Roland A-70 by Deleted User
In 1998, Roland introduced the A-70, a 76-key semi-weighted synth action keyboard controller. Key features are:
- Dual pitch/mod controller setup (wheels and lever)
- 4 MIDI out ports for 64 MIDI channels of control
- 2 MIDI in ports for using another MIDI source or control surface
- VE card slot for onboard sound
- Selectable velocity curves
- Control for eight zones (4 external and 4 internal, or 8 external sound source zones)
- Independent velocity curves for each zone
- Dedicated Sequencer Control section
- Ability to solo one or more specific zones
The A-70 onboard plug-in board accepts the VE series of cards, such as the VE-RD1 piano module, VE-JV1 JV synth module, VE-GS general sound module and the VE-GSPro enhanced GM sound module (an SC-88pro on a card).
There are 64 performance memory locations which can be chained and stepped through with a pedal controller, and although this may seem like only a handful, this is more than adequate for even the most demanding stage performance.
The A-70 can have as many as 8 external keyboard "zones", or if you utilize any of the optional plug-in boards, 4 internal and 4 external zones. These zones either split for single voicing or overlap for layering, and you double-tap any of the zone buttons to solo that zone which is a lot more useful than you might think, especially in a layer situation controlling external modules in a rack -- saves a lot of reaching and fiddling with the modules or the mixer.
Panel controls are well-organized, and essentially identical to the A-90 panel, but instead of using the large JD-800 style buttons, Roland used the more svelte buttons from their JV/XP series keyboard of the period. The data entry section of the keyboard is huge - twice the size of the other sections. It contains a cursor control pad with four triangular buttons, a data entry slider (although I might have preferred the wheel), increment and decrement buttons and a numeric keypad that also uses phone-style alphabetic characters, including hexadecimal. There's even a panel lock feature here which is extremely useful if you've ever been to a gig, taken a break only to find out someone has decided to "explore" your rig while you were out. One prime complaint is that Roland only provided four assignable sliders, and this is well-justified; Roland has plenty of real estate to easily provide 8 or more sliders with buttons. Finally, no useful keyboard controller would be complete without a dedicated MIDI panic button, and the A-70's is in an easily accessible yet segregated location at the far upper right of the panel.
The A-70 also sports both kinds of pitch/mod controllers -- wheels and The Roland Lever -- for those players who are drawn to one or the other type. However you can change the function of each controller and store those in a performance patch, so your mod wheel could be set to control the filter resonance for one performance patch, and the LFO speed for another (assuming these functions can be assigned CC numbers).
The display on the A-70 is broken into two separate LCD displays -- a large 3-character dot-addressable alphanumeric display which displays the current mode, patch/performance number or selected parameter value, and a two-line alphanumeric display that has more information about these items. It's an interesting display, an LCD that lights the individual pixels rather than black pixels on a lit background, and IMO this is a much more readable display format.
However, with all this control the ultimate bottom line (besides the price) is the "feel" of the keyboard, and I unhesitatingly state it's the best keyboard I've ever played. The velocity and mono-pressure sensitive Fatar A9 premium synth-style keybed has white keys with a slightly rounded keytop and a comfortable corner radius, which make for both a usable surface for straight playing, and these curves enhance the ability to gliss or palm-smear an organ -- try that with your tight square keyboard and you'll be getting callouses in all the wrong places. The black keys are also nicely rounded over on all surface corners, but also have a bit of texture to them which tremendously increases the playability. Incidentally, this is the same keybed found on the Kawai K5000/S, which many have called the best keyboard they've ever played -- now you have that same amazing keyboard in a dedicated controller. The keys are weighted as close to perfect as production will allow; not too heavy to be considered "weighted" and not too light as to seem flimsy or toy-ish. The keyboard is simply a delight to play.
What's missing are some of the best features from the A-50, like polyphonic aftertouch and a card memory slot so you can build up a library of performance patches. It could also sport a ribbon controller and I've already remarked on the dearth of assignable sliders but ultimately, in my opinion the A-70 is about as close to perfect a controller that has ever been produced. With the industry focusing on 25 and 49-key toys, this 76-note controller is meant to be played by real keyboard players who use both hands and have a lot of outboard gear.