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Roland Synthesizers/Racks/Modules

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Reviews Synthesizers/Racks/Modules Roland

Roland Jupiter-80 Mini-Review

Stage Master In an era where workstations are more powerful and complex every day, Roland has introduced a large stage synth that uses hybrid technology based on PCM, virtual analog technology and modeling of acoustic instrument behavior. Let's have a closer look... read more…

Roland SH-01 "Gaia" Review

The Right Compromise? The SH-01 is Roland's answer to the analog modeling synths market where low budget and ergonomics are not compatible. Let's see what tradeoffs were made to combine ease of use and a competitive price. read more…

User reviews on Synthesizers/Racks/Modules Roland products

This tiny synth could have been a giant – alas... (JD-Xi)

By lachrymae, 05/08/2018
I’ve tried the JD-Xi at length for almost a month, but I haven’t kept it in the end.

It’s a nice small synth with many an asset but also too many flaws (some related to its youth maybe?) led me to return it. It’s a real pity as this small machine is very inspiring, you reach very interesting results in no time and the more you play the more you feel like a great musician – and you don’t see time pass!

I won’t get much into its look or minikeys – you like it or don’t – but the keys are not what disturbed me most.

I really liked:
-the digital part with absolutely awesome sounds that remind of Roland (how logical!), the pads are perfect, warm-sounding and very expressive.
-the drum sounds, especially the CR-78
-the vocoder, rather efficient and intelligible
-the arpeggiator which I found great – especially used with the analog part
-the musical aspect of it, as a whole it sounds right away and really great (especially considering the size and toy aspect)

I liked a little:
-the analog part: it’s a great news that Roland has gotten less stubborn and FINALLY accepts to go back to analog, but don’t expect anything exceptional either – it does the job, nothing more or less than that. Now, it’s not bad at all for bass lines. The DCO is reminiscent of Roland’s great era of the 70s-80s, though it’s not as juicy as a VCO, or even the Juno-60’s DCO which is a role model. Please note that the filter sounds much better since the latest update, it’s more musical very much more efficient, but most important, compared with the Prophet-600 (before the GliGli mod, for those in the know) you no longer hear these unpleasant steps when closing the filter with a high resonance setting.

I didn’t like:
-the lack of direct commands
-the sequencer is way too limited and not exactly flexible, you end up turning round with the same mini loop that repeats endlessly. You still can have fun with it (if only the sequence could be transposed…)
-no song mode or pattern chaining
-the acoustic sounds (but I’m biased, I don’t like these sounds on any synth)
-bugs that happen here and there, as the synth freezes from time to time when you push it a little, the notes freeze which make you reboot it entirely. A real problem if you play live…

I hated:
-a single knob for ADSR, you need to get through thousands of sub-menus to set the envelope, which is both a stupid choice and a real scandal
-you can’t transpose a sequence using the keys (even my old SH-101 can do it)
-editing is very laborious, with many menus and submenus that kill the inspiration and the straightaway aspect of the machine
-this is especially the case to edit effects, as while they have offered many direct commands they are of little use in the end. An unlogical decision quite typical of Roland! (sometimes you wonder what they drink at R&D!)
-the shiny surface is VERY FRAGILE (it easily gets scratched) ans seems to attract all sorts of dusts you could imagine.
-the red-over-black inscriptions are impossible to read with a dim light (but not only), and the mirror effects only makes things worse and initially I had to keep a pocket torch around!

Hopefully, Roland will know how to straighten up some of these problems and make some functions better thanks to future OS updates (as for instance allowing to transpose sequences using the keys), but for sure the single knob to set the 4 envelope parameters will stay and to me this absurdity in itself is impossible to forgive and is definitely a critical flaw. Too bad, it’s a real pity, I wish I could have loved it...
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Very small – but very mighty, too! (JP-08)

By petitsynthe, 21/10/2018
So this is a miniature analog-modelling synth rendering Toland’s high-end synth from the early 80s (1981 precisely), the Jupiter 8.

It seems sturdy and is quite heavy considering its size, which is quite telling as to its building quality. After a closer look, it IS indeed a high-quality product, all the more when you consider its price!

It only comes with 4 batteries, the micro-USB cord is not supplied (but it’s the same standard as the one powering your cell phone).

It’s very cute but very small too – hence some of the nicknames people have given it, the “gnome synth” or “hobbit synth”.
After the Korg Volca, Arturia mini/micro-brute, Korg mini MS20/ARP Odyssey and Yamaha Reface, Roland seems to have followed that “honey, I’ve shrunk the synth” trend which has been going on for the last few years now.

I love compact machines, but this one is a bit on the extreme side: try and edit with faders that are only 2cm long… Thankfully, they offer a good resistance which allows to compensate the problem while adding precision.

Roland’s technology used here is called ACB (for Analog Circuit Behavior), it models the behaviour of each of the original synth’s component for better rendering of the analog sound.

It is a further improvement compared with the previous generation Virtual Analog models: this time, it sounds (almost) like a real analog’s oscillators, envelopes or filters!

It may still sound a bit too clean, but only a bit…

As to comparing with the original, I’ve owned a Jupiter 8 in the past (which I had bought used when it was still affordable), but it was 20 years ago or so. In theory, I could compare it with what my ears remember, but it’s frankly too old for anything reliable. However, all in all, I’d say it sounds rather close.

So far, with the synth’s processor, you’ll have to choose from polyphony or realism, and Roland has favored sound quality over polyphony which is limited to 4 voices. Hey, why only 4 voices? That’s much too limited for a digital device, even just 6 would have worked for me but 4… Granted, you can buy another JP-08 and chain it to the first one for a total 8 voices, but it instantly becomes less practical and more expensive – plus the psychological effect: buying twice the same gear, doesn’t that feel strange?

Especially as we can expect further evolutions:
Roland has indicated the Boutique series would be a limited edition, which doesn’t mean another (better) series won’t be produced, e.g. bigger models with more polyphony.

So, with the original 4 voices, wave your pads goodbye… (unless perhaps you can do with only two notes, but that’s quite limites). This won’t be a problem with most other sounds without too long a release – well, as long as you’re not into very complex chords.

Of all three Boutique synths, the JP-08 is the only one that I’ve bought as it’s also the only one featuring VCOs, the one with the most powerful synthesis engine, plus the only one with such an “80s legend” status. The only things missing compared with the other two (the JX-03 and JU-06) are a good chorus and longer-coursed faders/knobs.

I also bought the optional clipsable keyboard (a great idea by Roland), which is nice though nothing exceptional: the advantage is that you can play instantly with nothing else to plug and it also looks clearly nicer, but you’re soon limited with only two octaves.

Please note that the JP-08 also can also be used as a rather powerful sound interface (though I haven’t used it as such), features a rather basic step sequencer, and has an integrated small speaker of very average quality (don’t count on it for more than quick sound tests).


So, in the end,

Pros:

- Almost analog sounding (ala 80s).
- Very good manufacturing quality.
- Doesn’t take up mush space in a portable, standalone and already-crammed homestudio.

Cons:

- The faders’ course is too small.
- Polyphony offers only 4 voices, which is the JU-08’s big fault: a real pity, which by itself prevents me from giving it a 4-star rating.

But clearly, it sounds very well and its power allows to create a wide array of analog sounds: so wile it’s small in size, this JP-08 delivers a mighty, mighty sound!

As a bonus : a track (and album!) entirely recreated using the Jp-08 :

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News Synthesizers/Racks/Modules Roland

[NAMM] Roland Introduces SYSTEM-500 Complete Set

Published on 01/21/16
Roland announces the availability of the SYSTEM-500 Complete Set, a complete analog modular synthesizer in Eurorack format.

Roland's Boutique Series available

Published on 10/16/15

Roland's Boutique Series available

Published on 10/16/15

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