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
May 17, 2010 @ 11:39 pm
To Rolandus:

If you're still out there. I have a D70 factor present card...I just need to find an apparatus that will allow to transfer that sound from that card to pc or to transform those sounds to a SysEx data form. Any suggestions anyone?
May 15, 2010 @ 9:41 pm
For anyone considering this as an alternative (or 'upgrade' - haha) to the Legendary D-50, please do not be fooled. This is NOT an LA synth - in fact none of them were aside from the 50/550 and the MT version. The rest played off the massive success of D-50 by using the 'D' name, but really they are just dated romplers.

If you want D-50, get D-50 it's a different beast entirely to this D-70 which any number of other synths can be compared with (and probably better too).

Why so much venom in my posts? Because I'm sick of 'con men' on Ebay etc making false claims to shift old outdated synths (ROMPLERS), this was never an 'upgrade' to D-50. D-50 is unique.
March 18, 2010 @ 11:01 pm
Bought the D-70 as soon as it came on the market and never looked back...Used it (and a second one) for 8 years, both in the studio & live. Hooked up to the Q-80 sequencer, it handled all my basic writing and dance music production with great flexibility...The larger LCD, 4 data sliders, and Roland sound (I´m a bit biased) made me choose it over the M1.
February 27, 2010 @ 3:37 pm
What's not said is that the D70 started the new world of multiple waveforms (4 in this case) making up each sound. Where the U20 was 1 waveform (multi-sampled) per sound, the D70's 4 (single-sampled) could make much more complex sounds. To this day, keyboards like the Motif XS use this method (although the Motif uses up to 8 waveforms per sound and the quality of those sampled waveforms are far superior - thanks to the lower cost of memory). A huge drawback with the D70 is that a sound made of all 4 combined waveforms would take 4 notes of polyphony. The U20's piano (for example) would only take 1 note of polyphony per note played even though it was multisampled (accessed via velocity).
November 3, 2009 @ 4:38 am
Where are all the D-70 sysex patches? I'd like to dump some new sounds to my d70, but can't find any in the internet. If you have made some of our own, please share them!

Despite of being fake LA-synth I like my d70 and its DLM-feature. Filter is not only LP, but also BP and HP with resonance.
VSE Rating

It’s Good

User Rating

Rated 3.68 (349 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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