Roland Boutique D-05
Released in 1987 the Roland D-50 Linear Arithmetic Synthesiser revolutionised what was thought possible from digital synthesisers at the time. It was one of the first mass-market ‘rompler’ synths using sampled waveforms and transients instead of VCOs, complex phase distortion or FM based sound generation. Typically digital synths of the day such as YAMAHAs globally successful DX series were cold and static in their sound by comparison.
The D-50 sounded ‘warm’ and ‘rich’ compared to its rivals and afforded a timbral complexity and sonic flexibility never before heard in a keyboard instrument of any kind. The intricacy and complexity of its synth engine was such that it was reviewed across 2 separate issues of Sound on Sound magazine, something that as far as I am aware, had never happened before, and has not happened since. The combination of sampled waves with digital envelopes (TVAs) and resonant digital filters (TVFs) and even built-in chorus and reverb was revolutionary and left many of Roland’s rivals either playing catch-up or scratching their heads.
It’s sound now could seem fairly ordinary, even passe, but at the time it was nothing short of a phenomenon and successfully spanned countless genres. So much so it was adopted by artists as diverse as Prince to Jean Michel Jarre. Many of the technologies it pioneered still form the backbone of a great many instruments even today…
Fast forward 30 years and Roland are busy mining their heritage with their diminutive, but very successful Boutique range. With small, but perfectly formed versions of its Jupiter, Juno and JX synths, it seemed like only a matter of time before we saw a diddy D….., and here it is the ROLAND D-05.
Sonically there is very little to choose between this little gem and the original D-50, and if you look at the price of the D-05 and the price of the original you may well ask why not just buy a used original? That said, there are many areas where the recreation has made gains over the classic. Firstly the polyphony; 16 notes here regardless of partial count. Add to that the complete original D-50 sound library in its internal memory and an integrated polyphonic sequencer, its very compact frame and it all starts to make sparkly lycra clad 1980s sense. With the popularity of the Boutique range, the new D should find a happy new audience with the original having recently been broadly overlooked amidst consumers burgeoning ‘analogue’ obsession.
It is hard to see where ROLAND could go from here having covered most of their truly classic synths and drum machines already within the Boutique range, but with their upcoming collaboration with Studio Electronics, the all-analog SE-02 just around the corner, and this being mooted as the first in a succession of collaborations with other manufacturers, I for one cannot wait to see what treats ROLAND has lined up for us in the future!