Roland S-50 / S-550

Roland S-50 Image

Roland S-50

Among Roland's line of early keyboard samplers—the S-series—the S-50 can be thought of as the professional model. Still, by today's standards it would be considered limited and lo-fi. However for its time it was a powerful instrument which can still prove useful for many music applications today. It offered a full 61 note keyboard with velocity and aftertouch sensitivity and 16 voice polyphony which was great for live and studio performances. It's easy to use, has an external CRT monitor support for large graphic editing and disk-loadable samples and operating systems (version 2.0 or later is best).

Though editing is a breeze, it is quite sophisticated and can be much easier when using an external CRT monitor and the DT-100 Digitizer Tablet. You get to draw waveforms, auto-loop, tune, edit the multi-stage envelopes, edit digital filters and quickly adjust loops and samples. There is also a SYS-503 sequencer package software which offers basic drum machine type sequencing. Of course most edit parameters, excluding the sequencer, can be modified and tweaked via the Alpha-Juno type alpha-dial.

It's too bad that such a nice looking and well designed synthesizer is home to a tiny 512k-WORD sample memory (756k-byte sample memory). And with 15 to 30kHz variable sampling rates at a 12-bit resolution, the sound quality is almost nice. Roland has a vast sample library of sounds ready to be loaded via the built in 3.5 inch disk drive. Samples of your own (up to 28.8 seconds at 15kHz) can also be saved to disk. The S-50 version 1.0 allowed for 16 samples or "tones". Version 2.0 expanded to 32 samples or "tones". Sampling modes include manual, auto and previous.

Roland S-550 Image

Roland S-550

A rack-mounted version of the S-50 came in the form of the S-550, which also had double the sample memory (1.5 Mb) and more importantly, real-time filters (called time-variant filters) derived from LAS-type synthesizers like the D-50. A slimmed down, consumer friendly version of the S-550 was also available as the S-330. The S-50 supports the DT-100 Digitizer Tablet and an external CRT monitor, but if you would like to connect the DT-100 to the S-550 (or a S-330) you will need a RC-100 first. The S-50/S-550 has been used by Vangelis, Duran Duran and Jimi Tenor.

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35 Visitor comments
chucko182
June 10, 2014 @ 6:28 pm
This thread is probably dead, but yes you need a boot disk to start up the S-50. You can download them online from Roland and other places.
Tertiumsquid
June 6, 2014 @ 3:58 am
Just picked one of these up for free, complete with a box of disks! The floppy drive still works too! There were a couple dead keys (which only required cleaning), and the guy had lost all the screws for the casing and keybed, as well as the end caps. I got a lot of static from the output relay too - I ended up removing it and hardwiring the connections to the output jacks; there's a bit of digital static for a second when you fire it up, but it's super quiet and clean after that. This is a great sampler, with good sound quality in and out: beats the pants off my Ensoniq Mirage!
bob
May 21, 2014 @ 8:24 am
Does the 330 have the limiter on the input like the 550?
B.A. Black
September 1, 2013 @ 9:39 am
The Time Variant Filter on this would not be derived from the D-50 as the the D-50 cannot filter samples. The filter only works on the synth partials and the TVF does not actually process audio but is generated by some sort of calculation at the same point as the saw and pulse waves. It takes whatever values you have entered for the TVF and calculates the appropriate harmonic content over time of the selected saw or pulse wave.
Sandy B
August 3, 2013 @ 5:21 pm
Im trying to connect my Roland S 50 to work with Reason but it cant recognize it. Im not sute if I need to have Roland drivers on my computer system or what.
 
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  • 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 - 16 voices
  • Sampler - 12-bit, 30kHz, variable
  • Multitimbral - 4-parts, 4 outputs
  • Memory - 756kb, 28.8 seconds total sample time
  • Filter - Hi-pass, Low-pass digital filters
  • Arpeg/Seq - SYS503 sequencing software
  • Keyboard - 61 keys with velocity and aftertouch
  • Control - MIDI
  • Date Produced - 1986 - 1987
  • Resources & Credits
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