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Roland Synthesizers

Roland "Rhodes" Models


Not long after the product line came to an end, the Rhodes brand name was sold to Roland by Fender in 1987 for $20,000. By 1989 new "Rhodes" keyboards began to appear, the most notable being the MK-80, a weighted-action 88-key digital piano. This synth featured several Rhodes patches, along with acoustic piano, vibraphone & clavichord simulations, and effects including chorus and phase shifting. The concept was a great one, but the sound was not: Harold commented in an interview with Keyboard Magazine that it made him "sick". The engine behind the MK-80 was Roland's S/A synthesis model, used in the RD-series pianos at the time. At Roland's request, Harold and Major Key's John R. McLaren had constructed a single-key model of the Rhodes, an adjustable-pitch mechanism that could reproduce any note across the entire range of the piano. This strange contraption was what Roland sampled and analyzed in developing the S/A patches. Again, this seemed like a great idea at the time, but these early attempts at physical modeling were far from accurate.

Also offered was the MK-80's little brother, the MK-60. This was a stripped-down version of the synth with only 64 keys and 8 patches, none of which could be edited. As a result it was cheaper and more portable, but the sound was just as inferior. And then there was the VK-1000, a tonewheel organ emulator. Features included 76 weighted keys, drawbars for realtime control of the organ tones, and additional patches that included other piano/synth tones and Rhodes sounds from the MK-80. This keyboard would be reborn years later as the Roland VR-760, after a huge leap in technology and sound quality.

Finally, there were the Rhodes 660 & 760 models, 61- and 76-key versions of Roland's U-20 RS-PCM "ROMpler" branded with the Rhodes name. The concept here was to offer a synth that stacked nicely on top of the digital pianos: the 760 fit the MK-80 or the VK-1000, and the 660 fit the MK-60. Rhodes-brand expansion ROM cards were also available, which to our knowledge were identical to ROM cards for the U-110. A matrix of the cards by part number and name is shown below.

Name Roland Part No Rhodes Part No
SN-U110-01 SN-U01-01R
Latin & FX Percussions SN-U110-02 SN-U01-02R
Ethnic SN-U110-03 SN-U01-03R
Electric Grand & Clav SN-U110-04 SN-U01-04R
Orchestral Strings SN-U110-05 SN-U01-05R
SN-U110-06 SN-U01-06R
Electric Guitar SN-U110-07 SN-U01-07R
SN-U110-08 SN-U01-08R
SN-U110-09 SN-U01-09R
Rock Drums SN-U110-10 SN-U01-10R
Sound Effects SN-U110-11 SN-U01-11R
Sax & Trombone SN-U110-12 SN-U01-12R