Roland E-86 Intelligent Synthesizer

The E-86 was on my wanted list for a while. I’ve owned most of the (interesting) E-series by now so when I saw an add for a ‘well used’ E-86 I picked it up.

And by ‘well used’ I mean smashed. In the 4th and 5th octave most keys where hanging loose. the owner said ‘the springs probably came loose’ but I doubted that. Due to the construction of the keys and the keybed frame the springs just ‘don’t come off’ by themselves. Someone smacked this thing or a bowling ball fell on it. Hoping it was just the keys that where broken I bought it and took it home.

When I turned the keyboard over at home I discovered that about 90% of the screws where missing. Hmmm. Opened it up and this is what it looked like:

Shit. The keybed frame is totally f*cked. Almost all the tabs that retain the other end of the springs where broken off :@ Since the E-86 was held together by only 3 of 4 screws I kinda figured the asshole I bought it from knew this, put I back together and advertised it with it ‘one owner, old lady, runs and drives great, minor cosmetic issues and probably a few springs have popped off’ text. Well as I think of it: he didn’t really lie about the springs πŸ™‚

This cannot be repaired so I need a keybed. I also had a E-70 at this time which needed 3 new keys. The keys can be purchased for around 5 euro’s each and that’s fine if you need one or two. If you need more it’s more economical to buy a donor keyboard. I looked up the service manuals of several E-series on the amazing site Synfo and found that anything from the E-56 and up share the same keybed. Right. Believe it or not but almost 0 time later an E-56 popped up online with 1 broken key for very little money and it was only 5km’s from my home πŸ™‚ !!!!!!!!! Yeah baby!

Picked it up and took that one apart.

Absolutely identical even down to the assembly numbers. Great! So I switched a few keys around so that I ended up with a nice complete keybed and installed it into the E-86. Problem fixed. I now have a nice fully working E-86. I now also have a bunch of spare keys so I replaced the 3 broken keys on my E-70 as well. Still have a few octaves of spares for future use πŸ™‚

The other reason I bought the E-86 is for a little experiment. The E-86 has a floppy drive. This allows you to load additional styles and save songs etc. I always wanted to put a Gotek floppy emulator into a keyboard so I bought one off AliExpress.

The basic Gotek looks like this:


You replace the floppydrive and it sort of bolts right in. There are only about 1 million software settings and jumpers on the back of it that you can change. This thing should work in practically everything that has an old floppydrive. Whether it’s a keyboard, CNC-machine, Amiga’s.. you name it. So it’s not plug and play but more like plug and pray as I discovered πŸ™‚

Basic functionality is this: you format a USB stick with special software to create 1000 1.44MB partitions on this USB stick. In every partition you can store styles and or midi files. You plug the USB stick in the emulator (which the keyboard just sees as a floppy drive so don’t expect huge speed improvements as all data still goes over a floppy drive controller) and with the 2 buttons you can select a partition on your USB stick. The first button is +1 and the second button +10 (partitions). That’s kinda nice and I have seen video’s on YouTube of people having this working in a E-86 or E-96. But the Gotek can be upgraded to be sooooo much nicer.

EnterΒ FlashFloppy a Facebook group started by Keir Fraser.

He wrote new firmware (and this is still very regularly updated as of 2020) to put on a Gotek to make it much nicer.

What it basically does for my purpose is enable me to replace the 3 digit 7 segment display for a Oled display and install a rotary encoder. It is now not longer needed to use the crappy Chinese software to create 1000 partitions on a USB stick but you can just put disk images on the drive. With the encoder you can very quickly navigate trough the contents of the USB drive while you are able to see filenames and directory structures on the Oled display. This makes working with the Gotek in a keyboard about one million times more attractive so I thought I will give this a try..


To be continued.

Update: march 8th 2020: I sold the E-86. (with the original diskdrive) Sorry :’) No worries, I bought a Roland G-1000 in which I will try to get the Gotek to work πŸ™‚


4 thoughts on “Roland E-86 Intelligent Synthesizer

  1. I got an e86 from my uncle.He doesn’t play it anymore, it was lying around in his house collecting dust so I brought it. One speaker doesn’t work, discolored keys otherwise in good condition. Damn its a pain in the *ss to program this keyboard. I have been using yamaha keyboards my entire life and this 1cm wide lcd display is a nightmare to look at. I tried to create a style couple of times but failed. Is there any youtube tutorials or something on these e series keyboards?
    Regards !


    1. Hi,

      I have no idea if there are any tutorials on how to create styles. I never tried because there a hundreds of extra styles available for the E-86. You can load them using the disk drive. Maybe in the manual you can find how to create styles..

      Regards, Jorick


  2. Hi,

    Another Roland E- keyboard fan here. The E-86 was on my wish list too. Had an E-70 for years in the 90s and was curious about its successor. Found a mint looking E-86 with a faulty sound engine (LC-GS-4) for 5 euros on marktplaats. The sound engine started distorting after 15 minutes (including reverb). Cooling spray helped somewhat, it was just unable to keep in sync with the I2S clock.
    Transplanted an LC-GS-4 module from a defective RA-95. (which says E-66/RA-95 on the mainboard). Now the E-86 works wonderfully. It is fun to play, although the sounds and music styles are dated. Considering the Gotek after reading your page though.



    1. Cool! Is this that E-86 with no sound that has been bouncing around marktplaats for at least a year or two? πŸ™‚ I wouldn’t have been able to fix this but nice that you could!

      Grtz, Jorick


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