Synth Site: Roland: U-20 Synthesizer: User reviews Add review
Average rating: 3.7 out of 5
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Keith Sandberg a hobbyist user from Melbourne, Florida writes:
I bought my U-20 in November 1991, almost entirely based on the quality piano

sounds. I had a Juno 60 at the time, so having a lot of wild and whacky analog

sounds from the U-20 wasn't important. I knew up front that programming would

be a chore, but I wanted a keyboard that I could PLAY, not program -- the factory

sounds of the U-20 are VERY clean, and the piano (in my opinion) still matches

any keyboard out there. Most of the other acoustic instrument samples are very

good too, while the more traditionally &quot;synth&quot; sounds are only average (the U-20

doesn't &quot;synthesize&quot; sounds from &quot;scratch&quot;, it only plays back samples).

I thought the Juno/Jupiter string and brass samples sounded pretty close to my

old Juno 60, however! I use the U-20 primarily in my home studio. It's connected to a PC running

Cakewalk Home Studio. I haven't had a problem with the U-20 not being 100% &quot;GM&quot;

compatible -- the biggest incompatibility is simply that the U-20 only can play

6 voices (or MIDI tracks) at once. The drums ARE GM-compatible, and I had no

problem playing the Cakewalk GM MIDI demos thru my U-20 once I set the U-20 MIDI

channels to match the Cakewalk settings. Programming the U-20 is an incredible chore -- even after 6 years I still don't

&quot;get it&quot;! If you're not happy with the factory sounds you hear, DON'T buy this

keyboard, because you'll go insane trying to &quot;tweak&quot; anything. Actually, it's

not THAT bad, compared to other Roland keyboards, but programming the U-20 is

definitely NOT for beginners. Roland REALLY ought to do us all a favor and start

including Editor/Librarian software with all its keyboards, since they just can't

seem to make an intuitive user-interface. I see other users have had problems with the keys and with dust -- I haven't had

any problems, but I keep my keyboard at home under a cover. The keys themselves

DO seem to be pretty cheap, but I lent my U-20 out to a friend for 4 months who

was playing clubs in Minneapolis, and it survived unscathed. As a matter of

fact, my friend (who is an avid Ensoniq user) went out and bought a used U-20

for himself! The U-20's &quot;Play&quot; mode for live performance is very straightforward

and as I said before the sounds are VERY clean -- you can't find better piano,

strings, or brass sounds for the $400 cost of a used U-20! The BIGGEST problem I have experienced with the U-20 is the &quot;Voice Reserve&quot;.

The U-20 is capable of only 30 notes at once -- when I start adding the 4th,

5th, and 6th parts to my more ambitious compositions, notes will start dropping

out as the U-20 reaches its capacity. I constantly have to go into &quot;Edit&quot; mode

and tweak the &quot;Voice Reserve&quot; settings for each part. It always seems to happen

when I least expect it, too, which makes it even more aggravating! All in all, I am very happy with my U-20. Even though it is 6 years old, it

still is my main keyboard and does everything I need it to do. If you're like

me and all you need is a HIGH quality-sounding keyboard, and you don't care about

programming, MIDI, or multi-timbrality (i.e. if you play live a lot), a used

U-20 at $400-500 is a terrific BARGAIN. I give it a 4 out of 5, with one point

being deducted because of a most non-intuitive user interface.

Rating: 4 out of 5 posted Thursday-Aug-06-1998 at 00:13
Tony Evans a professional user from USA writes:
Really nice sounds but a clumsy interface and even clumsier sound architecture.

Very limited programming options - no filter, coarse envelope adjustment.

Dense chords tend to cause note lag, but that's not so noticeable if it's used as a MIDI module.

Built-in effects are fairly good.

Rating: 3 out of 5 posted Thursday-Aug-06-1998 at 00:13
Raoul a hobbyist user from The Netherlands writes:
I got mine second hand abouthalf a year ago. My rating is 3 out of five as a synth, which it isn't, like the text on the thing according to Roland: PCM- keyboard. So what more would you expect? As such, I really like it. The keyboard has great feel and there are enough keys on it for my cat and me to play simultaneously. Most sound are rubbish, and take my advice: skip all factory presets, especially the useless timbres like "native" and the like. They're so simple you can always reprogram them yourself and probably to a better job on them. Multi timbrality of six voices makes 31 notes of polyphony indispensable. It has a mind of its own; every now and then it gets tired and the decides to play only half of the programmed timbres. If the poor sound quality for lead synths didn't discourage you to use it on stage, this maybe will. The thing is great though using it in a mix, which is why I am still content with it; it's just precisely right as background sound and solo's on piano sound well enough, too. No weird sounds from this baby; it's just too nice for that. So, compared to a Korg Z1 or something, well... But I got some nice sounds of the stranger kind out of it. You should check this out: Take acc. piano 2 and bring the pithc down all the way; then lower the attack to your own liking. Combine this sound with a "heavy electric guitar" of which the pitch is turned down as well and the sustain lowered. You should turn the pan somewhat out of the middle for both sounds, one left, one right. Adjust the amp settings at will, but do not use the lfo. You now have a basic bitimbal patch that can be used with various kind of sounds so that in the en you use a tri-timbral sound. Using more timbres in one patch would be unwise because sounds will drop out. good luck, and if you're rich: get yaself a z-1 or trinity.

Rating: 3 out of 5 posted Thursday-Aug-06-1998 at 00:13
Joseph A. Russo a hobbyist user from Canada writes:
I bought the U20 about 3 years ago and it has been ok. Luckly it came with a manual

or else i would be screwed. But after hours and hours of editing and saving it becomes

simple. The sounds are ok, the piano sounds are amazing, the strings could be

better, and the rest of the sounds are ok too. They can be edited to what ever liking.

It only has 6 parts for midi channels and only 30 voice reserve. The voice reserve has

been the only problem though. I have the latin and FX Percussions, orchestral strings,

and pipe organ and harpsichord PCM cards, they do just well. (good violin/cello sample).

If you find one used for $400 or less don't hesistate, get one.

Rating: 4 out of 5 posted Thursday-Aug-06-1998 at 00:13
Christian J. Schoenewald a part time user from Washington, DC. United States writes:
I bought my U-20 in May of 1991. I have had other synths from Kawai, and Korg, none of them came close to the natural souds of the U-20. It does not allow you to play the great leads you can find with units like the JP-8000, but for background and piano leads at is perfect. In the many years that I have had my synth I have never had a problem with the keys, and I have moved with it at least seven times. I lived in South Dakota for three years, it gets very dusty there in the spring and summer, and I never had a problem. I also have not found the programming to be that bad, maybe since I basically started out with the U-20 I just did not know any other way. I currently own four of the PCM cards, without them the unit does have more limits. I am looking for more cards, if anyone knows where I can find them please contact me with information. The only problem I have with it is the inter-face. I do not like the back lighted LCD display. The U-20 makes for a great synth by itself, but it is able to shine when you add something like a JP-8000 to it in your setup.

Rating: 4 out of 5 posted Thursday-Aug-06-1998 at 00:13
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