Roland D-20 Multi Timbral Synthesizer


Got my hands on a Roland D-20 this week. It was very cheap and it’s the last D-series synthesizer I haven’t owned yet so I bought it 🙂

The full name of the synth is Roland D-20 Multi Timbral Linear Synthesizer Multi Track Sequencer.

Technical specifications:

  • Polyphony – 32 voices
  • Oscillators – Digital LAS (Linear Arithmetic Synthesis) & ROM Samples
  • Effects – 8 Effects
  • Multitimbral – 9 parts
  • Drums – 1 kit, 63 sounds
  • Memory – 128 preset patches, 64 user patches 128 performances
  • Keyboard – 61 keys with velocity
  • Control – MIDI
  • Date Produced – 1988

It’s basically exactly the same as the D-10 but it has a floppydrive and a sequencer.

I have now owned the:

  • Roland D-5
  • Roland D-10
  • Roland D-20
  • Roland D-50 (still have that)
  • Roland D-70

I’m going to skip the D-110 (19″ module  version of the D-10) I think.

The D-50 sounds awesome all by itself. When I bought the D-5 a while ago I was stunned by how thin and awful it sounded so I sold it quickly. I had the same experience with the D-10 but luckily I found this Youtube video showing someone playing a D-10 with custom made performance patches. This made a world of difference. The factory patches are mostly split bass / piano combinations and they are absolutely horrible. When I loaded the sysex data that was available with the Youtube video in the D-10 I was amazed by how good it sounded 🙂

Here’s the video I’m talking about:

Pretty good not?

This D-20 had been in it’s flightcase for the past 100 years and smelled like an old book 🙂 It still worked but with every button you pressed the display read: Internal battery low. So I removed the bottom plate and replaced the CR2032 battery. Then I cleaned the D-20 and it’s starting to look pretty good again. Actually it looks like it’s hardly been used at all. I powered it up and put it in test mode. Most Rolands have something called a ‘test mode’ which is cool. You can run the machine through a battery of test like Memory tests, slider test, pitchbender test, midi test, button test etc. Very handy sometimes. You can quickly test if everything is alright with your synth. It’s always a combination of buttons you have to press while powering the synth up. On you can find a lot of service manuals for all kinds of synthesizers. In these manuals you can find the button combinations and information for your synthesizer.

Tests showed that all the buttons work fine (and everything else as well :-))

Normally the buttons for the Banks (1-8) and Number (1-8) are the first ones to stop working properly because they are used a lot. Check the Roland D-5 project on this blog for instructions on how to replace those buttons.

Btw: I always replace the CR2032 battery for one I buy at a ‘dollar’ store. (like 8 batteries for 1 euro). Never had any problems with them. Ever. But I you want to spend 5 dollars/euros + shipping on a magical eBay CR2032 specially designed for your synth be my guest :p

I reloaded the factory patches and after playing it for 30 seconds I scrambled to get my USB midi interface so I could load the custom sysex file from the Youtube video to overwrite the horrible factory data 😀 All is well now. My favorite patch is JUMP LEAD which is a very accurate patch for playing the song Jump from Van Halen.

I’ll add some more info and photo’s later this week.

Update Oktober 9th 2016:

Here are some photo’s of the inside of the D-20:

Not to bad. Just a little dust. As you can see on the bottom of the mainboard the mainboards for the D-10 and D-20 are identical.

And some pictures of the outside:

Finished 🙂 And as long as you replace the factory sounds for something else it will sound pretty good as well!




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