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Roland | MT-32


The Roland MT-32 Multi-Timbre Sound Module is a MIDI synthesizer module first released in 1987 by Roland Corporation. It was originally marketed to amateur musicians as a budget external synthesizer with an original list price of $695. However, it became more famous along with its compatible modules as an early de facto standard in computer music. Since it was made prior to the release of the General MIDI standard, it uses its own proprietary format for MIDI file playback.

Within Roland's family of Linear Arithmetic (LA) synthesizers, the multitimbral MT-32 series constitutes the budget prosumer line for computer music at home, the multitimbral D-5, D-10, D-20 and D-110 models constitute the professional line for general studio use, and the high-end monotimbral D-50 and D-550 models are for sophisticated multi-track studio work. It was the first product in Roland's Myuujikun line of Desktop Music System (DTM) packages in Japan.


Like the Roland D-50 Linear Synthesizer, it uses Linear Arithmetic synthesis, a form of sample-based synthesis combined with subtractive synthesis, to produce its sounds. Samples are used for attacks and drums, while traditional synthesis assures the sustain phase of the sounds.

The original MT-32 comes with a preset library of 128 synth and 30 rhythm sounds, playable on 8 melodic channels and one rhythm channel. It also features a digital reverberation effect. Successors added a library of 33 sound effects. Because of the absence of a piano attack sample, it cannot play a convincing acoustic piano sound.

Sounds are created from up to 4 partials which can be combined in various ways (including ring modulation). With 32 partials available overall, polyphony depends on the tonal complexity of the music, and 8 to 32 notes can be played simultaneously.

The MT-32 by default assigns its parts 1~8 and R(hythm) to respond on input MIDI channels 2~9 and 10 respectively. By consequence, MIDI files using the popular channel 1 or the other channels 11~16 cannot have those parts played on the MT-32. However, the MT-32's melodic parts can be shifted down to respond to channels 1~8 using a button combination or through MIDI system exclusive messages, enabling improved compatibility with non-MT-32-specific MIDI sequences.

Additionally, in 1993 Roland released the "GM2MT" SysEx pack, which can be used to reprogram the MT-32 and compatibles to match General MIDI specifications as close as possible. 64 of the 128 patches (the limit of possible variations) are completely new or modified sounds, with additional sounds having been added to drum channel 10. Despite this, compatibility with GM is still limited by the lack of parts (9 on the MT-32, 16 per GM specification) and reversed panpot compared to MMA MIDI specifications. The utility was predated by a pack called "MT32GS", released by Mike Cornelius in 1992.

MT-32 models

Two major revisions of the MT-32 were produced. Roland refers to them as MT-32 (Old / Without headphones) and MT-32 (New / With headphones).

MT-32 (old)

The LA32 sound generation chip is an 80-pin PGA. The control CPU is an Intel C8095-90 in ceramic DIP-48 package. The digital-to-analog converter (DAC) is a Burr-Brown PCM54; the input signal having a resolution of 15 bits (see below). Line-outs are unbalanced 1/4″ TS phone connector (separate left and right channels.) No headphone jack.

  • MT-32 with revision 0 PCB, used in units up to serial number 851399.

The PGA LA32 chip is later replaced with a 100-pin QFP type.

  • MT-32 with "old-type" revision 1 PCB, used in units with serial numbers 851400 - 950499.

MT-32 (new)

The control CPU is an Intel P8098. Same DAC, but with 16 bits of input signal resolution (see below). A stereo 1/4″ TRS headphones jack is added.

  • MT-32 with "new-type" revision 1 PCB, used in units with serial numbers 950500 and up.
  • Roland MT-100: Combination of MT-32 and Roland PR-100 (Sequencer and 2.8" Quick-Disk). While it uses a MT-32 (New) PCB, the chassis is different.

MT-32 compatible models

To target computer users, Roland released a number of CM (Computer Music) modules. They came without a LCD display and had most buttons removed. CM modules are compatible with MT-32, but feature 33 additional sound effect samples which many games took advantage of. These sound effects cannot be heard on a MT-32. Early models share a similar design to MT-32 (New). Control CPU is an Intel P8098 and DAC is a Burr-Brown PCM54.

  • Roland CM-32L: Released in 1989, this Roland CM has only a volume knob, a MIDI message and a power-on indicator as external controls.
  • Roland CM-64: A combination of the CM-32L with the sample-based CM-32P, a cut-down "computer music" version of the Roland U-110. The CM-32P part plays on MIDI channels 11-16 which are not used by the CM-32L part.
  • Roland LAPC-I: ISA bus expansion card for IBM PCs and compatibles. Includes the MPU-401 interface.

In later models, the DAC is a Burr-Brown PCM55, and vibrato is noticeably faster.

  • Roland CM-32LN: Sound module for the NEC PC-98 series notebook computers, featuring a special connector for direct connection to the computer's 110-pin expansion port. Released in Japan only.
  • Roland CM-500: A combination of the CM-32LN with the Roland GS-compatible Roland CM-300, the "computer music" version of the Roland SC-55. Released around 1992.
  • Roland LAPC-N: C-Bus expansion card for the NEC PC-88 and NEC PC-98 series of computers. Released in Japan only.


Engine TypeDigital
EngineLA, PCM
Voices (max)8
Engine DetailedDigital LAS (Linear Arithmetic Synthesis) & PCM. 4 OSC (partials). Combines traditional subtractive synthesis with PCM-based samples. 1 voice can combine up to four partials in various configurations with or without ring modulation. Two LA and Two PCM samples max only.
Filter (VCF)1
Envelope (VCA)1
FXDigital Reverb
Memory128 synth presets, 64 volatile programmable
Drums28 rhythm presets. 1Kit, 30 sounds
Key typeN/A
Extra infoMT-32 desktop model has keys and volume dial to adjust parameters. CM-range has none (aimed for use with Computers and sequencing software)
Produced:1987 - 1993
Legend: Obvious Y: Yes, N: No, N/A: Not Applicable
VCO Voltage Controlled Oscillator DCO Digital Controlled Oscillator
LFO Low Frequency Oscillator Sub Sub Oscillator
VCF Voltage Controlled Filter VCA Voltage Controlled Amplifier
Velocity As with a piano, the harder you hit a key, the louder the sound, unlike most organs which always produce the same loudness no matter how hard you hit a key. Aftertouch Pressing a key after you activated it. Channel Aftertouch, no matter which key, it will send a Channel message. Poly Aftertouch, sends the pressure per key instead of the whole channel.
Values for OSC, LFO, Filter, Envelope are per voice unless stated otherwise.

Manuals, patches etc.


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