My first project 🙂 I bought this 1989 Roland U-20 for 20 bucks in Amsterdam. Problem was the keys didn’t work. I thought it would be cool to take apart and try to fix it.
U-20’s with keys that don’t work is very common. If you google this model or look at online auction sites there is always a U-20 for sale with this problem.
I’ll write some more about repairing this synth later.
I think this is a very underestimated synth. It’s very limited in it’s capabilities and it’s a rompler (plays back recorded sounds instead of creating sound) but it sounds VERY GOOD! I even like the piano sound and it’s got some very powerfull strings. In my opinion (and I’m writing this in 2015 after having taken apart a couple dozen Rolands) this synth is built very well. It’s made of steel instead of plastic (and yet only weighs 8 or 10 kg) and it has one of the best playing keybeds you’ll find in a synthesizer. It’s semi weighted and it has aftertouch. It’s the same keybed used in Roland’s D-70 and JD-800 for example. Compared to this synth the 2005 JUNO-D looks and feels like a plastic toy. This is a pro quality instrument built to last an eternity.
Use this thing as a midi controller for a while and you will never play your shitty Edirol or M-audio controller ever again 🙂 (well you’ll only miss the gazillion assignable knobs and sliders on those)
I’ve cleaned the contacts on mine only once and it’s been working fine ever since.. even if I don’t use it for a couple of months everything works fine everytime I power it up!
Here are some pictures of the repair:
This was the first synthesizer I took apart and I still have it today (2015).
This is what I repaired:
- Removed the red glue holding the weights in the keys
- Cleaned the contacts underneath the keys because only 3 keys worked!
- Replaced a few tact switches underneath the buttons
- Glued a patch wire on the flexible PCB because the top 5 keys didn’t work.
I did the exact same repair with the patchwire recently on my JD-800. I have this U-20 for 3.5 years now and it still works fine. Only the aftertouch needs quite a bit of force but I’m planning on fixing this as well. I recently found a nice tutorial and a very cool website with a lot of U-20 information including a ton of patches I’m eager to try out 🙂
The U-20 is a true quality instrument. Looks great, sounds great, plays great. They are practically free now a days. I have 2 and I paid 20 euro’s for each of them.
This site contains a lot of info on the U-20: