Roland's latest flagship sees them keeping the workstation genre afloat - but is the JV-1000 seaworthy? Simon Trask sets sail.
Unlike some of their competitors, Roland haven't seemed particularly wedded to the workstation concept. In fact, their new machine, the JV-1000, can be seen as a justifiable (some might say belated) attempt by the company to cater for this prestige end of the market - where the likes of Korg and Yamaha are already well represented by the 01/W Pro and Pro X and the SY99 respectively.
Essentially the JV-1000 combines Roland's JV80 synth and MC50 MkII sequencer into a single instrument, but with a 76-note keyboard replacing the JV80's standard 61-note affair. In addition, it provides built-in support for an optional GS Format module - the snappily-titled V-EXP board - which slots into a 'docking bay' on the underside of the new synth. Adding this board to the JV-1000 gives you 56-voice polyphony (28 JV80 voices plus 28 V-EXP voices) and 24-part multitimbrality (eight JV80 Parts plus 16 V-EXP Parts) before you have to start involving yourself with MIDI and external modules.
In essence, then, the 1000 gives you 'all-in-one modularity', if that's not a contradiction in terms. It even celebrates this modular approach by presenting its JV80 and MC50 components via separate front-panel layouts (synth to the left, sequencer to the right), each complete with its own LCD window. These layouts are broadly similar to those of the original instruments, bringing the added benefit of operational familiarity for JV80 and MC50 users. But whether or not you're familiar with these instruments, the 'modular access' approach adopted by the JV-1000 has much to recommend it over the more familiar centralised access; perhaps we shall see more manufacturers going modular in their front-panel designs.
The JV-1000 includes a few features in its synthesis section not found on the JV80. Perhaps most significantly, you get double the number of factory-preset sounds. Roland have taken the opportunity to reorganise the preset Patch selection in Banks A and B, although for compatibility purposes you can call up the original JV80 Banks if you want. The latest JV also has an expanded waveform ROM, with more drum and percussion samples (including a jazz kit) and a new sampled acoustic piano added to the existing samples. Roland obviously felt that, as a player-orientated instrument, the JV-1000 needed a better acoustic piano than the JV80 provided, and I'm inclined to agree; the new sampled piano dutifully fills this role.
Other new features are global transposition on/off, sustain pedal redamp (which lets you sustain a sound at any point during its release stage), and Layer/Zone record on/off (used for multi-part recording), together with a very useful Info function which helps you to keep track of what Parts are in use in a JV-1000 Performance, how many voices they're using up, and which Parts are having real-time performance data such as modulation and pitchbend routed to them.
As on the JV80, a Performance can consist of up to eight Parts, each of which can be assigned a Patch.
The Performance is a flexible beast. You can, for instance, use it for recording and playing back multitimbral sequences or for playing sophisticated multi-part split/layer sound textures on the keyboard. You can also use it to turn the JV-1000 into a MIDI controller keyboard. In this context, you can have up to eight internal/MIDI zones on the keyboard, each with its own MIDI transmit channel and its own patch change, volume and pan settings which can be transmitted via MIDI Out when the Performance is selected.
The eight Parts of a Performance needn't correspond to the eight phrase tracks of the JV-1000's onboard sequencer: you could record all eight tracks using the same Patch if you really wanted to. Also, taking advantage of the L/Z record parameter mentioned earlier, you can record into a phrase track using, for instance, a double bass and acoustic piano split. Select a different Performance and your sequence will play back using the sounds of that Performance, a fact which you can turn to your advantage (eg. you can easily experiment with different sets of sounds for a sequence, or you can create mute 'snapshots' which can be called up spontaneously during playback). In fact, given all the possible applications for Performances, it's a crying (nay, sobbing) shame that Roland haven't upped the number of user-programmable Performance memories from the 16 provided on the JV80. Surely this could have been easily accomplished?
You can use a combination of internal synth sounds, V-EXP sounds and external MIDI'd sounds for your JV-1000 sequences. In effect the onboard sequencer has two outputs, and the synth section and V-EXP board can be connected to these outs in one of two possible configurations: either both hang off Out 1, or the synth section hangs off Out 1 and the V-EXP board hangs off Out 2. In both cases, Out 2 is routed to the Sequencer Out MIDI socket on the JV-1000's rear panel, giving you access to external MIDI'd sounds.
To add to this flexibility, each sequencer track can be routed to Out 1, Out 2 or Out 1 and 2; the JV-1000's keyboard 'soft thru' parameter provides the same choice of settings, giving you plenty of flexibility in the selection of sounds to add live over a sequence. And if you disable the soft thru function, you can use the JV-1000's keyboard to play onboard Patches and Performances together with external MIDI'd sounds via the JV's standard MIDI Out socket - leaving the Sequencer Out socket to handle all the sequenced MIDI parts.
The potential disadvantage of this approach is that you might need two external MIDI instruments where one would have done, but the advantage is that by separating live and sequenced MIDI parts onto two different MIDI busses you reduce the amount of data on each buss, and so lessen the likelihood of MIDI logjams with their attendant delays.
At the risk of oversimplification, sonically the JV-1000 is a great pianos 'n' pads instrument, with acoustic and electric pianos, ensemble strings and bright, shimmering, exotic pad sounds being its real forte. Tuned percussion has long been a Roland strong point, and here too the JV-1000 scores well. Its bass sounds are undeniably powerful, but to my mind they lack warmth and richness. The acoustic guitars are very effective, but I'm not so enamoured of the electric guitars, nor of many of the brass and lead synth sounds. The drum and percussion sounds are, as usual, competent but somehow less inspired (and definitely less off-the-wall) than typical offerings from Korg or Ensoniq. And Roland will insist on having a ridiculously small number of Rhythm Kits, too.
The onboard sequencer has much to recommend it: well thought out, straightforward in use, and possessed of just about all the editing features you could need, all presented in an accessible manner. However, I do wish Roland had upped the number of phrase tracks to a more reasonable 16. And while we're talking wishes, several individual audio outs wouldn't have gone amiss either.
I've concentrated in this review on the features which define the JV-1000 as an instrument in its own right - its workstation credentials, if you like. In this respect, it has, to my mind, plenty to recommend it for both stage and studio use. While being a versatile instrument it's also very accessible, blessed as it is with a front panel which says "use me!". Mature in concept and design, the JV-1000 could be criticised for being rather staid in attitude - but if that doesn't bother you, it may well be the right instrument for you. If you want to investigate further, you could start by reading MT's reviews of the JV80 and MC50 (May '92 and January '91 respectively).
Now, Roland, when are you going to bring out a really exciting, really new synth?
|Ease of use||A very accessible instrument|
|Originality||Not what it's about at all|
|Value for money||Reasonably good|
|Star Quality||A seasoned performer rather than a fresh new face|
|Price||JV-1000 £2140 - V-EXP GS Format board £299 ISR-JV wave expansion board £273|
|More from||Roland (UK) Ltd, (Contact Details)|
Review by Simon Trask
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