The Roland D50 /D550 & JD 800...
The Linear Arithmatic Synthesis system was another original approach to the creation of new and vital synth timbres and the Roland D50 was a prime mover in it's class. Extremely difficult to program unless you are blessed with a pedantic button pushers memory, the programming manual is quite a weighty tome at roughly five times the thickness of the operation pamphlet. But the manual does have it's uses, propping up tables with one leg considerably shorter than the others is a particular example that springs to mind!
Not withstanding it's apparent user un-friendliness in the programming department, the D50 has the ability to produce breath taking sonic colours. The system works by having two parallel sound generators for each voice, and each sound generator can be selected to either a sample of a real sound or a synth tone generator. But it doesn't stop there because you can also program a stage further by splitting the beginning and end of each element of the sound in the same way. Got that? No, I'm struggling too!
Well......... OK, all that said, it should be reasonably apparent that every sound can be made up from up to four seperate partial sounds which are either natural samples or synthetic in nature.
If I can put it another way..... it sounds awfully good at times and there are other, shall we say, "stronger" adjectives that I might have chosen to preface good!!!
Right....... so that's a D50 but what's a D550? Well, in a simplistic nutshell it's a D50 in a 19 inch rack mounted box without a keyboard. And unlike the D50 the 550 has the ability to pretend to be two D50's at once!!! So not only do you get al the fun sounds of the D50 twice you gain space in your rig and you can play it remotely with a MIDI controller of some sort! And yes, we do have a D550 too...... erm... we DO have two D550s too... or something like that!
Now for a selection of D50 LA
timbres take a listen to the first clip below which contains several different voices
starting with what is perhaps the best timbre I have ever heard on this
particular synth. It's called Star Voice Choir and is a particular favourite of almost everyone who hears it.
Listen out also for the Digital
Native Dance, not
one of my programs I'm sad to say - and yes, the native effects are part of the
timbre, not a post production overdub! The second audio clip is of a JMJ song
entitled "Chronologie 4" performed live by us on October 31st. 1998.
In it you will hear extensive use of Star Voice Choir. All the D50 patches you
have heard in the clips are available for free download on our patches page
along with others like the Yamaha DX 7 and JP 8000 voices.
So then, a bit of a swine to program due to the multi level menus but a sonic sensation and if you are hankering for that sound, it's not so hard to find these synths because people just can't program 'em! What they don't know half the time is of the existence of the optional programmer for these synths. Named rather exotically the "PG1000", this MIDI plug in device puts back the faders the D series never had and makes it a veritable tweakers delight!!!
There are absolutely oodles of web sites devoted to D50 sound patches, just run a search through Google or such like and see what you find...
Now in the meanwhile, what about the JD800? Well... it's really not a million miles different to a D50. The basic concept of taking samples to create the sounds is still utilised in the JD however conventional filters and VCAs are tacked on downstream of the sample oscillators to allow a really knobby, pseudo-analogue interface for editing... indeed, it is a veritable twiddler's delight. Although it is fair to say that the JD works in a very similar way to the D50/550 it should be obvious from the number of faders and buttons on the above photograph that this instrument effectively has it's own PG1000 built in. Best of all, it has a far better set of high quality samples for sound creation.
On the down side this synth is rather prone to a fault whereupon it randomly edits itself mid song.... fine if it only decides to do a little tweak on your behalf but pretty damned devastating if it decides to go the whole hog and twiddle something serious! However there's no escaping the fact that it is packed with delightful sounds, especially when you add the optional waveform cards through the slot on the back. We currently have the string card which gives us a mass of super sounds ranging from a simple analogue style string synth to a full orchestra complete with dynamics controlled by the velocity of your playing. Ours even has a passable Mellotron Mark II Strings sound onboard now since we've learnt some basic editting and I managed to suitably butcher a basic 'tron string patch I found.
Watch this page to see how we are getting on with the instrument and how it continues to integrate into our sound. Also keep checking back for sound samples from this beast...