Roland Vintage Sounds board
for the JV series
Ancient and modern: classic analogue synths for your JV-series synth.
A wealth of classic analogue synth sounds on a small expansion card? That'll do nicely.
These days, many synthesiser users, when questioned about the relative merits of today's digital technology, will fall to the floor weeping with nostalgia. They'll remember the good old days when men were men, when you could have a good night out for less than a shilling, the population lived on bread and dripping and synths were analogue synths.
You too may yearn for that classic warm sound and real time control found on early keyboards, or you may be quite happy with your digital synth and its modern spec and vast array of presets. Whatever your stance there's no doubt that analogue sounds have again become an integral part of contemporary music, and prices for secondhand classic synths are soaring.
Part of the reason for this is that modern digital synths are considered by many as 'thin'-sounding, rather bland and compared to analogue synths, difficult to use. This may well be true, but one can't ignore the 'good old days' factor which also comes into play in this as in so many other fields. Nostalgia and rarity value make for a powerful combination in a world of mass production and ready availability. Certainly, manufacturers have begun, belatedly perhaps, to realise the value of including a few classic sounds from their back catalogues on the latest machines. Not least amongst these are Roland whose Jupiter, Juno and 808 sounds have been used extensively in recent years. Now however, they've taken things quite a bit further and released an expansion board filled with vintage synth sounds for their popular JV series (80, 880, 90 and 1000) and the JD990 synthesisers.
I tested the Vintage Sounds board using a JV90 and found the fitting procedure a perfectly straightforward task. You simply remove a small panel and then slot it into a socket supplied, rotating some special screws which click into place when positioned correctly.
Auditioning the sounds is simply a matter of going to the card bank on the keyboard and stepping through each one using the bank and number buttons. There are an impressive 255 sounds for the JV series and a further 255 for the JD990 (510 in all). Included are sounds from classic Roland synths like the Juno 6, D50 and SH101 as well as from other manufacturers' keyboards like the ARP 2600, Moog and Rhodes.
Don't expect any acoustic sounds like piano or guitar; what you get here are the sounds of synthesiser yesteryear and some weird and downright wonderful noises thrown in.
Bank A contains some shimmering examples of the latter and I found it quite hard to plod through them all without reaching for the sequencer to record some compositions. Quirky and off-the-wall are just two of the words that come to mind. In many cases, you don't get the original 'raw' analogue sound but combinations of up to four which produce programs with delays, pans or simply non-descript effects that rise and fall as long as the note is pressed. Swooping, massive pads stand alongside unusual brass stabs and bells and the first half of Bank B continues in the same vein.
It's actually very difficult to generalise with a soundcard like this and say you'll find this kind of sound here and that kind of sound there. Roland seem to have thrown in every kind of sound in every area. But it can be said that the latter half of Bank B concentrates on pads, strings and choirs while the first half of C is where you'll find the rawer analogue lead sounds with examples from the Minimoog and Jupiter 8 among others. The second half of Bank C is where the bass sounds are to be found. These cover all areas: punchy technos, fat Moogs, acidy squeals and subsonic booms.
Frankly, I find myself hesitating to recommend the Vintage Sounds card from Roland. Many of the sounds are so good I wouldn't want everyone else to start using them. But professional integrity forces the truth out and I can only conclude that there are few criticisms that can be made of the card. It will appeal mainly to those after odd-ball and classic sounds and the dance/trance fraternity who may find that actually owning those classic old analogue synths is no longer the necessity it once was.
Lovers of that classic synthesiser sound may well have already been tempted by the E-mu Vintage Keys expander. If you are in this category and already own a JV series synth, the Vintage Sounds card - at around £600 less than the E-mu module - is quite simply a must.
If you are in the market for a classic synth, then you could well fork out a fortune, even for just one model. For the cost of a JV synth plus Vintage sounds, you get the best of a bunch on one card, easy access to all and no fiddling with knobs to program each sound. Analogue anoraks take note, digital can sound good after all.
|Ease of use||Once you've got it installed, it's plain sailing.|
|Originality||The idea yes, the sounds no.|
|Value for money||Pretty good.|
|Star Quality||Old synths for new...|
|More from||Roland (UK) Ltd, (Contact Details)|
Review by Andrew Jones
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