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
August 7, 2010 @ 3:21 am
Had my S-50 since the 80's. Very easy to work with when connected to a tv (composite) or monitor (rgb). Limited sampling capacity with todays standards, but hey it's +20 years old. The unit must be booted from disk and there's different boot disks depedning on functionality (sampling vs sequencing). Used the S-50 live with the onboard sequencer. The sequencer could be played with or without the monitor, but it looked really cool with the monitor attached (a poor mans Fairlight). Slow loading times from disk could be annoying during live performances. I have a nearly complete S-50/S-550 Roland sample library to my unit.
January 3, 2010 @ 1:21 pm
The Scottish band The Blue Nile used this synth.
December 20, 2009 @ 1:07 pm
Just picked this Keyboard up. I'm not tech savy at all and the keyboard only has 1 disk with 3 piano tones on it. Where can I get more tones? Nothing too fancy just basic library. Thanks!!!
December 8, 2009 @ 6:54 pm
picked one up today for $50....the sample sounds are all but unplayable but Ive ordered some more discs...built like a tank, was just going to use it to trigger my JV 1080 but I might use it a bit more
March 25, 2009 @ 10:40 am
picked this little killer up@a guitar shop used it for 10yrs playen bands(keyboardist/guitarist big ochestra samples+wierd home made samples)in"placebo junkies" "stone"+a hip hop outfit i've worked on with some mates called the"BPC"the S-50 never failed to perform. i'm usen 1.4mb floppys(thats rite compared wiv 72kb disks th@ originally came with it)*mate told me tape over hole on bottom right of 1.4mb disc will fool the system into thinking its 72kb disk*( woz ready to put it out to pasture).should stop rambling and get back to it.questions?now using a groove box+em-50(for midi and gs kits)with the S-50 cause its damn phat & makes my head spin(and the audiences).4evaurzroland.regards 'SUNSTORM'
check out some re-mixes done on the s-50 @ "grandrockaudio" think its myspace but "goooogle" just incase.(its the "be with u" and "save me" remixes) or email me @ cause i'm probably in the studio cutten sick.
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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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