Super LA Synthesiser
The latest addition to Roland's D-series synths is its new flagship - the D70. Simon Trask puts the "Super LA" synth through its paces and discovers its new Analogue Feel facility.
Roland's replacement for the D50 as flagship of the fleet has been a long time coming. Emerging from port into stormy seas, is it going to sink without trace?
Manufacturers seem to take it in turns to have their moment of glory - that wonderful moment when they produce one synth which stands out from the rest. Think of Sequential with the Prophet 5, Yamaha with the DX7, Roland with the D50, Korg with the M1... all instruments which set a standard for their time and achieved a degree of success which was the envy of other manufacturers.
So, is 1990 shaping up to be the year in which one manufacturer will take the lead over all the others? On the evidence so far, it seems unlikely - everyone seems to be attempting to trick a new variation out of the same level of technology. But it takes more than a technological edge to create a great leap forward: a conceptual edge is just as important, if not more so, in deciding who the winner will be. For example, it was the Americans who invented the transistor but the Japanese who saw what could be done with it - and look where they are now.
In a sense, technology is just so much worthless junk until someone comes up with a concept that will give it life. Looked at another way, technology is a time bomb waiting to be exploded by the ingenuity of the human mind.
But there is a third component in the equation: cost. New technology has to meet not only right concept but also right cost - a cost which can be absorbed, ultimately, by the market for which the application of that technology is being produced. Here the equation runs into a tricky variable or two, because, even if the cost is right in absolute terms, what the market will absorb depends on what else is available to it - not to mention how sponge-like you and I are feeling at the time.
At the moment the £1500-2000 price bracket isn't exactly sparsely populated when it comes to synths. There's Yamaha's SY77, Peavey's DPM3, Ensoniq's VFX SD, Korg's Wavestation... With the exception of the Wavestation (which is the cheapest of the lot, anyway), all these synths could be said to fall into the workstation category, with the requisite onboard sequencer and 3.5" disk drive combining with a mix of sampling and synthesis, multitimbrality, a drumkit section and digital effects processing.
And now along come Roland with the D70, a synth without workstation pretensions (in other words, no onboard sequencer and disk drive) but with the other elements I've just mentioned. Initial impressions of the D70 have suggested that Roland are merely catching up with what the other manufacturers have been doing. There again, with a multitimbral implementation which runs to five Synth Parts and one Rhythm Part, and a distinctly modest collection of digital effects in comparison to the competition (what's more, one which if anything appears to offer less than the D50), are Roland really catching up at all? Or are they, perhaps, not so much trying to catch up as heading off in another direction which might turn out to be more rewarding?
FIRST IMPRESSIONS ARE always important but not always right. Unfortunately, spending a bit of time with an instrument can't always give you a proper perspective on it - some things just need to develop gradually. I must say that the D70 did not make a good impression on me when I first got hold of it for review, but after spending more time with it and developing a much more favourable attitude towards it, I wonder why that was the case. Perhaps it was because the factory sounds give the impression that the D70 is catching up with the times rather than setting new directions, while hopes of user-friendliness raised by the D70's sizeable backlit LCD and its four front-panel edit sliders and buttons are seemingly dashed by screen layouts which confuse rather than clarify, and by sliders which take on more functions than Heinz have varieties.
In truth, the D70 includes a new development which allows you to step outside the familiar sonic boundaries of LA synthesis into all manner of weirdness. As far as the screen layouts are concerned, familiarity breeds clarity, and as far as the sliders are concerned you end up making their assignability work in your favour.
The D70's 76-note keyboard will, no doubt, prove to be a more immediate attraction for keyboard players who value a bit of extra reach over the usual 61 notes (in fact, eight notes below and seven above the usual C-C range). It's sensitive to attack and release velocity and channel aftertouch, and has a synth rather than a piano action. It does, however, avoid being too lightweight through having just a bit of resistance in the key depression, while a slightly bouncy release makes it a little disconcerting to play at first. It's not the sort of keyboard you feel you can dig into, but then how many synth keyboards are?
THE SONIC BASIS of the D70 is provided by 114 Original Tones - a mixture of PCM single and multi-sampled PCM-encoded sounds, short PCM loops and waveforms - which are held internally in ROM. These are divided into three categories: Acoustic (42), Synthesiser (44) and Percussion (28). Internal Original Tones can be augmented by further samples off new PCM ROM cards developed especially for the D70 and existing SN-U110 series cards, which can be plugged into two ROM card slots on the rear panel of the D70.
An Internal or Card Original Tone is used as the sound source for a Tone, which is the oscillator-filter-amplifier configuration we all know and love. There are 128 of these in internal memory, with a further 128 accessible off RAM card.
The next organisational layer is the Patch, which contains within it a Tone Palette, or collection of four Tones, plus parameters which apply to the Patch as a whole. The Tone Palette not only allows you to select four Tones, it also lets you make adjustments to selected Tone parameters in the form of ± adjustments to the values programmed into the Tone. What this gives you in practice is a simplified form of sound programming at the Patch level - a neat idea.
A Patch is the unit of sound which you play on the keyboard; there are 128 of these internally and a further 128 on card. The four Tones which make up a Patch are labelled Lower 1 & 2 and Upper 1 & 2, referring to which side of the programmable keyboard splitpoint they fall on when you select Split mode for a Patch. Alternatively you can select Layer mode (all four Tones are layered across the keyboard) or Zone mode (each Tone can be given its own independent note range). It's also possible to define how (or if) velocity will affect the balance of each pair of Tones: you can switch or mix between the Tones, with the switch or mix point determined by a threshold sensitivity parameter. Additionally, you can set Key Assign for each pair to poly or mono, and if mono you have the option of specifying legato and using portamento.
At the point I should mention that the D70 is 30-voice polyphonic, which gives you seven notes to play with if you're layering four Tones.
Alongside the Tones and Patches is the Rhythm Setup, a drumkit-style assignment of Original Tones across the keyboard. In stark contrast to the profusion of drumkit memories on Ensoniq's SQ1, the D70 has only one internal and one card Rhythm Setup. A Setup can draw on any Original Tones, not just the Percussion ones - and equally a Tone can draw on Percussion as well as Acoustic and Synthesiser Original Tones.
As mentioned in the introduction, the D70 has five Synth Parts (or Synthe Parts as Roland call them) and one Rhythm Part. Each Synthe Part can be assigned one Patch, while the Rhythm Part is assigned a Rhythm Setup. The means of organising these Parts is the Performance, of which there are 64 held internally and a further 64 on card. Each Performance allows you to program a different multitimbral configuration of Patches plus Rhythm Setup, along with MIDI receive settings for each Part and settings for the D70's effects processor and MIDI Palette. This Palette is akin to the Tone Palette in that it allows you to make MIDI Out settings for each of the four Tones within a Patch, only instead of being programmed for each Patch it applies to whatever Patch is assigned to the keyboard within the current Performance. Using the MIDI Palette you can have each Tone transmitting on a different MIDI channel, within its own MIDI note range and with its own MIDI transposition (±24 semitones). Additionally, you can use the MIDI Palette to transmit a MIDI volume command and MIDI patch change per Tone when a Performance is selected. A quick way to have one set of MIDI Palette parameter values apply to all Performances is to set the System parameter MIDI Link to off - this tells the D70 not to call up new MIDI Palette values when a new Performance is selected.
"The D70 includes a new development which allows you to step outside the familiar sonic boundaries of LA synthesis into all manner of weirdness."
Incidentally, while patch changes received on each Part's MIDI channel can be used to select new Patches within individual Parts, you can also set aside a particular MIDI channel as a Control channel for selecting Performances.
In addition to being able to select Performances from the D70's front panel using the Bank and Number buttons, the synth provides what Roland call User Sets. There are ten of these in internal memory and a further ten on card. Each User Set allows you to assign any five Performances to the five function buttons located below the LCD window, with their names being displayed in the window above each button. The idea, of course, is that you can group related Performances into a User Set for easy selection. The D70 powers up at this level, though if you press the front-panel Performance button you can select Performances from the eight Bank and eight Number buttons. Similarly, if you press the Patch button you can use the Bank and Number buttons to call up Patches, with the A/B button allowing you to switch between the two groups of 64 internal Patches.
In practice the D70 is in Performance mode all the time. While a multitimbral sequence is playing on the synth, from the front panel you can edit the Tone Palette parameters and Tone parameters of the Patch selected for whichever Part is currently assigned to the keyboard - all without disturbing sequence playback in any way. What's more, writing Patches and Tones to memory doesn't interrupt sequence playback either - even if the Patch or Tone you're writing is playing as you write.
Unfortunately, the D70's copybook isn't entirely blot-free in this area. When you select a new Patch, call a new Tone onto the Tone Palette or select a new Original Tone within a Tone, notes in all the Parts (including the keyboard - currently-selected Part) which are active at the moment of selection are cut dead. The effect of this can range from a glitch if the notes are short to a dropout if the notes are long. Selecting Edit mode from Play mode has the same effect. So if you're playing out live with the D70 and using a combination of sequenced backing and a live keyboard part, you can't select new Patches from the keyboard while a sequence is playing. You also need to be careful in changing from one Performance to another, whether from the front panel or via MIDI, because active notes can't overlap a Performance change, nor is the changeover instantaneous.
You'll perhaps gather from this unfortunate state of affairs that the D70 doesn't have the ability to overlap sounds when you change Patches (something which American synths from the likes of Ensoniq have been able to do for years, and which Korg and Yamaha have started doing with the Wavestation and the SY22).
MIDI patch changes are transmitted for each Tone within the MIDI Palette when a new Performance is selected (and if MIDI Link is enabled) and when you select a new Patch. But you can also transmit a MIDI patch change from the synth at any time, on the MIDI transmit channel of any one of the four Tones, by means of a process which seems a bit tortuous at first but which becomes quite quick with practice. For some reason, though, you're not able to transmit MIDI patch changes in this way when the D70 is set to local off mode.
FOR BETTER OR worse, musicians associate Yamaha with convoluted digital parameter access while recalling that Roland once made accessible, friendly synths with knobs and sliders on them. Roland aren't the only surviving manufacturer from the old analogue days to have done this once, but the undying popularity of their early analogue monosynths and polysynths means that the focus tends to be on them whenever the subject of user-friendliness comes up.
With the D70 they're clearly trying to make sound programming easier and more interactive than it has been for a while, through a combination of buttons, sliders and assignability. To the left of the LCD are four sliders and four on/off buttons. The buttons control Tone on/off for the four Tones of the current Patch in both Play and Edit modes, with a pinpoint LED on each button giving you clear indication of which Tones are on and which are off.
In Play mode the four sliders, which control the four Tones, can be assigned any one of nine parameters: Level, Pan, Tuning, Cutoff, Resonance, Attack, Release, Solo and Portamento. These assignments can be instantly changed using the buttons to the left of the sliders, with pinpoint LEDs giving ready indication of the currently-selected parameter. So one moment you can be balancing the levels of the four Tones, then in an instant you can be editing their filter cutoff points, and in another instant you can be editing their resonance amounts. This is what you could call a positive development.
Once you enter Edit mode, you can assign the sliders to edit four parameters within each screen display at the Patch and Tone levels. (Re)assigning a slider is so easy and fast (select the relevant parameter using the cursor buttons, then hold down the slider's Tone button and press User) that you can make frequent changes without feeling that it's a chore to do so.
What's a bit more of a pain is the method Roland have used to indicate the four selected parameters within each screen display: one dot for slider one, two vertical dots for slider two, three for slider three and four for slider four. It can be difficult enough picking out the four selected parameters in the LCD, let alone deciding which is two and which is three, or which is three and which is four. Still, once you start to figure out your own preferred assignments, things start to fall into place - and the benefits are worthwhile. Take the Tone Palette: you could be editing the currently-selected Tone's filter cutoff on slider one, resonance on slider two, envelope attack on slider three and envelope release on slider four.
Something you have to get used to when using the sliders is that parameter values have absolute slider positions, and when a parameter and its value are called onto a slider you have to run the slider across the relevant position before you can use it to edit the parameter. This can be a little disconcerting at first, not to mention annoying, though to be fair it's hard to see how else you combine programmable parameters with sliders and don't get jumps in value as soon as you move the slider.
The Tone Palette is itself a user-friendly feature. In addition to the parameters I've just mentioned, you can make ± adjustments to the programmed values for level, key shift, fine tune, output assign, pan and Zone (key range). These adjustments, which are stored as part of the Patch, don't alter the parameter values stored as part of the Tone. This means that you can start editing not from the Original Tone but from a complete synthesised sound - a much quicker process - and create different versions of the same Tone. You just have to bear in mind that making changes to a Tone will affect all the Patches which use various versions of that Tone via Tone Palette edits.
Other user-friendly features include the Exit button, which steps you back up through the levels to the User Sets; the Function buttons, which allow for quick selection of related screen displays; the familiar Jump function, which allows you to assign five displays to the Function buttons and then Jump to them via the User and Function buttons; and Tone Display, MIDI Out, Effect/Control and Part buttons to the left of the LCD which provide immediate access at the Play level to those aspects of the D70.
"Resonance is a valuable resource for creative programming, and its inclusion on the D70 scores Roland a significant number of brownie points."
A modest array of performance controllers can be found to the left of the keyboard. The familiar bend/mod lever gives you greater flexibility than you might expect, with two parameters controllable for each axis (for example, pitchbend + TVF cutoff point on the "x" axis, TVA level + LFO TVF on the "y" axis) and each parameter separately routable to Upper, Lower or Both. The volume slider is joined by two more sliders: a dedicated brightness controller (gold star time, Roland) and a controller which can be programmed to control two parameters from the same TVF, TVA and LFO selection as the pitch/mod lever, with the addition of portamento time - and similarly route each one to Upper, Lower or Both. The expression pedal input on the D70's rear panel automatically adopts the same parameter(s) and associated settings as the slider, functioning as an alternative controller for when you don't have a hand free. The slider/pedal is particularly useful for controlling the filter cutoff point, allowing you to make rapid adjustments tb the character of a Patch. Finally, aftertouch can be used to control two parameters from the same selection, with the same choice of routings, while the sustain pedal input is only routed to sustain but can control (yes, you guessed) Upper, Lower or Both.
A D70 TONE consists of a Wave Generator, a Time Variant Filter and a Time Variant Amplifier - each of which has its own five-stage Envelope Generator - together with a single LFO which is common to all three stages, but which has separately-definable modulation amounts for each stage. Now, there's nothing which is particularly original about this, though as far as LA synthesis is concerned it's worth noting that the old distinction between sampled and synthesised sounds (whereby a sampled sound couldn't be filtered) is not part of the D70's world, a positive step forward. At the same time the D70 does lose two LFOs compared to its flagship predecessor, the D50.
The D70 offers a choice of low-pass, band-pass and high-pass filtering, with resonance included along with cutoff point, filter envelope and various associated parameters such as envelope depth, key follow, Time velocity and Time release velocity. Resonance is not something which every manufacturer is offering, yet to my mind it's a valuable resource for creative programming, and its inclusion on the D70 scores Roland a significant number of brownie points. The D70's filtering is essentially the same as that on Roland's S770 sampler, and is probably the best digital filtering available at the moment.
The TVA offers essentially the same parameters applied to amplitude, while the LFO offers a choice of triangle, sine, square, sawtooth and random waveforms together with rate, delay, rise time, offset and mod depth parameters.
There's good news for anyone interested in expanding the range of drum and percussion sounds beyond the samples supplied by Roland. As well as being able to incorporate any instrumental Original Tones into the D70's Rhythm Setup, tune Rhythm Tones over a two-octave range and give them a simple pitch envelope (attack time and depth), you can route each Rhythm Tone through its own TVF and TVA. The TVF is particularly effective for creating new drum and percussion sounds out of existing ones - again, judicious application of resonance can lead to some interesting results. Other Rhythm Setup parameters include Mute (which allows one Rhythm Tone to be muted by another), Pan (one of 15 positions) and Output Assign (Reverb, Chorus, Dry or Direct). Incidentally, Tone pan and output assignment settings are programmed at the Tone Palette level, so they're independent of the Tone itself.
The 28 samples in the Percussion category of the D70's Original Tones provide four kicks, five snares, two toms, hi-hat, china and crash cymbals, ride bell, side stick, sticks, cabasa, claps, cowbell, elec tom, click, agogo, orch hit and several TR808 sounds (snare, hi-hat, tom and claves). Having finally cottoned on to the fact that people want 808 samples, Roland are now throwing in various numbers of them at every possible opportunity. And why not? But what about those 909 samples, Roland?
IT WAS ROLAND'S inclusion of digital chorus, delay and - above all - reverb on the D50 which set the ball rolling for digital effects processing on synths. Subsequently they've been somewhat eclipsed in this area by Korg and Ensoniq, so the D70 might have been seen by the company as an opportunity to make an effective comeback, so to speak. As it is, they've given the D70 less effects than the D50, and made the implementation in some ways less flexible.
The D70 allows you to choose one effect from six reverbs (Room 1-3, Hall 1 & 2 and Gated), delay and cross-delay, and one effect from Chorus 1 & 2, FB-Chorus, Flanger and Short Delay in another effect. The latter can be placed either before or after the reverb/delay effect. There are just three reverb/delay parameters: reverb/delay time and level and delay feedback (number of repeats). Chorus/flanger allows you to set level, delay, rate, depth and feedback. The quality and feel of the effects is good, but no-one's going to say they're comprehensive.
What's more, because the D70 is effectively always in Performance mode you can't program effects for individual Patches. So if you're selecting new Patches at the Patch level rather than through calling up a new Performance, you may find, for instance, that the reverb is too boomy on one Patch but just right on another. Still, at least you can readily get to the effects parameters by pressing the Effect/Control button, and from there make quick adjustments to the relevant parameters).
OK, BY VIRTUE of its provocative name the D70's Analogue Feel parameter should be rather important. But in practice it's not a technological magic wand able to turn the D70 into a carbon (or should that be silicon?) copy of a Jupiter 8 - or of any other analogue synth, for that matter.
According to Roland, this parameter is intended to simulate the pitch fluctuations which are associated with analogue oscillators but which, of course, have had no place in the rock-solid world of digital oscillators - until now, that is. Only, where analogue oscillators handled a very limited number of waveforms, today's digital oscillators typically handle a great diversity of sonic material.
It's also worth bearing in mind that the original effect arose, and was constrained by, the characteristics of the system in which it operated. No such constraints operate (or, seemingly, have been recreated) within the software-defined world of the D70, and so it becomes a parameter which takes on a reality of its own. It's also worth noting that the parameter is programmed per Part at the Performance level, which means that (a) one setting applies to all the active Tones in the selected Patch, when of course it might not be appropriate for all of them, and (b) if you're selecting different Patches within the Part, a Feel setting might work well for one Patch but not for another. On the other hand, it might be an interesting meeting...
Subtle touches applied to the right sound(s) can have a pleasing effect, but Analogue Feel is no automatic passport to analogue heaven.
DIFFERENTIAL LOOP MODULATION scoops the award for most interesting development on the D70 as far as sound creation is concerned. This is because it allows you to create sounds which step beyond the boundaries of LA synthesis into a less familiar world, and, with only three parameters to handle, it's dead easy to program.
"The D70's Analogue Feel parameter is intended to simulate the pitch fluctuations which are associated with analogue oscillators."
When activated, DLM becomes an integral part of a Tone. Basically, it comes at the oscillator stage of the synthesis chain and replaces straight PCM sample readout with something more bizarre. You can select DLM mode (A or B), and set the start point from which the PCM sample will be read (0-127) and the length which will be looped (1-128). That's all. Three parameters. The diversity of sounds you can extract from DLM seems all the more amazing when you consider the straightforwardness of its presentation, but then it does more than simply loop around a section of a sample. Where ordinary PCM sample playback pays attention to the numeric value recorded for each sample point, DLM ignores this value in favour of another, namely the one which describes the difference between two successive sample points. Say your loop consisted of four sample points with values of 46, 40, 38 and 39 respectively. DLM would describe that loop with values of -6, -2 and +1 - the differences between the successive sample points. Starting with the original sample-point values, each time round the loop the DLM process works out new sample-point values on the basis of the difference values, so that the second time round the loop the actual sample-point values would be 33, 31 and 32, while on the third pass they'd be 26, 24 and 25. Obviously there comes a point where a minimum value is reached, and at this point the DLM process "wraps around" the maximum possible value and continues its descent; if the difference series described a rising waveshape, then the DLM would "wrap around" from maximum to minimum.
The above description of the DLM process is derived from the explanatory diagram found in the D70's manual (page 75), rather than from any text - because what little text there is is incorrectly worded (surprise surprise). Two things should be clear, though, namely how it is that DLM arrives at a completely different sound from that of the source PCM sample, and how making even a slight change to the Start or Length value can result in a completely different sound. Well, that's the convenient theory - in practice, sometimes many changes to the Start and Length values result in very little difference in the resulting sounds, other times a single change can produce a striking difference. Switching between A and B Modes results in different sounds from the same Start and Length settings, so it seems quite possible that there's something else going on with DLM that I haven't explained - because Roland haven't seen fit to provide any explanation of what the two Modes signify.
I don't suppose the above rather lengthy discourse on DLM really tells you what DLM-produced sounds are like, but perhaps it will remove some of the mystery from the process if not from the results. DLM isn't an automatic passport to brilliant sounds. In fact, at times it can seem more like an automatic passport to farting helicopters, constipated geese and worse. But then suddenly a particular setting will call forth a great sound which you couldn't have got by filtering a sample. Don't forget, DLM comes at the oscillator stage, which means that you can take your weird sound and make it weirder - with a filter envelope and resonance, for instance.
DLM isn't only about the weird and unfamiliar, though. For instance, there's the reasonably acceptable bass sound, complete with a touch of resonance, which metamorphoses into an altogether fatter, punchier, funkier bass sound the moment DLM is switched in.
There's more than an element of "poke 'n' hope" to DLM, but the point is that you've got three parameters and you can edit them very easily - which is probably a good idea, seeing as they can provide you with 32,768 different combinations of parameter values. Experimentation is the name of this particular game.
THE D70 IS well capable of being the most sophisticated-sounding synth on the block, bringing forth full, luscious, heavily-produced sounds. It can provide a very effective, not to mention affective, mixture of smoothness, breathiness, warmth and clarity, and in general has a vibrant sound full of presence. Make no mistake, the D70 can sound very pretty - very Enya. At the same time it can sound quite rude, though I'm not sure about ugly, nor dirty. Japanese synths have a tendency to sound pure rather than dirty.
Let's consider a few of the Patches on the D70 as a means of seeing what it has to offer. 'Ffflute' layers Pan Pipes and Flute but gives them velocity sensing and velocity curve values which cause the former to be mixed in with the latter only when you hit the keys hard - the effect being to introduce a breathy "chiff" on more forceful notes. 'Calliopead' combines Calliope, Pan Pipes and Shaku to create, well, just the sort of breathy sound you'd expect. Roland seem determined to show that the D70 can do this sort of sound as well as any other synth, and indeed it does.
'Ghost Vox 1' is a breathy, ethereal sound with a bell-like sonority mixed in, produced from Syn Vox 2 and Fanta Bell. 'GrandPf Switch' is a well-rounded, full-sounding acoustic piano, very satisfying to play, which is made up of A. Piano 4 and EP Wave. 'NiteSprite', meanwhile, is a muted strings/voice/metallic-bell pad sound, while 'Sweep Str' is a mix of Digi Bell and Strings 1, with a deep bass end on the strings and a raspy upward filter sweep on the bell, with DLM applied to the bell sound to give it a deeper, more brassy quality.
'Strings', which combines JP Strings with 2xStrings 1, is an endearing mixture of classical string orchestra and silky synth strings. 'Vibes + Bass' is one of my favourites, a split texture with Fretless and Acoustic Bass layered in the lower half and a sensitive use of velocity sensing in the upper half to give a dark electric piano on soft notes and chunky vibes on loud notes. 'Big Guitar' layers Slap 2, Distorted 5ths and 2xHeavy EG for a distorted electric guitar sound. With the distortion as part of the samples, there are no worries about lack of flexibility in digital effects routing - but give me the Compression + Distortion effect on Ensoniq's SQ1 any day.
THE D70 REPRESENTS a significant step forward for LA synthesis, certainly, though not such a significant step forward in the wider world of synths. Existing LA synth owners can look to such things as the new breadth of source sounds, including the ability to access further samples on two ROM cards at a time; a cleaner sound quality; no restrictions on filtering, plus the advent of a superior digital filter.
The D70 has a reasonable selection of acoustic instruments in among its internal samples, but its ability to read SN-U110 sample cards should open this aspect up pretty quickly (beware, however, that there are a couple of drum and percussion cards which the D70 won't read). Its 76-note keyboard is another point in its favour for keyboard players, as is the keyboard's channel (re)introduction of aftertouch and of release velocity responsiveness.
You do need to familiarise yourself with the D70 operationally, but once you've done this, programming it is not difficult - especially if you're working at the Tone Palette level. DLM processing is a significant addition to the more familiar sound programming tools, and should help to point people in the D70's direction. The other important new aspect of the D70 is, of course, its attempts to provide faster editing control, and here the sliders and buttons come into their own once you've got past the initial lack of familiarity with the synth.
But there are disappointments. A more sophisticated multitimbral implementation and a greater variety of digital effects wouldn't have gone amiss. I would also like to have seen the D70 implement patch overlapping (then, perhaps, some of the nonsense which happens with notes being cut dead in multitimbral performance wouldn't have happened).
Overall, though, the D70 is a worthy new flagship synth for Roland, and an instrument which I can see a lot of performers being attracted to.
Price £1799 including VAT
Review by Simon Trask