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D-50: Help Me Get The Best Sounds from It


Ben One

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Hi everyone,

 

I recently purchased a D-550 rack unit (the rack version of the D-50) because the D-50 has graced the tracks of some of my favorite musicians, from Keith Emerson to Rick Wakeman to Devo. I have wanted to slather my own tracks with D-50 sounds.

 

However, I have to admit that I'm a bit disappointed with it so far, and I suspect the reason is that I'm not making the best use of it.

 

Perhaps I am spoiled by what came after the D-50. Many of the patches on the D-550 don't seem to offer much more than what I get from my trusty Alesis QS6 (part of the reason, I bet, is that the QS6 likely uses D-50 samples!)

 

On another front, I eagerly awaited using the "Digital Native Dance" patch that is on some of my favorite synth bits, from 3's "Desde La Vida" to Devo's "The Shadow." But when I play the patch, it sounds grainy, in an almost 8-bit kind of way, not nearly as good as it sounds in the albums in which I've heard it.

 

How can I get the full, breathy and swirly synth sounds that I've associated with the D-50? As well as the punchy pan pipe sounds with which Rick Wakeman dazzled audiences in the late 80s?

 

I've heard many of the presets, and they've sounded thinner and more disappointing than I expected. I'm wondering if I'm not making proper use of the effects.

 

Was the D-50 simply groundbreaking in its time as a sample based synth that allowed users to program it in an analog sort of way? Or is there more to it than I am realizing?

 

Your feedback is much appreciated!

 

Thanks!

 

Ben

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Was the D-50 the first synth to use samples? It seems like before this came out all you had were digital wavetable synths like the ESQ-1 and DW-8000 and sample-based drum machines like Linn, Korg, Sequential, etc. I think the D-50 was the first to have small samples of instrument attacks and short vocal ahhh loops. This is to say that the sample quality might be a little on the grainy side.

 

I know what you mean about vintage synth letdown. I bought a Yamaha FM synth a few months ago and it hasn't lived up to my expectations. I expected to turn it on and sound like David Paich, but there's a bit more work to it than that.

 

I'm sure there are scads of D-50 programs available for download on the web. But a lot of the sounds on 3 are D-50 presets, as I'm sure you've discovered by now. You might also try turning off the effects and adding external effects or plug-ins, that's pretty common in the studio.

 

Have fun, -jl

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There's still life in the D-50. Although it is slightly noisy (hiss in the signal) and has shorter, low-fi samples, I still use mine. Do you have the original soundset plus any RAM cards? (I assume the rack mount used cards for memory storage.)

 

It does take patience to program, but I've gotten some amazing fat and warm string pads, breathy vocals and bizarre mallet/bell sounds that only the D-50 can produce. Did you get a manual? If not, I'm sure you can download it somewhere.

When an eel hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's a Moray.
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Originally posted by Synthoid:

Do you have the original soundset plus any RAM cards? (I assume the rack mount used cards for memory storage.)

Yes, I did get a RAM card with mine. You're exactly right--the rack mount does use cards for storage.

Originally posted by Synthoid:

It does take patience to program, but I've gotten some amazing fat and warm string pads, breathy vocals and bizarre mallet/bell sounds that only the D-50 can produce. Did you get a manual?

Yes, Roland sent me a photocopied manual for $9.00 including shipping. I was very grateful for it.

 

Thanks so much to you guys for the encouragement-- I will try to program it and also will check out some of the free patches online.

 

Ben

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Glad to help. Like I said, I still enjoy working with the D-50. I've been searching online for some good prices for RAM cards....one of my old ones seems to have died.

 

I bought my D-50 when it was new and was fortunate enough to find a store that was willing to swap programs. I loaded up two RAM cards with new sounds that way. It opened my eyes to what this beast could do. I use my Triton a lot more, but it's still fun to experiment with the D-50 and my old Ensoniq ESQ-1.

When an eel hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's a Moray.
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Originally posted by synthetic:

Was the D-50 the first synth to use samples?

If memory serves, the Kurzweil K250 has that honor...

 

The D-50 may have been the first with a serious programmable effects processor, though...if not the first, it was one of the first.

 

dB

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The D-50 was the first synthesizer to use small samples, with an 8 bit resolution; Roland's claim was that in an acoustic instrument the most difficult part to synthesize was the attack, so the samples in the D-50 cover just the very first portion of each sound. According to Roland, the other parts of the sound could be simulated via synthesis; maybe this claim is not entirely true, but this combination of small, lo-fi samples and synthesis gives the D-50 its unique sound.

After the D-50, the second synthesizer to use samples was the Korg M1.

Regards.

Korg PA3X Pro 76 and Kronos 61, Roland G-70, Integra 7 and BK7-m, Casio PX-5S, Fender Stratocaster with Fralin pickups, Fender Stratocaster with Kinman pickups, 1965 Gibson SG Standard
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Originally posted by synthetic:

Isn't the K-250 considered a sampler? You could add Fairlight and Emulator to the list too, but I was trying to think of the first ROMpler. I guess Kurzweil had ROM cards, but it also sampled... hmmm. Judges?

The first ones didn't - it was just a ROMpler. The sampling was an option (and a somewhat kludgy one to use at that).

 

The Emulator made no sound unless you loaded samples, so it clearly doesn't count. The fairlight - I'm not sure it it had ROM wwavetables, but the K250 certainly did.

 

dB

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Originally posted by Dave Bryce:

The first ones didn't - it was just a ROMpler. The sampling was an option (and a somewhat kludgy one to use at that).

 

dB

Holy macaroni, I never knew that! I didn't think it had any samples in ROM.

How about the PPG Wave 2.2? Weren't the wavetables "samples" in ROM. I really have no idea, I could be way off on that one.

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Anyone know of a source for cheap RAM cards for the D-50?....used to be able to buy them pre-loaded with sounds. Now all I can find are pre-loaded ROM cards--useless!

 

About the PPG, it did have samples on board and also--if you bought the Waveterm unit for it--you could create your own waves, or sample your own sounds.

 

Just another point of interest, the Ensoniq ESQ-1 also had a handful of sampled sounds in its memory. Not many, but I just opened up my old manual and read about it. :)

When an eel hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's a Moray.
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Hi, everyone. Speaking of the D-50 ... if you own a V-Synth, you can turn it into a virtual D-50 by plugging a VC-1 card into the V-Synth's PC-card slot. All original factory presets are included (Digital Native Dance, Fantasia, etc...) and you can dump your own custom D-50 presets in as well. More info here .
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Originally posted by Greg Rule:

Hi, everyone. Speaking of the D-50 ... if you own a V-Synth, you can turn it into a virtual D-50 by plugging a VC-1 card into the V-Synth's PC-card slot. All original factory presets are included (Digital Native Dance, Fantasia, etc...) and you can dump your own custom D-50 presets in as well. More info here .

Thank you! That was really an interesting bit of information.
Korg PA3X Pro 76 and Kronos 61, Roland G-70, Integra 7 and BK7-m, Casio PX-5S, Fender Stratocaster with Fralin pickups, Fender Stratocaster with Kinman pickups, 1965 Gibson SG Standard
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Originally posted by Synthoid:

Anyone know of a source for cheap RAM cards for the D-50?....u

Hi Synthoid, I don't know if this qualifies as "cheap" (it probably doesn't) but I saw a D-50 RAM card listed for sale at:

http://www.greytsounds.com/gs/hw/?CXT=0893551829

(The site seemed to imply that they are selling the card for $99, if they indeed have one in stock)

 

Alternatively, have you tried calling Roland customer service at (323) 890-3700 (their hours are 8:30am-5pm PST Monday-Friday)? I'm sure they'd sell one to you for a reasonable cost if they had any in stock. As I mentioned earlier I had a great experience with them in ordering the D-550 manual ($9 including shipping).

 

Good luck!

 

Ben

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Thanks.....I really thought the prices would be a lot lower. When I bought pre-loaded RAM's back in the 80's, they were about $70. I figured they'd sell for a lot less now, considering the demand can't be that high anymore.

 

Besides, technology is so much cheaper today. You can get one of those USB "thumb drives" for your PC that store thousands of times the memory of a D-50 RAM card for less! Roland (and others) are ripping us off.

When an eel hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's a Moray.
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Originally posted by Dave Bryce:

Originally posted by synthetic:

Isn't the K-250 considered a sampler? You could add Fairlight and Emulator to the list too, but I was trying to think of the first ROMpler. I guess Kurzweil had ROM cards, but it also sampled... hmmm. Judges?

The first ones didn't - it was just a ROMpler. The sampling was an option (and a somewhat kludgy one to use at that).

Yeah, kludgy to say the least. :) I remember working in a studio which just got a K250 with sampling, and when in search of a particular snare sound with a jazz feel, someone launched the bright idea... "Let's sample it"! After two hours or so, they decided to call a drummer to play the part. The drummer did his thing in five minutes. :rolleyes:

 

About the PPG, I seem to remember that it had single-cycle waves, or "few-cycles" waves anyway, at least judging from the sound of it.

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Originally posted by Synthoid:

Thanks.....I really thought the prices would be a lot lower. When I bought pre-loaded RAM's back in the 80's, they were about $70. I figured they'd sell for a lot less now, considering the demand can't be that high anymore.

I agree...My guess is that Roland stopped manufacturing them in the early 90s, when RAM costs were still relatively high. Combine that with the demand for a scarce item and that's probably where the $99 comes from.

 

I still recommend that you try Roland...If they have any in stock, my suspicion is that they'll send it to you for less...At any rate, please let us know if you find a good deal for a D-50 RAM card!

 

Ben

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I have checked with Roland in the past. Their price was terrible (over $100). The local music store could order them and sell me one for less. I can't justify $99 for that little card. It's worth $10 at best. Roland can just sit on them.
When an eel hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's a Moray.
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Originally posted by Synthoid:

I have checked with Roland in the past. Their price was terrible (over $100). I can't justify $99 for that little card. It's worth $10 at best.

That is a shame, for such a small amount of memory. And if Greg's response is any indication, Roland is probably focusing its efforts now on the D-50 emulator card for the V-Synth module.

 

Not that anyone asked me :-), but my main critique of the V-Synth route is that you apparently can't access the V-Synth while you have the D-50 emulator running.

 

It would be great if in a future version of the V-Synth that users could run it and the D-50 at the same time! The V-Synth sounds like a great product otherwise!

 

Ben

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  • 2 weeks later...
If you track down some RAM cards, I have several custom banks I can share with you....

Yamaha (Motif XS7, Motif 6, TX81Z), Korg (R3, Triton-R), Roland (XP-30, D-50, Juno 6, P-330). Novation A Station, Arturia Analog Experience Factory 32

 

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