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Roland D-50 is back. In the form of another Boutique D-05 device!

Roland D-50 is back. In the form of another Boutique D-05 device!

One of the most famous synths of all time, Roland's first digital synthesizer and mega successful in sales, involved in a variety of popular musical compositions and soundtracks of the late 80's and 90's. It was one of the first to open our eyes to the real power of the digital music and became the object of lust for many generations of musicians, and is still being bought and resold for decent money. It is the most recopied and revived instrument by the Japanese company itself. D-50 is a digital synthesizer with the LA - Linear Arithmetic - engine. On September 9, 2017, to celebrate the 30th birthday of the synth, Roland released another reincarnation, this time with no functional compromise. Meet the best-selling (in the foreseeable future) module from the Boutique series - Roland D-05!

To begin with, a little digression into the history. What does D-50 mean for the leading Japanese corporation in the production of electronic musical instruments? This is a synthesizer, which influenced the electronic music of the late 80's and early 90's immensely. Very soon after the release D-50 got related to the name of the company and, until now, unconditionally remains one of the favorite digital “beyond time” synthesizers. This was a hit which happens once in a lifetime. Among the competing Japanese brands only Yamaha DX7 and KORG M1 have a similar influence on the hearts of musicians - by the way, both are from the same era, and all three became first iconic digital synthesizers. Nevertheless, Roland D50 still did not reach the popularity level of its counterparts, partly due to the lack of the workstation functions, which M1 had, and due to fact that DX7 appeared earlier on the market.

D-50 is built on the LA sound engine (or LAS, Linear Arithmetic Synthesis), which combines both traditional subtractive synthesis and PCM synthesis (a synthesis based on samples). This approach provided its own, nothing like a bright sound, perfectly suited for saturated iridescent pads, live lead parties, memorable color in the emulation of a standard set of tools.

Roland would repeatedly exploit the achievements of its stellar synthesizer - by using its sampled sounds in later instruments (starting with the JV/XP/XV series, continuing with Fantom series, then in the instruments featuring SuperNATURAL technology - Jupiter 80/50, Integra-7, FA), and offering virtual versions (VC-1 card for V-Synth&VariOS).

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of D-50, Roland has prepared something special. Now fans of the synthesizer’s sound do not need to think up ways how to get to hard-to-find second-hand D-50 or use samples, as the Japanese company continued its successful series of miniature Boutique instruments with the new D-05 module. This is the first model where the DCB technology - Digital Circuit Behavior – is applied. The creators of D-05 say that the novelty completely repeats the logic of the functioning of the famous ancestor and even has the same samples. In fact, in this case, unlike the instruments based on the ACB and simulating the sound of analog synthesizers, with D-05 the brand's fans got the same LA synthesizer, but built on modern circuitry and electronic components and 10 times cheaper than the cost of Roland D-50 back in 1987. Though it lacks a keyboard.

So, D-05 brings only good news, and now we will list some of the advantages of the new synthesizer.

Unlike the Boutique modules built on ACB, which sport a 4-voice polyphony, the new D-05 has 16 voices! This is exactly what the famous ancestor offered. Moreover, if needed, the polyphony can be expanded twice if you connect two D-05 units via MIDI (in fact, you can do it with all synth modules of the Boutique series). This synthesizer can sound in two modes - close to the original one, and as a contemporary version with cleaner modern sound. The mode is selected by the user. The same approach was used with V-Synth and VC-1 expansion card.

Roland D-05 includes all the presets of the original D-50, plus all the sound programs from four expansion cards that were created for it. And you can use your own patches for D-50 by simply importing them into D-05 via SYSEX! Besides, the creators added new, beautifully sounding presets. The total number of programs: factory - 64 x 6 banks, custom - 64 x 8 banks, as well as 64 patterns.

Another very nice advantage is the presence of a built-in arpeggiator and sequencer. The polyphonic sequencer offers a max. length of the sequence - 64 steps, and is capable of memorizing the parameters for changing the tempo and patches and has the sequence shuffle and gate timing options in real time. The arpeggiator has 3 main modes (UP, DOWN, UP & DOWN) and 2 octave modes - 1 and 2 octaves.

As for the interface, D-05 almost completely repeats the time-tested formula discovered by the predecessors - a small screen, 43 buttons, 16 of which are allocated to the sequencer and the choice of patches, and JOYSTICK! The joystick was saved, it's a nicest surprise! Do you remember the history of KORG Wavestation SR? A removed joystick made the unit lose its charm. Just instead of wheels there are touch sensitive strips, and there is no keyboard, though actually it wasn’t a forte of the original D-50.

Like any other instrument of the Roland Boutique series, you can connect D-05 to DK-01 docking station or to K-25m mini keyboard. One of the obvious advantages is the possibility of powering both via the USB bus and from 4 batteries. Despite its compact size, all the main connectivity points are offered – MIDI in/out, stereo output and input for an external sound source. D-05 has a built-in audio interface, transmitting a digital audio signal via USB, and also supports the exchange of MIDI commands via USB.

The price for the Roland D-05 is about $400. For this money we will get a really great portable instrument that can totally replace the collector's D-50 when working in the studio and on stage, which will save the lives of the yet alive iconic synths of the 90's keeping them safe at home on a warm dusty (untouchable!) shelf. Pre-order, queuing and months of waiting are inevitable, but it's worth it.

Published: 10:12 10.09.2017
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