Zoë Blade's notebook


W-30 tech specs

The W-30 was a workstation released by Roland in 1989. It essentially combined an MC-300 MIDI sequencer, S-330 sampler, and controller keyboard in a single housing, along with a comfortable S1000-sized LCD.


Interface boards


As a matter of fact, the only sampler we used on the Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em album was a Roland W-30. Not that there weren't other things out there. That's what I had, and that's what I felt comfortable with.

— Felton Pilate, MC Hammer, 1992[2]

I used to run one W-30 while the other loaded, then swap over. That's how we first did it live, mixing and playing bits over the top of the sequences. As far as the studio went, the second EP was done using two W-30s and sampling off turntables. It was easy stuff because I didn't really understand too much about studio technology. The only way I found to learn was to go down to the studio where we mixed the first two EPs and sit with the engineer and let him tell me what he was doing.

— Liam Howlett, The Prodigy, 1992[3]

One of the reasons I don't use an Atari is that if something is hand-made, it comes out better. With the W-30 I can tap in exactly what I want. I never use copy mode, never. I think with an Atari it's just too easy to tap in a bassline, repeat it for 30 bars and so on. Instead of having the same cymbals all the way through, I tap them in and change them as I go. And I think that helps give me "my" sound. I talked to another local group, Shades of Rhythm, about it and they couldn't believe it. I was going to buy an Atari, but there's no point.

— Liam Howlett, The Prodigy, 1992[3]

I did Jilted Generation with the W-30 sequencer, but afterwards, I thought I could do with getting a few more tracks. Cubase has helped my writing quite a bit. I was so stuck with the W-30, I never really thought I'd need more than 16 tracks. Also, I was worried I'd change the way I wrote. Now, I try and write the same way I used to on the W-30. For example, I try not to copy too many things.

— Liam Howlett, The Prodigy, 1996[4]

I think the W-30 as a sampler is in some ways way ahead of other samplers. For some people, the quality's not good enough. But for me, it's so raw, and it has looping facilities like the alter function, which makes the sample go forward, then spins it round and makes it come back again. It's a really handy feature for getting a smooth sound, and I've used that on loads of tracks where people would imagine that it's just a sound, but the looping makes it sound like that.

— Liam Howlett, The Prodigy, 1997[5]

Notable users


  1. "W-30 service notes" Roland, May 1989, p. 1
  2. "Partners In Rhyme" Tim Goodyer, Music Technology, Feb 1992, pp. 30—35
  3. "The Lone Raver" Tim Goodyer, Music Technology, May 1992, pp. 68—72
  4. "Liam Howlett: The Prodigy & Firestarter" Paul Nagle, Sound On Sound, Sep 1996
  5. "Playing With Fire!" Robin Green, The Mix, Mar 1997
  6. Everybody in the Place The Prodigy, 1991
  7. Wind It Up (Rewound) The Prodigy, 1993
  8. "Prodigious Talent" David Robinson, Future Music, Feb 1993, pp. 31—34




Hardware MIDI sequencers: ASQ10 | CZ-101 | Studio 440 | TR-909 | W-30

Roland: DCB | JV-1080 | Juno-6 | Juno-106 | MC-4 | MC-8 | MPU-101 | R-8 | SH-101 | SN-R8 series | SN-U110 series | SO-PCM1 series | SR-JV80 series | System-100 | System-100M | TB-303 | TR-606 | TR-808 | TR-909 | U-110 | VP-330 | W-30

Samplers: FZ-1 | S612 | S900 | S950 | S1000 | S1100 | Studio 440 | W-30