The first time I played a D50 back in 1988, I knew Roland was on to something different. The sounds that came out of this new box were about as far away as you can get from the FM sounds of the Yamaha DX7 that had dominated the synthesizers of the 80's. The warm, lush sounds that came out of the D50 were a result of Roland combining sample playback with digital synthesis in a new type of sound making they called "Linear Arithmetic Synthesis" or "LA Synthesis".
Since the most difficult part of creating a real instrument on a synthesizer is the attack, the D50 included 100 sampled attacks in it's ROM. The synthesizer played back an attack and used the D50 synthesizer parameters to create the sustain of the sound. This "dual method" was required in 1987 since RAM was very expensive at the time. This new sound creating technique became so popular that soon it was not long before every synthesizer on the market used a similar method to create sounds.
Along with it's great sounds, another thing that made the D50 so popular was that it was a lot easier to program then the DX7. With it's subtractive style synthesis and low pass resonant filters, programming was more like an analog synth. Built in chorus and digital reverb were also included. The first time reverb came built into a synth. Programming from the front panel was a challenge, but Roland also produced the PG1000 programmer that you could hook up to the D50 and have access to all of the internal parameters via analog type sliders and switches which made programming a lot easier.
Roland PG1000 Programmer
Multitimbral synths were just starting to appear in the late 80's. The D50 was "bi-timbral" meaning that you could only transmit on two midi channels, however it could be modified through the addition of the Musitronics M-EX to make it multitimbral. The D-50 was also produced as the rack-mount unit D-550 and Roland also released a series of lower-priced keyboards and modules (D5, D10, D110, D20 and MT32), that allowed musicians who couldn't afford the high end D-50 some of those amazing sounds.
The Patch King has created two volumes of sounds for the D50 or D550 rack. Just click on the links above to view the sound lists. We also include free demo programs that you can download along with a link for loading in sounds to the D50 via the midi port. Be sure to check out that link if your D50 battery has died and your looking for a way to get new sounds back in the keyboard. The D50 uses a CR-2032 lithium battery and is pretty easy to change yourself. Just remember that once the battery dies you lose whatever data you have inside your synthesizer and you have to reload sounds in to be able to play the synth again. Once the battery is changed you can load in our sounds to get you going again. We also include the D50 factory sounds at no charge with your order.
All sounds are available in system exclusive (.syx) or standard midi files (.mid) for Mac or PC computers. We also have it available on the old Alesis Data Disk if you happen to be using that old beast. Sorry, but we do not offer the sounds on RAM or PCM sound cards. The cards have not been made in many years and we no longer support that format. If your computer has a midi interface or sound card connected to the USB port, you can use that to load in the sounds.
We provide the software along with your order that will load in the sounds for you. Midi interfaces are an inexpensive alternative to purchasing RAM or PCM cards and sell them starting at under $100. if you need one. If your just getting into synthesizers and on a budget, a used D50 or D550 is worth looking into. You can probably pick one up for a couple of hundred US dollars on Ebay.
If you need any more info please contact us via phone or e-mail.