PCM Sound Module

The U-110 is Roland's first pure sample-playback module - or ROMpler if you like.  Like the E-mu Proteus/1 (that came out at around the same time), modules like these were meant to provide the users with a solid base of "bread and butter" sounds for pop, rock and dance music.

The U-110 uses PCM samples in ROM, largely derived from the samples used for the S-series of samplers, such as the S-330, S-550, S-10, MKS-10, W-30 and so forth.

The structure of this module is basic, and it focuses solely on providing samples of acoustic/electric instruments used in pop/rock.  There are no filters or deep editing possibilities, and no reverb/delay effects on board - for that, users had to wait until the successor Roland U-220 was produced.  There are chorus and tremolo effects though.

The quality of the samples in ROM is pretty high, even though the DACs are a bit noisier than they could be - however it's not very noticeable.

One point in which the U-110 is superior to the U-220 is the addition of four slots for the SN-U110-series of cards.  These can all be used at the same time.  The U-20/220 only had two of these slots.

The sounds are classic Roland, and even if they now sound dated, it's interesting to see what sounds the designers chose to put in ROM:  there are only pop/rock sounds, and even in the rhythm set, there are no sign of the TR-808 or 909 samples that would become so important just the year after this module was released.

Interesting to note also that the different DACs and lack of internal reverb do not detract from the U-110 sound:  on the other hand, the U-110 comes through as powerful, full of character, and with a sort of "presence" in its sonic aspect, that I can say this has more of a "raw", in your face quality than its successor U-220, which is more polished, refined but maybe not as "vibey" ;-)

Turning the unit on while pressing "DEC" and "INC" simultaneously, you enter test mode:  on my unit, the display shows "U-110  Ver2.03".

Initialize the Roland U-110:  turn on the unit while pressing simultaneously "PART" and "EDIT".


Roland U-110 factory patch sound demos in mp3

First, let's listen to the four on-board factory Roland U-110 demo songs:

01  T-Jazz #1  by M. Sakaue Idecs (c) 1988 by Roland  -  A fantastic jazz number that sounds very similar to one of the W-30's diskette demos - same composer, perhaps?

02  Swing High  by Eric Persing (c) 1988 by Roland  -  Very nice funky tune from Eric Persing

03  Cloud 9  by Eric Persing (c) 1988 by Roland  -  A fine exploration of the gentler side of the U-110

04  No One Home  by Adrian Scott (c) 1988 by Roland  -  Typical mid-late 80s song

Let's now go ahead and take a listen to the 64 preset patches on the U-110 - the sounds are fairly similar to the U-20/220 but a bit more raw:


Stream all the patch examples below as an .m3u playlist


Patch name with audio demo My Comments
01 Ac.Piano Useful for rock, pop, jazz, blues etc.
02 Brt Piano Very nice house piano!
03 ff Piano Perfect rock piano
04 Wide Piano Note the perfect location of the low and high notes in the stereo field, just like a real piano.
05 Double A.P Internally doubled - to achieve a nice chorus effect.
06 Dtun Piano Classic honky-tonky effect.
07 E.Piano Beautiful Fender Rhodes, sparkly electric piano, very expressive.
08 Double E.P Charming chorused, polished Rhodes
09 Detune E.P Vintage-sounding electric piano, similar to a Wurlitzer
10 Hard E.P Typical '60s electric piano
11 Vibraphone Perfectly sampled
12 Hard Vib Realistic vibraphone with jazzy bell attack
13 DetuneBell Sounds like wind chimes
14 Marimba Superb marimba patch!
15 A.Guitar Acoustic guitar - short samples but it's okay played in accompaniment style
16 Double A.G Detuned version of the above
17 12str A.G Decent 12-string guitar
18 Mute Sw EG Very nice velocity-switched patch
19 Double EG Doubled version of the above
20 Slap Bass Clean, "boiled strings" electric bass - with slap technique
21 DetuneBass Nice harmonics in the upper octaves, classic late '80s bass in the lower
22 V-Sw Slap From thin to slap
23 Fing Bass Quintessential fusion Fender bass
24 Pick Bass 60s bass
25 Fless Bass Very nice and warm fretless electric bass
26 Ac.Bass Extremely realistic and expressive
27 Synth Bass Classic FM-style synth bass
28 Choir Superb, realistic choir
29 Oct Choir With added lower octave, this sounds wonderfully Mellotronish
30 Double Chr Beautiful, ethereal synth vox choir
31 Strings Nice small string orchestra
32 Double Str Doubled version of the above
33 E.Organ Deliciously retro, 60s electric organ
34 DoubleOrg1 Fun, happy 60s electric organ!
35 DoubleOrg2 Solid retro jazz organ, with obligatory percussion
36 Soft Tp Realistic trumpet
37 Tp/Tromb Trumpet and Trombone mix
38 Oct Tp/Trb With added octave
39 Sax Warm, intimate tenor saxophone
40 Bright Sax Brighter version of the above
41 Detune Sax Sax ensemble
42 Oct Sax Perfectly respectable swing brass section
43 Brass Powerful pop brass
44 Oct Brass Cool '60s brass ensemble
45 Double Brs Vaudeville brass
46 Flute Outstanding classical flute, with natural vibrato - versatile
47 Dtn Flute Chorused, detuned flute ensemble
48 Shakuhachi One of the most popular samples of the '80s
49 Drums Punchy, clean samples - great for rock and pop
50 Double Drm Detuned drums
51 Short Drm Short enveloped drums
52 Fantasy Beautiful!!  The precursor to the famous D-50 first preset, and Mellotron'ish in nature
53 Brs + Str Classic combo
54 5th Br+Str Nice '70s Progressive Rock style
55 Choir+Str More Progressive Mellotron style from the '70s
56 Thick Bell Incredible ethnic patch
57 Guit-Piano Guitar fades into piano harmonics - very good!
58 Trump-Sax Trumpet becomes sax
59 Sax - Tp Saxophones and trumpets
60 Multi-Set1 n/a
61 Multi-Set2 n/a
62 Multi-Set3 n/a
63 Multi-Set4 n/a
64 Multi-Set5 n/a


Roland U-110 factory tones list



Roland U-110 specifications


Features at a glance
Year of release: 1988
Polyphony: 31-voice
Presets: 64 patches, 99 tones
Rhythms: 1 rhythm set
Keyboard: n/a
Responds to velocity: yes
Sound generation method: PCM
MIDI: in,out, thru
Sound expansion capabilities: pcm cards
Effects: chorus, tremolo
Controls: knob, buttons
Outputs: stereo outs, or 6 sep. outputs
Display: yes, backlit green


Roland U-110 pictures (click on thumbnails to enlarge)


Roland U-110 manual

available at www.rolandus.com




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