The MIDI Juno
128 Memory 6-Voice Poly for £800
A little less than two years ago Roland introduced the world's most economic full function polyphonic synthesizer; the £799 Juno 6. Six months later they produced the Juno 60 with a similar range of facilities but with a memory giving 56 on-board patch programmes: price, £1,199. Now the Juno 106 costs the same as a Juno 6 and has twice the memory of the Juno 60 PLUS MIDI. And that's progress.
The newest Juno uses a synthesizer circuit very similar to the one employed on the Juno 6 and 60. This is a six-voice design with six digital controlled oscillators and associated LFO, filter, VCA and high pass filter systems. The tuning stability of the DCO's and the other components used give the 106 a characteristically Juno sound, the strong, fat lead sounds, the punchy brass and the convincing organ and synth sounds favour today's hard-edged Funk and electronic music. For the lush and layered approach to strings and orchestra there's an on-board Chorus which with the stereo output will give a real sense of space. A simple, practical layout presents LFO, DCO, HPF, VCF, VCA, ENV, and Chorus left to right for speedy programming or editing.
Like its predecessors, the Juno 106 is in a state of constant edit. So if you have a string sound and want to intensify the vibrato — just reach for the LFO control. The unit is slightly updated in appearance but the principles remain; the press-studs for programme selection, key assign (poly-1 and poly-2) key transpose and storage (by tape dump) being presented left to right below the synthesis controls. Programme select buttons are in two groups with eight banks in each group and eight patches in each bank making a total of 128 patches. Performance controls with bender assignable to VCF, DCO or LFO are on the left of the 61-note full size keyboard. An important plus is that the Juno 106 has Portamento which was not a feature of either of its two predecessors because this function could not previously be attained with digital controlled oscillators.
The Juno 106 is a budget synthesizer — but its alluring price tag has not been achieved by recourse to inferior components or toy-like proportions. Roland have deliberately pared the price to the bone because they wanted to cut the cost of their most competitive programmable MIDI synth.
In producing the 106 Roland have created a new gateway to MIDI technology.
No matter how much sound instruments put out, if they haven't got MIDI they're still deaf and dumb to one another — or at least highly inarticulate. The MIDI bus rectifies this. It allows the transfer between instruments of all information relating to triggering, patch set-ups, bender controls, velocity (where appropriate) and so on.
On the Juno 106 the MIDI is controlled by a 3-mode switch. The first position is Keyboard Only. In this position the J-106 is controlling a slave synthesizer (or module) with its keyboard alone and a change in patch on the J-106 will not effect the slave. In the second mode the J-106 will send key information and also bend and patch information.
The third mode is entitled 'MIDI ALL' and represents yet another step forward in the MIDI concept. Like numerous developments in the field this is still creatively open — it's geared to software which will be available in the future. It requires an interface with a computer but opens the possibility that the Juno 106 can send and receive positions for every switch and slider on the synth panel. In other words whatever you do in performance, the minutest change of any parameter, can be routed to another synth or recorder for future reference. The implications of this for live and recorded music, even before you begin to talk of sound-to-light or sound-to-graphics, are remarkable. Recording an entire performance on computer is just the start...
Roland now have two completely distinct MIDI synths at under £1,000 — the JX-3P at £975 and the Juno 106 for £800. The choice can to some extent be made by listening: the essential sound modules of the two units are dissimilar and there will be personal preferences. Of the two, the JX-3P has the more sophisticated sound system and this will show in its better rendition of the more complex and subtle instrumental sounds: the Juno is a simple, funky synthesizer that will punch out powerful riffs anywhere in the audio spectrum. The JX-3P has the facility to work two DCO's in tandem for phase synchronisation and cross-modulation to give metallic clanging sounds. The Juno 106 on the other hand has Portamento. The JX-3P with its accessory programmer (priced at £210) is the weightier investment and so successful were the Juno 6 and 60 that the layout and programming procedures have become accepted standards. Most keyboard players can instantly find how to programme a 106 whereas the JX without the PG-200 programmer may take slightly longer. What's the answer? If it were simple, Roland would only have made one keyboard in the first place. The most practical solution is probably to buy both. And perhaps an MSQ-700 to play the one you're not playing? The MSQ will of course also provide a clock for the new Digital/Analogue rhythm machine at the same time, and while you're spending all this money you may as well have an SH-101 and MC-202 because the first is indispensable on stage and the second is a major recording asset. This is called the Roland system. It leaves you penniless but making very, very good music...