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Patchwork polyphony

Roland JV1080

Article from The Mix, December 1994

High polyphony synth module

Roland have not sent their latest module out onto the synth battlefield without giving it some pretty serious firepower. Simon Trask sees if the JV1080 outguns its rivals with its 64-voice polyphony...

The JV1080 module is the latest - and perhaps the ultimate - synth in a range which began in 1992 with the JV80, an instrument which had its roots in the company's D-series synths going all the way back to the groundbreaking D50 in 1987. The inclusion of 64-voice polyphony on several other manufacturers' synths no doubt has given Roland something to think about, and it can be no coincidence that they've suddenly made the leap to 64-voice polyphony with the 1080.

First impressions

Roland's latest module packs a lot of capability into its 2U 19" frame, and all at a very competitive price. This is due in no small part to the company's adoption of high-powered 32-bit RISC technology (standing for Reduced Instruction Set Chip) which gives faster and more accurate computing power, and is largely responsible for their leap from 28 to 64-voice.

The module's front panel bristles with buttons, which makes it look a bit daunting at first, but clear labelling and organisation are a considerable help here. Operationally the JV1080 has many familiar features, such as the Value dial, Inc and Dec buttons. Cursor Left and Right buttons, dedicated buttons for selecting the module's patches, performances and rhythm sets.

There's a set of eight buttons below the backlit LCD, which does quadruple duty for tone selection and patch, performance and system editing. A dedicated Effects On/Off button lets you quickly switch out the onboard effects processing, while you can trigger the selected sound at any time (with up to four notes arranged as a chord or triggered consecutively) by pressing the Volume knob, and revert to the programmed value for a parameter during editing by pressing the Value dial.

The JV1080's sample ROM contains 448 samples and waveforms, covering a wide range of real and synthetic instrumental sounds, together with a generous number of drum and percussion sounds and a variety of waveforms and loops.

Making full use of these source sounds, the module comes with an impressively large library of onboard patches. In total there are 640 patches organised into five banks of 128 sounds each - four preset and one user. Each bank also includes two rhythm sets (MIDI 'drum kits'), each containing 64 drum and percussion note-assignments; included are house, jazz, pop, power and rave drum kits. Preset bank D consists of the General MIDI sound set and drum kit; you can put the JV 1080 into General MIDI mode at any time, by pressing the front-panel Shift and Perform buttons.

But Roland haven't stopped there. You can also plug in up to four of the company's SR-JV80 wave expansion boards, giving you access to a much greater number of samples and patches. Boards are easily fitted, by unscrewing a plate on the module's top panel and slotting them into the waiting sockets.

Currently there are five boards to choose from - Pop, Orchestral, Piano, Vintage Synth, and World - which provide up to 255 further samples and 255 patches each. One of my favourites is the World board, which offers not only an inspiring collection of sampled world instruments but also, among its patches, lots of wonderful pads and atmospheres and some killer rhythm loops. And anyone into old analogue sounds would also be well advised to check out the impressive Vintage Synth card.

However, the JV1080 even in its unexpanded form is one of the most sound-packed and versatile synths on the market. Roland have excelled themselves, not only in the sheer number of patches available, but also in the sonic versatility of the instrument and the quality and variety of the patches on offer. The JV 1080 sound has plenty of power and energy, together with an impressive depth and fullness which really comes through on the plentiful pads, atmospheres, and effects patches. Equally, it can deliver a bright, delicate, incisive sound when required.

Versatility is its middle name, although I'd say it's perhaps not so strong in the pure recreation of 'real' instrumental sounds such as brass and woodwind. Its real strength lies in synthesis in the broadest sense - the sound programmers have really got to grips with the module and done it proud from the outset. But then, as a mature instrument, the latest JV benefits from all the experience the programmers have acquired from working with its predecessors.

With such a wealth and diversity of patches on offer as standard, you may never need to do any programming yourself. But should you fancy getting your hands dirty, you'll discover a programming system of impressive detail, flexibility and depth. Each patch can have up to four tones, with each tone offering what is essentially a familiar subtractive synthesis architecture: Oscillator, filter and amplifier stages, dedicated pitch, filter and amplitude envelopes and two freely assignable LFOs.

"Roland have really pulled out all the stops for the 1080, and done themselves proud"

However, Roland have provided ten structures which take these familiar stages and configure them in various ways across paired tones, in many cases also routing them through a booster or a ring modulator - greatly increasing the sonic flexibility of the synth. Other features of note include FXM (frequency cross modulation), analogue feel, and the ability to synchronise time-based features such as tone delay and LFO rate to an internal or MIDI clock.

Performance mode on the JV1080 allows you to use it multitimbrally, with up to 16 independent parts. For each part within a performance you can set MIDI channel, MIDI receive on/off, voice reserve amount (0-64), patch number, output assignment, MIDI data reception (volume, sustain and patch change on/off), pitch coarse and fine, pan position and part level. You can also set part-specific send levels for reverb, chorus and EFX, along with effects selection and effects parameter settings for the performance as a whole.

On board effects processing receives a definite boost from the greater processing power of the latest JV, and is definitely a strong point of the instrument. The module provides reverb, chorus and EFX processing, together with a choice of 10 configuration and output-routing options which can be assigned per tone. The effects themselves can only be programmed per patch or per performance, depending on which mode you're in.

The EFX 'block' is a multieffects processor which offers a choice of 40 effect types, around half of them single effects, and the remainder single effects paired in serial or parallel configurations.

EFX types include stereo equaliser, overdrive, distortion, phaser, auto-wah, stereo flanger, stereo delay, quadruple tap delay, feedback pitch shifter, reverb and gate reverb. All types offer an impressive degree of programmability, and you can control selected effect parameters in real time from two control sources; possible sources include modulation, breath, volume, pan, pitchbend and aftertouch.

In addition to the standard stereo audio mix output, the JV1080 has two 'dry' output pairs. Tones routed via these outputs bypass the dedicated chorus and reverb processors, but can be passed through the EFX processor. So, for instance, you could route a guitar patch in performance mode through a combination of overdrive and delay to one of the dry pairs, route another patch directly to the other dry pair for external effects processing, and route the remaining parts via chorus and reverb to the mix pair.


Roland have really pulled out all the stops for the JV1080, and done themselves proud. This is an exciting instrument. The sonic versatility of the 1080 is impressive, as are the range and number of patches and the sheer quality and inventiveness of the programming.

It's also a clear winner in terms of sonic expandability, thanks to its plug-and-play wave expansion board capability. The quality and character of its effects is impressive.

The essentials...

Price inc VAT: JV1080: £1,085; Wave expansion boards: £269; M512 memory card: £86.

More from: Roland, (Contact Details)

Features at a glance...

Memories: 128 user, 512 presets
Effects: 40 types inc. reverb, chorus, EQ
Multitimbrality: 16 parts
Polyphony: 64 voices
LCD: 2 x 40-character backlit
Audio outputs: 3 x stereo pairs
Dimensions: 2U 19" rackmount

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Publisher: The Mix - Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.

The current copyright owner/s of this content may differ from the originally published copyright notice.
More details on copyright ownership...


The Mix - Dec 1994

Donated by: Colin Potter

Coverdisc: Mike Gorman

Control Room

Gear in this article:

Synthesizer Module > Roland > JV-1080

Gear Tags:

Digital Synth

Review by Simon Trask

Previous article in this issue:

> Hard disk for softies

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> Talk radio

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