Music Workstation (sampler with on-board sequencer and ROM sounds)

My first sampler!!!

At the time, I sold my Roland D-50 to get this.  I had to do it.  Back in 1990 I caught the "Techno bug", and all I wanted was a sampler.  Yes, a sampler:  the magical word for keyboardists... only those who could afford one would speak of this mythical instrument... every time I talked to an older and more experienced keyboardist, the conversation would inevitably go to "...so, do you have a sampler?" - and I felt it was time for me to get to the "next level".

In 1990 the W-30 wasn't state-of-the-art anymore, but still packed a good solid punch.  In particular, what attracted me to this machine was the fact that it had a very respectable sequencer on-board.  I had the sampling, I had the sequencer, I bought the first Zero-G and Polestar Magnetics sampling CDs, I had an analog poly (Korg PolySix) and a digital poly (Casio CZ-1000), and even had an old Alesis MidiVerb II reverb... I had everything I needed to make some cool techno!

Interesting sounds in ROM, although a few of them suffer from aliasing in the high octaves.  The bass samples in particular are great, and so is the programming in the preset patches.

Roland W-30 audio demos

The W-30 came with a set of four diskettes called "W-30 System".  The first diskette contains the Operating System, the other three contain the following demo songs and sounds:


Factory diskette audio demos

Data Disk 1 - Leya's Song  -  This songs features a great acoustic guitar, and a sampled voice.  Note for the young synthesizer lovers:  back then, this was VERY impressive!  The song features one of Roland's trademark sounds, the "Doo" vox, that will appear in the ROM of many subsequent synths and samplers, and of course, the General MIDI standard!

Data Disk 2 - THE OFFICE .1  -  This song showcases what's possible to do sampling everyday sounds at an office: water cooler, typewriters, drawers opening and closing, etc.  Again, at the time it was cool!

Data Disk 3 - SWING CAFE  -  Here we have the "piano" disk.  A very respectable piano at the time.  This jazz tune is just awesome, and its classic 1960s jazz style keeps it fresh.  Also featured, one of the best ROM sounds in the W-30, the bass.

Data Disk 3 - Vignettes W30  -  A presentation of good pianos.

(Stream all audio demos below)

Factory A Performance Patch with audio demo My comments
P1  Drums-Perc A very recognizable drum set.  Although now a bit dated, these are still punchy drums.
P2  GrungoClav 1 Nasty digital Clavinet sound.
P3  Slap Bass 1 Awesome slapped bass.
P4  Slap Bass 2 Variation of the above.
P5  Slap Bass 3 Another gentler, muted slap variation of the above.
P6  Fretless Bs1 Beautiful and expressive fretless bass.
P7  Fretless Bs2 Warmer fretless bass.
P8  FingeredBass Very realistic and useful.
P9  Syn Bass 1 Punchy and super fast-attack syn bass.
P10  Syn Bass 2 Rubber bass with plenty of attack resonance.
P11  Syn Bass 3 Typical Minimoog bass.
P12  E.Piano The most recognizable sound on the W-30 - a warm, bell-like electric piano.
P13  Steamer Nice Calliope sound.
P14  Synth Lead 1 Warm analog lead.  Note the aliasing effect on the high notes.
P15  Poly Synth 2 Old school analog polysynth.
P16  Combi-String Beautiful strings.


You can also load the alternate "Factory B" set of Factory Performance patches from the Factory Diskette:

Factory B Performance Patch with audio demo My comments
P1  String Pad Very nice and warm analog pad.
P2  AnalogStrngs Mysterious analog strings.  Note the aftertouch opening and closing the filter.
P3  SteamSynth Cool ambient sound.
P4  JX-10 Synth Obviously sampled from Roland's own JX-10 synthesizer.
P5  Metal Cows Ok cowbell
P6  Cosmos Juno Another great atmosphere synth - obviously sampled from Roland's Juno series.
P7  Wavola 1 Hyper-digital patch.
P8  JX-10 reso More goodies from the classic JX.
P9  Synth Brass1 Awesome and very powerful synth brass ensemble.  Truly analog-sounding.
P10  Poly Synth 1 Cool detuned synth.
P11  Wavola 2 More digital grittiness.
P12  Hollow Pad Another typical JX sound.
P13  SynBass 8vb MOOG!
P14  Wavola 3 Beautiful and haunting sound..
P15  Steemechoes Very nicely done, with the multi-stage envelopes and filter creating the echoes
P16  Orgiano Warm Farfisa imitator.


And then came the Library (click here to visit the S-series Sample Library page)

All samplers are only as good as the samples they are loaded with.  Luckily, Roland has always been at the forefront of sound design, and the many talented people who worked on the Roland S-series sample library did a good job for the rest of us.  Nowadays, the S-series library is available in the public domain, and there are several sites on the Internet that offer the whole library in zip format.  You will then need the S-DISK utility to make the diskettes to load in the W-30.  The W-30 also had an add on SCSI port, so if you can find one, you can load samples much faster via CD-ROM.

Roland W-30 pictures (click on thumbnails to enlarge)

W-30 interior    SCSI circuit board        W-30 & SCSI kit    funny manual!    SCSI chip closeup

Roland W-30 Features
  • One of the first self-contained workstations (minus FX);
  • Huge sample library;
  • sequencer on-board;
  • punchy, vintage 12-bit sound.
Features at a glance
Year of release: 1988
Polyphony: 16
Presets: 16 programs, 96 tones ROM
Keyboard: 61-note
Responds to velocity: yes
Responds to aftertouch: yes
Sound generation method: sampling, DSP on internal waveforms
MIDI: in, out, thru
Sound expansion capabilities: yes, floppies or SCSI - (SCSI called "KW-30" kit)
Effects: no
Controls: jog dials
Outputs: eight separate outputs; headphones
Display: yes, large blue LCD


Roland W-30 Manual

Available for free at www.rolandus.com



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