juno106

JUNO-106, as captured by cicciostoky [MySpace].

Roland is holding a YouTube video contest to get people to show off their JUNO keyboard synths. They’re not just talking the currently-available Roland keyboards that wear the JUNO badge, but the classic models going back to 1982.

"How Do You JUNO?" Video Contest [Roland US]

I like to disclose our partnerships upfront, so in the interest of disclosure: Roland US is currently promoting this campaign on CDM – thanks, Roland, for supporting the site. I can also tell you that personally, selfishly, I’d really love to see some great JUNO videos up on that YouTube channel, and that I suspect the take of some of you readers will be different. Also in the interest of really full disclosure – yeah, okay, I’m partial to the vintage JUNO. That’s my own personal bias. But I’m eager to see videos of whatever you’ve got. (Also, the JUNO-G is one of my favorite mainstream keyboards at the moment, for reasons I talk about below – it has the advantages of a workstation, like the ability to load custom waveforms and do onboard audio recording and sequencing, but without some of the bells and whistles a lot of us don’t want.)

Right now, there’s not a whole lot uploaded to the YouTube video. The contest just started, and you have until July 1. But I’d like to see some more from the CDM readers – especially after you successfully conquered Keyboard Magazine’s Depeche Mode identify-the-gear competition last month. Prizes this time include a new, loaded JUNO-Stage to the top three winners, plus two SRX expansion boards of your choice to the top winner. I can kick in a beer if I see you, plus international fame here on CDM if you do something great – and that extends beyond the US borders. (The contest itself is US-only as it’s run by Roland US.)

JUNO History

I think it’s worth reviewing the history of the JUNO line. What it’s meant to be a “JUNO” has changed pretty radically over the years; a JUNO-D and a JUNO-6 might not recognize each other. It reflects some of the changing tastes and technologies in the industry. Sometimes that represents forward progress — hooray, MIDI and patch memory! But sometimes something is lost. The analog original is something special, and even Roland wound up bringing back retro-styled front-panel editing, missing on the JUNO-D, to the JUNO-G and JUNO-STAGE. It’s not about nostalgia: it’s about making something musically productive. In some ways, that’s brought us full circle.

Mirror, mirror: JUNO-6, photographed by p caire.

1982: JUNO-6, JUNO-60. The original JUNO was a six-voice polyphonic analog synth. The distinctive, punchy analog sound was so beloved, it even inspired a meticulous emulation on a dedicated Linux machine. It also introduced Roland’s friendly-looking panel layout approach with big, clear labels and a spacious setup – something to which Roland themselves have recently returned. The JUNO-60 added patch memory storage. No MIDI, although there Roland later produced add-on hardware for MIDI control.

Roland generations: the JX-8P was the successor to the first commercially-available Roland MIDI synth (JX-3P). You can also see how the JUNO-60 compares to the size of the JUNO-106 at top. Photo: Soundingblue.

1984: JUNO-106. The 106 has a special place in history, not only a favorite of the 80s but ever since – it’s got six analog voices as on the original JUNO, plus one digitally-controlled oscillator per voice, but adds MIDI control. It sounds great and it’s dead-simple to use. It’s also a nice choice if you’re looking to pick up an 80s keyboard as it’s a good value today as it was when released. In a world in which “vintage” often translates to elite and expensive, the JUNO-106 is one of the great populist keyboards of all time. Note that if you are looking to pick up a used 106, our friend James Grahame from Retro Thing notes tells me the voice chips are starting to die. Buyer beware: owning a used synth can be like owning a used car.

The Roland Jupiter, not the JUNO, went down in history as one of the two first synths to connect in public via MIDI – at winter NAMM, January 1983, connected to a Sequential Prophet-600. But the JUNO-106 was still one of the Roland products that helped popularize MIDI.

Digital oscillators + analog filters. Odd that we don’t have more synths like that today, in fact. Photo: ALERT ALERT.

1986: Alpha JUNO 1. The Alphas are smaller, and eschew physical controls for LED and minimalist button selections – there was something about the mid-1980s that did that to synth design. But you can add on a PG-300 controller for additional controls, the Alphas are MIDI-friendly, and not hard to find these days. They maintained the distinctive JUNO sound and have been a favorite in the techno scene ever since.

Alpha JUNO 2. The Alpha 2 hits a nice sweet spot as a controller: aftertouch, 61-note keyboard. That could make it a decent choice on your keyboard rack even today.

The New JUNO Models

2005: JUNO-D. The JUNO-D is a budget wavetable synth, and as such, really the odd man out here. The connection to the original JUNO is presumably that it’s a friendly synth with some favorite sounds, and it does support a computer editor. There are also front-panel envelope controls. But it’s the more recent JUNO models that have brought back more of the original spirit of the JUNO. The JUNO-D has “JUNO” printed on it, but otherwise, while a solid entry-level keyboard, it lacks a lot of the features that make the other modern JUNO line appealing.

JUNO-G, at home in the studio. Photo: Claudio Matsuoka.

2007: JUNO-G. The JUNO-G is quite a lot more interesting if you’re interested in doing some real programming and live performance. It’s a workstation, though without some of the arranger features that are superfluous to many of us. You get the Fantom-X synth processor, but with easily-accessible front-panel editing controls and a layout inspired by the original JUNO. There are also some nice gigging features, like onboard audio/MIDI recording, 16-part MIDI sequencing, and a slot for flash memory. It’s also got additional controller features, like a D-Beam, plus USB connectivity. I reviewed the JUNO-G in summer 2007 for Keyboard Magazine. I was especially attracted to the ability to use your own waveforms as the basis of sounds, and to the front-panel editing and sequencing/recording features.

Version 2 of the JUNO-G recently added waveform editing.

junostage

2008: JUNO-STAGE. I quite liked that the JUNO-G is light, but the JUNO-STAGE gives you a 76-note, semi-weighted keyboard and additional performance controls. It gets rid of some of the sequencing and workstation features of the JUNO-G, but if you want to do all your sequencing on computer, that may not matter. The idea of the STAGE is really focused on live performance controls. Like the JUNO-G, it’s the soul of a Fantom-X in a different package, but that package is more narrowly-focused in a way that can appeal for live playing.

Modern JUNO Portal at Roland

JUNO Users, We’d Love to Hear From You

An informal poll reveals there are some JUNO owners – new and vintage – out there in CDMland. So I’m actually quite interested to hear what these results might be like. I’d love to hear your actual music and learn how you use these in the studio or live.

Hopefully in the future, we can extend this to other popular gear, as well.

  • Jaime Munarriz

    Sad, but the Juno-6 is clearly the best. Why cannot they produce a modern version: live controls, wonder sound, no digital pages hidden pages…

  • pho

    What Jaime said … produce a modern ANALOG version. No chips: all transistors and soldier!

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Well, I don't know about that. Making everything analog does not necessarily make it better. On the other hand, it could be fascinating to bring back even more design elements of the earlier JUNO (or any of the classic synth designs from Roland and others), or even just to resurrect parts that can matter – like distinctive, particular analog filters.

    I guess the question is what might constitute "modern." But then, that's why this video contest is all the more interesting to me – I hope we do see what people are doing with both older and newer JUNOs, as I think that'd be revealing from a design standpoint.

  • BirdFLU

    I think the JX-3P was the 1st available MIDI synth,it was definitely before the JX-8P. I've also seen the SCI Prophet 600 referred to as the 1st. The 600 and the JX-3P came out pretty close to each other. I think the JX-3P came out in 1983 and the JX-8P in 1984 or 1985.

  • http://www.pulsewidth.ca pulsewidth

    Begin trainspotting…

    For the photo captioned 'Roland Generations' it indicates that the JX-8P was the first commercially available MIDI synth. That honour actually fell to the Sequential Prophet 600 in 1983, with the JX-3P following shortly thereafter. The JX-8P came out a year later.

    Trainspotting done.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Yep, yep – I just spotted both a typo and the omission of what I meant to say, which is that the 8P followed the JX-3P and that the JX-3P was the first commercially-available MIDI synth *from Roland*.

    So… whoops.

    Now, technically speaking it takes two to tango MIDI-wise, so you can say that the JX-3P along with the Prophet 600 were the first publicly-demonstrated MIDI connections, at NAMM in 1/1983. Notably, no one celebrated the 25th anniversary of that connection at NAMM 2008, I think because people are … uh … maybe losing interest?

    I don't know what the first *private* connection was; that'd be interesting to know.

    This is assuming I have my history right, though. I actually want to revisit that story with Dave Smith next time I see him, as I think it's well worth updating the history – and perhaps contextualizing it with the state of MIDI today (and newer technology like OSC).

  • pho

    "…it could be fascinating to bring back even more design elements of the earlier JUNO (or any of the classic synth designs from Roland and others), or even just to resurrect parts that can matter – like distinctive, particular analog filters."

    I imagine that if Roland actually did do something like this, that they could potentially resurrect a long-forgotten market in synth hardware.

    Seriously.

    I bought an SH-201 last year in hopes that it might bring back the fun factor to synth playing. The only problem was that the G-Force digital sound chip was way too thin and digital sounding for my taste. I sold the synth 6 months later and decided to save my money for a Prophet '08.

    If Roland took your advice seriously Peter and revamped a synth line with certain, real analog components — one — and that — two — actually sounded GOOD:

    I think they could probably make a lot of money.

  • http://letsneverdie.net/blog cactus

    @pho analog synths are allowed to use chips – tear open any of the aforementioned early JUNOs to see what I mean. Solder (not soldier) is still involved either way :)

    On to my question, are the rackmount versions of the JUNOs (such as the Roland MKS) allowed into the contest? They're not called JUNO in any way but they operate and sound exactly the same…

  • pho

    Oops…

    The SH-201's use the V-synth sound chip, not the G-Force. My bad.

  • pho

    Oops #2:

    Solder, per cactus. Now I be suckin'. :)

  • http://arpha.us Arp

    Does Roland have another Juno in the works?

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @cactus: I think if you get a Roland MKS or say Roland HS-60 in the contest, Roland ought to be reasonably impressed. They are technically the same as the JUNOs. I can't speak for them, though. Let's at least say *I* think it should count. (Slap a JUNO sticker on it maybe?)

  • BirdFLU

    I remember the Juno-106 being described as a Juno-60 with MIDI. It's not. IF you listen to them side-by-side they do sound different. I think the Juno-60 sounds a little thicker or richer even with the chorus off. Somebody here probably knows the difference in the chips used or whatever.

    I never got the chance to see if the HS-60 is really a Juno-60 with speakers or not.

  • gwenhwyfaer

    Just out of interest, pho, which analogue synths do you own at present?

  • pho

    @ gwenhwyfaer –

    In my electric dreams I own a Roland 700 modular in a run-down apartment that I keep very, very tidy.

    In reality, I own a Micron in a studio that needs cleaning desperately.

    (Actually, I own two Micron's. One of them belonged to Aphex Twin, reportedly.)

    So there: I really do know about soldier!

  • Ben There

    The Juno 60 was one of the better sounding Junos. They were all drastically limited though in their routing and modulations so I wasn't very interested. I hated the sound of the Juno 106, I still don't understand the reverence for them. Limited mods, and if the chorus was on, it made all the sounds sound alike.

    The Alpha Junos, attracted roaches, no joke. I worked in the Roland repair department in the late 80's and 3 out of 4 Alpha Junos had dead roaches in them. Our guess was the freq. of the LCD inverter attracted them or something. The Alpha Juno sound was pretty bland.

    not junos but…

    The JX3P had a great sound. Nice arp, cross mod, good filter and fat oscillators. It was a cool synth with a good sound.

    JX8P – so so but not bad at all, it had that stanky chorus on it though that needed to be turned off…all the time.

    JX10 – the mix killer. Pads so fat it would suck up all the power of a mix. The hardest of all synths to blend ever but a huge ol' bloated sound.

    The Jupiter series was the good stuff, and the MKS 80. I did a mod on a friends Jupiter 6 to make it 8 voices and gave it layering and split functions. There are about 3 in the US that I know of. We called them Jupiter 6.8's. It was a ROM that Roland still has a master of I bet and populating the rest of the 2 voice board to make it a 4 voice board.

    SH101's made for good bas sounds as did the MC202.

    It will be interesting to see/hear the video response.

  • http://nickkent.net nick

    Correct that the Prophet 600 was first MIDI synth. Dave Smith had a lot to do with establishing the spec though obviously without Roland onboard right away it would have had a tough time becoming any kind of a standard. I also think the Jupiter 6 beat the JX-3P,

    Maybe someone should submit a video with the Junost Soviet Keytar?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vd-k9HXfMeY

  • gwenhwyfaer

    @pho: Um, unless there's some other Micron of which I was previously unaware, that's quite definitely a digital synth. (I've got one too. Lovely kit. Probably about as close to analogue as a thousand instructions per voice per sample can get… but.)

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Dave Smith had of course an enormous impact on MIDI; calling him 'father of MIDI' would not be overstatement.

    I would say MIDI probably had a big impact on these Roland keyboards. And in turn, I'd say it wasn't *any* keyboard that ultimately made MIDI the standard it is today. I'd say it was the Roland MPU-401 that really made MIDI a hit by interfacing those keyboards with computers. Without the MPU-401, I don't think we'd even be bothering with MIDI today.

  • gwenhwyfaer

    Peter, I do believe you're forgetting about the Atari ST here, which probably did quite a lot more than the MPU-401 for most impoverished musicians to cement MIDI in people's hearts – at least in Europe, anyway, where IBMs cost two or three times what an Atari ST cost (and were horribly unfashionable for impressionable 18-year-olds, too).

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Ah, yes, but the 401 – or clones based on it – was also available for the Apple II, C64, etc. So the MPU-401 plus the Atari ST plus the serial model on the Mac = MIDI today. Saying the MPU-401 alone did it would be overstatement, but at least I'd say it along with the Atari and Mac made a triple punch that became the catalyst for MIDI as computer format, which I think was ultimately the key to its longevity.

    Just thinking out loud here, though, really, so feel free to disagree…

  • gwenhwyfaer

    Fair comment. We can certainly agree that the true value of MIDI became clear once it started appearing on computers, rather than when it was simply thought of as a way to connect instruments together.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Well, absolutely.

    And, uh, yeah, couldn't be any one product or it would never have happened! You're right about that, for sure! ;)

  • http://jackit.sf.net/ Paul Davis

    @pho: i very, very much doubt whether anybody is ever going to make "a lot of money" selling specialized hardware synthesizers ever again.

  • Polite

    @pho – i don't know how you managed not to get fat sounds from your sh-201. my 201 is nothing *but* fat sounds. It's even got a bass boost button.

    I own a micron as well for comparison.

    i must admit though that the prophet 08 is also a synth i definitely have at the top of my purchasizing list though. Shame it doesn't have any on-board fx though.

  • Polite

    Paul Davis: but did anyone ever make "a lot of money" from synthesizers at all? except for maybe korg with the microkorg, considering everyone seems to have one of those things.

  • pho

    Geez, I should just shut up.

    But as a last bow…

    gwenhwyfaer — you got me, fair and square :) (And yes, Micron's R fun and phat.)

    Polite — I am really glad to hear you like your SH-201! For me, it didn't quite do the trick. But I can see how for another, I very well could. That's awesome, cuz it is a FUN synth to play, and I actually really miss mine for that reason.

    I suppose if Roland were to create a digital synth with the sound chip of a Micron and the hardware of a SH-201 or a Juno, I wouldn't care if it was analog or not.

    Oh yeah: Paul Davis, sadly you are probably right. I live in a naive fantasy world I suppose.

    Still: I can't help but imagine what sort of response Roland would get if they actually did create a real analog synth today. I think it could do some serious damage to my, um, weltanschuung.

    Finally: I credit my buddy E. for sharing his Roland 700 Series modular with me for long afternoons of throwback goodness. It helps me feel almost justified for littering a perfectly good blog with mostly naive wonderings such as these.

    Kudos to Peter for keeping things classy, real, and fun.

  • Geronimo

    I was a latecomer to analog synths as I was a bassist and guitarist initially. I became fascinated with the world of electronic music making in the early 90s, and began to educate myself about the world of synthesis. With that said, the first analog synth that I owned was the JX3P, followed shortly thereafter by an SH101 and then a Korg Mono/Poly.

    To this day, I think the JX3P is a fantastic synth; as a music store employee at the time I also got my hands on a PG200 which really opened things up!!! To this day I think the JX3P (and Juno synths in general) are great for people who are getting their feet wet in synth programming, but hold up well as quality parts of a larger synth collection. Now I'm wishing I hadn't traded my modest collection for an EMU E6400 and (argh) a JX305…you live and learn, I suppose!!!

  • gwenhwyfaer

    pho, don't worry about not loving the SH-201. A lot of people have a lot of time for the Novation K-series, but they've never done it for me at all… it really does just come down to individual taste – and only a fool would criticise that. :)

  • gwenhwyfaer

    Paul: maybe not "a lot of money", but it'd be nice to believe that "a living" was possible?

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    There are definitely people making at least some part of their living on synths. I think it may depend on what you define as "a lot of money." The challenge with any hardware is that you need capital to really get things rolling – you can live without it, but your options are then more constrained.

  • Rex Rhino

    How well does the Juno-G work as a sampler? Can you trigger sequenced patterns from one part of a keyboard split while playing synth sounds on another?

    On paper, the Juno-G sounds like a really good all-in-one live-PA sampler/synth, I wonder why it is not more popular?

  • made

    dear roland

    juno G its cool stuff,but i have one question.

    how to use the sustain,becoz i still confuse,when i change the sounds the sustain it doesn't work??could u like to explain to how to set that??thank's

  • http://enigmatician.com YJ

    It would be nice to take a picture of the trillion Juno's with dead voice chips..

    a tribute to Roland's quality dept. LOL

  • gwenhwyfaer

    YJ: after nigh on three decades, and given that filter chips of all shapes and sizes seem to have lifespans that are lucky to stretch to two, I think we can cut Roland some slack. Don't you?

    After all, somewhere out there is a Prophet VS mountain…

  • http://nickkent.net nick

    On the MIDI thread. While it's obvious that the idea of MIDI that connects multiple instruments and manufacturers meant that quite obvious it would take more than one successful unit to establish MIDI.

    That said the Yamaha DX7 had a bigger impact than any other synth at that time. Despite the MIDI having some blunders (try a velocity of 122 or the infamous but still potentially useful MONO mode blunder) that fact that it was on THE synth many professionals thought they needed to buy to stay professional. So there was both the likely rapid addition of a DX7 to studios and an incentive to buy still something else to connect to with MIDI.

    I'll agree that the MPU-401 was a landmark at least in terms of a major mainstream manufacturer supporting a platform that Windows, which came out after a certain 1984 debuted platform would eventually make the de facto home and small business computer for a portion of us. But at the time it wasn't that cut and dry. Apple II, C64 were not equipped with clones of the MPU-401. Only PCs had compatible MPU-401 interfaces and timing standards were generally more flakey than on the Atari ST platform that would eventually spawn Steinberg and Logic.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Nick, I generally agree, but …

    The MPU-401 had an impact on DOS, and DOS most certainly was a player. Not only Cakewalk was on DOS, but you'll recall Voyetra, Dr. T's and others were there, too, and the PC was a big platform. Windows was much, much later as a player. Sure, Steinberg and Emagic (and MOTU on the Mac) actually survived and these companies didn't, but they were a bigger deal at the time. And my (fuzzy) recollection is that MPU-401 adapter kits were pretty popular with the Apple II and C64, though there I don't speak from personal experience.

    So, yes, Roland with the MPU-401 and its keyboards, various other keyboard manufacturers (Yamaha topping the list), the Atari ST, and the Mac all played their part.

    I agree about the DX7. Roland didn't have a single flagship in the same way, but they had their own bit of success.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Oh, yes, and on the reliability topic:

    I think the Alphas were not quite as reliable as the 6/60/106.

    But yes, we're talking gear that's 20+ years old. Stuff breaks. Anyone manufacturing anything in large quantities runs into the occasional quality control issue.

    I think the main thing to keep in mind is, if you're using vintage gear — any vintage gear — you should figure you may have to budget a bit for repair.

  • http://obelus.com Iain

    I bought a Juno 6 from Sam Ash when it came out, at the beginning of my first year of high school. It was my first real synth, the best I could afford, and got me from being a piano player at home to being a keyboard player in bands.

    The Juno 6 had no MIDI and no memory so I had to change sliders and knobs between songs. After about a year I sold the Juno 6 and bought a Juno 106.

    I think the Juno 6 sounded better than the 106, but I didn't own them at the same time to compare. My thinking was that they were the same machines, minus the memory and MIDI, so I figured I was mistaken.

    When I told other musicians I had a Juno 106 they were impressed. The legend was bigger than the reality and I never understood why people liked it so much. It had a weak and limited sound so I relegated it to warm pads, the only thing I found it useful for. When one too many knobs broke off from using a cheap canvas carry case, and the sub osc stated to fail, I was glad to give it away.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Well, Iain, the legend is often bigger than the reality – vintage gear is definitely no exception. ;) Still, there's a lot about the Juno 106 I really liked – and plenty of reason to expect modern gear could learn from it, while still being, you know, modern.

    Of course, it'd be really fantastic if MIDI had progressed further than it did. OSC forever.

  • Ben There

    actually the Alpha's were way more reliable than the 106. The 6 didn't sell much and the 60's were pretty well made.

    The 106's came in constantly with the 80017 problem, broken keys, intermittent key contacts and pots that didn't work because they were cheap and this was in the late 80's, much less 20 years later. The Juno 106 also was their biggest seller by far until the D50 came out so the number of returns was going to be much higher just because of numbers.

    It was cheap at $1,295 I believe (and people actually complain about synths for $500-$1000 now days) and was an option for those who could not afford the $1,995 Yamaha DX-7 but who wanted a simple keyboard. The DX-7 was unique, not only due to FM, but because the most popular synth before it was the Minimoog with about 10,000 units sold over 10 years. The DX-7 had a reported 150,000 units in about 2 years. Totally unheard of numbers for a keyboard. Nowadays a synth that sells 5,000 units in it's lifetime is very successful. Nobody gets rich making synths, believe me.

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  • aaron

    The rackmount of the JX-3P, the MKS-30 has Juno filter IC's (80017) instead of the Jupiter ones the JX-3P has, so technically it's much more similar to the 106 except that you use the 3P's programmer to control it. I wonder if that's allowed? :)

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  • http://- Yalamber

    Plzzz….can anyone tell me which Roland Keyboard should I buy???…I dont know how to play it but I want to learn. Plz tell me anyone which Roland keyboard will be good for me and also I'm a singer..I'm into soft music and sometimes I like singing Modern Rock songs….plz suggest me anyone!!!…HELP HELP HELP!!!