 was a true analog, and you can't beat the sound, but I want knobs for that, not buttons). I picked up the D-70 the minute it hit the racks. It was definitely not the succesor to the D-50...more like the evil cousin, but the more I used it and learned my way around, the more I liked. The pads were great. It had some of the better organs for the time (with some outboard FX), and a damn good piano for 20 yrs ago (IMHO Roland's always shined in that area). It's also correct to say that this was one awesome MIDI machine. If you were willing to get your GEEK on, there was alot this puppy could do. The keyboard chassis has suffered through road wear and my heavy playing style through the years and so it is unplayable as itself, but it still lives connected to my current setup.
March 14, 2009 @ 2:49 pm
I own a Roland D70 from 1993 until now. It has actually 30 voices as stated by the manual.
A cheap trick is to connect directly his midi in and out with a cable to ,layer up to four perfomances (the sound became very thick).
I find its sound very warm and pleasant, no digital coldness to my ears.
It's incredible the variety of sound Roland has made from just 3,5MBytes of ROM! VEry difficult to program until you don't figure how the tone/patch structure works...there is a steep learning curve , but after that creating your sound is quite easy ... the DLM feature leads to wonderful analog bass and brass/leads sound and some digital weird tone i found very useful.
Just one 1 rythm set is very limiting, no GM and no ssequencer.
If you find one in good condition at a good price buy it! But let your ears before be the the judge if you like the kind of sounds it can produce.
February 7, 2009 @ 10:14 pm
extraordinary pads, fantastic arches and good piano. The bass sound and the leads are between the best ones that it has never felt. Sound like jd800 with a color a much analogic one without the typical coldness of it blots some of years 90, One of the best ones synth than always!
February 5, 2009 @ 5:45 am
I owned a D70 for a couple of years, hoping it would be a good replacement for my D50 keyboard.
Well, it wasn't. As a MIDI controller, it was great but that was about it. It's the sort of synth you simply cannot use without a manual.
Tones and patches are saved separately, like on the Korg Wavestation, so if you tweak a tone that's shared between two patches, you screw up another patch.
It'a basically a U20 with a synth engine so you're stuck with U110/U220/U20 sounds. It was to be called U70 originally.
I must disagree with the VSE reviewer when he says that it's like a souped-up D50 with much better filters. The D50 filter is far superior.
It was the worst synth I ever owned and I'll never buy one again unless I want a 76-note MIDI controller.
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.

Errors or Corrections? Send them here.