Roland D-50 Sample + Synthesis Retro Review

In this video, Espen Kraft takes a look at the Roland D-50 synthesizer and the Roland PG-1000 programmer.

The D-50, originally introduced in 1987, was based on Linear Arithmetic Synthesis (LA Synthesis) – an approach that combined sample playback and synthesis. ROM was very expensive at the time, so Roland stored a variety of attack samples which could be combined with sustained samples and synthesis to create new types of sounds.

The D-50 proved to be a great success, because it was capable of more realistic synthesis of acoustic sounds than earlier approaches, making a wide range of new sounds possible. Many D-50 sounds have become iconic, because of their widespread use in popular music.

If you’ve used a Roland D-50, leave a comment and share your thoughts on it!

6 thoughts on “Roland D-50 Sample + Synthesis Retro Review

  1. April 7th, 1988, was my 17th birthday in England, and my dad took me to Syco Systems to buy me the D-50 and PG-1000. Kendal Wrightson was our sales person. And I’m still a proud owner of the very two units that Kendal sold us. The D-50 still remains a staple in my studio. Couple of years ago I managed to buy Eventide H7600 & H9Max, as well as Strymon BigSky. The D-50 going through those effects sounds even better, but it gives me the fizz and makes me jizz just like it did when I heard it for the first time in 1987.

    Check out the track I did few years using the D-50; link below:

      1. The main stabby synth chord chops is the D-50. There are two synth pad voices/layers also from the D-50.

        Breathy “ooh” voice from Emax-II. Many other elements (Fairlight, Stratocaster, stabs/hits) also from Emax-II.

        The driving synth baseline from the Moog Sub37.

        Drums and percussion, programming and sequencing in Reason.

        Editing, mixing and mastering in ProTools.

        Software plugin effects: Waves; Eventide.

        Hardware effects: Eventide H7600; Eventide H9Max; Strymon BigSky; Yamaha ProR3; Yamaha SPX900.

  2. There can be no doubt that the D-50 had very pleasing sounds. But the D-50 always made me laugh. “Linear Arithmetic”? What does that have to do with it? And all the diagrams on the panel? Obviously all of this was in response to Yamaha’s DX-7 FM synthesizer. Great sounding instrument, but humorous marketing choices.

    1. I think the “linear” refers to the synth engine being digital and “arithmetic” refers to how the patches were made of summed partials which could varying combinations of short transient samples and traditional subtractive synthesis. Maybe I’ve got this wrong. This combo was one of the main selling points, if not -the- main selling point. They had to call it something, and I don’t think it was a bad description. Calling it “L.A. Synthesis” for short also had nice ring to it.

      I can see the benefit of panel diagrams since programming the D-50 without a PG-1000 or editor software meant a bit of menu diving. The params didn’t have full names in the display- just shortened versions, so its handy to have something right in front of you to see what part of the envelope “T3” refers to, especially since these were a bit more complex than standard ADSR’s.

      My experience is only with a D-05, so please correct me if I’m wrong about any of this.

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