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. Both rack-mounts support the DT-100 Digitizer Tablet and an external CRT monitor. The S-50/S-550 has been used by Vangelis, Duran Duran and Jimi Tenor.

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32 Visitor comments
December 16, 2011 @ 4:30 am
I have an s50 roland. bought it as used from Japan. when i on , it says to insert system disk. i tried in the net to down load. But i can't get. Please help me to get the system file to operate the s 50. no function keys working, exept the message " insert system disk "
Jim Atwood
November 29, 2011 @ 11:32 pm
@ted - I have an update on my Roland S-50 distorted output problem. I've been able to isolate the problem to distortion happening on the 15th and 16th notes being played. The S-50 has polyphony of 16 voices. The first 14 sound fine. The last two distort. I have no idea what generates the voice output or how it's dispersed. Many think this is an output board problem but it could be chip related. I'm posting updates on my blog as I discover new info. Hopefully one day we'll find the problem that seems to be increasing with the S-50.
Ted McCready
November 6, 2011 @ 6:37 pm
Does anyone have an answer to Jim's Question? I have the same problem.Has anyone ever heard of static output problems with the Roland S-50. I just acquired one and it's virtually unplayable due to static, garbled output issues. When volume is around 30% it sounds ok, but anything higher and you get intense static. Static exists on all output jacks including the phones and mix jack. There's also no noticeable solder issues or blown caps. Any ideas? Everything else works. Thanks!
September 23, 2011 @ 11:40 am
that floppy drive boots up tha ! keybord plz!!!!!!!!!! HELP!!!!!
September 23, 2011 @ 11:35 am
i have a rolland s-50 smapler an my os floppy drive took a dump on me how can i fix it i really need this keybord sombody help me with this problem get bak at me at me
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  • Check Prices on eBay
  • The link above will take you to a 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

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