Every cherished movie from your childhood will be remade, rebooted and rehashed, and every instrument Roland ever made will eventually get a minified “boutique” version.
Launching in October, Roland’s D-05 is a rebuild of the original (and venerable) Roland D-50.
How venerable? Well, if the Yamaha DX7 defined one era of music, the Roland D-50 was the synthesizer that ended it and began the next one. In fact, the D-50 to many people’s ears defined the sound of the late 1980s. You could hear it on albums from Jean-Michel Jarre, New Order, Michael Jackson as well as probably its most superfluous but widespread appearance as the initial, heavenly note in Danny Elfman’s original theme song for The Simpsons. It was the best part of the first generation of somewhat affordable, compact and accessible synthesizers that were capable of pro-level production quality.
But the D-50 wasn’t just beloved for its ubiquity. Its sophisticated method of sample playback and hybrid digital/analog synthesis of sound became part of the DNA of nearly every synthesizer to follow in its wake, particularly Korg’s runaway M1. Despite overuse of some – “Digital Native Dance” is instantly recognizable to even casual music listeners, as are “Fantasia” and “Glass Voices” – the D-50’s presets are also an intractable part of the cultural soundscape.
Emulation via Roland’s V-Synth carried the spirit of the D-50 forward to this point. On September 8, Roland announced the latest edition to its miniaturized “boutique” series with the Roland D-05, their remake of the original D-50. Emulation of the D-50 has been so widespread that some have characterized the D-05 as an “emulator box” – the debate of modular vs. digital rages (though you’d think Bob Moog might have had the last word back in 2005), though you could say this about most of Roland’s recreated products. For those who want the sound of the original D-50 and the tactile experience of handling it, the D-05 does a pretty solid job.
The D-05 includes the original presets of the D-50, and I didn’t think I could hear “Digital Native Dance” again until I heard it at the start of Legowelt’s demonstration of the new miniaturized synth’s performance. It also contains all of the D-50 patches, though I haven’t compared it against the Cult of D-50’s legendary archive (their claim is you’d need “three lives” to try them all). The D-05 also features a 16 voice polyphonic and a 64 polyphonic sequencer, a built-in arpeggiator, as well as reproducing the D-50’s panel layout and joystick to alternate between upper and lower tones. As with other products in the boutique line, the D-05 also runs on batteries or USB and functions as a USB audio/MIDI interface for production and performance. Available for $349 via Amazon