Roland D-50 is a famous VINTAGE synth from 1987
The Roland D-50 linear arithmetic synthesizer is a famous retro synthesizer from 1987 is 33 years old i april 2020. Rolands first digital synthesizer and now vintage synth with an impressive architecture for it age. Still an icon among roland synthesizers.
D-50 is retro synth with its iconic buttons and green display
This retro Roland Synthesizer has a trail of iconic albums for artist from the 80´s like Enya and Jean Michel Jarre.
Some famous Roland D50 users and albums
- Enya used a lot of D50 presets out og the box
- Sail Away and over anything she ever did
- Jean michel jarre
- The Jean Michel Jarre synth all over the revolutions album. Clever programing.
- Michael Jackson
- A defining Michael Jackson sound
- Phil Collins
- George Michael
- New Order
- Duran Duran
Famous D-50 sounds programmed by Eric Persing.
- Staccato Heaven
The sounds from this unit is also implemented in later Roland synthesizers like:
- VC-1 Card for V Synth and V Synth XT
- Integra 7
- System 8
- Boutique D-05
- Roland Cloud
what sounds does D50 do best
Velocity and aftertrouch sensivity is well build into to amp and filters for very expressive sounds. The amp- and filter envelopes can be modulated with velocity range and aftertouch.
The D50 synthesizer is best for the following sounds
- Soft Strings
- Attacky sounds played with Arpeggiator
- Airy sounds from outer space
The 80´s artist Enya used D-50 for its human like Ahh, Uhh, Ohh and pluck samples. The attack and airy top-end on ArcoStrings and Pizzagogo was her trademark.
The unit it self is not really suited for programming the synth. Roland made an external programming unit named PG1000.
Today there are several software editors for programming the unit from a computer though MIDI send sysx commands.
D50 Librarian is a fine editor for programming D50 without a PG1000. D50 Librarian makes D50 easy to understand and program.
Attack samples with PCM
The PCM oscillators has 49 attack samples and some loop samples for looping. Tha samples are a mix of string picks/plucks, breath and human sounds.
Combined with the synth oscillators D-50 can produce interesting sounds with impact.
Roland D50 has an Upper and a lower part with 2 oscillators on each that gives it 4 sound generators.
The 4 sound generators kan be set to PCM, Saw or Square.
This vintage synth has 4 filters. One per oscillator but only when Saw or Square oscillators are selected.
One filter envelope per part
PCM oscillator does not have filters and has no filter envelope
D50 Librarian software. Roland D50 Filter envelope with 6 Stages and velocity range.
With the filter envelope depth and velocity range the synth can do expressive sounds byond the factory presets.
One amp envelope per part
All 4 oscillators have a 6 stage amp envelope.
Roland D50 has 3 LFOs for upper and 3 LFOs for lower part. 6 LFOs in all was a lot in 1987.
D50 software editor. The 3 Roland D-50 LFOs with Waveform, sync, rate and delay time
In 1987 features like LFO sync to host or tempo sync was not an option but it can be programmed manually.
Velocity- and aftertouch modultion is interesting on this synth and can have a great impact on sounds. 3 LFOs per part makes it versatile for modulation filters and amp envelopes.
- Chorus 1
- Chorus 2
- Flanger 1
- Flanger 2
- Feedback Chorus
- Chorus Tremolo
It has one Chorus effect for upper, one for lower and one reverb for the whole sound.
The reverb is an 8 bit reverb with 32 presets. It was probably good in 1987 but a bit grainy for today standard. It has a D50 character but can not compete with plugins like Valhalla DSP reverb and other reverb plugins.
D-50 Reverb list
- Small Hall
- Medium Hall
- Large Hall
- Small Metal Room
- Small Room
- Medium Room
- Medium Large Room
- Large Room
- Single Delay (102 ms)
- Cross Delay (180 ms)
- Cross Delay (223 ms)
- Cross Delay (140 - 296 ms)
- Short Gate (200 ms)
- Long Gate (480 ms)
- Bright Hall
- Large Cave
- Steel Pan
- Delay (248 ms)
- Delay (338 ms)
- Cross Delay (157 ms)
- Cross Delay (252 ms)
- Cross Delay (274 - 137 ms)
- Gate Reverb
- Reverse Gate (360 ms)
- Reverse Gate (480 ms)
- Slap Back 1
- Slap Back 2
- Slap Back 3
- Twisted Space
Using the roland D50 sampling ideas in modern synth plugins
The idea of using samples only for the attack part of the sound combined with synthesis or long/looped samples can be used in modern synthesizers and samplers like Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2, Arturia Pigments 2, Steinberg Padshop 2, Izotope Iris 2, Native Instruments Kontakt or Steinberg Halion 6.
The attack is a very defining part of a synth sound and specially in arpeggiated sounds with frequent note ons the attack samples will play more.
You can sample you own attacks to use in interesting sounds like the D-50 retro synth. Sounds like E Piano is basically an attack sound and a not pure sine wave.
A synthesizer like Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2 also has 4 parts and Hardware Integration to the real D50 synthesizer.
Omnisphere 2 also has sample- or synth engines in the oscillators
Omnisphere 2 sample- or synth engine x 4 A,B,C,D
Steinbergs Padshop 2 has 2 engines. A and B. A can be a short sample and be the body of the sound.
Arturia Pigments 2 has a new sample engine making it usefull for this. It has 2 engines and one can be a short sample for the attack part and one a longer og looped sample, analog- or wavetable engine. The sample engine has start end end points making it perfect for finding good attack sounds in short samples.