Roland D50 is it a classic or out of date?

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Mr. Black
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Post by Mr. Black » Tue Apr 22, 2008 1:33 am

I think buyer's today are under the impression that the D50 is some sort of instant gratifacation type synth, they will sound like JMJ's "Revolution's,or that those preset's have some kind of special magic to them,(which they clearly don't). You either love it or really don't care for it's sound,I love it's high end sheen, glassy texture, power pads, leads,Rock organs,and maybe the easy to program weird effect are the only sounds i ever got out of the D50,but that was due to lack of programming skill's on my part, and i do like a few of the original presets.

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Post by Hossinfeffa » Tue Apr 22, 2008 3:00 am

Mr. Black wrote:I think buyer's today are under the impression that the D50 is some sort of instant gratifacation type synth, they will sound like JMJ's "Revolution's,or that those preset's have some kind of special magic to them,(which they clearly don't). You either love it or really don't care for it's sound,I love it's high end sheen, glassy texture, power pads, leads,Rock organs,and maybe the easy to program weird effect are the only sounds i ever got out of the D50,but that was due to lack of programming skill's on my part, and i do like a few of the original presets.
Well I hope I wasn't lumped into that group. :P

I bought a PG-1000 for a reason. ;) I love everything you said too. But I'm not sure if most people buy it because of what you said. The person that owned mine before me programmed a bunch of Hammond organ sounds and acoustic instruments in. Also the person that I bought my PG-1000 from used it to make organ sounds mainly as well. I've always loved programming sounds from scratch, but sometimes you want to play around with those funny old presets every so often.
Well fffff.

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Post by Mr. Black » Tue Apr 22, 2008 7:50 am

Sorry Hossinfeffa, wasn't trying to offend you, or any folks new to the D50, i think what i described was typical synth Gassing,and everyone get's that.

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Post by Don Solaris » Tue Apr 22, 2008 8:54 am

CS_TBL wrote:If features mean zero to you, then so be it.. your loss.
Of course i find feature important, but it is not all about the feature. Approach: "hey i already got all the feature of D-50 on newer synth" is wrong. You have the features, but do you have the "sound"? For example: You have a pc, right? So, how come you are wasting time with hardware - when you already have all possible features on a pc.

CS_TBL wrote: I've a suggestion: since you obviously have a D(5)50, record a few of your best/unique patches (single notes, no chords), mp3/host 'em, and I'll give my comments on them.
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Linear Drift - Roland D-50 only. Demo by Analog Kid
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Hats off when you make JV-1080 (or any other synth) sound like this. :salute:

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Post by CS_TBL » Tue Apr 22, 2008 9:47 am

Don Solaris wrote:but do you have the "sound"?
Sound may differ a bit, but as far as I understand your earlier points, it's mainly the aliasing/DAC you see as 'the' D50 sound? If you could replace the sample ROM with a modern ROM of say 128MB, with your own samples, would you do that?
For example: You have a pc, right? So, how come you are wasting time with hardware - when you already have all possible features on a pc.
Apart from the SN2 some months ago, I haven't switched on or touched anything you see in my sig, I'm all into software. Those synths were all bought in a time when I didn't have a meaty PC yet. Only reason I switched on the SN2 recently was because I already had a few ready to go sounds made which would take longer to rebuild using software than to sample 'em from the SN2.

The synths I have here are mainly eating up space (not to mention my mixing console), yet I'm not sure I'd sell 'm at one day. (more for reasons of nostalgia than anything else)
Hats off when you make JV-1080 (or any other synth) sound like this. :salute:
Ok, first: these mp3's sound very good. It won't change my opinion tho, but ok, they're good. As for recreating: these are dense layers, I could try to recreate individual patches, but then I need to hear these isolated patches.

Possible problems may arise when you are extremely fond of the technological limitations of the D(5)50 (aliasing, 8bit, lofi, shortloops). That would be an interesting thread on its own tho. The most interesting aspect of such a discussion would be whether Roland would've made the machine with these technological artifacts when there wouldn't be a reason to do so. Just imagine the D50 being made 10 years later.
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Post by Hossinfeffa » Tue Apr 22, 2008 12:22 pm

Mr. Black wrote:Sorry Hossinfeffa, wasn't trying to offend you, or any folks new to the D50, i think what i described was typical synth Gassing,and everyone get's that.
Nah, no offense taken. I was just wanting to point out that I didn't buy it to get that "sound" in a certain song. It's the sound all together. :)
Well fffff.

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Post by Don Solaris » Tue Apr 22, 2008 4:21 pm

CS_TBL wrote:The most interesting aspect of such a discussion would be whether Roland would've made the machine with these technological artifacts when there wouldn't be a reason to do so. Just imagine the D50 being made 10 years later.
Interesting point here. Answer is probably not. But let me ask you a counter question. Why would Roland in the year of 2008 be selling a VC-1 D-50 card for V-Synth when we all know how superior V-synth is to D-50. Not to mention that V-synth has almost all the features(!) that D-50 has, plus hundreds more.

Yet they release VC-1 card of an "outdated" synth. Makes no sense...




...unless..... :idea:




... all the latest and superior synths of Roland are UNABLE to recreate the original SOUND of D-50.

Think a little bit about this, you seem like a smart guy.

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Post by gfriden » Tue Apr 22, 2008 4:51 pm

Don Solaris, I'd fear for my life getting into an argument with you with an avatar like that. Perhaps CS_TBL should get a Luke Skywalker avatar. Wait! That would make him your son, and the D-50 would be the synth equivalent of the dark side of the force...
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Post by seamonkey » Tue Apr 22, 2008 5:16 pm

I think this thread has yielded some very interesting points regarding the D50 but I think everything has been rehashed enough times that it's quickly becoming an "opinion" thread.
What is an opinion thread? well to me it's when people try to validate their opinion by arguing their points, then the person with the opposite view feels they have to challenge those points and it goes on and on.
It's one of those things, you either like the D50 or you don't, you either see it as a classic which has it's own magic or it's just another synth with aliasing and crappy PCM samples, nothing will change any of this.

BTW, I have owned my D50 since it was first released. I had a V-synth and bought the VC-1 D50 card. When I went to dump some of my own patches I did a side by side comparison and the VC-1 card came very close to the real D50 but it lacked something I hear in the original, maybe that is aliasing or the DAC's but the D50 wins out in a side by side comparison.
You can agree or disagree, that's your choice but I'm not going to try and change anyone's mind. :)
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Post by CS_TBL » Tue Apr 22, 2008 5:39 pm

Don Solaris wrote:Why would Roland in the year of 2008 be selling a VC-1 D-50 card for V-Synth when we all know how superior V-synth is to D-50. Not to mention that V-synth has almost all the features(!) that D-50 has, plus hundreds more.
Probably -but this is all just a theory- because Roland is a company known to squeeze out every last drop of cash from a concept. I've witnessed the release of oodles o' GM machines, GS machines, JV80-based clones, JV+GM synths, JV+GM+seqeuencer synths, XV synths, XV+sequencer synths, XV+GM+sequencer synths, same for modules and EPiano-style models. And *major aargh*, iirc there was a Goldstar 'GEK' keyboard in the late 90's which had sounds licensed from Roland. I mean, you can't hide, you can't run, there's Roland waiting for you at every corner.

Why did they recreate the D50? Maybe to cash in on the success it once had? If you are Roland, you need to create a product to keep the wheel spinning, and there so happens to be some kinda retro revival.. what model are you going to revamp then? The choice is easy, often enough the 'big 3' of the 80's are said to be the DX7, the D50 and the M1, Roland picking the D50 is hardly a surprise then, ain'it? Esp. since the JP8 has already been covered by Arturia.

I think a nice comparison here would be FM7, which cashed in on the DX7, while I could also mention the Korg Legacy. And so, the majors of the 80's have been covered. Funny bit is that FM7 completely didn't appeal to me, while FM8 does (as -thank god- they let loose of that DX interface).
... all the latest and superior synths of Roland are UNABLE to recreate the original SOUND of D-50.
The problem here is that the aliasing/lofi/8bit/shortloops is the so called unique quality here of the D50. I'm sure Roland didn't *like* those artifacts, but they had no choice considering their target audience. Later on the technology got better and cheaper, and there was no need for Roland to use this collection of artifacts. I'd say, Roland synths will eventually feature better converters, sample rates, sample ROMs etc. So, from that point of view it's not strange that you won't see those artifacts in later models. For decades synth-pioneers have been on the lookout for the best aural quality of their instruments. Why would they use dated technology at some point in time?

And before you start about practical uses of aliasing etc.: for some late company, I've made in-house softsynths from '99 -'01. We actually sold screensavers to companies with generated instruments in music. My 6-op fixed-algo FM softsynth also had aliasing when I chose a non-bandwidth-limited sawtooth as operator. For noises 'n stuff it had its merits, but most of the time it was just plain annoying. My softsynth had an uber-j**k reverb that worked fairly well for bright/looping sounds, but a short pizzicato-like sound with a bit o' reverb was usually not a good idea. At points it could've had its merits (esp. as I could choose from 256 random positions for the chained/stacked delays), but most of the time it just sucked. If ever I were to do a new softsynth I wouldn't *ever* go back to that crappy h**l I once made. Later on I made a virtual oscillator in which the amount of aliasing was a parameter which I could set to 0 for no aliasing.. :D

Another comparison here: Imagine you happen to like that over-used piano from the JV(8)80. I dunno about you, but anno today that piano sounds cheap plastic if you ask me. By today ppl can use gigabytes for a classy Bosendorfer, no loops, various velo goups, sustain and non-sustain, etc. Would you be the type to say: 'mm, do me the JV80 piano plz' ? And that's how I see that D50 sample ROM, afaik it's 2 generations before the JV80 even.
Think a little bit about this, you seem like a smart guy.
Well, rite. :P Contrary to what you/others *may* think based on the previous pages, my intention was not to troll or anything. But I'd rather try to find out how to ape those D50 artifacts using today's equipment or software, because that's what I still stand-up for.
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Post by D-Collector » Tue Apr 22, 2008 9:54 pm

The point I try to make is that I think it is sad that many people decide beforehand that it a bad synth because of specs, presets and samples, without trying to dig deeper. I think it is the same story with the DX7, at least with the presets.
When you have allready decided that it is a bad synth, of course it will never give you any joy. It's like sitting down with a meal and saying this tastes bad, without taking a bite.
You don't know the sound until you've actually heard it for the first time.

As for the D-50's samples, they are not an essential part of the synth.
Nobody is forcing anyone to use them, unless you only use the presets. Personally I very rarely use the samples in my sounds, but when I do they are only supplemental to the D-50's synthesis capabilities, and I usually use one of the spectrum loops or voice samples which blend quite nicely. It is after all a synthesizer and should be used like one, not a sample playback machine.

This is not to say that I can't understand some of your points CS_TBL.
I respect your opinions.

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Post by tim gueguen » Tue Apr 22, 2008 11:30 pm

Hang onto a piece of gear long enough and it will become indispensible when whatever era it originally appeared in becomes the focus of a retroism trend. Sooner or later someone will decide that identifiably late '80s sounds are the height of hipness and D50s will become treasured.
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Post by i_watch_stars » Wed Apr 23, 2008 2:13 am

A couple of points I want to throw in the mix...


About the much discussed and lampooned presets, I actually like most of the presets.

Keep in mind the Eric Persing and his team did not always to try recreate real instruments, for instance, Glass Voices 1 and 2, which are perhaps some of the best pads ever, and used the D-50's samples which some people here are saying are worthless. Same thing with STAR-TREK voices, Marshy Zone, Intruder FX, DND, etc. The now cliche patch, Living Calliope, was obviously not trying to exactly mimic the exact sound of a panpipe with that patch, Eric Persing could have done a better job (and he did). However, Living Calliope is a great patch because it has that uniqueness of having the panpipe "feel", but not really the sound. It sounds more mechanical due to the spetrum wave used.

This brings me to my second point that I have made here before but feel I must reiterate and expand.

The key to the sound of the D-50 is how it tries to emulate something else, but misses the mark.

Do people here dislike the Mellotron because it doesn't sound realistic? Do people dislike the TB-303 because it doesn't sound like a bass guitar? The TR-303/808 because they don't sound like real drums? This can go back even further in time. Do people dislike the upright piano because it doesn't sound like a full grand?

Possible problems may arise when you are extremely fond of the technological limitations of the D(5)50 (aliasing, 8bit, lofi, shortloops). That would be an interesting thread on its own tho. The most interesting aspect of such a discussion would be whether Roland would've made the machine with these technological artifacts when there wouldn't be a reason to do so. Just imagine the D50 being made 10 years later.
Well I assume you are talking about in a universe where they never made the D-50 in the first place, right? Because if not, we have already seen the result of that thought experiment.

But if not, you have to make these assumptions;

1) Roland wants to make a profit.

2) A large portion of musicians are not interested in totally new sounds, or creating sounds (this has been shown to be true over the last 20 years).

3) A smaller portion of musicians are interested in totally new sounds, and or creating their own.

4) It is more profitable for Roland to appeal to the first group, for reasons of demand and efficiancy.

In substractive synths, this means few new things ever getting past the same osc types, filter types, we have seen for 30 years. In ROMplers, this means an ever-growing amount of presets, most of which being devoted to emulation. So if the D-50 had been created right now, we would have something like the XV-5080. A large amount of high quality emulations of both synths (but not D-50) and acoustic, and perhaps a little amount of some original sounds thrown in.

However, this isn't really the pertinent question as the D-50 DID get produced, missed the mark, and that "charm" pleased the 2nd group. It was made popular by that group, and is now fair game to be emulated and absorbed into that general process all over again. This is what happened with the TB-303, D-50, and others.

So to close, it is basically a Darwinian process, with the most successful ideas passing along, and the few mutations that arise will be selected. Which ever mutation is most fit to be selected will replicate itself and gets added to the pool of ever growing successful ideas.

Both Don Solaris and CS_TBL are correct.
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Post by sizzlemeister » Wed Apr 23, 2008 6:34 am

I think CS_TBL and Don Solaris are the same person.
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Post by logicalhippo » Wed Apr 23, 2008 7:06 am

Maybe a little off topic, but this is the first really long D-50 thread in a while.

How in gods name does the resonant filter work!? Any complicated stuff should be way out of range for such low processing power...

The real question, however, how such a cheap instrument can do digital PWM so well! At low sampling rates, the aliasing caused by a naive implementaiton of PWM would be unbearable! The modern solution is to have bandlimitted "wavetables" for PWM - but this uses way more RAM than could conceivably been on the D50. They must have been doing something tricksy indeed.

I've asked this same question on kvraudio, no one there had any idea! Maybe the secret is lost in time... or at least japan.

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