Recent | Who | Artists | Firewire | USB | Gfx | Windows | Mac | MacOS9 | IBM/DOS | ATARI ST | Midi Interfaces | Sequencers | MPCs | Roland "MC" | Roland "S" | E-mu | Ensoniq | Akai "S" | Samplers | soft-Samplers | Synths | soft-Synths (VSTi) | Roland "JV" | Modules | Drums | Tape | Mixers | hardware Effects | soft Effects | iOS | android | sw Timeline | Hackintosh This site exists to archive historical + crucial information related to computer assisted music production and related technologies; with the hopes of becoming a community of creatives who might make a significant intellectual contribution towards enhancing the quality of music production of both our generation and the next;  thanks for being here, and thank you for contributing. remember the past,  appreciate the present, and plan 4 the FUTURE >>>

Author Topic: Roland U-20 (1988) RS-PCM Keyboard  (Read 2307 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline chrisNova777

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 8928
  • Gender: Male
  • "Vintage MIDI Sequencing + Audio Production"
    • | vintage audio production software + hardware info
Roland U-20 (1988) RS-PCM Keyboard
« on: May 25, 2017, 05:07:37 PM »

The synthesizer engine itself merely plays back stored PCM samples. Such a synthesizer is known as a rompler, as opposed to a sampler, which lets you record and load in custom samples. Nevertheless, sample playback can be slightly customized via editing its ADSR envelope and applying DSP effects, like reverb or chorus. A drawback is the absence of filters.

The U-20 has standard 64 patches, and can be doubled with an optional RAM-card (the M-256E). Also there are 2 extra slots for ROM PCM-cards to expand the number of sounds.

There's a built-in arpeggiator, a Chord Play feature which plays back a full chord with only one finger, 2 assignable sliders, and the U-20 is compatible with the SN-U110 and SN-MV30-S1 series of soundcards.[3]

With one U-20 it's possible to produce a reasonably complete orchestration. The maximum number of voices is then limited by the device itself.

The U-20 has given certain Roland-sounds more publicity, like the shakuhachi, the bell, guitar-samples with distortion, and the typical Roland piano-sound, which can be found in later Roland models like the JV and XV series.

Editing sounds is limited and relatively complicated due to the small screen and menu layout. Thanks to its popularity, later on there was software made available to edit sounds on a computer via MIDI, or by adding new sounds to the device.[4] There are also hardware presets in programs like Cubase allowing easier communication.

The U-20/U-220 was the next generation of U-instruments, and it was
QUIET.  There was nothing wrong with the original sample data, since
the same PCM cards (SN-U110-01 through SN-U110-15, now) played back on
the U-20 with no unseemly background noise.  The U-20/U-220 were the
refinement that the U-110 needed to be a strong contender for studio work,
where background noise is exposed in the septic, squeaky-clean studio
surroundings.  The U-220, a rack mount, only had two PCM card slots though
(as did the U-20), and the polyphony was 30-note instead of 31-note.
The Rhodes keyboards were clones of the U-20, with a slightly more
understandable user interface.  The Rhodes MK-660 was 61-key, like the
U-20, and the MK-760 was 76-key.  The keyboards were velocity- and

There were 128 preset tones onboard, some of which used two tones in a
velocity-mix combination, which cut the polyphony in half when using those
sounds exclusively, such as the very nice acoustic piano tone in preset
sound patch A-11 (which is the Acoustic Piano 2 tone).

The sounds were good (the original samples were, variously, 8-bit,
12-bit, and 16-bit, with 16-bit DAC's -- and they can get much better
dynamic range than the bit resolution would indicate, thanks to resynthesis
and Differential Interpolation), but here are a few of my gripes:

1.  It's too slow in dense MIDI passages.  True, it does tend to chug
    in dense MIDI passages, especially when you are layering multiple
    timbres on the same MIDI channel, but that problem is somewhat
    alleviated in later ROM versions, at least in the U-20.  Keyboard
    magazine recommends that you get at least the 3.1 ROM upgrade, which
    is a significant improvement in MIDI timing response over the earlier
    ROM versions.  I have 3.03, which is the latest ROM version, I think.
    Someone at Roland Canada told me that the U-220's latest ROM is still
    1.16 or something, but I could be misremembering.

2.  The programming interface SUCKS.  Yes, it true, the user interface is
    perhaps the worst that Roland has ever come up with (I look at the JV-80
    and wonder why Roland couldn't have come up with those front panel ideas
    sooner).  Wading through the many menus and submenus is a chore, as is
    trying to remember or figure out which menu the function you're looking
    for is in.  Buy an editor/librarian (any editor/librarian!).

3.  There are no filters (much less, resonant filters) on the sounds.
    Filters would really make the PCM sounds respond to velocity well,
    and allow for more flexible programming of the keyboards.
4.  No third party PCM cards.  Roland has a monopoly on the samples
    for the U-series.  The third party sound cards that are available
    (from Sound Source, et al.), contain only sound patch parameters;
    if you want new PCM samples, you have to buy a card from Roland ($60-
    $70).  There are 15 of them, but two of them are built-in to the
    U-20 (cards 8 and 9, I think), so you would only get them if you
    had a D-70, MV-30, or a U-110, I think. (BTW, Americal Music
    Supply was recently selling the SN-U110 PCM cards for the U-20 for
    only $25.00, but there was a limited supply of them, no April
    Fool's Joke!  Seriously! -- Nick 4/1/94.)

The way to check the ROM version on a U-20 is to put the keyboard into ROM
Play mode, then hold down the JUMP and MARK buttons, and press ENTER.  This
enters the test mode, which should display the current ROM version.  To get
out of this mode, hold down JUMP and MARK, and press EXIT.  You probably
won't want to do anything else in test mode, unless you know what
you're doing.

The U-20 and its kind have chord memory and an arpeggiator for the curious;
the chords can be transmitted over MIDI, but not the arpeggiator's notes.

Offline chrisNova777

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 8928
  • Gender: Male
  • "Vintage MIDI Sequencing + Audio Production"
    • | vintage audio production software + hardware info
Re: Roland U20 (1988) RS-PCM Keyboard
« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2017, 05:11:17 PM »

Offline chrisNova777

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 8928
  • Gender: Male
  • "Vintage MIDI Sequencing + Audio Production"
    • | vintage audio production software + hardware info