View Single Post
Old 13th August 2019
Lives for gear

Nice, love behind the scenes info like that. My favorite part is how they didn't have the subs required to hear the boom, highlighting how the ever shifting cultural and technological landscapes changes the experience and perception (and value) of sounds:
[...] we had only cheap playback devices in our labs in Roland, and none of us were able to hear nor realize the heavy low bass frequency bands of this killer tone.
Did they voice all their 70s/80s stuff on cheap monitoring too? Is digging up vintage speakers the only way to hear how a "factory fresh" machine really sounded like?

Anyway, below is a comment by the same Tadao Kikumoto taken from Roland's D-50's 30th anniversary promo page, adding more to the story:

Roland D-50: Born from the ideality of creative musical instrument development

Through my development experience of TR-808 and 909, I found that 90% of all sound identities occur during the quick transformation of overtones arising from the initial touch to around 20 or 30 milliseconds. The sound after the attack is not so important. Actually, this way of thinking led to developing the D-50.

The Yamaha DX7, which was already in the market at that time, was an epoch-making digital synthesizer, adopting complicated and anharmonic sounds (which did not exist in analog) in the initial part. Our first fully digital synthesizer adopted granular PCM in the initial part, after which I decided to implement an intuitive and versatile digital signal processing using an analog subtractive method. It was a big question which phoneme to adopt for the initial part. If it is too concrete sound, it is not versatile, so we sought for a sound which is close to real, but obscure. I consulted Eric Persing, who belonged at that time to Roland, and he said, “I have an idea, leave it to me!” As a result, an “ideal” sound was born.

Another important point for the LA sound source is that we integrated digital effects for the first time in history. There was opinion against it inside the company, but we obtained a synergy effect by adding Chorus and Reverb.

We aimed at “real” sound, but we could create the “ideal” sound around there.

The TR-808 and TR-909, which were developed long before D-50, aimed at reproducing real sound. However, in the end, a new sound which is simpler but stronger than real drum sound, without contaminating or being trivial, was born. And this is the “ideality”. It doesn’t mean just “idea” but also Theory of Forms (Plato), ideal, imagination, or creation. If reality is compared to a photograph, ideality is a painting.

Therefore, D-50’s sound is like a painting of impressionism and abstractionism, and it is not a sampler but a synthesizer, which is a creative instrument.

Japanese anime has its special aesthetic standard; big eyes in small face, small mouth and chin. It looked strange to western people, but is well accepted nowadays. Aesthetic study, which is a study of aesthetic value, seems to become more and more popular now.

I think D-50 is just a milestone vintage of the transition period from analog to digital. I am proud that Roland was, and still is, searching for “ideality” in such transition period, and even now for the future.

Finally, let me express my big appreciation to Eric, Adrian Scott, and the engineers who worked for this project, and who became creative leaders.

We Design The Future.