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
f.a. of 'souls of sophie'
April 9, 2011 @ 1:01 pm
I don't know why people complain about the user interface. At first I thought, "oh, so many people complained about the user interface, maybe I should just use an editor".After trying to use Midiquest to control it, I gave up, and put the D70 up for sale. A day into selling it, I thought "well, let me test this synth out hands on". I couldn't believe how easy it was to use (I guess after having a K2000 for 10 years, everything is). I was creating some thick pads and strings in no time and I stopped the auction straight away. This synth is one I think I'll keep.
February 9, 2011 @ 10:37 am
There was a next-to-homeless man/neighborhood mechanic that had one of these sitting next to him, leaning on a telephone pole. When I passed by, I asked him "What are you going to do with this? It has broken keys, probably doesn't work" so he insisted that I TAKE IT! I was right. The screen was all monkeys, no internail patches. I had to Hard reset and then go through the hell dumping sysex from the computer back into the machine. Well, it worked! Despite the 4 bad keys (Leaf springs ... good luck!) and missing one of the F-buttons, I found this was a good, albeit limited soundset synth.
December 18, 2010 @ 8:01 am
I owned a D70 for a while and whilst it was an excellent MIDI controller, its user interface was so unfathomable that I ended up selling it for under £100. Being a glorified version of the U20 keyboard, its sounds were dated and there was not much that the synth engine could do about them. Don't even think of buying one without a manual. The display on mine made a hell of a buzzing noise too. It simply does not compare with the D50.
October 16, 2010 @ 3:34 pm
this has been used by Charly Garcia in the albums 'Say No More' (studio) and 'Casandra Lange' (live)

Here's the first part of a demo from 1990: "Up and Running with the D70"
May 20, 2010 @ 1:32 am
Scrub what I said about the 'MT32' being real LA, must have been the lack of sleep ;)

from sound on sound:

"Roland capitalised upon the success and growing reputation of LA Synthesis and, later in the year, the MT32 appeared. Designed for home use alongside an electric piano or MIDI home keyboard, this used a much more limited form of LA synthesis, and its sound was in no way comparable to the 'real thing'. Unfortunately, Roland were rather naughty with the MT32 and its successors, advertising them in an ambiguous way that implied that they contained the D50's synthesis engine. I think that this was a significant mistake, and it may have backfired badly. If you had heard an MT32 in 1987 and thought that this was the sound of Roland's flagship synth, you would have wondered what all the fuss was about."
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Rated 3.69 (345 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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