Roland A-80 & A-50 Poly Aftertouch Bug

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mmp
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Roland A-80 & A-50 Poly Aftertouch Bug

Post by mmp » Fri Jun 21, 2019 7:09 am

I thought it might be good to share my experience with the group.

I recently bought an used Roland A-80 because I had been looking for an affordable controller that has poly aftertouch. I had read that the keyboard was known for having way too little sensitivity to pressure, but that it could be remedied with a simple resistor change. (Resistor 43 to 51k).

The other issue was a buzzy display, but I found someone making replacements in the UK on eBay. I had also read that firmware 1.07 had a bug in the poly AT. So, I ended up buying an A-80 with firmware 1.02. Got it home, replaced the display and the resistor, and found out firmware 1.02 also has the same bug. The bug is that the controller outputs the poly AT info for each note three octaves higher than it should, which renders it unusable. After hours of internet searching, I finally found one mention of firmware 1.02 also being buggy in the replies to a YouTube video. Also, there is mention of 1.09 having the same bug. The only firmware I have read that is working is 1.04 AFAIK, but I have no first hand experience.

So, what to do? No one seems to be making working ROMs for these controllers. I found one person on YouTube who had made a computer script to fix the data stream, but I wanted a hardware fix. I ended up getting a MIDI Solutions Event Processor and was able to load a script into it that lowered the poly AT messages to the right octave, and now it is working great!

The script has two parts. The first scales the pitch reference in the poly AT messages for the range 36-127 to 0-91. Because the bug adds three octaves, the poly AT for the notes 92-127 are out of range, but luckily they wrap around in a predictable way to notes 0-35. So, the second part of the script maps poly AT pitches 0-35 to 92-127 and this totally fixes the issue. The Roland is capable of powering the MIDI Solution’s box with just the MIDI cable.

So, there you have it. Hopefully by posting this here, someone else will not have to go through so many hours of research to find and fix this issue.

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Post by Dave Peck » Fri Jun 21, 2019 1:31 pm

That is quite resourceful and impressive! :cloud:

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Post by mmp » Fri Jun 21, 2019 5:27 pm

Thanks! I am just glad I got it all to work, all for under $500.

I have a number of synths that respond to poly AT, so I consider it quite a bargain, even though it cost me a number of hours to set right.

I have been having a lot of fun with my Novation Peak and doing some programming with the poly AT and am really liking the new level of expression.

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Post by thomachine » Mon Jun 24, 2019 10:10 am

Cool! I have an A50 with the buggy firmware. Just used midi transformer in Cubase to get it working. Made some pads that sounds so much more alive with poly at, than regular mono at on my Peak.

There is 7 keys on my keyboard where the AT doesnt work at all. And dont think its possible to get the parts needed to fix this. Still, it gave me the posibility to test out poly aftertouch.

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Post by Panason » Mon Jun 24, 2019 10:30 am

So what are the other options for MIDI poly AT controllers (excluding the Roli rubber stuff)?
All the synths and standard controller keyboards I have tried that featured the standard mono aftertouch were too clunky and stiff, ie you needed to apply quite a lot of pressure to get the aftertouch and that made nuanced playing pretty tiresome. The travel is usually too short as well and the whole thing feels a bit gimmicky/ cheap and not much like an expressive instrument .

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Post by mmp » Mon Jun 24, 2019 10:46 am

It really does bring some things alive.

As for the non-working keys. I did find some notes on my A-80 needed to be used a bit to respond well. If you haven’t already, make an aftertouch curve that is the easiest to trigger and check a MIDI monitor program like MIDI Ox to see if they are truly dead, if not, then just exercise them a bit and they may return to the living. If truly dead, then probably the only remedy is a parts machine. I have seen at least two other A-80s on my local Craigslist feed in the last month, so they are out there and can be had for reasonable prices.
thomachine wrote:Cool! I have an A50 with the buggy firmware. Just used midi transformer in Cubase to get it working. Made some pads that sounds so much more alive with poly at, than regular mono at on my Peak.

There is 7 keys on my keyboard where the AT doesnt work at all. And dont think its possible to get the parts needed to fix this. Still, it gave me the posibility to test out poly aftertouch.

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Post by mmp » Mon Jun 24, 2019 10:51 am

Probably the best is the Kurzweil MIDBoard. My Roland feels pretty great after the resistor change and has a very good built in AT curve editor. But, most of the Rolands also have the fore mentioned bug.
Panason wrote:So what are the other options for MIDI poly AT controllers (excluding the Roli rubber stuff)?
All the synths and standard controller keyboards I have tried that featured the standard mono aftertouch were too clunky and stiff, ie you needed to apply quite a lot of pressure to get the aftertouch and that made nuanced playing pretty tiresome. The travel is usually too short as well and the whole thing feels a bit gimmicky/ cheap and not much like an expressive instrument .

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Post by thomachine » Mon Jun 24, 2019 11:48 am

mmp wrote:It really does bring some things alive.

As for the non-working keys. I did find some notes on my A-80 needed to be used a bit to respond well. If you haven’t already, make an aftertouch curve that is the easiest to trigger and check a MIDI monitor program like MIDI Ox to see if they are truly dead, if not, then just exercise them a bit and they may return to the living. If truly dead, then probably the only remedy is a parts machine. I have seen at least two other A-80s on my local Craigslist feed in the last month, so they are out there and can be had for reasonable prices.
thomachine wrote:Cool! I have an A50 with the buggy firmware. Just used midi transformer in Cubase to get it working. Made some pads that sounds so much more alive with poly at, than regular mono at on my Peak.

There is 7 keys on my keyboard where the AT doesnt work at all. And dont think its possible to get the parts needed to fix this. Still, it gave me the posibility to test out poly aftertouch.
I'm not that fond of full weigthed keys. Always find them "difficult" to play. hehe. How is the feeling of aftertouch on yout A80? Mine has almost no "give" after you press the keys down. Not like my other keyboard that has like half a cm flex where you control the aftertouch.

Ill try to be a little brutal with the dead keys. They all group together. E to B in the same octave.

I heard some good stuff about the keyboard on the GEM S2 and S3 as well. But it really is too bad you cant get a new poly aftertouch keyboard with regular keys.

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Post by mmp » Mon Jun 24, 2019 3:59 pm

I wasn’t suggesting the A-80 as anything other than a possible source of parts for your A-50. I am pretty sure the aftertouch sensors are the same.

thomachine wrote: I'm not that fond of full weigthed keys. Always find them "difficult" to play. hehe. How is the feeling of aftertouch on yout A80? Mine has almost no "give" after you press the keys down. Not like my other keyboard that has like half a cm flex where you control the aftertouch.

Ill try to be a little brutal with the dead keys. They all group together. E to B in the same octave.

I heard some good stuff about the keyboard on the GEM S2 and S3 as well. But it really is too bad you cant get a new poly aftertouch keyboard with regular keys.

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Post by thomachine » Tue Jun 25, 2019 9:29 am

Ahh, ok. I think they have different part numbers on the whole assembley. But some of the circuitboards migth be compatible. Here in Norway these doesnt come up often. Only some of the Ensoniq keyboards. But at a higher price than they are worth.

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A-80 Firmware 1.09

Post by ArchMajo » Sat Oct 05, 2019 4:33 am

Hi!
I'm new on this forum, but I own a modded (by myself) A-80 with 1.04 Firmware that can dynamically change the AT sensitivity with a Knob added on the side panel...
I will be interested in trying the new 1.09 firmware ...
Is there anyone that really know the differences between the two versions?
It seems that Roland does not give any support to old machines....
Someone know how to download or have the new firmware ?
I can duplicate it from an existing eprom or write it from a file...
If someone can be interested I want to try to remove the bug in the 1.9 firmware...

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Re: Roland A-80 & A-50 Poly Aftertouch Bug

Post by thekernel » Tue Feb 04, 2020 8:09 am

ArchMajo wrote:
Sat Oct 05, 2019 4:33 am
Hi!
I'm new on this forum, but I own a modded (by myself) A-80 with 1.04 Firmware that can dynamically change the AT sensitivity with a Knob added on the side panel...
I will be interested in trying the new 1.09 firmware ...
Is there anyone that really know the differences between the two versions?
It seems that Roland does not give any support to old machines....
Someone know how to download or have the new firmware ?
I can duplicate it from an existing eprom or write it from a file...
If someone can be interested I want to try to remove the bug in the 1.9 firmware...
I have an A-50 with a 1.13 OS, but only the bottom two octaves respond to poly aftertouch.
I'm not sure if this is a mechanical or software issue.
I'd be happy to exchange the 1.13 EPROMS for the 1.04 versions...
If you have the ability to burn 1.04 EPROMS, I bet there's quite a few A-50 and A-80 owners out there who would be willing to pay for that service.

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Re: Roland A-80 & A-50 Poly Aftertouch Bug

Post by mmp » Tue Feb 04, 2020 8:49 am

I would guess a mechanical issue, but I haven’t ever tested a 1.13 version of the firmware.

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